Big Zach talks about his new book, Headspin, Headshots & History: Growing Up In Twin Cities Hip-Hop
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If you’re a fan of Twin Cities hip-hop, you’ve probably heard the name Big Zach. The 34-year-old MC has been an active member of the local scene for well over a decade, spitting rhymes solo and in the groups Kanser and More Than Lights. He has also hosted regular rap showcases and battle nights over the years, including the weekly Headspin Sundays that helped launch big local names like Brother Ali.
Now, Zach’s sharing years of memories and advice in his new book, Headspin, Headshots & History: Growing Up In Twin Cities Hip-Hop. To celebrate the memoir’s release, he’s hosting a party at Honey Dec. 1 at 6:30 p.m., featuring speakers and video clips from almost 30 years of Minnesota hip-hop. Zach spoke to The A.V. Club about the vision that inspired his book, how the Twin Cities scene has changed, and which artists to watch for next.
The A.V. Club: What made you decide to write a book?
Big Zach: Well, I’m kind of embarrassed, but I’m going to share this at the release show: Years ago, I was on some shrooms and I had a vision that I should write the book. So that’s where the initial idea came from.
AVC: Did you do research and interviews, or is the book mostly based on your own memories?
BZ: Mostly my own memories. I lived through most every story that’s in the book. And almost all of the characters, I’m pretty good friends with or have some sort of relationship with. I did call some people and do some fact-checking. I had the idea to do interviews, but there’s already going to be slow parts of the book, ’cause it’s documenting history. If I added my own twist of what I was doing, it might make it more entertaining.
AVC: What are some of your favorite memories from growing up in Twin Cities hip-hop?
BZ: I’m going to show a video at the release party of Brother Ali and Carnage. Back in 1999, they had some beef, and they battled at a night that we had every week. There were like 250 kids crammed into this small space, just going crazy. But the whole book is actually my best memories of the Twin Cities hip-hop community.
AVC: Was there anything that was painful for you to remember and write about?
BZ: There are a couple of stories that are painful, because some of the characters have passed away or gone to prison. Eyedea died last year. When Eyedea was in high school, he went to Highland in St. Paul, and there was this other rapper, Quincy, who went to South in Minneapolis. All of us older rappers knew they were the best two high school rappers, but we didn’t know who was better. They decided to battle, because back then, it was more competitive. I actually got to host the battle.
Obviously, Eyedea went on to become more of a figure in Twin Cities hip-hop. Quincy did pursue rap, but he also got into some other stuff. Sadly, not long after Eyedea died, Quincy was murdered. So, what I tried to do in the book, I wrote their stories in the same chapter, because even though Eyedea was a bigger character in Minnesota hip-hop, their relevance as human beings—and, at one time, to local hip-hop—was the same.
AVC: What has changed in the local hip-hop scene in the time you’ve been active?
BZ: It’s become a lot more business and a lot less battle. Twenty years ago, it was all about competition and battling. Now, it’s way more about getting on The Current. Even 10 or 12 years ago, I would go to shows, and people would be rapping, and there would be knucklehead rappers scheming to jump onstage and show them up. That would never happen now. Nobody’s going to go to the Doomtree Blowout next week and try to get onstage and cause a scene. If they did, they’d be escorted out by security. It would just be so dumb. They’d be interrupting the show for all of the fans. Twelve years ago, it was more hectic.
AVC: You’ve hosted some hip-hop and battle nights that became breeding grounds for local talent. Where should hip-hop fans be going now if they want to see the best underground and up-and-coming artists?
BZ: We don’t have a weekly night right now, but there’s always shows going on. Just watch for stuff, and you’ll find it.
AVC: What up-and-comers should we be watching out for?
BZ: Duenday has opened a lot of shows for us, and they’re playing a lot of festivals. I think they’re going to have a great 2012. There’s a guy named Haph Duzn—he’s a real good street rapper from the South Side. I think he can draw from the more hardcore street rappers and the hip-hop kids. He’s got skills; he raps about reality. So I think he’ll have a great 2012, too.
AVC: Do you try to be a role model for younger rappers?
BZ: I try to be. I don’t always like to get involved in the gossip and drama of the younger rappers, but I’ll try to help them out. I hope that the young rappers from the scene give my book a read. I try to show the mistakes I’ve made and the lessons I’ve learned.
AVC: What can you tell us about the book release show?
BZ: I’m saying that the book is the best documentation of our hip-hop scene and history, but in the scheme of things, it’s probably part three, or maybe parts three, four, and five. So I’m going to have some rappers from the ’80s and the early ’90s talk about what the scene was like then. I’m going to show some videos of rappers who have passed or who are in prison. I’ll have fun things, too. It’s going to be a lot of fun, but also educational.
After the Dec. 1 book release, Big Zach’s next show will be as part of Mike Mictlan’s night of the Doomtree Blowout, Dec. 5 at the 7th St. Entry.