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Rapper brings Southern-style urban hip hop to Alaska's largest city

Rudy and Minus 20 review their music video at the Frostbite studio. June 25, 2012.
Loren Holmes photo
Minus 20 at the Frostbite studios. June 25, 2012.
Loren Holmes photo
Bobby Thompson mans the Music Stop, Rudy's local music store in the Northway Mall. June 27, 2012
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A handmade photo collage adorns Frostbite studios. It features local hip-hop artists along with some national acts that have come up to Alaska. June 25, 2012
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Rudy in his studio. June 25, 2012
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Minus 20 at the Frostbite studio. June 25, 2012
Loren Holmes photo
Minus 20 at the Frostbite studio. June 25, 2012
Loren Holmes photo
Minus 20 recording at the Frostbite studios. June 25, 2012
Loren Holmes photo
Rudy and Minus recording at the Frostbite studios. June 25, 2012
Loren Holmes photo
Rudy at Frostbite studios. June 25, 2012
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Rudy working in ProTools at Frostbite studios. June 25, 2012
Loren Holmes photo
Loren Holmes

Alaska is known for many things, including wildlife, scenery, and moose poop souvenirs. What Alaska isn't known for is hip-hop. And Anchorage rapper Minus 20 likes it that way.

"The beautiful thing about Alaska is that it's uncharted territory," he says. "Which means if you rap about it, you bring something new to the table."

They think I'm lying
I'm from Alaska so my world is white
And the sky is grey
And the day is night
Summertime and the night is day
Sun's out with the moon in the sky at the same time

Minus, as his friends call him, didn't always call himself an "Anchorage-American." He lived for a while in Atlanta, but likes Alaska for it's freedom. He won't talk specifics, but it's clear that he didn't have it easy growing up. But even so, he grows weary of people who put too much emphasis on being street tough, street cred as he calls it. As he puts it, "I'm an artist because I love music. Let's forget about all that shit and focus on the music and enjoy the music if we can."

I'm super cold
My world's an ice box
Hit me with a snow ball
I'm throwing ice blocks

Minus works closely with producer Rudolph "Rudy" P Rothwell III, who owns Frostbite Records. Rudy has lately become a sort of evangelist for the local music scene. Frostbite has signed not only hip-hop artists like Minus 20 and OJ The Lady Killer, but also a rock band and a Samoan group. Most recently, Rudy opened a local music shop in the Northway Mall. "There's nowhere to buy CDs in town. Walmart won't sell our shit. That's why we have to self-promote," says Rudy.

Self-promotion in the hip-hop scene used to mean handing out mix tapes, or mix CDs. And that's still part of it (stop by Rudy's shop in the mall and you can pick up a few for free), but unless you have a legit record, one that you can buy in a store or online, it's not enough. "If you give someone a mix CD, they're not going to listen to it. If someone buys your album, they're going to listen, they're going to respect it, and expect good shit."

Rudy and Minus are even working on other avenues of promotion, like this video for one of Minus' songs.

I'm from where cars crash
Cause they can't stop
I'm from that black ice
Where your brakes lock

Frostbite's recording studio, inside a nondescript midtown house, isn't fancy. There's an iMac running ProTools, a mixer, keyboard, and a sound booth that Rudy made himself. On a TV the movie Kung Fu Panda silently plays to a few empty couches. But the mood inside is anything but solemn. With Minus and Rudy talking a mile a minute, smoking and laughing, it feels like this is just the beginning. "We want to make hits, radio-friendly hits. I'd even like to make a dance song," said Rudy. Perhaps it won't be too long before the world associates Alaska and music with more than just Jewel.

They think I'm lying
I'm from Alaska so my world is white
And the sky is grey
And the day is night
Summertime and the night is day
Sun's out with the moon in the sky at the same time

Lyrics from Minus 20's "From Alaska."

Contact Loren Holmes at loren(at)alaskadispatch.com