Growing up in Sota Rico-Minneapolis Rapper Maria Isa makes Noise


Minneapolis Hip Hop star Maria Isa takes us through Sota Rico as she celebrates her new album Street Politics

Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

Maria Isa, photographed in the Minneapolis Uptown neighborhood.

Not a kid anymore, Maria Isa proves she wasn’t kidding about making Minnesota music with a hot Latin hip-hop beat (and a message).


Last update: June 4, 2009 – 5:55 PM

As she looked around the booth-lined basement that was the Dinkytowner Cafe — was as of last weekend, when the venue shut down — Maria Isa sounded like an old sailor paying respects to a decommissioned battleship. Never mind that she’s still only 22 and has many wars left to fight.

“My first show here was a Yo! the Movement show when I was 17, and it was packed with kids,” she remembered in her muy-rapido verbal style (fast and spiked with Spanglish).

The St. Paul rapper/singer lamented the fact that the nonprofit youth program Yo! has also ceased to exist, as has the female hip-hop fest that helped launch her, Be Girl Be. A product of community-driven venues and arts programs, she fears they’re being cast aside in the current economy.

“Those of us who benefited from these things can keep them alive by continuing to grow, and by doing what we set out to do,” she said.

Since her coming-out as a Latina hip-hop artist, Maria IsaBelle Perez Vega certainly has grown. She has developed in the way that could make her protective abuela/grandma ban all men from her concerts. More important, she has blossomed in the way that turns aspiring performers into genuine artists.

Maria’s second album, “Street Politics” — which she’s promoting with a release party tonight at First Avenue — fleshes out her bomba- and reggaeton-enflamed hip-hop sound with an eight-piece band. The CD also raises her value as a sociopolitical rapper and cultural ambassador. When she sings the title track, she says that “I’m not just representing Puerto Ricans or [St. Paul’s] West Side, I’m representing all boys and girls in the hood. I’m saying there’s a way to rule and change government from the streets.”

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