The Definition of Imperfekt is ‘Not Complete’
[An Imperfekt EP is available for free download, please scroll to the bottom]
As October takes hold of the state of Iowa the most obvious cash-crop begins to fade. Corn fields (less than you think) around the area slowly dissolve into just fields, the type of fields that just sit flat and barren waiting to be turned into something beautiful and useful next year. While one commodity erodes, something else continues taking root, slowly, but surely, hip-hop is climbing its way up from the depths of misconception and stereotypes, one clutched fist at a time, even in Iowa.
Rick Noggle is a 26-year-old MC and producer from Cedar Rapids, a city in the arguably least-hip-hop state, with a population of 125,000, or about one and a half percent of the population if New York City’s five main boroughs. Noggle goes by the name Imperfekt.
“There’s always a part … in every song I’ve ever recorded that I pick out and nobody else even notices but I’ll be like ‘I made a squeak when I took a breath’,” he explains as the origins of the misspelled moniker. He has opened for most of the major independent names, people he considers “famous”, including Copywrite, Blueprint, Eyedea and Abilities, and Mac Lethal, who mocked his initial stage name of “MC Squared” (a recording artist equipment magazine) and prompted him to find something more original. These shows have been mostly abroad, some in Iowa City, the college town that houses the University of Iowa approximately twenty miles south of Cedar Rapids. But, nothing of that caliber finds its way north to a city with a population that’s around three times larger.
Cedar Rapids has no scene, really.
“Cedar Rapids has no scene, really,” says Imperfekt, “besides what I’m trying to put on, and I know it sounds like big-headed,” but he isn’t being big-headed, he’s being sincere. Cedar Rapids is the sort of city you might expect, mostly blue-collar, lots of factory work, churches and strip malls. It’s the small town trying to be a big city. There isn’t much hip-hop because there isn’t much culture at all. And even less true hip-hop heads. There are other hip-hop artists in the area, but most of them are only attempting to replicate the unintelligent, uninspiring commercial rap that they hear on the radio and see on BET.
So, Imperfekt and Mic Hand Recordings, his own label, along with his partners in rhyme (and scratch) Colorless, Q Hefna, CASETHEJOINT, Grav One, Smiles T and Young Els continue to work with what they have. Advancing the art of hip-hop the only way they know how—making, promoting and distributing their own music—in the area they’re from, and perhaps with a bit of scene-envy for the more open regions that have been sprouting up as hip-hop hotspots across the country (see: Minneapolis, Kansas City, Seattle, Baltimore).
Imperfekt seems torn; dealing with the reality of a very lucrative scene only four hours north of him in Minneapolis, but yet he wrestles with the desire to bring hip-hop from his true hometown. In many ways he’s a stubborn purist. “I’ve thought about [moving] a couple times,” he confesses before outlining his apprehension, “I try to [represent] myself and where I’m from, how can I say ‘come out to my show! I represent Cedar Rapids, Iowa!’ in Minneapolis, Minnesota?” So it’s not just about establishing a hip-hop scene, it’s about defining the terms of your own existence. Changing the conditions to suit your needs rather than running to a situation that’s been laid out by someone else. That sort of independent spirit and approach to music is something that is rare in a city like Cedar Rapids.
How can I say ‘come out to my show! I represent Cedar Rapids, Iowa!’ in Minneapolis, Minnesota?
What’s more rare is a group of people in Cedar Rapids, Iowa pushing an underground movement of high-quality hip-hop, and bringing in out-of-towners to help them do it. But Imperfekt and his friends are doing just that; outside of their shows around the area, Mic Hand affiliates put on a monthly hip-hop show at a family-owned bar, it’s called Super Fresh Saturday. They draw in artists such as Minneapolis-based Kanser, Kansas City’s other indie label, IndyGround, and its founder Steddy P, Carnage the Executioner of Hecatomb, and Co-Workers, a hip-hop group from Savannah, Georgia.
Their work is put forth without a clear cut goal, only to promote their own music and “good hip-hop,” according to Impefekt, “I just want to be able to live off of music, whether I’m balling [off of it] or just barely scraping by, it doesn’t matter.” The hip-hop world is seen as a dichotomy to him, a battle between people “exploiting it” and people that love music.
Who’s kickin’ the knowledge now?
“Who’s kickin’ the knowledge now?” he poses the question seriously, reminiscent of his early encounters with the Wu-Tang clan and RZA’s branch-off group The GraveDiggaz. Imperfekt and his Mic Hand cohorts are building something in Cedar Rapids that’s bigger than their own music, and bigger than their own label. They’re building a scene, a respect and appreciation for independent hip-hop that dares to step off of the rap, get signed and sell out model that grips most of the industry. They’re building, but it’s not finished. It’s not complete, and it may never be. But the fact remains that they’re doing more than the average Cedar Rapidian–or Iowan for that matter–and that’s at least half of the battle.
Imperfekt is releasing an exclusive EP with aboveGround Magazine in conjunction with this interview. The EP is a 6-track journey through his musical endeavors, it includes all previously-unreleased work, a freestyle over an RJD2 beat and a short live performance. You can download An Impefekt EP for free by [clicking here].
Imperfekt – No Problem
02 No Problem.mp3
You can check out Imperfekt on MySpace and you an also purchase his latest album, It Goes Like This directly from him via Paypal. Check the link. Some of the tracks on his MySpace are available via this disc, don’t sleep.
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