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I always tell people that I don’t really care for rap or hip-hop. When asked of my musical tastes or preferences I never add any hip-hop artists to the queue. I’m not sure why. When in reality I know all the lyrics to Bombs Over Baghdad by Outkast. I love Outkast. If you haven’t heard that song, go and listen to it. I know lyrics to rap songs I don’t even like. Even gangster rap. And I hate gangster rap. At least I think I do. Also, I’ve been listening to rap and hip-hop continuously throughout my entire life. It has been an integral part of my childhood, from De La Soul to Bone Thugs, my adolescence, from Brother Ali to Lil Wayne, and so on. Yet I still insist I don’t like rap music. I think i’m a closet rap fan. But don’t tell anybody.
Nick Pawlenty and his group Strictly Hammers are on the up and up in the Duluth hip hop scene. They’ve been playing around the area for a few years at joints like RT Quinlan’s and Legacy Glassworks. I caught up with Nick recently to talk Hammers, hip hop and his curiously familiar last name.
Reader: How’s Duluth’s hip-hop scene treating Strictly Hammers?
NP: It’s been a fantastic ride with some wonderful people that I have met in the process. When me, Crimson (my Emcee, Matt Ihle) and my Guitarist Nemo (Rob Plourde) first started, we had no idea where this road would take us. In a stereotypical world, I thought I would run into ego-driven thugs fighting it out with verbal right hooks, but I have since realized that the people we are working with now are some of the most intelligent, passion-driven people I have ever come across. Jaze, Delgado (Aka Hellgado), Non Fiction, Willie Diction, and Bliss are some of the people that fall into this category. All of them have been nothing but supportive and positive in this music scene.
Reader: What have you been listening to lately that you’re psyched on?
NP: This is probably going to be weird to say but I’m not just going to stick in the hip hop world for this one. Big influences right now are “The Horror” from Duluth. They are labeled as “post apocalyptic grunge” and I did not believe that statement until I actually saw them live. I nearly passed out, they were that good. Josepi Konvei the lead guitarist has also set us up with some great advantages such as playing at “KurtFest” and even getting us two tracks in the Left4Duluth map for PC, an addition to the left4dead games that he and a lot of others from here created. So I have to put the ones up for those guys. Also Non Fiction is dangerous right now, with a voice that should come from a giant. We have collaborated on a couple tracks and he has killed it every time. He’s just the hardest person working in the game right now. I can’t leave Jaze and Willie Diction out of that mix, because Jaze has new songs and a mix tape that is coming out that is going to be stellar.
Reader: How long has hammers been together? Who’s involved?
NP: We have been together for almost four years now and it all kind of started with me and my emcee and even further back with Garageband and a computer mic. I ended up meeting my guitarist Rob Plourde at a house party one night a year or two later. Rob ended up pulling me down to the basement and told me just to play something. This man was a genius. In two seconds he had named what chords I was playing and wailing along with my song with beautiful range and emotion. I swear that man was born with a guitar in his hands. In my opinion he is one of the best, malleable guitarists around right now. Matt Ihle, my emcee, have known each other for a long time and have been down some darker roads. But it takes the dark to see the light, and we are doing nothing but positive things in the music world.
Reader: Where have you guys been playing?
NP: We played a couple of festivals recently, also a show with Crew Jones at RT Quinlan’s, and Recently played Kurtfest which was amazing. We also just got done last week playing a show with Kristoff Krane, Bobby Phisher, DIP, Tyler Nelson, CMJ, and Superfluos Glowshoes. All those guys are from the cities, but probably the best emotionally and intelligently driven people in the game right now. Legacy Glassworks has been a great venue for us, always a good crowd when we are there.
Reader: Where are you playing next?
NP: We have three on the books right now, one of which will be at J. Lydia’s barbershop on the September 15th. These shows are rare, and its such a malleable show, everyone works with everyone and we just have fun with it. These are the funnest shows to watch, everyone is not worried about if they are going to screw up or not, we all kind of help each other up that hill. Also it has room for collaborations and impromptus that are magical and very rare. I would highly recommend to check that one out. Also on the 22nd of september we will have two shows, one at legacy glassworks for their two year anniversary and No sleeves Attached Fest which will include a ton of bands from the Duluth area.
Reader: Are you guys recording? What’s next?
NP: We are putting an album together as we speak which will include Kristoff Krane, Jason Ecid, Phrym8, Jaze, Non Fiction, Willie Diction, Bobby Phisher Tyler Nelson, Mike Shank (Sector 7G) and Ryan King from Indiana. We are sitting on a ton of songs as we speak, including a recent recording with Kristoff Krane. I would say we are looking at another six months for an album drop, but we might put out a couple teasers during that time. Our band camp is filled with a ton of music that you can listen to and download for free. http://strictlyhammers.bandcamp.com.
Reader: So Tim Pawlenty is related to you?
NP: Yes, i am related to him, he is my uncle. He is a very capable and down to earth human. I may not believe in his standings, but i do believe in him and my family. All day.