by Kandis Knight
While on the phone with my editor, my curiosity peaked about the title of the new Heiruspecs album, A Tiger Dancing. I had heard about the album in early spring and wondered if they were going to stick with that title. They did.
my editor told me the album was exceptional, I couldn’t wait to sit down
with the dudes from Heiru. [Editors Note: And indeed the album is exceptional.
Heiruspecs trump card has always been the dynamic nature of their live band
set-up and this has never been more true than on A Tiger Dancing. Whereas
countless groups are content to let their MCs take sole spotlight over half-baked
beats, Heiruspecs is a living and breathing Hip-Hop beast. The dynamic rhythm
section of Leggett and Sean McPherson (aka Twinkie Jiggles) keeps the low end
locked down, and the sultry dulcet tones of keyboardist dVRG are equally essential
to Heiruspecs songs. Which doesn’t mean the two talented MCs are window
dressing—Felix and Muad’Dib provide more than their fair share of
clever wordplay and mellifluous mouth manipulations to keep the party jumping.
Hands down one of the best local Hip-Hop album I’ve heard this year.]
PULSE: How did you guys settle on the name A Tiger Dancing for
FELIX: We originally were going to call the album The Brothers We
Are, which is a line from one of our songs. We came into the album saying,
"We don't want to use a line from one of our songs because that is cheesy."
I think we all pretty much agreed that was a horrible idea. We practically ended
up doing it anyway. Because there’s an ending to one of our songs called
“A Tiger Dancing” that goes "Move Tiger pick up your paws and
let's dance" and I actually wrote it. I wrote it because I relate to cats,
Felix is a cat. The image of a dancing animal is kind of interesting. We chose
it because it’s a paraphrase from one of our songs. Something we kicked
ourselves in the ass about, but we did it anyway.
Which song on the album is most personal to you?
Twinkie Jiggles: To me the song that goes the deepest is “Lie To
Me,” the last track. That song’s a real departure from our sound
in the past and there’s a lot of depth in the lyrics and a lot of what
I like about rap in the lyrics.
Pulse: What do you like about rap lyrics?
Twinkie Jiggles: The personal and cultural aspects to it. That song seems
personal and cultural at the same time. When a song is personal and offers a
little cultural commentary—that’s my shit. I like when rap does
that and it happens on “Lie to Me.”
Felix: “5ves” is my personal favorite. I wrote that song
one morning sitting out on my front steps watching the neighborhood go by. It’s
a narrative of the morning and the way that song flows to me seems intimate.
It feels like it should be listened to carefully. I love the fact that you have
that intimacy of sound combined with something that’s more like a story.
I like that a lot.
Pulse: So do you have any political songs on the album with the elections
coming up and everything?
Felix: We have a song called “Positions of Strength.” It
examines what makes powerful figures come into being. Some of my personal political
views are on that song and there’s another called “I'm Behind You,”
it’s about crimes large and small and how they completely permeate our
society. From jaywalking to the big ones, murder and rape. It’s a big
subject matter to talk about.
What are some of the goals the group has for A Tiger Dancing? What
things might get you down if they’re not accomplished?
Felix: You always want to exceed expectations. There are areas in this
country where we have been a lot of times, and there are areas where we have
never been before. When you go someplace, or even just when your music is in
stores in places where you haven’t been, you hope people will pick up
on it. Sometimes it kinda gets me down when we’re reaching out, and we’re
going further than we have gone before on tour and everything is looking great
and then we realize that there’s some huge area we totally messed up on,
and I’m like, “How could we be so stupid?” Sometimes it is
completely on us or our business plan.
Pulse: What’s different now, business wise, as far as this release
Twinkie Jiggles: Compared to like three or four years ago, there’s
a whole different level of marketing. When you start working with more people
the answers start becoming more complicated as far as who handles what. We definitely
are still involved with a lot of hand to hand marketing and things like that.
Getting disk samplers around, posters around, promoting shows. We have a manager
(Glimmer, Inc.) and a booking agency (Hello Booking) in town, then we have a
label in New York (Razor & Tie) and the label has an on-staff publicist
and an outsourced publicist in Los Angeles to also work our record. On top of
that, radio publicists are also hired to work the album to college radio, or
urban radio, whoever you’re aiming for. Compared to four years ago, it’s
great because now we’re dealing with a lot more volume. You have to really
keep track of what’s going on and there are more people you have to watch
to make sure everything is on point. When the machine is really running it is
really nice to have that many people working on your stuff.
Pulse: How have you grown as a group from Small Steps to A
Felix: Lyrically both of us grew a lot as far as letting our personalities
show more through our lyrics. I think that for any rapper starting out up until
recently the only thing you had to really rap about was mostly parties, girls,
money or status. I think that there has been a wave in all of music towards
being more personal with your songs. I don't want to seem like we’re just
stuck in a wave but as a natural evolution, as a writer, I feel like I’m
less focused on writing a really good rap verse and more focused on writing
a really good song. More often than not, the songs I’m writing now are
about something. Traditional rap has sometimes been about going to parties,
hanging out. In striving to not do that, you got to talk about something else—and
a lot of times that’s yourself. As you push yourself to be better at what
you do you push yourself into new things and I think both of us have been pushing
to be more personal in our lyrics.
Twinkie Jiggles: For awhile all the pop Hip-Hop was talking about money
and women. Then there was this underground backlash that was equally crap where
people were talking about "I don't have money, I don't have women."
It was completely reactionary and now they’re both coming close to the
middle. We’re seeing more personal stuff, like Jada Kiss would not have
a song like “Why?” five years ago. Everybody’s getting more
Emo—it’s not just Slug.
Pulse: Do you ever get tired of being put into the Midwest Hip-Hop box?
No I never get tired of being put in to the box labeled Midwest. I grew up in
St. Paul pretty much on the same block I live now. I love it there and I wish
everybody could see it for what it is. There’s some music around the nation
in Hip-Hop that is very much a fad. “Everybody in Tha' Club Getting Tipsy”
does not really represent St. Louis, nor do I think that Nelly does either.
On the other hand there are some people who have really broken ground for their
cities and actually do represent their city well. For example, I think Outkast
is happily pigeonholed to ATL. Certainly there were people before us coming
out of the Twin Cities, most notably, Atmosphere. If I was them I would be happy
to say I paved the way for different sounds to come out of my city. You would
not hear Lil' Jon if it were not for Outkast. Jermaine Dupri was not producing
ATL artists before Outkast. He produced Kris Kross, who were a joke, and Da
Brat who was from Chicago. The best thing about being from someplace that is
not a huge Mecca for Hip-Hop like New York or the Bay Area is that you get to
trail blaze. People respect trailblazers more than they respect people following
Twinkie Jingles: It makes me happy to make uniquely Minnesota music.
It’s not like there’s a style because there are tons of styles.
I’ve always been a cheerleader for Minnesota music and still am. I care
so much about being a part of the local scene. I love seeing bands grow or break
off to do different stuff. It’s so important to me to make music that
represents your place and feels good for Minnesota but also works for other
cities. Being put in the Midwest box is a small price to pay to come from a
place that’s really great. Sometimes you get put into a box because there
are other great artists to come from your city that have already been there.
It’s not like I would rather have the other artists, like Har Mar Superstar,
Atmosphere or Mason Jennings be from another place just so people would be like
"What's up with Heiruspecs, where is Minnesota?" It’s much better
that they live in my town because I get to see them perform and see them in
Felix: It does a lot for your city to see other artists go out and succeed
out of town. Just the same way a football team goes out and does well. It makes
the city happy. It’s somebody to get behind and root for. ||
Heiruspecs play their CD release show for A Tiger Dancing
on Sat., Oct. 2, at The Triple Rock Social Club with P.O.S. and Kanser. 6 p.m.
All Ages. $8. 629 Cedar Ave. S., Mpls. 612-333-7399.
Check out Heiruspecs on their official
Download an mp3 of Heiruspecs’ song 5ves.