The Tribe & Big Cats!
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The Tribe & Big Cats!

Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States | SELF

Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States | SELF
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The Tribe & Big Cats! @ 7th St. Entry

Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

The Tribe & Big Cats! @ Rhymesayer's Soundset Festival

Shakopee, Minnesota, USA

Shakopee, Minnesota, USA

The Tribe & Big Cats! @ First Avenue

Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA



Once again, Minneapolis music makes it’s way to my ears/eyes and I’m left in good spirits. Coincidence? I think not. The video above marks the third installment of the trio’s Make Good video series. And if you like what you hear, head on over to their official website for more. -

Two weeks after I first featured the Minneapolis trio on 2dbz, they’re back with the next installment of their Make Good video series. And once again… if you like what you hear, head on over to their official website for more. -

In January, The Tribe And Big Cats delivered their debut album, Forward Thinkers, Movers, Shakers, to the delight of local hip-hop aficionados who dig the collab’s carefree style and crisp, orginal flow. Now the group is embarking on a new project, coined Make Good, where it will be releasing a new downloadable MP3 each month. “We Gone,” the first in the series, was released July 10 and features Mally and vocals from Claire Taubenhaus that add a necessary slow sexiness to the already laid-back jam. The video appears to take place at an impromptu party held in the deadened woods, an occasion complete with streamers and goofy triangle party hats. It’s worth a watch and a download, and maybe even worth donning your own party hat. You can listen to the MP3 here. - The Onion

One of the most exciting things about being from Minneapolis is a hip-hop scene that never ceases to surprise. The scene to date has been most noted nationally for emo-rap stars like Atmosphere and Eyedea & Abilities, hardcore-rappers like P.O.S., and of course, Brother Ali. We may soon be adding a few names to that list, with the likes of SIMS, Toki Wright, and now a young group known as The Tribe and Big Cats!.

Unnecessary punctuation and allusions to A Tribe Called Quest aside, The Tribe and Big Cats! hold a casual sort of dominion over their chosen genre, mixing backpack rap with a little extra flair and lyrics about social responsibility interspersed within the shout-outs to their hometown.

On their new single, “We Gone,” the trio (a rapper and two producers), along with guests MaLLy (a rising rap star in his own right) and Claire Taubenhaus, craft a pleasantly nostalgic string swell over a loose, unobtrusive beat, evocative less of a new summer and more a nod to summers past. Tribe rapper TruthBeTold leads the way, though the song doesn’t grab hold quite fully until Taubenhaus’s voice graces the chorus; certainly the rapper is talented, though his flow is not as collected as his counterpart MaLLy, whose Nas-esque style is instantly graspable to a casual listener. Still, the song as a whole shines, and it’s always exciting to hear new voices in the Minneapolis rap scene. -

?"We are not underground artists. We have no desire to be underground," declares Truth Be Told, MC from the rap trio the Tribe and Big Cats!, during our interview at Waterbury Studios.

His statement brings me back to high school, when "underground" rap was touted as "real" rap, and artists and fans took careful steps to avoid the trappings of the "mainstream." At the time, independent was often defined in opposition to what was on MTV, and underground rap listeners were quick to let you know the parameters of their love of the music. "I love rap, but not that stuff you hear on the radio," was a phrase that was often bandied around by "true school" fans, which was sort of unfortunate for listeners like myself, as I enjoyed both Atmosphere and Cash Money but felt like I had to ally myself with one versus the other.

Thankfully, this dichotomy is changing in the days of failing major labels and unsigned internet celebrities, and even the Minneapolis scene, once characterized mostly by the emo-rap that initially drew national attention, has lately been broadening its sound. The Tribe and Big Cats! are a prime example. The fact that they do not wish to adhere to strict guidelines of how independent rap is supposed to sound helps make their debut album, Forward Thinkers, Movers, Shakers, live up to its name. There's equal parts respect for hip-hop's traditional methods and efforts to progress, all couched in the desire to make you nod your head and shake your ass.

The rejection of the term "underground" comes from the group's desire to be heard, and appreciated, by as many people as possible. In their press release for the album, the Tribe and Big Cats! call it "'real hip-hop' without the elitism," and "party rap that doesn't have to be a guilty pleasure." DJ Pete is as quick to be annoyed by rap groups stuck in nostalgia, as he is to extol deceased turntabalist pioneer Roc Raida. Big Cats! holds equal reverence for DJ Shadow as he does for Bangladesh, the producer behind Lil Wayne's smash hit "A Milli." Truth Be Told advises rappers to listen to a steady sonic diet of themselves (of course), Big Daddy Kane, and Ice Rod; he goes on to say that "if you can't rap after that, you should learn to play trumpet or something, because rapping is not for you."

You can hear the group breaking down the idea of split camps in hip-hop on the record, at times bluntly in the lyrics, like on the hook of "Roll Out!" ("Fuck that / Indie rap / Fuck that / Major label / All I want is Jordans and some money on the table"), but also more subtly in the attitude with which they approach songwriting. Forward Thinkers, Movers, Shakers succeeds in its attempt to appeal to a wide audience of rap fans without alienating anyone. Truth Be Told weaves between a number of themes smoothly and seemingly effortlessly, armed with a wit and verve that gives every song humor, poignancy and energy. The album balances songs about weed ("Blunt Raps"), stealing your girl ("TacosNetflixHuluWater"), and being the shit with heavier and more introspective material, with a consistency that reflects the group's love of rap's many shades.

Truth Be Told laces his laid-back but punchy rhymes over some truly excellent instrumentals, provided by the other two-thirds of the group. Big Cats! and DJ Pete's beats are awash in synths, soul samples and drum slaps, and are clearly inspired by a wide range of influences, yet maintain a cohesive and original sound. In Minneapolis's thriving community of rap producers, Big Cats! and DJ Pete prove themselves as standouts. There are plenty of moments throughout the album where the lush instrumentals get space to breathe, and every beat feels rich and full. In addition to the local notables on the album, including Toki Wright, Brandon Allday of Big Quarters, and singer Alicia Steele, the trio also reached out to guests Phil Da Agony, Planet Asia and Abstract Rude from the West Coast for some additional verses. The final track, "Get It Movin," rounds out the album with an anthemic chorus from Ben Peterson of Sing It Loud that seems to have burrowed into my brain.

There are plenty of moments that will stick with listeners of all predispositions, but it's especially powerful for those like myself, who simply love great rap. It's exciting to hear an album that is decidedly not constrained by the mainstream versus underground dynamic, and the Tribe and Big Cats! blur that line intentionally and effectively. - City Pages Minneapolis

The Twin Cities rap community gets plenty of accolades (and some criticism) for its overwhelmingly hyper-literate, socially conscious bent. But recently, some of the hip-hop groups making the most waves have been breathing fresh air into the scene by taking a more unapologetically mainstream approach. Two of those acts -- trio the Tribe and Big Cats! and solo artist MaLLy -- have pooled their efforts on a new track, "We Gone," and the slow-burning summer jam is a great representation of what both camps have cooking this year.

"We Gone" also features a vocal hook by Claire Taubenhaus, and is reportedly the first of a four-part series of singles by the Tribe and Big Cats! called Make Good, which will be released over the next four months. And as we mentioned yesterday, MaLLy is working on his own album, The Next Great, which is also due out this fall. - City Pages Minneapolis


Supply and Demand (EP, 2009)
Let's Be Professional (mixtape, 2010)
Forward Thinkers Movers Shakers (LP, 2011)
Make Good (EP, 2011)
Space (LP, Coming Summer 2012)



TruthBeTold (Chris Hooks) and Big Cats’ (Spencer Wirth-Davis) backgrounds couldn’t be more different. TruthBeTold grew up on the south side of Chicago, where his uncle made him start rapping at age 6; Big Cats grew up in the suburbs of St. Paul, where he studied classical music and played in garage bands. Hooks is the first in his family to graduate from college; Wirth-Davis’ father is a college professor. After a move from Chicago to the Twin Cities, and from classical to hip hop, TruthBeTold and Big Cats found themselves in similar situations, both trying to make a name in the Minneapolis rap scene. They linked up in 2008 at underground venue, The Dinkytowner, and immediately started working together as The Tribe & Big Cats (TTxBC).

They’ve spent the last three years defining their sound, carving out their niche in the rap-saturated Twin Cities. TTxBC operate on a simple philosophy: rap can be fun without being stupid. It can be intelligent without being gloomy and pretentious. TTxBC has crafted a sound that ties together all of these impulses, blending the tireless DIY work ethic of the underground, the confidence of the mainstream stars, and the kind of pure technical talent that defies easy categorization. It’s “real hip hop” without the elitism. It’s party rap that doesn’t have to be a guilty pleasure. It’s gimmick-free music that will make your trunk knock and your neurons fire.

In 2011, The Tribe & Big Cats released two albums. The first, FTMS, featured guest appearances from Planet Asia, Phil Da Agony, Toki Wright, Abstract Rude, and more. City Pages called the album “...equal parts respect for hip hop’s traditional methods and efforts to progress, all couched in the desire to make you nod your head and shake your ass”. The second album, Make Good, was released on December 2nd, with a sold out release party at First Avenue’s 7th St. Entry. The album featured Smoke DZA, BJ The Chicago Kid, MaLLy and more. It was named one of City Pages Albums of the Year, and the Minnesota Daily called the release party the best live show of the year. It was also featured on many prominent blogs, such as 2DopeBoyz and Fake Shore Drive.

2012 has already been an intense year for TTxBC, including a performance at Rhymesayer's Soundset Festival in May, their upcoming album "Space," slated to be released July 10 and large, nation-wide tour in the fall.

Features (National):
Footlocker and Footaction played in stores, Quicksilver, DC, Daytrotter, AOL Music (Spinner), 2DopeBoyz, Fake Shore Drive

Features (Local):
The Onion A/V Club, City Pages, Star Tribune