Apocalypse Now: Muja Messiah

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Apocalypse Now: Muja Messiah
by Peter S. Scholtes (The Liberator Magazine 7.2 #22)

(The Liberator Magazine) Muja Messiah is a badboy wit, a salesman for himself, and probably a reckless voice when it comes to serious issues of the day. But I don't get the feeling that he gives himself a pass when it comes to his wry outlook on life. He admits that his 13-year-old daughter helps pick out all the beats that he uses on songs. "They would all be like DJ Premier 1993, if it was up to me," he says, laughing.

On "Amy Winehouse," his mixtape track flipping Rihanna's "Umbrella," he thanks "the Lord for my devilish eyebrows," and otherwise demonstrates the same mischief and shamelessness of that blatantly attention-grabbing title (which he rhymes with "White House," "dyke out," "my house," "my couch," "iced out," and "Grindhouse"). Do I detect good-humored humility in the willingness to appear desperate?

Being "about to blow up" for many years will have that effect. Muja Messiah (real name Bobby Hedges) first crossed most local hip-hop fans' radars as part of the group Raw Villa, which opened for Rakim at First Avenue in 1998 -- the night the rap god didn't show. Solo, Muja has shared the stage with a dozen national headliners since, and been publicly praised by a couple of them, namely, Black Thought of the Roots and De La Soul. With a raspy flow at once rapid and exact, casual yet catchy, Mu is decipherable and funny live. Without ever releasing a full-length album before 2008, he has peppered local hip-hop acts as cameo king on CDs by Heat, Truthmaze, Guardians of Balance, and The C.O.R.E.

Yet, in the past 12 months, the respect of hundreds has spilled over into internet buzz: Vibe named Muja one of the magazine's "51 Best MySpace Rappers," while "Amy Winehouse" made the blog rounds, along with "Paper Planes," his mixtape-style wholesale jacking/cover/rewrite of M.I.A.'s guerilla-thug hit of the same title -- which itself appropriates The Clash's mournful Vietnam blues, "Straight to Hell." Though Ghanaian-born Minneapolis rapper M.anifest shows up on Muja's version to compare armed robbery to "reparations," the song is blissfully drained of politics. The hilarious video on YouTube finds the local rappers shoplifting from the now-closed To Soho (next to the Skyway Show Lounge) and purse-snatching at the Town Talk Diner, wisely transposing the theme to unarmed theft [continued ...]

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Liberator Magazine contributor Peter S. Scholtes is writing a book about Minneapolis-St. Paul Hip-Hop. He keeps a blog at complicatedfun.com