Underground Rapper of the Week: Sean Anonymous

Underground Rapper of the Week is a new feature designed to raise awareness of rappers from all over the world who, if that world were a perfect place, would be more famous than they are. It will be updated every Tuesday before the sun goes down. Feel free to email suggestions of slept-on rappers from your city or wherever to: ezra.stead@gmail.com

Undoubtedly one of the most gifted and hard-working emcees in the Midwest, Minneapolis’s Sean Anonymous has been steadily on his grind for at least the past seven years now, since joining the Twin Cities crew Wide Eyes in 2005. Having toured extensively throughout the U.S. as a solo act and with a variety of other groups – including Wide Eyes, Death Ray Scientific and Bottom Feeders – Anonymous is now poised to take on even greater acclaim with his upcoming solo EP, Anonymo, produced by DJ Corbett and set to drop in June.

Even before the release of their first EP, Situation, in early 2008, Wide Eyes was a force to be reckoned with in the Twin Cities’ Hip-Hop scene because of their intense and energetic live show. Anonymous in particular is known for a stage presence that can best be described as “wildin’ out,” as he truly puts his whole body and mind into every live show. In his best performances, Anonymous often appears to be on the verge of exploding, but at the same time never loses focus as he delivers intricate, versatile flows with a rapid-fire delivery that remains accessible even at its most technically challenging. This summer, you can catch him performing live at the Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Bonnor Springs, and Maryland Heights stops on the Vans Warped Tour.

Perfectly complementing the rest of Wide Eyes – fellow emcee Tony Phantom and producers Dimitry Killstorm and DJ Name – with his sound, Anonymous can’t help but stand out on certain tracks, such as his mind-boggling first verse on “Borrowed Time,” from the 2009 Wide Eyes album, Hands Tied (pay close attention beginning at about 0:56 to hear how hard he goes in). Since the release of that video, Anonymous has been hard at work capitalizing on the advantages of this visual medium with stellar new videos for “Fast Forward” and the upcoming Anonymo track “Hot to Death” (coming in August), both directed by Dave Wilson.

The great thing about the music of Wide Eyes is how simultaneously old school and forward-thinking it is, with undeniably head-nodding production by Killstorm and Name layered under thoughtful but gritty flows by Anonymous and Phantom. Anonymous has also found success collaborating with other notable Twin Cities emcees Spy MC and Shelltoe in the darkly humorous group Bottom Feeders, and shows great comfort joining in live performances with some of the finest underground rappers in the nation, such as Ohio’s Blueprint, L.A.’s Abstract Rude (both of whom will be guest-starring on Anonymo), Chicago’s Phillip Morris and Juice, Minneapolis’s own MaLLy, Toki Wright and many more. Incidentally, Anonymous is one of the friendliest and most approachable emcees you’re likely to meet, and his goofy, unpredictable sense of humor is especially evident in his latest music video, “Name Droppin,” which you should watch at least twice below.


Steal This Song: The Moor, “Warm Winter”

It’s nice to see that ’60s lounge cool has yet to go out of style. Heck, if anything, it’s making a big of a comeback in the indie community. Jon Fratelli put his “Chelsea Dagger” day job on hiatus in order to make a boy/girl ’60s pop record with his wife’s best friend (they’re called Codeine Velvet Club, and they’re super cool), and let us not forget the ultimate hipster, slightly retro boy/girl duo the Bird and the Bee, whom the blogosphere keeps trumpeting, even though their tribute album to Daryl Hall and John Oates left us cold. More than cold, really. Frozen.

Enter the Moor, boldly going where, well, no one has made money in decades. This is to our immense gain, of course, not to mention some up and coming filmmaker who wants to use a Nancy Sinatra song without paying for a Nancy Sinatra song. “Warm Winter,” the leadoff track to their self-titled album, actually brings to mind a couple of bands from across the pond, with an extra jump over a fjord – Club 8 and the Acid House Kings. Those bands, like the Moor, are boy/girl duos, and all three are suckers for the mellow ’60s vibe, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Click here to download The Moor – Warm Winter


Steal This Song: The Wandas, “Forever and Ever”

Oh man, is this easy on the ears. Just when we’re tempted to concede that new bands just don’t know how to construct a song the way they had been built for, oh, 35 or 40 years, along come the Wandas, an east coast quartet (Boston, if you can believe it) with a serious West Coast fixation. And we don’t say ‘if you can believe that’ in a derogatory manner; in fact, we lived in Boston for a couple of years, so we speak from experience when we say that the bands that made a name for themselves there, well, don’t sound like this. The only person who comes close is Aimee Mann, and she’s been gone for so long that she hardly counts as a Bostonian anymore.

The Wandas recorded their self-titled album in Montreal, and that makes perfect sense, since their sensibilities are similar to the bands who call Montreal home. In fact, several locals (Stars, the Stills, the Dears) play on the album, and while the Wandas don’t sound exactly like any of those bands, they’re in the same ballpark. Surrender to the mellow vibe. Everything will work out, we swear.

Click here to download The Wandas – Forever and Ever


Steal This Song: Delay Trees, “Cassette 2012”

All right, so here’s the pitch to anyone who was tuned in to modern rock when the scene first started coming together (that would be the late ’80s, in case you weren’t sure): “Cassette 2012,” the new single by Finnish quartet Delay Trees, is the best song the Ocean Blue never wrote.

And now, lets put that into context for anyone who was born after 1982.

The Ocean Blue were a alt-pop band out of Hershey, Penn. They released their debut album in late 1989 on Sire Records — back when, you know, the label you signed to made a very clear statement about what kind of band you were — and they quickly became darlings of MTV’s late-night modern rock show “120 Minutes.” Their songs were dreamy, jangly, and melodic beyond words. Singer David Schelzel’s low tenor was quite airy (possibly a precursor to the breathy Manchester bands a year or so later), and the musicianship was tight. Their self-titled first record remains a late ’80s alt-rock gem.

And “Cassette 2012” sounds just like that album.

The rest of their self-titled debut isn’t quite the dead ringer for the Ocean Blue, but it’s in the ballpark. Atmospheric arrangements, songs steeped in melody…it’s damn good. It doesn’t stand a chance of storming the charts on this side of the pond, but ten bucks says this will make a few soundtrack supervisors very, very happy.

Click to download Delay Trees – Cassette 2012


Steal This Song: The Republic Tigers, “Merrymake It with Me”

God love the Republic Tigers. Their insanely melodic, mid-tempo pop is delightfully out of time, but not in a ‘let’s cash in on this retro thing’ kind of way. Think of them as a moder-day equivalent of a band like Bourgeois Tagg – thinking man’s pop for teenagers. Is that the next niche market?

republic tigers

Sadly, probably not, which is why we love the Tigers for doing it anyway. Their 2008 album Keep Color still receives steady airplay on the iPod, and their new EP, No Man’s Land, is more of the same, including a revved-up version of Keep Color track “The Nerve.” Check out this new song, “Merrymake It with Me,” which we’re convinced is a tip of the hat to Swedish power popsters the Merrymakers. Well, the title is. The song, not so much.

New album coming out later this year. Hopefully this will tide you over until then.

Click here to download Republic Tigers – Merrymake It with Me