Local artists strive to create hip-hop scene in Grand Forks
The hip-hop scene in Grand Forks may be small, but two young artists are trying to stir some excitement for the genre.
Ryan Tetzloff, also known as Cold Sweat, and Jantzen Wynne, known by stage name Jantzonia, met two years ago through ReverbNation, a website designed to help independent artists with promotion, digital distribution and concert booking. Both based in Grand Forks, they were working to promote their hip-hop music and decided to join forces.
“Ryan came over for a feature on my second mix tape,” Wynne said. “And, we’ve been best friends ever since.”
Together, the artists have played many venues throughout the past two years including shows in Grand Forks, Fargo and Minot. They have collaborated with several North Dakota and Minnesota artists and even opened for Three 6 Mafia and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony on two separate occasions.
“We do everything together,” Wynne said. “We’re like one big act — but two different acts — because we’re two different styles of rap.”
Tetzloff is concerned with storytelling and sending a message with slower beats, while Wynne is all about mathematical verses that blow people’s minds, Wynne said.
But, despite their differences in style, the two agree that the genre is all about collaboration.
“There’s two sides to rap,” Wynne said. “You can hate everybody and rap that way, or you can rap as one big collective group and build with each other.”
Wynne and Tetzloff choose the latter. They each collaborate with other artists on different beats and support each other in their various ventures.
“When I first started out, I’d like rip (beats) off YouTube, some instrumentals, and it just sounded so bad,” Tetzloff said. Now, he sends samples of songs to friends and other artists and has them create new beats for him.
He is currently working with Bismarck artist Nolan Wagner, known as Doc MCfly, to create an album that they hope to release in May 2015 when they both graduate from UND.
“I’d rather rap to some other person’s beats ’cause… if I start to rap to my own beats, I get one opinion… when I do it with other people, it’s more diverse,” he said. “I like working with people with music; it’s beautiful.”
Wynne agreed. “I like the collaborative experience you have,” he said. “That’s kind of what rap’s about, getting the DJ or getting the producer to come and help you, so it’s a collective work.”
Wynne has gotten beats from Wagner as well, but he said he has mostly worked with Shawn Trottier, also known as Real Truth, who is based out of Fargo. He’s also been sending emails, trying to get beats from major producers around the country.
After they get the beats, Tetzloff and Wynne each have different processes for creating songs. Tetzloff starts with the beat and writes his lyrics to the music.
“Some people can write it down, and then transition the words into the song, but I like to do it backwards,” he said. “It’s easier for me that way.”
Most of Tetzloff’s songs address political issues such as the education system, health care, inequality and government.
“I feel the whole music industry is kind of going downhill … getting people together to talk about a cause has kind of gone away,” he said.
But, he’s trying to bring it back with his musical storytelling.
Wynne’s process is a little different.
“I got pages and pages of stuff in my phone, and if someone was to pick a feature with me, I can look back at the cataloge of things that I have,” he said. “When it comes to my own music, it’s usually just a bunch of light bulbs that pop up at certain times, and once that light bulb’s there, I can write the whole thing in a day.”
His songs are about staying true to one’s morals and just being young.
“Then, I got a lot of fool-around songs with catchy punch lines and dancing beats,” he said.
He’s inspired by Top Dawg Entertainment, which includes artists Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock and Schoolboy Q, whereas Tetzloff is inspired by Atmosphere, Brother Ali and Wu-Tang Clan.
“We’re not the same, but that’s why we like to do shows together because we can balance it out,” Tetzloff said.
They also balance each other out in their business skills and techniques. Wynne said he, Tetzloff and a few others are running the hip-hop scene in Grand Forks right now, and they all bring different skills to the table.
Tetzloff is the people person, who contacts venues to book shows for him and the others. He said sometimes booking shows is as simple as sending an email to the owner of a company. Other times, it takes a little more convincing.
“Hip-hop is kind of hard to sell, especially in a place like this,” he said. But, he’s found a few venues in Grand Forks, Fargo and Minot.
“I would say (the hip-hop scene) is not so much Grand Forks, it’s more of a North Dakota thing,” he said. “We’re pretty close with everyone in Fargo, Minot … it’s really just more of a state thing.”
Tetzloff said they perform nearly every week in the spring and summer months. He’s also booked shows for him and Wynne from Minot to Seattle for a two-week Western tour this summer.
“I would probably only have three or four shows in a year if it wasn’t for him,” Wynne said. “He’s better at talking to people; I’m better at being silently in the background.”
The marketing man
Online, it is a completely different story. Tetzloff has next to none of his solo music (he also has a band based out of Minot) online, while Wynne is very active with his music on various social networks including Facebook, Twitter, ReverbNation, SoundCloud and more.
Tetzloff said he would rather be recognized as someone who can rock a show, rather than someone who has a million views on the Internet.
But, Wynne has a different strategy. He’s recorded two mix tapes and several music videos, which are all available online. His most recent project took him to Los Angeles, where he worked with his director cousin to produce a top-notch music video.
He’s also working on building a brand and developing the scene in Grand Forks by naming his friends, fans and followers the Zen people.
“Me being Jantzonia, I’m just an artist by myself, but I have a team of people behind me … the Zen people creation,” he said. “Zen means equally thinking with one mind, so we can all progress together.”
Wynne said no one fully understands the concept of the Zen people, but it is helping stir some interest in the hip-hop or rap scene.
“Once people are confused, they become interested, and it’s working very well for me right now,” he said. “The logo is beautiful, and I just fell in love with everything that we’re doing right now.”
He said to grow the hip-hop and rap scene in Grand Forks they’re going to need people, consistency and good music.
Both Tetzloff and Wynne said they will move to a bigger city if the opportunity arises, but right now, they’re just focused on creating more music and continuing to build the scene in North Dakota.
Their next show is at 6 p.m. April 23 at Ojata Records in downtown Grand Forks. They’ll perform with Fargo’s KippG and Minneapolis based artists Big Zach and Kill the Vultures.
Ryan Tetzloff AKA Cold Sweat
- Twitter: @De_la_tetz
Jantzen Wynne AKA Jantzonia
- Twitter: @Jantzonia
If you go…
- What: Hip-hop show featuring KippG and Big Zach with Kill the Vultures, Cold Sweat and Jantzonia.
- When: 6 to 10:30 p.m. April 23.
- Where: Ojata Records, 300 DeMers Ave., Grand Forks.
- Cost: $5 presale; $10 at the door.
- Info: Contact Ryan Tetzloff at (701) 721-0696.