Monday, December 13, 2010

Mixtape Mortar: Driving Ms. Isa

Her car broke down, the promo vid won’t be anywhere near badass without her, we have to pick her up... I am nervous. I’ve come to terms with it, and I don’t care to say it out loud. Two six foot tall gentlemen with cameras suffocate  my Honda’s backseat, as we trek to the deep east side of St. Paul to pick up the crown jewel of Midwest music, Modern American allure, international clout- she’s too many things to put into a word, a phrase, a song. Murals run along side the open-ceiling tunnel ascending to the queen’s household.

We’re here. I’m so jittery I have to stop to use the restroom at a local bar. Wouldn’t dare use hers. Haven’t even met the woman- “But, hey, can I acquaint myself with your toilet”. Na, what if she weirds out easily… then the whole promo shoot’s a bust…

Final call, “hey, we’re outside”. I’ve never seen her in person, only magazine covers, newspaper covers, online blogs, StarTribune headlines, etc.  She steps into the car and begins talking to me as if the conversation began 5 minutes ago. More than a step ahead, more than a trend cooler, she brings every vulnerability, you quite possibly have, to light. I say “smoke”, she says “blaze”. I say “drive”, she says “roll”. Not even my vocabulary can stack up.

The thing with Maria Isa is… absolutely nothing. No filter, no restraint, no passivity. She confronts the present moment like time, and calls out the giant pink elephant even when it’s not in the room. In the face of a no-bullshit personality, I’ve seen men go defensive, intimidated, challenged… whatever they can cling to in dealing with their own fear. However, with Maria, it’s comforting. She speaks on Pawlenty, grants, upcoming mixtapes, music videos, awards, activism, doesn’t pronounce a single Spanish word with an English bastardization to it, and on.

I begin to believe the term “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop” falls short against her schedule. The way she speaks of her plans for the next several months, whether it be community organizing, music, or networking, you can begin to feel just how much s—t you could’ve been doing with your time. Get on her level… I’m working on it.

So much to be said, but within the short evening I was able to spend with a handful of local & national musicians, and Maria Isa… There’s a beauty to wearing your vulnerability, there’s a warmth in dawning your scars like short stories of small victory , there’s something to smiling an entire car-ride from East St. Paul to North Minneapolis. Most emcees' feelings have translated into words, but hers have translated to action. 

Our evening errands finish, leaving Mortimer's in uptown, I give departing words to the camera crew, the handful of spoken word affiliates, and Ms. Isa.. “Speak with your heart”, she says... "You can't go wrong with that". And I want to, and I have been. But what of it when your heart weighs like a wet sandbag drooping atop your stomach, pushing through the day is parallel to navigating a two-wheel drive through a blizzard, and common sense has officially left the zip code. I've been a sensitive, over-analytical sponge for the past 2 weeks, and I can't tell if it's coming or going. "When does it wear off?", I wanna ask her, "and how do you speak with a heart that won't listen to any other part of you than itself." There's so many things I want to say, but the words keep bouncing between my gut, artery, and frontal lobe that I'd swear there's a tennis match going on.

I want to tell her my heart's been selfish and soaking up every bit of emotion I can plausibly put out into the universe, without going into cardiac arrest (cue: smallest violin). And I'm getting there. Although I may not understand why emotions are kickin' my ass at the moment, I don't believe it's for my understanding right now. 

I looked back at her, and smiled...again. "Speak with your heart"... it's been years since I've heard someone say that. I'll thank her for the reminder, later.

Toussaint Morrison Mixtape Release Party
Friday, Dec. 17
9pm at the Triple Rock

Sunday, Dec. 19
5pm at the Triple Rock
all ages

Both shows 8bucks.
6bucks if you have a color-flier with you.

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