MNDSGN Breathes Hip-Hop in Aisle 5
MNDSGN is an inspirational producer to many of my friends in the underground hip-hop community, known for his laid-back approach to beat making that fuses pieces of R&B, soul, jazz, and world music together to create hip-hop. In many ways, that recipe of stylistic fusion has been forgotten as West Coast, New York, and Atlanta trap styles have taken turns dominating the mainstream discourse around hip-hop. MNDSGN is no rapper, but hip-hop breathes in the soul of the tunes he creates, even as he sings in falsetto over them and livens them up with improvisation on the keys.
Suzi Analogue was on stage when I walked into Aisle 5, playing a DJ set that felt like it belonged in a club from the future. Not quite dissonant noise, but it was certainly abstract techno that kept me interested even in the parts I didn't personally enjoy. Her performance met its climax and end with a vocal performance in which she howled thanks to the audience and appreciation for the prayers of some unidentified figure from her life.
The place was pure vibes. Everyone had silently agreed that it didn’t matter that they weren't dancing or that the transitions in MNDSGN’s set were abrupt. The music felt nice and the crowd felt nice. It was more of a producer’s showcase than a DJ set, and MNDSGN cut between tracks without any concern for beat matching. When he decided it was time to move on to the next track, the audience obliged with cheers, all comfortably aboard this channel-switching of emotions led by a man with a beat machine and a microphone.
If I'm being honest, the show wasn't a favorite of mine, and I didn't get much from either performance, but I could tell the room was full of true fans who were happy to hear MNDSGN perform, and they cheered and screamed through the night. At the end, several people eagerly handed him gifts, notes, and cards; further demonstrating how significant he is to the underground hip-hop community that was represented there that night. Even if I didn't love the music, I think we can all agree that hip-hop needs more positivity like that, more diversity and inclusion, and more stages where artists can be heard for something different than the radio hits.
Photos by Megan Friddle for Bullet Music