Jack Spencer’s betting the future of Minnesota on Karl-Anthony Towns.
“[DMT] changed my outlook on a lot of things, and I got to learn a lot about myself. Things that I considered important weren’t important anymore,” says Metasota of his experience with the psychedelic, which partially inspired the title of his latest and most mulled over project, #RUMDMT. “It kind of did a 180 on me. That was a really impactful part of my life. The best way to say it is, this is an autobiography of who I’m becoming.” The intense hallucinogen has inspired more than a few rappers to wax ineloquent about geometric patterns and pieces of God, but the St. Paul rapper uses his out-of-body experience to strengthen his experiential music’s roots in the tangible.
We get the requisite reverb-laden trip song halfway through the project with the spaced-out title track, but the surrounding songs rarely take a breather from the harsh realities of being black in America. “I broke it down into: ‘Revolutionary Urban Militants Die More Tragically,’ because it’s a pretty intense project,” he says. “I think it’s going to upset a lot of people. I think it’s going to challenge a lot of people, and I want all of that. I don’t really want it to be somebody’s favorite album or anything; I just want dialogue to start. I want conversations to start about things that are uncomfortable. We need to stop pretending. It’s not about our comfort anymore. Nobody’s comfortable anymore.”
It’s a full fifteen minutes into the album before the topic changes from police brutality and state-sponsored racism to lighter fare like sex and drugs. Even then, the subject matter gets deeper than is typical—“Sheet Music” is a sex brag that sinks into the eroticism of the moment as opposed to the self-congratulation to follow, while “RUMDMT” truly removes the ego from drug raps by highlighting what he’s learned over romanticizing what he’s taken. It’s a consistently stark and harrowing listen—full of cathartic anger, detailed lived experiences, and responses to the tensions built from the all-encompassing white supremacist system to the daily indignities of microagressions—but it’s pointed and aiming to build.
Smoke session discussions get sampled and incorporated between tracks to center the raps as an ongoing discussion. These are complicated and real issues, and the solutions might be drastic. Survival and intolerance for the police state may result in violent self-defense. Busdriver’s guest verse on “PSA” highlights a sadly typical interaction with white people who subtly dehumanize him by trying to touch his hair, and Metasota drives the point home with a straight-forward spoken takedown soft black fetishization that sublimely contrasts the abstract L.A. rapper’s tongue-twisting style (“What if I came up to you and started running my fingers through your shit? I can’t grow my hair like that, all straight and wispy, Laura Ingalls Wilder…I’m fascinated as well; can I pet you like a golden retriever?”). Sprinkled with flexes, punchlines, clever wordplay, humor, and an unbridled confidence, the work is fiercely political, arrestingly personal, and reflects Metasota’s expanding consciousness in a more pointed way than a simple drug reference.
It’s also more listenable than albums of it’s ilk, leaning less on platitudes and nostalgia than a holistic thematic execution and an immersive vibe. The beats maintain a spacey soul feel that keeps the soundscape smooth and brings out the best in Metasota’s often laid-back approach, maintaining a middle space between the relentlessness of the subject matter and the slickness of the style.
The album keeps the team much the same as his previous records, with like-minded creative partners Tek handling the whole of the production and Jess Listen behind the mixing and mastering, but the process is very different than his earlier work. Past projects were crafted on an astounding time-crunch: Both volumes of his full-length H.I.P. (Happy I’m Present) albums were created from scratch in the space of two weeks, and the sprawling Meta May project found him writing, recording, and releasing a new song every single day for a month straight. He’s proven surprisingly adept at this method of quick-turnaround, creating songs with real lasting value with barely any input time, but on #RUMDMT—a full two years in the making—he’s taken the opportunity to sit with the songs and fine-tune them.
“Little things, touch-ups I never got the chance to do before. Especially after this experience, I’m going to be more mindful of it now, making sure the energy matches,” he says, and the attention to detail finds a tightly-constructed middle ground between the rapper’s orientation as a natural freestyler and his desire to marinate on the song’s final impact. The beats are especially remarkable, finding the middle space between modern percussion engineering, classically-minded sample-based grooves, and the gospel, soul, and R&B records that specifically inspired the rapper’s sonic mindset.
“I wrote every single lyric on that project. Hook-wise, all that, I already had what I wanted in mind, I sang it for [the vocal guests like Ashley Dubose, MOS, and Jamila Pettiford], how I wanted them to do it, and let them take it from there and make it their own,” he says. “It’s the first time I felt like I was producing as well. Really putting the project together, in terms of song-writing and producing, knowing how I envisioned something and making sure it came out, instead of just…You know my past process has been, ‘This is good enough, or this is it, because I have to put it out in X amount of days. It was the first time I was like, let’s really make some music.”
Metasota, as always, takes the opportunity to flex his striking technical ability, but the understated presentation doesn’t fully represent his full skill set. The internal rhyme schemes and impact of bar structure is strong enough to not need to be the focal point, and the album makes the themes and messaging the core drive of the record, but anyone who has seen Metasota live can attest to his above-average skills as a performing artist.
He recently filled in as an opener for Prof, the Rhymesayers MC whose performances are uniquely animated and whose shows are consistently raucous, and was effectively able to match the exuberance with material that is often more challenging. “[Prof and DJ Fundo are] arguably the best performers in the state. With that, I know where the bar is set, and all I gotta do is try to meet it. I’m not as hype on the songs as I am onstage. My vocal tone, my inflection, it’s different on every song. That’s what’s helped a lot with this project versus the other ones, having so much time with it, is I could go back and be like, I don’t like how my voice sounds, I can do this part better,” says Metasota. Earlier this year, Metasota went viral when he was spontaneously brought onstage to rap with Jay Electronica (who has his own hip-hop tribute to DMT with the gritty, psychotropic “Dimethyltryptamine”) at a concert in Minneapolis. It was a powerful moment of live performance, partially because of Jay’s touching tribute to the late Phife Dawg, but also thanks to Metasota’s explosive freestyle which proved him to be on a similar skill level as the headliner.
“[I had] no notice. [All] of a sudden [I’m being pushed] to the stage, like, here we go I guess. I was faded, dog. Nervous as hell, I’m about to go up here and rap drunk and everything…It worked out,” he says of the impromptu moment, where Jay Electronica paused in awe of Metasota’s off-the-dome bars and commanding stage presence. “So many things are happening, and it’s not coincidence. It’s my time. Everybody has their moment, and I feel like right now is definitely my time. It’s a great moment in time.”