After a long, hard day of recording and relaxing, Minnesota native Mod Sun unwinds with some mangos, his go-to in the munchies department.
That fruit choice embodies the peace-loving, positivity-infused musical energy that emanates from Mod Sun. The long-locked rapper will open for Earl Sweatshirt and Mac Miller in next weekend’s Spring Jam. Hailing from Bloomington, Minn., he’s the only headliner with local ties, adding a dimension of psychedelic happiness to the festival’s main event.
Mod Sun, a.k.a. Dylan Smith, has made music since he was 17, pulling from a variety of influences including Miles Davis, Jim Morrison and G-Eazy, as well as local artists.
“Atmosphere have been doing it for 20 years without managers or labels and even before social media,” he said. “It’s beautiful.”
It’s no surprise Smith derives a lot of positive lessons from his Minnesota background.
“At 6 a.m., going to school when it was still dark and zero degrees outside, standing at the bus stop — it teaches you that no matter what, you gotta learn to enjoy it, and learn to enjoy everything,” he said. “You just gotta close your eyes and imagine you’re on a beach somewhere.”
Smith’s music as Mod Sun sends a resounding message of positive thinking. However, it wasn’t always this way for the self-proclaimed “hippy-hop” pioneer.
Before turning 19, he was the drummer in two successful rock bands — Four Letter Lie and Scary Kids Scaring Kids — both with screamo and post-hardcore leanings.
But for Smith, the jump from darker, more angst-ridden songs to sun-soaked hip-hop was a simple one.
“[The transition] boils down to one thing, a point of reinvention: the law of attraction, when mentality becomes reality,” he said. “The universe is unbiased and gives you everything you ask for … I found out about it at age 19 and overnight, completely changed my identity.”
When Smith tossed aside the drum sticks for an emcee’s mic, he did away with producers and record labels, opting to chase his hip-hop dreams on his own.
Exactly how he presents his message varies. On “Tye Dye Everything” with Schoolboy Q, Smith opts for a fuzzy, syncopated beat to back his rapidly delivered desire for more tie-dye.
He goes even more low-fi on the anthemic “My Hippy,” where he asks anybody who sees him to say, “What’s up?”
This isn’t a surprising request, given that he calls his fan base his “friend base.” Regardless, Smiths weed-rap lovefest message remains the same and it’s all embodied by his name — which stands for “Movement-On-Dreams Stand-Under-None”.
Smith tells listeners to empower themselves and to “become the exact person that you want to be and control your own life.”
Smith has always wanted to play Spring Jam. He’s attended the festival many times and knows countless students at the University of Minnesota, which made his enthusiasm palpable.
“Minnesota is one of the greatest states in the entire world,” he said. “[I] can’t wait to come back and play.”
What: Spring Jam headlining show
When: 7:30 p.m. April 26th
Where: Mariucci Arena, 1901 Fourth St. SE, Minneapolis