Dre Day VII: Minnesota Love Spills All Over Valentine’s Day

Wrong state, still great: Dre and 2Pac celebrate.

Burlesque of North America have fingers in sundry musical pies. As a graphics house, they’ve designed and printed posters for everyone from Sunn 0))) to Andrew Bird. The nascent Burlesque label and distro’s offerings range from old-school funk to futuristic electronica. In-house deejay Mike the 2600 King is fluent in at least 11 subgenres, while chief facilitator Wes Winship’s public playback repertoire runs the gamut from black metal to classic lounge. The group cast a broad net as impresarios, too: As with the Burlesque-curated, weekly Triple Double events at the Triple Rock Social Club, shows at BoNA affiliate First Amendment Gallery make the very notion of “anything goes” seem pathetically restrictive.

Despite the rampant diversity, the roots of their soul’s heart belong to hip hop. Before the Burlesquers-to-be behind Life Sucks Die rented their first space in Stadium Village–even before high school, when love of graffiti brought a slew of future crew members together as friends–budding kingpin Winship set the organization’s pulse running a playground-based tape-trading ring skewed heavily toward the likes of Slick Rick.

Now a respected artist, respectable businessperson, and master printer, Winship denies exposing fellow toddlers to the likes of Rudy Ray Moore and Blowfly back in his preschool days.

While he didn’t invent Dre Day*, Winship gave it life. “Andrew Broder and I were sitting around one night, discussing holidays,” he told me last year during a phone conversation later excerpted in City Pages. “We started inventing our own, pretty much just saying whatever came to mind. At one point, he said, ‘Dre Day,’ and I thought, That really would make a good holiday. When I said as much, he was just like, ‘Uh, yeah.’ He left shortly after, but George Thompson was still around. We started working on ideas that night.”

The Chronic Photo Booth: put your head on Dre’s shoulders.

Even with six successful parties behind them, Dre Day’s creators haven’t stopped working on ideas. This year’s Varsity Theater-ensconced installment blends a slew of proven diversions–including prizes galore, perennial trivia game favorite “The $20 Sack Pyramid” and the hallowed Chronic Photo Booth–with at least as many surprises. The night’s on-stage entertainment marries old and new, too, with Dre Day VI veteran Jimmy 2times sharing turntable time with Mike the 2600, rappers Trama and Muja Messiah taking turns at the mic, and host Espada providing glue and patter. Given human nature, nerd, turds, and purists are bound to balk at the gap between the celebration and Dre’s actual 44th birthday four days later, or even his absence, Let ’em. Given the ghost of honor’s documented appetite for horror, twenty bucks says his own observance commences on Friday the 13th.

Flight is futile: Natural-Born Killaz Dre and Cube blast maximum menace in one of the last century’s scariest music videos. (Watch for a fleeting 2Pac cameo near the end,)

*What makes the holiday most interesting as a phenom is its growth (proliferation, too: rumors of Mpls-inspired celebrations in other cities abound) during Dre’s longest hiatus to date. Nearly a decade has passed since 2001‘s 1999 release, and while he’s done a ton of production work and guested here and there (most recently on a remix of Kardinal Offshall’s “Set It Off”), his own output has been such that it’s surprising some wag hasn’t suggested he replace the “e” in his name with a “y.” But he’s never exactly been Mister Prolific. Plus, rumors of magnum opus Detox‘s 2009 release have an air of authority similar rumors in ’04, ’05, ’06, ’07, and ’08 lacked, if only because more people than ever claim to have worked on it.

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