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Dessa Darling - photo by Aaron Wojak |


by Justin Beckner
April 2010

Most monocle wearing, high brow music scholars would tell you that rap and hip hop are nothing more than a senseless spat of Thom Foolery. But in Minneapolis, a group of musicians have brought the modern music of the streets to the world of academia, and rightly so. Over the past two decades, no form of music has grown in popularity and influence more than Hip Hop. I also understand that McNally Smith now has the only Hip Hop Diploma Program in the country!

No place but Minneapolis has such a diverse and groundbreaking group of rappers. Not only groundbreaking in their music, but in their actions within the community as well. This is an interview with Dessa Darling, a prominent member or the Doomtree Crew and an instructor at McNally Smith. Dessa has just released her first full length album entitled A Badly Broken Code and is currently on tour with another Minneapolis born rap powerhouse P.O.S. You can check out for more dates and info! 

MAXIMUM INK: What is your least favorite interview question?
DESSA DARLING: I like talking about rap. And I don’t mind talking about being a woman. But the question “What’s it like being a woman in hip hop?” is too broad to evoke an interesting answer. It’s like being asked, “What’s it like to be a person on Earth?” I just haven’t been anything else long enough to speak intelligently on how it might compare.


2477 ViewsPermalinkDessa WebsiteDessa MySpaceDessa Wiki

at the SETT on the University of Wisconsin - Madison with Bucky Badger - photo by Chris Taylor

Deniro Farrar

The Complexity of the Cusp of Stardom
by Chris Taylor
October 2014

Last night I had the privilege of sitting down with Deniro Farrar. Deniro hails from Charlotte, NC and has a hot new single called titled “Bow Down” and is touring the country on his Bow Down Tour. I had a preconceived interpretation of who Deniro would be when I heard his name. I envisioned a backpacking Hip Hopper who would drop “Yo Son” on me about 62 times when I first heard his name. Then I watched the Bow Down Video; which features Denzel Curry.

My immediate reaction to seeing that was, Ok homie is straight off the block and I am about to chop it up with a D Boy who crossed over to the rap game. WRONG, Deniro Farrar is much more complex than most artists that I have met.


Les Paul holding a copy of Maximum Ink backstage at the Iridium Jazz club in New York City - photo by Otto Schamberger


An interview with director and creator of Launchpad Dennis Graham
by Aaron Manogue
January 2011

“Some of the best original music today comes from high school garage bands.” –Les Paul

The Wisconsin School Music Association (WSMA) is about to kick off the seventh year of the one of a kind music competition called Launchpad, using the same idea that the late great Les Paul personified in his quote. Launchpad is a statewide alternative music competition for high school students in bands formed outside of the traditional music classroom. Maximum Ink caught up with director and creator of the competition, Dennis Graham to talk about how the competition got started and where he sees it heading in the coming years.

Maximum Ink: Tell us about how Launchpad got started.

Dennis Graham: I was approached by the WSMA, which presents this program, seven years ago to talk about raising awareness on raising funds for them. As a result of my discussions with Michael George, the current Executive Director of the WSMA, and I brought up a couple ideas and the first was to present a Lifetime Achievement Award to recognize people who had a successful music career and were also impacted by a music teacher. The first ever Lifetime Achievement Award in Wisconsin was given to Les Paul. I hand delivered a letter that I wrote, which was signed by Governor Doyle, to Les inviting him back to Wisconsin (He hadn’t been back in twenty years.) October 27th, 2004 was Les Paul Day in the State of Wisconsin and it was just a marvelous day of honoring him. Steve Miller (Steve Miller Band), Les’ godson, came out and was part of it as well.


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Minneapolis' Heatbox


by Andrew Frey
May 2009

Vocal organists are a hard lot to find. Humans may all be born with mouths, but what emanates from that orifice varies greatly. Babies tend to be the most creative but also unrefined when it comes to their vocal expressions. Some folks however take the time to refine their vocal tool and the results can be spectacular. Case in point HEATBOX, the one man beatboxing sensation from Minneapolis, MN who describes his music as sounding like a “funky a’ capella group from outer space.” 

His new release is called “System” and drops on May 5, 2009, necessitating a tour and therefore a fantastic opportunity to see him live and in top form. I’ve seen HEATBOX several times over the past several years and he is always extremely interesting and entertaining as a performer.  I was pleased when he recently had a moment to answer a few questions. Since the amount of solo beatboxing performers is a slim one at best, I was curious as to how he chose his musical path.  “I have always had a nerdy spot in my heart for a’ capella music… and funk!” Heatobox begins. “But really I think it chose me.”

When performing, Heatbox is far more than just a simple a’ capella performer. Hums, whirls, squeaks, scratches, thumps and bumps are but a paltry attempt to semantically replicate the types of sounds in his arsenal of vocal slurries. I questioned if certain sounds are harder to generate than others?


2155 ViewsPermalinkHeatbox WebsiteHeatbox MySpace

Hed PE

Hed PE

An interview with guitarist Jackson Benge
by Tina Ayres
July 2014

Hed PE is back with their ninth studio album to the delight of American Rapcore fans everywhere. Their latest offering, Evolution, is slated for release this July on Pavement Entertainment. Comprised of Jared Gomes(vocals), Mawk(bass), Jackson Benge(guitar) , and Trauma(drums) the band is back with sounds heavier than ever.

Maximum Ink: What were you like as a child growing up? What would you say are your fondest memories of that time?
Jackson Benge: I was a hyper kid. My grade school teachers would always write the same types of comments on my report cards; “He has a lot of energy,” or, “Distracts other kids.” I couldn’t keep still and couldn’t stop staring at the clouds. My imagination was my best friend and I used to love to draw. One of my fondest memories growing up was the first time I rode a bicycle without training wheels. As long as my memory is still intact, that will remain among the fondest.

MI: How old were you when you wrote your first song? Do you remember what it was about?
JB: I was about 15 or 16 years old when I wrote one of my first actual songs. Believe it or not, I wrote the lyrics as well. It was called, “Hold On,” and it was a cross between “Earth Angel” by the Penguins and “Don’t Cry” by Guns ‘n’ Roses. It was a simple love song about wanting to be with a girl you can’t have. At the time, many girls around me seemed to like that song, so I guess it was a relative success.

MI: Are you excited to be releasing your ninth studio album on Pavement Entertainment?
JB: “Evolution” is our 9th studio release and it’s always exciting to put out a new record, especially with a label like Pavement, which clearly has a solid grasp on how to treat their artists. The team we now have working with us is incredible. When I talk to others who have worked with Pavement, they have nothing but great things to say about them as well.


Wiz Khalifa

Wiz Khalifa

Keepin' it on the Level
by John Noyd
May 2011

Washed in champagne and sensimillia bravado, smooth-talking rapper, pop upstart and lifestyle compiler, Wiz Khalifa slings off-putting epithets, suave posse politics and pussyfooting bragging rights glamorizing a cushy life of sleeping in and going out.  As a son of two military parents Wiz is no stranger to discipline or duty but his allegiance to his fan base, the Taylor Gang, and his, success is the best revenge, work ethic are a far cry from dawn patrols and reveille.


the first Mifflin Street Block Party circa 1969

The Mifflin Street Block Party

by Mike Huberty
April 2010

The University of Wisconsin has traditionally held two giant student parties every year. One is Halloween (where out of town revelers caused so many problems, it evolved into Freak Fest, still a good party but one that turns State Street into a demilitarized zone each year) and the other is the Mifflin Street Block Party. Started in 1969 as a reaction to the Vietnam War (the event that seems to loom over every student activity or university story from that decade), the party has been an annual tradition some times at odds with the city and some times with the city’s blessing. After a long time of relative peace, in 1996, drunken and foolish partygoers decided to attack a fire truck that came to put out a bonfire started in the middle of the street. Next thing you know, there’s riot gear, people are screaming bloody murder, and lots and lots of arrests are made. Needless to say, the 1997 party was kind of a drag. But the fest has continued in the ensuing years, and now local music promoters DCNY PRO, Madison natives and longtime Mifflin Street attendees, David Coleman and Ny Bass, have taken the bull by the horns. They spearheaded the party in 2009 to one of its most successful years. On the fortieth anniversary of the festival and even with over fifteen-thousand people in attendance, arrests were down from the year before and in 2010, they’re bringing more changes to make it a friendlier and safer place.


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