Toussaint Morrison vs. the establishment

The local rapper finds a voice, even in the face of neglect.

Rapper, poet, and University alumni Toussaint Morrison will take the stage at the Nether Bar of Mill City Nights on March 31 with Clairy Browne & Bangin’ Rackettes for a night of lyrically dissident hip-hop and light-hearted rhythms.

Jaak Jensen

Rapper, poet, and University alumni Toussaint Morrison will take the stage at the Nether Bar of Mill City Nights on March 31 with Clairy Browne & Bangin’ Rackettes for a night of lyrically dissident hip-hop and light-hearted rhythms.

Patrick Maloney

What: Clairy Browne & Bangin’ Rackettes with Toussaint Morrison

When: 7:30 p.m., Sunday

Where: The Nether Bar at Mill City Nights, 111 Fifth N. St. , Minneapolis

Cost: $10

Age: 18+

 

Toussaint Morrison doesn’t work very well in “the system.” After taking an extra year or two to graduate from the University of Minnesota, getting fired from his job and being overlooked in the Minneapolis rap scene, the self-described “Rhymesayer without the label” is doing things his own way.

“I write from the perspective of neglect … what happens when the media neglects the thoughts and speech of certain human beings,” Morrison said. “How do we get a voice? And even beyond that, what can we do that’s even more than being heard?”

For Morrison, that involved turning to Kickstarter to fund his projects, cutting out the traditional music industry and going directly to his audience. Out of that campaign is a trilogy of free mix tapes, the first of which came out last year.

On that release, “Toussaint Morrison Is Not My Boyfriend”, Morrison raps and sings Motown melodies over songs by indie staples like Radiohead, Weezer and The xx, weaving stories of bad romance, racial disparity and nine-to-five jobs.

One of the mix tape’s standout tracks, “Working Class Boyfriend,” involves a character rapping about burning down the restaurant where he works.

Morrison recently set one of his jobs on fire, metaphorically. He was hired by Roosevelt High School, a Minneapolis public school, to run a hip-hop theater, and in an attempt to boost attendance of the group’s meetings, he performed a controversial poem for the students that very frankly outlined the racial disparities in Minneapolis classrooms.

That poem boosted attendance in his class but got him fired quickly afterward.

“If what you have to say is important, just say it,” Morrison said, “Even if you’re going to lose money on it, even if some ignorant principal is going to fire you for it.”

Out of the ashes of Toussaint’s fling with Roosevelt is the rapper’s upcoming mix tape: “Fast Times at Trillmont High.” It’s a concept album of sorts, set in a fictional high school of Milwaukee.

On each song, Morrison takes on the persona of the students in the school and tackles issues of racial disparity, gentrification and a few more light-hearted subjects, all on top of ’80s pop and rock beats.

“Imagine if ‘Saved by the Bell’ made a mix tape,” Morrison said. “But the entire cast was kids of color, and it’s an entirely different situation.”

After Morrison completes the trilogy promised by his Kickstarter campaign, he plans on going right back and starting a second fundraiser, this time for his debut solo album.

I like the way it works … if you don’t get that thing funded, it sits online as failed forever. You can see a graveyard of Kickstarters,” Morrison said. “It’s all or nothing.”