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Black Minnesotans making history in music

Every Monday on Sunrise, we're getting to know some of the Black Minnesotans making history today.

MINNEAPOLIS — The "Black Minnesotans Making History" series started during Black History Month last year as a way to feature individuals who work for positive change in their communities. Considering all that has happened in Minneapolis since then, panel discussions felt more appropriate this year.  

This week, the focus is on music. Reporter Kiya Edwards spoke with RAJITHEONE/Director Southside, artist and founder of Roqa Productions, Kyle Skye, artist and president and founder of Bay Laurel and the Bay Laurel Fund, and two guests from AwlornTony Gaston, co-owner and artists and repertoire representative, and Nimic Revenue, artist and CEO.

Edwards: Thank you so much for being part of our Black History Month series with this week being Black Minnesotans Making History in Music. I was excited for this one, y'all. Okay? We've got the best talent here with me this morning.

Nimic Revenue: I'm Nimic Revenue. I was recently signed with Def Jam, recently went independent to start a label here in Minnesota to give artists another chance to get an accurate spotlight on them because I feel like we're overshadowed a lot by West Coast talent and the Atlanta scene. We've really started this whole thing to make a positive influence and inspire people to do different music and push outside of the box.

Credit: Courtesy Nimic Revnue

Tony Gaston: What's up you guys. I'm Tony Gaston. I'm an entrepreneur here. Me and Nimic, we're business partners. We created Awlorn, the record label and media company, together. I pretty much overlook everything from getting our artists into the studio and then all the way to making sure the album or whatever we're dropping at that time, drops.

Credit: Courtesy Tony Gaston

RAJITHEONE: What's up, this is RAJITHEONE also known as Director Southside. I'm a recording artist, founder of a production company as well, a chief cinematographer.

Credit: Courtesy RAJITHEONE

Kyle Skye: I'm Kyle Skye, president and founder of Bay Laurel and the Bay Laurel Fund. I'm an artist.

Credit: Courtesy Kyle Skye

Edwards: Well, I'm excited to talk about what we've done, Kyle, but I'll open it up first of all to the others. What are the ways you're making a positive difference? How has your approach to music changed in the last year?

Gaston: In the last year, Nimic, she dropped a song called 'Win Again.'

Nimic Revenue: Somehow, somebody at Madden picked it up. It's actually been doing a lot of big things for me. Ever since the Super Bowl, it's been going viral. That's been a real blessing but other than that, man, I've really just been focused on heavily trying to help the community out here in Minnesota. That's why we started this label here is that I'm developing artists to be themselves wholeheartedly to where the difference is embraced and you're able to project that in your music as well.

RAJITHEONE: My focus was not on music. I'm currently in Chicago. Chicago was hit hard after the George Floyd scenario. We had kids who couldn't go to school, they wasn't getting their food programs, you had looting going on. I got up and created a non-profit called the Culture Chicago. Also, directing content for small businesses and I think that's been like an awesome way to help our people.

Kyle Skye: Through Bay Laurel, we host free camps for inner-city youth. As far as music goes, we started a platform last year called Tundra. We wanted to show the world that we have artists here in the Twin Cities that belong on that main stage.

RELATED: Bay Laurel highlights Minneapolis artists in new video series: Tundra

Edwards: What needs to happen next?

Gaston: We gotta keep making the music that people want to listen to like we gotta keep making the hits.

RAJITHEONE: We should know how to network and how to build a community and a subculture.

Kyle Skye: Raji has fans. Nimic has fans. Mac Irv has fans. Cashinova has fans. Kyle Skye has fans. You put them on a record, now all this person's fans are getting exposed to this artist. We gotta work inward.

Edwards: Well I appreciate each of you. Thank you so much for being a part of this panel. Let's talk again soon.

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Indoor entertainment venues recently reopened at 25% capacity in Minnesota. As artists prepare to get back on stage, you can support them by purchasing merchandise and streaming their songs.

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