Music News: Minnesota music community shows up, helps out, calls for change


The Current Music News for June 2, 2020 (MPR Video)

There are no words for the grief and anger Minnesota has experienced in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by a former Minneapolis police officer. On our last episode, last Thursday, we talked about that brutal act and the community's profound grief and rage. Since then, we've watched those feelings spread across the country and around the world.

So there have been much more immediate and urgent things to talk about than what's going on in the music world...but the Minnesota music scene is our community, and George Floyd was part of this community too.

To put it simply, we have seen the Minnesota music community show up. We saw artists in the streets and online raising their voices, demanding justice, documenting what they saw, and then coming back to help with cleanup, to help feed people and raise funds for supplies.

Artists like Ness Nite turned their Twitter feeds into hubs of information, amplifying news and sharing protest plans, warning followers about where it was risky to go and why. Gully Boys, a rock band who were playing block parties this time last year, offered protesters rides to safe spaces if needed and asking when and where food and supplies were needed.

Hip-hop artist Nur-D jumped with care and crowd control after a man was stabbed. Later, he was arrested while providing volunteer medical care.

Har Mar Superstar made supply runs for families whose neighborhood businesses were boarded up or damaged...and learned something about diapers in the process.

And, they kept giving us their gifts as musicians. The Steeles, a family of local gospel legends, stepped out into a front yard to stream music of light and hope.

Still, this week was about the fact that no amount of light or hope kept George Floyd from dying under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer, held there for minutes after he became unconscious. People are angry, and Minneapolis burned.

We woke up on Friday morning to find that the Hexagon Bar, which has been open in south Minneapolis since 1934 and went from polka bands in the '50s to metal bands today, had been gutted with flames. The Turf Club, a venue that advertises itself as "the best remnant of the '40s," was broken into and vandalized.

The community has been rallying to support businesses and residents affected by the destruction, but at the same time, here in the Twin Cities we're hearing a clear message: this is about George Floyd, this is about police brutality, this is about institutional racism. Dayna Frank, who owns the vandalized Turf, wrote on Instagram, "Unfortunately, the Turf was hurt last night. But we'll rebuild; we're not dead. You know who's dead? George Floyd."

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There are reports of outside extremists taking advantage of this moment to spread destruction and distract from that message, frustrating people who are trying to be heard. So there was a lot of anger when someone with access to the Hexagon's Facebook account logged on and posted a message blaming "'Black Lives Matter' arsonists" for "shocking, lawless activities." The page later took that message down and said it was "not authorized," but there was already a lot of damage done among would-be patrons who left messages like, "You should stay closed." (Star Tribune)

We've been connecting with Minnesota artists to hear what they're thinking and doing right now. Our colleague Andrea Swensson talked with André Cymone, who was a close friend and early bandmate of Prince. Here's some of what he said.

We're going to leave you with a new song about police brutality, released by rising Minneapolis hip-hop artist Dua Saleh. They said they were planning to include the track on a future project, but with what's happening right now, they wanted to put the song out to "demand justice for the family of George Floyd and countless others who have had their lives stolen by the police." The song is called "body cast." (Star Tribune)

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