Minamina Goodsong
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Minamina Goodsong

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The best kept secret in music

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Take equal parts Ugly Duckling, Pharcyde, and the Black Eyed Peas. Stir and enjoy. Atlanta natives Minamina Goodsong take their name from a Sesame Street tune, sample Lady and The Tramp, and, somehow, come up with one of the slickest and most sophisticated rap albums to be released in this era of over-blingy dullness. Not exactly groundbreaking, but not overly sentimental, The Transcendental Game of Zen is an homage to rap’s past that’ll be worthy of tribute, itself, down the road.

(Check out Minamina Goodsong at Rhythm and Brews on September 11th.)
- Chattanooga Pulse


MINAMINA GOODSONG This whimsical foursome from Atlanta locate rap's golden age using a personal compass, joyously updating the music of acts who flourished during their adolescence in the late '80s and early '90s. Paradoxically, by borrowing so freely (particularly from Prince Paul and De La Soul), Minamina come up with a fresh production style that contains deftly submerged modern touches as well as swelling, unconventional melodies that drift at crosscurrents with otherwise sparse arrangements. Humor-wise, the group aim to be obnoxious but never alienate the listener, and when they come up for air with earnest pleas for social change, it's refreshing.

11pm
The Muse - Nashville Scene


On the simplest level, every genre in music (except classical) has a mainstream coupled with an underground scene. Though the underground scene is exactly that, it’s nearly always the case that what goes on there in terms of musical innovation is admired, copied and downright pilfered by commercial artists who claim it as their own. A few years after any given innovation is spawned, tested and proven by an artist working off the grid, expect to hear that same guitar tone or songwriting style on MTV or popular radio. The musicians working out of the underground are there for different reasons: Some are parched, thirstily awaiting their major break, while others proudly shun any entryway to possible stardom as a betrayal, a step down.

And of all the underground scenes, none are associated with as much stacked talent and inclusiveness as hip-hop’s. It’s definitely a booming market — every major city in America can claim a respectable non-profit hip-hop collective, and Atlanta has a fierce competitor to be reckoned with.

Leading Atlanta’s charge is Minamina Goodsong, one DJ behind three MCs, all of sizable skill, clout and dedication. At the heart of the four members — DJ T’challa (Cedric Dodd), and MCs Pgnut (pronounced as Peanut, Brannon Odum), AD (Evan Wix) and Twizzle (Twain Carter) — is an undeniable love for hip-hop as a lifestyle. Odum even tried to leave that lifestyle behind and get a day job, the painful realization for many that their musical aspirations might one day have to be taken out back and shot. For a few years, he was able to completely put down the microphone. Eventually, however, the separation drove him crazy and called him back before his sharp rhyming skills had completely atrophied.
Minamina Goodsong’s brief four-year existence is merely an extension, though, of a lifelong friendship and the unifying love of hip-hop that is like a fifth friend.

“In middle and early high school, I was a skateboarder,” says Odum. “In Atlanta, you have a split between the skaters that listen to punk and the hip-hop skaters, the ones who drove their mom’s BMWs. I guess I kind of fit into that category, minus the BMW.”

Ironically, it was a rather boring early life that led Odum to an active involvement in hip-hop.

“I clung to Native Tongue (a New York-based collective that featured A Tribe Called Quest and Queen Latifah) a lot, especially De La Soul,” says Odum. “I wanted to know everything about them, I listened to them incessantly, I went to their shows and met them. When I was growing up, I was a late bloomer when it came to partying, so I was always staying conscious and could relate to the positive messages that a lot of the more lyrically-conscious groups had.”

The time span between that long-ago synthesis of the Kaleidoscope collective (which was eventually whittled down to Minamina Goodsong) and Minamina’s present state possess all the highs and lows of a VH-1 “Behind the Music” episode. There were minor police altercations, spiritual rebirths and, of course, the persistent issue of race (Odum and Wix are white, Dodd and Carter are black) that seems to be an important detail to everyone but the actual members of the group.

They’ve been keeping it rather local lately, getting on the bills of big-name artists like Dilated Peoples, Black-Eyed Peas and Pharcyde as those artists play in the Atlanta area. Mostly, the group is poised to pounce on mainstream rap, if and when the opportunity is exposed. Odum has his own theory on the inevitable future of hip-hop, a theory he readily shares.

“Hip-hop today is a lot like the cheese rock and hair bands were in the ‘80s,” says Odum. “You get that excess of all you’re talking about is females, drugs, alcohol, cars and money. Then you have movement like grunge that people can relate to, and then that blows up. I just feel that, at some point, the masses have just got to get sick of the same old stuff.”
- Augusta Metro Spirit


Unless civil or global war breaks out before the publication of this article, a certain bumbling and fumbling Texan will begin his second term as President of the United States in January. While the expected "Bush Stole the Election...Again!" themed merchandise and bad impersonations will likely be with us for the next four years, some will inevitably offer the hope that maybe, just maybe, we'll be in for a few waves of angry and politically minded music. Yet, with the combined inability of punkvoter.com, Michael Moore, and the Dixie Chicks to mobilize voters aged 18-25, maybe youth culture isn't the best place to look for artful and booty-shakin' dissent.

Minamina Goodsong, with their near constant pop culture references and laid-back, borderline mellow vibe, may not be the best place to look for aggressively political music either. But MC's Pgnut, Twain, and Adahma AD's rhymes can still be intensely intelligent and worldly, even as the music takes the listener to a place of complete escape. Backed by the mad skills of DJ Tchalla, the three MC's take on a variety of subjects, issues, and topics, but thanks to their sarcastic and whimsical rhyming styles, not to mention the group' s completely unpretentious outlook, Minamina never comes across as "message artists". With The Transcendental Game of Zen, Minamina Goodsong's third full-length, the group joined Psyche Origami as one of the most creative and original artists on Arc the Finger Records' roster. In the past year since its release, the group has caught even more ears and continues to receive substantial college radio airplay.

But Minamina Goodsong, who in the five years of the collective's existence has hardly taken a break, aren't about to rest on their laurels. "We've got a 12' single that's dropping in February, and then the full-length is supposed to drop in March," reports Pgnut. "It's a concept record. There are these skits in between songs, [about] this circus that rolls into town, and it's got this storyline. The storyline is kind of symbolic of the Atlanta underground scene, and we got just as many people as we could fit on the record."

"So, once you hear the record there's gonna be a story, but it's also gonna be like you've toured the Atlanta underground. Because, you know, we're getting out of town a lot and we're really proud of where we come from. It just feels like the sort of scene more people should know about, because people come down here and they're so surprised Atlanta has an underground hip-hop scene. When people think 'hip-hop' and 'Atlanta,' they usually think of Lil' Jon and stuff."

A concept album is certainly an ambitious venture for hip-hop artists, especially in recent years. With similar projects generally falling into either the "shit" or "instant classic" category, and precious little in between, the stakes could be high for Minamina Goodsong. But if anyone in Atlanta's hip-hop scene can pull it off, these guys can.

Pgnut is clearly above boasting, but he recognizes how far his group has come in such a short amount of time. "I'm a big fan of Ween," he explains, "and when you listen to Ween, their first records were good because they were funny, but over time they progressed into really good musicians and artists. And I feel like we kind of progressed the same way a little bit. I think we've always been musically inclined, but in the beginning it was way more about having fun. The more we learned about music, the more we started to learn about music, it was like we suddenly realized we were becoming more talented. Lyrically, I think we've taken a big step up-all of us have, and our DJ has gotten a lot better. Also, just establishing relationships with all of these really good artists, all of this stuff helps."

Of course, as with any newcomer into Atlanta's underground hip-hop scene, things didn't go so smoothly at first. Still, the group's music has always appealed to some of the scene's biggest names. "We've been around for about four or five years, and a few people latched onto us right off, like Dres [tha Beatnik] and 4 Kings [Entertainment]. Some of these groups [we've collaborated or played shows with], we all kind of started at the same time, like Vintage Imperial and Mars Ill, and Binkis [Recs}-though they had been doing stuff for a while. Gradually, there was the underground [acceptance] thing, and then we got attention from 99X and a lot of support from 88.5."

Pgnut remains optimistic about the state of hip-hop, local and otherwise, even as he admits that the subject matter preferred by many artists is redundant and stale. "Within the past year or two, I think hip-hop's taken a really good turn," he says. "I was worried for a while, because of what was happening in the mainstream. But, there's a whole other world of stuff going on, and it's kind of like when heavy metal was big, and then it just got played out and grunge came along and stuff like that-it was all alternative music. I just fe - Southeast Performer


MINAMINA GOODSONG

I’ve been criticized for being too serious. It’s a fair analysis. I can’t read or listen to anything without looking for meaning. This hopelessly ambiguous term heats up and glows red every time I encounter anything that allows me the smallest iota of room to interpret. Playing Atlanta hip-hop foursome Minamina (pronounced minah-minah) Goodsong’s third release The Transcendental Game of Zen was no different.

I put it in the stereo and was met with:

In a land far, far away, where faeries die, and children play, there was Pgnut, Twizzle, AD, T’Challa, better known as Minamina Goodsong. After space traveling for many years, across light years and galaxies, they came across the transcendental game of Zen.

You might find it a little silly — a record derived from a mythical space-odyssey resulting in the discovery of an interstellar gateway to transcendence and serene nothingness — you shouldn’t feel guilty, I found it very silly. The first few thoughts that crossed my mind aren’t publishable. Kid friendly: Just what the heck is this stuff?

It was more than a little difficult to latch on to immediately.

The longer I let the disc play, the less I began to care about meaning.

What I found on this sonic journey is an eclectic combination of jostling humor, witty lyrical backhands and serious pleas, the seriousness often veiled by the silly.

The sixth track, “Planet Moron,” is silliest. “Flush me you tidy-bowl bastard,” a whispering voice commands, followed by flushing.

As the whispers and gurgles continued, I realized I was ignoring the meaning I was looking for. This wasn’t simply the silliest track. It marked a turning point with a clever double entendre. Normally, devoting 36 seconds to a toilet’s call and response wouldn’t be considered a turning point, but The Transcendental Game of Zen had been abnormal since it began, and it was starting to affect me.

Track seven, “We Are” begins with the cartoon cats from Disney’s “Lady and the Tramp” singing: “we are Siamese, if you please...” followed by Pgnut’s question: “...it’s the sure shot shit, so what’s the deal?”

I understood Pgnut’s concern completely, “so what’s the deal?” It felt like interpreting a brick wall —plenty of texture, symmetrical lines, but no clear image. Then came “Growth” and “Retribution,” the most content-rich tracks on the album, where humor falls to the side in favor of the honest concerns of Minamina Goodsong. My panic was laid to rest. Golden minutes of words begging for interpretation streamed from my speakers.

Where the album fails to twist my brain into knots, it doesn’t fail to amuse it. Minamina Goodsong is witty and crafty, quick and good. They sample from across the board — anyone who can use Disney’s “Lady and the Tramp” in a hip-hop record deserves accolades — and deliver their well-chosen words with a live energy.

If you’re a fan of quick wit and like to hear artists have fun with their craft, it’s worth rolling the dice.
- Smokey Mountain News


The recession of sampling in recent years in hip-hop has spawned a definite division in overall style within its confines. The new-school approach relies heavily on composition in keyboard form, utilizing the wave of technology that currently so heavily rides the market. Underground acts, however, tend to utilize this same technology within the construct of the old idea of appropriation, cut in a way to avoid the oft-repetetive wholesale lifting of an entire song. The vocal styles tend to differ as well, one simply has to pair an early Big Daddy Kane to a contemporary Eminem track to see the difference:one a meditation on slower, more methodical delivery, the other a rapid-fire explosion of imagery and skill.
What makes Minamina Goodsong able to grab the brass ring from the underground circus is their ability to take the finest points of both old and new styles and carve a delicious amalgm of their own mettle. DJ T'Challah is a master of both the sample and the drum machine, juxapositiong something as innocuous as a theme from the movie "Popeye" with granite thick beats. All the while, MC's Pgnut, Twain and Adahma AD blister lyrical styles with wide abandon, never ceasing in their heat. The whole of their new album, "The Trancendental Game of Zen" is one long onslaught of deep thumping backed by everything from super-slow rock to Milt Jackson-like vibraphone cuts, no pauses between tracks or the intense lyrical barrage.
Associated with the Kalidescope collective of artists and musicians, and having cut their teeth with other local underground scenesters as Vintage Imperial, Dres that Beatnik, and Psyche Origami, over the last few years they have proven their place amongst these new royalty to come of age. Never afraid to cross barriers, they are just as comfortable opening for I Am the World Trade Center or Run DMC, and because of this their reputation locally has grown by leaps and bounds. "The Trancendental Game of Zen" will only inflate it further. While it may only their third release, they consistenly produce work that begs for the borrowed tape, the suggestion to a friend for a listen to something they never expected to come from our lowly home soil.
- Southeast Performer


Minamina Goodsong • The Transcendental Game of Zen • ArcTheFinger Records • With an energy level that reaches the heights of, say, Eminem's, these guys put a positive spin of lyrics that play on the possibilities of a care free existence. Rapid rhyme deliveries from these suburban Atlanta emcee's come off like the rowdy Kottonmouth Kingz, with solid, snapping beats that are sure to make the underground heads notice. Pgnut, Twain, and Adahma AD spit nicely over clever samples and turntable techniques by DJ T'Challa, making this an overall, old-school meets new-school hip-hop collection. (JC) - Impact Press


Minamina Goodsong snatches, grabs and loves hip-hop all at once
The two MCs who front local hip-hop trio Minamina Goodsong are white. But in an age when Eminem proclaims himself the "worst thing since Elvis Presley," that fact is not particularly noteworthy.
But also consider that the two rappers were born and raised in Smyrna, graduated from Julia Roberts' alma mater Campbell High School and still live in the 'burb. That Brandon "Pgnut" Odum and Evan "AD" Wix look decidedly un-rapperish -- Odum like some Shaggy/Andy Richter splicing, Wix like Marv Albert crossed with Alfred E. Newman. That Odum owns a home in a middle-class Cobb subdivision. That Wix is a former high-school golden boy turned governor's office employee and born-again Christian, whose father is state Rep. Don Wix (who now holds the Mableton-based seat vacated by Roy Barnes). Those things make Minamina Goodsong's existence as one of the brighter lights on Atlanta's underground hip-hop scene slightly more unlikely.

But the most unusual part of this equation is that no one in the indie hip-hop community seems to bat an eyelid at any of this. Not scene godfathers like MassInfluence, whose H2O created the cover art for Minamina's just-released second album, Snatch, Grab, I Love You .... Not even Professor Griff, Public Enemy's black nationalist "minister of information," who Odum says stopped him after a show one time to say, "'I really like what you're doing.'"
"The reason Minamina get a lot of respect is because they give a lot of respect," says D.R.E.S. tha Beatnik, a human beat-boxer who also promotes underground hip-hop shows in the city. "They know the history of the scene. They acknowledge that there was a scene before they got involved in it."
While it's a stretch to tie Minamina Goodsong's local prominence with any larger trend toward white hip-hop's growth, it highlights an interesting phenomenon. Ever since the Beastie Boys arrived two decades ago, forecasters have predicted hip-hop's inevitable transformation into a primarily white expression. They watched, after all, how rock 'n' roll moved from Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry to Elvis Presley to Pat Boone in just a couple years. And within a decade, the idea that the rock music created by bands like the Beach Boys and the Who had anything remotely to do with black culture seemed ludicrous.
Yet despite history's precedent, nothing like that ever happened to hip-hop. Twenty-three years since rap's first hit, the genre remains only slightly less dominated and defined by black artists and black youth than it was at the start.
Of course, how African-Americans managed to retain cultural ownership despite hip-hop's obvious appeal to white kids -- plus its proven ability to make people rich -- has everything to do with the times. Unlike in the pre-civil rights era that birthed rock, the idea of white youth being entertained and inspired by black artists was not nearly as problematic by the '80s. What's more, a measure of social justice and upward mobility enabled black companies and artists to actually earn fortunes, retain some control and develop power in the music business.
Still, hip-hop may yet evolve its way to a place where it's no longer recognizably black in nature -- which is perhaps an inevitable, if delayed, consequence of its own success at bridging racial lines among the young.
"I've been listening to hip-hop music and hip-hop's been a part of my life since I was 8 or 9," Odum says, relaxing on his couch, fresh from a round of Playstation golf. "Like the Fat Boys and Ice-T and Beat Street, breakdancing in the street on my cul-de-sac when I was a little kid. It's just as much a part of my life and my culture as anybody else's. I guess due to my ethnicity and the way I've grown up, I don't speak the same way as [most black rappers], and I don't try and dress to fit the mold. That's just how we are. We try to talk about what we know in our music. If I knew how to make rock music, I would be making rock music."


Minamina's third member, Cedric Dodd -- aka DJ T'challa -- grew up in Smyrna just like his groupmates. Though he's black, he had many of the same influences growing up as his white friends. "It's coming from a genuine place," Dodd says of Pgnut and AD's take on hip-hop. "I've encountered many white cats that get into hip-hop and feel like they have to be something they're not, and I've never believed that that's how you have to be with this music."
If hip-hop is about acting real, no matter your background, then Minamina Goodsong has moved much closer to that ideal in recent years, thanks to a few doses of harsh reality flung at them.
Though they've known each other since high school, it wasn't until after they'd all been to college that Wix, Odum and Dodd came together to form the group. At the time, they were sharing a house in Home Park with members of local rap group Psyche Origami, part of Minamina's Plainzwalkerz crew. At the time, Minamina's - Creative Loafing


I miss old-school rap. It seemed that during the eighties and nineties, every new artist, every new album was kicking through walls, finding undiscovered ground. Even at the risk of being branded an anachronism, I can't deny that the state of mainstream rap makes me a little queasy. With a few notable exceptions, there seems to be a general homogenous trend in composition and style that cheapens the art form. That being said, thank god for groups like Minamina Goodsong, who have grabbed onto the pioneer spirit and never let go. From the opening beats of “Haven”, the urge to shake ass doesn't let up, period. DJ Tchalla can spin circles around an army of cutout turntablists; even without the massive vocal skills the album would be worth buying as an instrumental. Tchalla's sampling is the crucial diversifying flavor that lends Minamina's tracks their unique forms, appropriating everything from the soundtrack to the obscure eighties Popeye movie, to the Beta Band, to classic break beats that would make Big Daddy Kane weep in nostalgia. MC's Pgnut, Twain and Adahma AD provide the balancing lyrical flow that fuses with Tchalla's beats into something so catchy yet sublime it can only be described by the particular tingling on the back of your neck you get as you listen. Their syllables jut and dance in expert syncopation and tone, hovering somewhere between playfully snide and steely preaching. Peppered with the occasional pop culture reference, their subject matter is all over the globe, unsatisfied to be limited by typical restraints, but still retaining the requisite braggadocio of early classic MC's like Ice-T and LL Cool J. It could be theorized that the reason for mainstream hip-hop's devolution into sameness is a constraint of industry standards, or carefully focused consumer ideals. Whatever the reasons, they're wrong. "The Transcendental Game of Zen" breaks visionary ground through the scientific application of techniques old and new, twisted and straightforward. If this doesn't deserve a crown on the stage of modern rap, I don't know what does. - Southeast Performer


Discography

08.09.05 : Four Farmer Circus Release
September 05 : "Big" 12-inch Single Release
2003: The Transcendental Game of Zen
2002: Snatch Grab I Love You
2000: Time For Breakfast

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

DJ T’Challa and MCs Adahma AD, Twain (aka Ted Jon) and Pgnut the Prehistoric continue to build their name through charismatic, hyper-kinetic live performances and a mercurial style of writing, rhyming and producing. They’ve become a college radio favorite, a featured act on Atlanta commercial radio giant 99.x’s morning show, earned numerous press write-ups and landed on bills with major label acts like The Streets, the Pharcyde, the Beatnuts, Papa Roach, Black-Eyed Peas, Run DMC and Lyrics Born. MG’s instrumental tracks have been used in programming on MTV and Fox Sports, as well as on the Cartoon Network’s cult hit “Adult Swim.” Their album “The Transcendental Game of Zen,” released on ArcTheFinger in 2003, has sold well at retail in the US and in Japan. This summer, MG will join the Vans Warped Tour for several east coast dates, with a tour supporting “Four Farmer Circus” to follow.