THURSDAY INTERVIEW: Whit—no-flash, all-substance Minneapolis hip-hop


Whit, live. From Facebook.

Saturday, December 8, THE GARAGE will host Aries Elements grand opening party, featuring artists spanning rock and hip-hop.

Whit, who’ll take the stage Saturday with DJ Frank Castle, agreed to be interviewed by THE GARAGE blog.


Coming off the recent release of his debut full-length Survival Techniques, Whit—real name Justin Whitman—is emcee, writer, and activist in the Minneapolis hip-hop tradition. He’s eloquent in flow and prose. Here’s how Whit lays out his history:

MN Hip-Hop since ‘82. Prevalence of blues influences since childhood. Justin Whitman (‘Whit’) starting writing spoken-word poetry at 12. First performances were at the age of 16 with an eclectic sounding group—None of The Less. An Audubon Park hoops regular, Camden Neighborhood transplant and a longtime resident of Northeast Minneapolis. Whit formed the PHYDELIQS in 2000, and has performed extensively as a solo artist throughout Minnesota and the upper-Midwest. Graduated from The Art Institutes in winter ‘05 with a Degree in Graphic Design. Whit’s debut solo album is titled “The New Deal,” and is available online. Whit’s next solo project “Survival Techniques” was released fall 2012. Described as a social/environmental activist—Whit’s sociopolitical narratives radiate the spiritual connection in our everyday struggles.


THE GARAGE: What’s your sound and where does it come from (influences)?
WHIT: 80’s & 90’s Hip-Hop of all sounds (Big Daddy Kane, KRS ONE, Beastie Boys, Wu Tang – many more) along with 70’s Funk and Rock, as well as earlier Blues.

THE GARAGE: You’re releasing an album at your show Saturday—tell us about it.
Whit: My new project “Survival Techniques” was recorded entirely at IPR studios (downtown MPLS), and features production from AG FLUX (formerly INfluence) of Denver, CO and Grand Papa Tra (Switzerland). Also, the album features guest vocalist appearances from an NYC underground legend – Punchline, as well as Counteract (Switzerland), AG FLUX and scratches from Frank Castle.

THE GARAGE: What are one or two songs off the album you’re most excited about? Why? 
Whit: #s 2 and 4 to start with! Grand Papa Tra is a well-known producer from Switzerland that I’ve worked with since 2004. TRA hooked me up with Punchline for a track called “Mic CheK”. A very exciting connection as Punch is a strong influence for me musically. Also, the track “Bad Company” is a very moving track from Ag Flux, who also makes a vocal appearance, and this just a very powerful track.

THE GARAGE: What should the audience expect from your performance this weekend at THE GARAGE?
Whit: Just a high-energy performance without gimmicks and mockery. I don’t wear aviators and skinny jeans, or take off my clothes on stage — my focus is on the music. The audience can expect a wide array of high quality, live Hip-Hop.

THE GARAGE: What do your practices look like?
Whit: Most shows are just me and my DJ — Frank Castle. We’ve been working together for 10+ years, and have always taken our practices very seriously. My attitude on practice is parallel to that of our shows — we get out of it what we put into it.

THE GARAGE: How do you write songs?
Whit: Typically I write songs in my car, in my Northeast neighborhood [Editor’s note: NE MPLS represent!], but I’ve also written songs in other inspiring areas with my iPod walking around the city, on the bus or on road trips high into northern Minnesota.

THE GARAGE: Besides you, what local artist deserves more attention? 
Whit: Among others, Steady Progress — a very good friend and gifted artist who has been writing great songs for a long time.

THE GARAGE: What are you listening to right now?
Whit: Grand Papa Tra’s “Lost In NY”!!!


Listen to Whit and Frank Castle here. After THE GARAGE the duo have a show at Honey, February 5.

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