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Minneapolis Hip-Hop Producer Big Cats! Talks Split With Rapper Hooks, Future Projects

Big Cats!
Big Cats!

Big Cats!, aka Spencer Wirth-Davis, is gearing up for a bittersweet farewell after four years as the production mastermind and melodic backbone of the beloved Midwest rap act the Tribe & Big Cats! (TTxBC). The duo has done a lot in that time — everything from playing the Soundset hip-hop festival and releasing tracks with Smoke DZA and BJ the Chicago Kid to riding around in a freaking tank.

When not onstage with the TTxBC partner Rapper Hooks, Big Cats! lends a hand producing albums for Minneapolis-based artists of varying genres, releases sample-free solo music to the benefit of the Ovarian Cancer Society and assists special-needs kids. In an interview with Diffuser.fm, the project-hopping do-gooder discusses his many pursuits.

The Tribe & Big Cats! recently disbanded. What happened? What does this mean for your career?

Because f— that other dude. I’m tired of his dumb ass not being able to rap. [Laughs] For real, though, TTxBC was dope. I had a lot of great times in that group, and we made some music that I’m really proud of. We just got to a place recently where it made sense for us to work individually. The group had changed so much over the years, to the point where it was something totally different from when we started. It felt like we were kind of in a rut, just doing TTxBC for the sake of doing it. I also think long term it’s very important for Rapper Hooks to start establishing himself as a solo act and building some name recognition. We will continue to make and release music as solo acts and probably collaborate some as well.

It’s good to know everything was amicable. What can we expect from you guys at Triple Rock Social Club on March 1st? Anything special to mark your exit?

The show on the first should be a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to getting all of our friends, family and fans together and celebrating what we’ve been doing for the last four years. We have some of our favorite acts and some of the best live acts in the country joining us as well, in Toki Wright, MaLLy and DJ Snuggles. We’ll be playing a bunch of new music, including some stuff from Rapper Hooks’ new solo project.

And after March 1st, what will you be focusing on instead with your extra free time?

I’m working on a new solo record as a follow-up to ‘For My Mother,’ and I’m also working on new music with Toki Wright, Kristoff Krane, Lydia Hoglund of Bomba De Luz and a bunch of others.

Gotcha. Can you elaborate on any of these new projects? Particularly the collaborations with the Minneapolis rappers Toki Wright and Kristoff Krane?

Not really … nothing’s been announced yet.

How do these projects differ from what you’ve done in the past?

I’ve been a fan of Toki for a long time. When I was first getting into the local scene, he was definitely a person I looked up to, both for his skill as an MC and for the work that he does in the community. I have some great memories of the Twin Cities Celebration of Hip Hop and some of the other Yo the Movement-sponsored events that Toki put on. Artistically, he’s great to work with, because he’s willing to take chances and he’s involved in a lot of different genres of music. He can move back and forth between reggae, dancehall, hip-hop, house, etc.

Kristoff is a person I’ve collaborated with here and there but never done a full project with. I think we’ve both wanted to do a full project together for a while now, but the timing has never quite worked out. He’s an insanely talented and creative dude and another guy that doesn’t stick to any one genre for too long.

Well we’ll definitely watch for more formal announcements regarding those projects. I wanted to mention a thoughtful and well-informed blog post you recently wrote as sort of a ‘Publisher Relations 101′ from an artist’s standpoint. What inspired you to share your tactics?

Every year, when critics release their year-end lists, it seems like there’s a lot of disagreement and confusion about what projects get covered and why, especially within the local hip-hop scene. And it seems like every year there are several great projects that get overlooked, and several mediocre projects that get a ton of coverage. I just wanted to shed some light on what actually goes into promoting a record and getting press coverage for a record. There’s a lot more to it than just having some great songs and putting them online. It sucks to see good music get overlooked because it was released without any sort of a plan. There’s a lot of stuff in there that I learned by trial and error through the years. Hopefully, some of the talented, younger acts can learn from it and avoid some of the mistakes that I made early on.

Are there any other tactics you’d like to share, or pressing industry matter you’d like to touch on?

I think more than anything, it comes down to making great, compelling, unique music and not being an a–hole. If you have a great record, and you’re a likable person, you’re 90 percent of the way there. Get yourself a budget, and you’re 99 percent of the way there.

Words to live by.

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