El.i.BE’s ‘Liberation’ Album Release Tour kicked off in Duluth

by Jordan Bissell

 

EL.i.BE  Photo credits: M&A Productions
EL.i.BE Photo credit: M&A Productions

EL.i.BE (aka El Karnwie-Tuah), is a Twin Cities based MC and producer, who recently kicked off his album release tour in Duluth. He’s in the middle of his tour now, and I had a chance to check out the kick off show in Duluth. Not only is he a very experienced MC and performer, but he’s also the co-founder and marketing manager of Twin Cities based hip-hop label, Cherry Sky Studios. 

I originally met El and other Cherry Sky associates at a hip-hop festival held a few years ago in Wisconsin, called Phat Camp. El and his group played some great on-stage performances during that festival, as well as some amazing live improvisation off-stage that really caught my attention. After the connections Cherry Sky made at that festival, that included a lot of Duluth hip-hop artists, El started visiting to perform in the Twin Ports. I’ve come to know from his visits to Duluth over the last couple years, that El is not only talented, but very professional to work with, and also just an all around nice person. All things that are always refreshing to meet in the music industry.

El is a first generation immigrant from Liberia, and has been working on hip-hop in the Twin Cities since 2004, when he formed his first group called D-Mine. El said, “I got my start in high school. A couple of my friends started a group called D-Mine and we performed at the pep fest and the rest was history.” When that group disbanded in 2011, El went on to work on his solo career as EL.i.BE. In 2011, El released his first solo album, ‘Dreams’, under the Cherry Sky Studios label. El has shared the stage in Minneapolis for over ten years now with many mentionable names in the past too, including but not limited to; Prof, Joelle Ortiz, Slug of Atmosphere, and Brother Ali. When asked how El would describe his style, he explained, “I would say my sound is a cross between Childish Gambino and Schoolboy Q. There’s a good balance between story telling and feel good party music.” I got the chance to asked El about the new album and he elaborated that, “Liberation is my second solo album. The thought behind Liberation was to help listeners understand where I’m coming from as a First Generation Liberian-American. I wanted to connect with listeners and I feel like telling my story is important given the current social and political climate we now live in.”

Prism. Photo credit: M&A Productions
Prism. Photo credit: M&A Productions
Rich Garvey. Photo credit: M&A Productions
Rich Garvey. Photo credit: M&A Productions
C-Silence. Photo credit: M&A Productions
C-Silence. Photo credit: M&A Productions
North Star Wisdom. Photo credit: M&A Productions
North Star Wisdom. Photo credit: M&A Productions

The show that he executed to start off the Liberation Album Release Tour in Duluth on April 7, was quite the show. Joined by other Midwest artists; Prism, Rich Garvey, Graydon Francis, Low-Hi Funk (DJ Midievil & C-Silence) , and No Good Neighbors (Forecast, Seiler, North Star Wisdom, & Millie Gibson), the show was entertaining the whole way through. “I reached out to artists I felt would compliment my sound, and were active on the scene in their city,” said El when asked how he came up with this line-up. They all performed great sets, but El and his live band ending off the night was really the highlight. El’s set was joined by Erik Gustafson on keys, trumpet and vocals, Joel Theilman on keyboard, Alec Tonjes on drums, Taylor Donskey on bass, and Graydon Francis singing some sultry background vocals and harmonies. I was curious how the live band was formed and El told us, “So the band came together when I met trumpet and keyboard player Erik Gustafson at a birthday party. We both graduated from Mounds View High and we connected over music since he was in a band, and I always wanted to add a live music element to my performances. After a couple of meetings he (Erik) reached out to other musicians he’s worked with and that’s how the band started.”

My final question for El? How’s the tour going, and what’s next?

“The tour has been great! Duluth was our first stop and showed us lot of love, so I hope we can play again soon. The next stop for us is Minneapolis on April 27 at Honey Minneapolis (205 E Hennepin Minneapolis, MN). We have St.Cloud at The Nest, May 12. Then Mankato at The What’s Up Lounge on May 19. I want to thank Breaks x Lakes & Young World Studios for sponsoring this tour.”

If you haven’t gotten a chance to catch EL.i.BE live yet, look out for the next tour date near you, or check out his music at http://www.elibemusic.com/.