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When The NU becomes the old

Local hip-hop duo part ways, but hit the stage one last time

Unlike a lot of hip-hop breakup stories, this one does not involve a beef or a feud or drama. Times change, people grow and artists, like Joe Collins and Allen Chocolate of The NU, go their separate ways.

The NU is breaking up. The local hip-hop group, which has been in existence for less than two years, is disbanding because Chocolate will move to North Carolina in March or April. His job with a credit card processing company offered him a change of scenery and the potential for career advancement that he couldn’t pass up.

The NU takes an approach to hip-hop not often heard in the Twin Cities. They blend the socially conscious bent of underground rap popular in these parts with a more mainstream, gangster sound.

Chocolate is the gangster, Collins is the poet. While they appreciate the intellectual edge to local rap, Collins said the two wanted to stand out from the scene and make feel-good music.

But Collins, a University nutrition sophomore, said Chocolate’s move might be coming at the right time.

“Him moving to Carolina is, for me, both a blessing and a curse,” Collins said. “I feel like I’ve learned a lot from doing what we’ve done in the last year. But at the same time, even if he was staying, after we released this album we would’ve just split up anyways because we’re kind of going in two different directions at this point.”

Although they might be musically dividing, when the two met at a party in December 2005, their styles and musical ideals clicked, Collins said.

“We weren’t liking how hippie Minneapolis hip-hop was sounding,” Collins said. “We wanted to make music that people could get into and get wild with at shows.”

Beyond musical tastes and goals, the two also balanced out each other’s personalities. While Collins said he is the softer one in the group, he described Chocolate as an energetic character.

“DJ Verb X said Allen is the spark plug, and I think that’s a very good way to describe him,” Collins said. “He’s different because- I don’t want to say he’s all over the place, but it’s like organized chaos.”

Chocolate said he is the antagonist, and Collins is the protagonist. Their different rap styles keep the music interesting, Chocolate said.

“Our style is like any good story,” Chocolate said. “You’ve got to have the hero and the villain. If you have two of the same, it gets boring and mundane. If you’ve got two gangster rappers or two underground rappers on a track, you know exactly what they’re gonna say.”

The men, while from different backgrounds and with divergent personalities, found a friend and artistic collaborator in one another, Collins said. Although the two will not speculate if there will be a NU reunion, they said they plan to support each other as friends and musicians.

“Only time will tell,” Collins said. “I really hope that he has success down there because then I can promote him up here and he can promote me down there.”

Collins, who also has a show on Radio K, is releasing his own solo album toward the end of this year. He said the eight or nine tracks the group has recently recorded for a canceled NU album will either go on this CD or on a separate EP.

Chocolate does not have any immediate musical plans upon arrival in Raleigh, N. C., partly because he gets a good deal on studio time in Minneapolis and is worried he will not be able to afford it in Raleigh. He said he’ll have to figure out how to get back to Minnesota to record.

“I know my stuff. I know I’ll be like an animal in a cage,” Chocolate said. “I can write as much as I want to but if I don’t record, no one will hear it, period.”

So, there you have it. A hip-hop break up that doesn’t have “GU Not” written all over it or a double murder in its future. The hardest part of the breakup doesn’t even relate to the music, Collins said.

“The biggest thing for me about the whole situation is just the personal factor of losing a friend,” he said.

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