Minneapolis’ hip-hop scene has drawn much national attention over the past several years. With Slug and the rest of R.S.E. at the forefront, numerous artists have gained respect from listeners and critics by offering unique styles and candid lyrical content. Ignoring boundaries, many produce art that challenges conventional standards of hip-hop. R.S.E., Doomtree Collective and Kill the Vultures are the most discussed talent among our area’s emcees. Another group making some noise in some circles goes by the name of Mel Gibson and the Pants.
Why pretend this doesn’t make you raise your eyebrows? It’s one of those names that’s impossible to ignore; just quirky enough to catch someone’s attention in an era when everything seems cliché. After sitting down with Mel Gibson and the Pants I discerned that there is no storyline, nor philosophical statement behind the name. Instead, it’s more of “a bad joke gone wrong.” The band doesn’t seem to be too attached to the name, mentioning they may not even have it much longer.
While waiting for the second half of the sextet to meet us at our booth in Psycho Suzy’s, I probed the psyches of the drummer, bassist and emcee about their musical backgrounds, as well as future goals. They have been in the Twin Cities music scene for about three years. Making their rounds at underground staples like 7th Entry, Triple Rock, Nomad and a couple of warehouse shows, there is the sentiment that they are ready to take it to the next level, but not by compromising their approach. After a successful showing at the CMJ at the Knitting Factory, along with gigs in Chicago and Madison, Mel Gibson and the Pants are beginning to follow the footprints of the aforementioned Minneapolis underground icons. While future destinations aren’t necessarily determined, the crew expressed that they wouldn’t mind heading to either coast, or as far away as Europe supporting their label, Totally Gross National Product. They just have to find enough time to do this as a collective.
Upon reviewing the answers obtained through this interview, being busy was more than a motive—it is an integral part of their existence. This was evidenced through the remaining three members showing up near the conclusion of the interview. Between the six guys, there must have been two-dozen side projects. (OK, that might be a slight exaggeration, but not by much.) While the emcee, J.R., has drawn comparisons to Andre Benjamin, Outkast was not one of their primary influences. The six musicians have assorted musical influences ranging from KRS-1 to Arcade Fire. This shows in the make-up of their fan base, which fails to fall into a tidy categorical box. When asked about their dream tour, I got the tongue-in-cheek reply, “1983 Van Halen” twice.
One thing remained intact throughout our conversation; these guys are loyal to each other and their music, despite what you think about it. The New Year will find them promoting their sophomore effort, W/ Guitar. While the date is uncertain, the group insists it will be out “soon.” A follow up to their adventurously eclectic Mannequin American, it will feature close friend P.O.S., Eyedea, James Buckley and Travis Bos from the Chariots. While their sound may startle some rap purists, it assists in continuing to establish Minneapolis as host to a diverse hip-hop scene less concerned with fitting in than freedom of expression.