Polish Sausage & Prophets

Mike Spoo

What does Northeast Minneapolis call to mind? Polka, maybe, polish sausage and James Page, certainly. But with the release of their new album, Now You Know, we can add local hip-hoppers the Unknown Prophets to that list.

The Unknown Prophets came together in 1996 at Edison High School when MC Mad Son and producer/MC Big Jess hooked-up and decided to start the group. The two released what will be prime e-bay material someday: a cassette called The Prophesy, limited to only 200 copies. Later, the two recruited DJ Willie Loose into the group after seeing him perform at the old Bon Appetit hip-hop nights.

2000 was the Prophets’ biggest year to date; In that year they released their official debut album World Premier, which featured such local stars as Slug, Brother Ali and DJ Abilities. The work introduced the Prophets’ quality rhyming and Big Jess’s haunting, orchestra-laced beats to the local hip-hop scene. The record also received national acclaim from internet hip-hop site HipHopInfinity.com and Los Angeles-based music critic Griel Marcus. Two-thousand copies were eventually sold, mostly to their local fan base. The year 2000 was a sign of things to come for the Unknown Prophets.

With the onset of 2002, Mad Son, Big Jess and Willie Loose have released their sophomore album, Now You Know. It expands from World Premier, using some similar orchestral samples, but also experiments with a lot more R&B samples. There’s even a Bonnie Raitt sample.

“We just tried to be more versitile,” Big Jess said.

That they were, covering such topics as phobias (“All In My Head”), the current political state (“Changes”) and unplanned pregnancy (“It Could Happen to You”). Once again, there is an array of cameo talent, including Eyedea, Musab, Gamble, Bobby Hatfield and ManChild of Atlanta’s Mars Ill. The Unknown Prophets have improved both lyrically and production-wise on Now You Know.

Besides releasing their new album, the Prophets will be very busy in the upcoming weeks. They played a packed show at the Dinkytowner on Sunday. Their official album release party is Saturday at the 7th Street Entry, and then they’ll play in Dinkytown again next Monday at the Loring Pasta Bar.

“We just always have a good time when we perform,” Mad Son said. “We try to have fun.”

DJ Willie Loose is also busy preparing his first solo release, a mix CD called What You Got On My 40. The Prophets will also be working on their record label, N.E. Time Entertainment. N.E. Time is the Unknown Prophets, Bobby Hatfield and Gamble.

“We’re not trying to step on anyone’s toes,” Big Jess said. “We just want to build our own foundation.”

The Unknown Prophets are on a mission to expand. As Mad Son said, “If you enjoyed World Premier, or Now You Know, tell five other people. Spread the word.”

The Unknown Prophets play two shows Saturday at the 7th St. Entry (701 First Ave. N., Mpls., 612-338-8388). $7. 4 p.m. All-Ages. 9 p.m. 21+.