Kyle "El Guante" Myhre moves to Minneapolis on August 15, six years after he moved to Madison from La Crosse to attend the University of Wisconsin and subsequently became a leading figure in the city's hip-hop and spoken word scenes, alongside his work and volunteering on behalf of diversity education and other social activism.
This emcee, poet, writer, and activist shared his thoughts in a recent interview.
The Daily Page: Why Minneapolis?
Myhre: I signed to an independent label called Tru Ruts/Speakeasy Records. They're based in Minneapolis. It should be a good home base, a place to stage regional tours and network and all that. It really boils down to opportunities. I know that there are places I can plug in right away in terms of music, spoken-word and youth work. I like Madison a lot, but I need a change of pace.
Looking back on your years in Madison, what's been the highlight?
This is the place where I "found myself," so to speak. The people I met here had a lot to do with that. This city brings together some great people. If there's been one highlight, though, it's probably all the time I spent eating at Taste of Asia on East Washington. If I could have my final show there, I probably would.
Your blog is called Why Is El Guante So Angry? What's the answer to that question?
I think that culturally, many of us fear anger and consider it something bad that should be repressed or ignored. Instead, we should be seeking to understand it and use it. Anger and love are two sides of the same coin. The world is, by and large, a horrible place, and a little anger can go a long way toward making it better.
During the past four years, a core of Madison hip-hop artists and promoters have been noted for their substantive music and positivity. Do you see yourself as part of this scene?
To an extent, sure.
I think I fit into that as a person -- working with YouthSpeaks, performing at rallies, organizing fundraisers for progressive organizations, doing presentations at schools, all that. But as far as my music and poetry go, I think it's a little more tricky. I see my music as positive in that it's socially conscious and founded on philosophies and politics that I can stand behind.
On the other hand, I think there's come to be a kind of subgenre of hip-hop labeled "positive" that emphasizes platitudes of empowerment, vague political statements, even a kind of softer aesthetic, stuff like that.
As you leave Madison, are you encouraged by the state of local activism, or disillusioned by it?
As I'm most closely tied to the university, I feel I can comment on that the most. It seems that as tuition rises and the average UW student is more wealthy and privileged, the overall student body is becoming less interested in activism. The people and organizations who are making a difference are amazing and inspirational, but it's going to be a huge challenge for them to recruit from a seemingly shrinking pool of interested people.
It's great to see students or former students like Austin King, Ashok Kumar and Lauren Woods involved in city politics. I never had the patience or ability for that. I think the biggest challenge we all have in Madison is bridging gaps; between campus and city, between neighborhoods, between organizations. United we can do a lot more good.
What's next for you?
Playing my last show in Madison. Going to Texas for the National Poetry Slam in August. Settling into a new city. Releasing a single, then an album, touring off that.
More than anything, I want to lock myself in my studio and just write -- music, poetry, essays, articles, stories, plays, everything. My dream is to write a graphic novel.
El Guante will be taking the stage for his final show as a Madisonian at the King Club on Saturday, July 28, where he will be performing alongside Buss One with Child of the Black Madonna, Truthmaze, Sha Cage, Figureheads, Eric Mata and El Guante, MC Starr and DJ Pain 1. Don't miss it; as Myhre noted last month, "I'll be back through Madison periodically, but I'm anxious to break out and get serious."