Watching Carnage the Executioner perform is like seeing Bob Ross improvise a rap song. First, he’ll sketch a basic beat-box rhythm and loop it with a foot pedal. Then, using only his mouth, he’ll fill it in with bass lines, record scratches and melodies, layering them until he’s fashioned a complete beat.
“I make my music from scratch,” Carnage said. “I’m one man doing the work of three or four people.”
After adding his finishing touches to the loop, Carnage bursts into sporadic raps, rattling off flurries of syllables in his trademark staccato flow.
“I’ve always been a faster, wordier, more syllabic rapper,” Carnage said. “I have a lot to say.”
Carnage toned down the aggressive delivery for his 2012 release, “Respect the Name.”
“I’m a very style-driven rapper,” Carnage said. “But you can lose the meaning of what you’re saying if people get caught up in how you’re saying it.”
On “Respect the Name,” Carnage takes a step away from his background in battle rap and instead finds himself in the role of a storyteller. One of the more unconventional tracks, “God’s Gift to the World,” has Carnage spitting traditional rap pick-up lines in the first verse, but after the chorus, a female persona shows up to reprimand him for misogyny and braggadocio.
“I was talking to Slug from Atmosphere. He said that as you get older, you want to start talking about different stuff,” Carnage said. “It’s not just about being a dope rapper anymore.”
Even while focusing more on the story-telling aspects of hip hop, Carnage still demands his due respect, hence the name of the new record. The album starts off with a reminder that he’s been rapping since 1992, before launching into the eponymous track.
“It’s about the name Carnage. I’m prepared to live up to what that name represents,” he said. “You’ve got to respect when Carnage is coming through to tear [expletive] down.”
Now, the rapper is taking a break from writing in order to support his latest release. On Friday, he’ll kick off a Minnesota-wide tour with fellow Twin Cities rap veterans Atmosphere and Brother Ali, starting in Bemidji and ending at First Avenue on Tuesday.
“People get bored with their own stuff too fast,” Carnage said. “I’m in a spot that I worked hard to get to. It’s a good feeling.”