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Sound Circuit

Getting into the head of MarKaus


MarKaus knows that Des Moines does not have the best relationship with hip-hop.

The Kansas City-born MC has been a resident of Des Moines for the past four years and has watched the town’s hip-hop scene grow and change during that time. He has also seen the stagnation.

“I feel like in some ways it’s improved,” he said of the genre’s level of acceptance. “I look at the scene and I think, ‘It’s gotten better for me. It’s gotten better for the guys around me.’ But if you’re new, it’s not the most inviting. There aren’t a lot of venues that are willing to invest in a hip-hop show.”

MarKaus performs as part of “Freshen Up, Volume 1” at The Basement on Friday, Sept. 29, at 9 p.m. Photo by Cady Colosimo

MarKaus performs as part of “Freshen Up, Volume 1” at The Basement on Friday, Sept. 29, at 9 p.m. Photo by Cady Colosimo

You can count Des Moines hip-hop venues on one hand. You do not even need all of your fingers. Vaudeville Mews has long served as the genre’s most reliable supporter, even while friendly places like The Marquee and House of Bricks have fallen by the wayside.

Prep Iowa

Additionally, many of the larger shows that have come to town have been marred by a violence that has only served to further stigmatize the genre in the eyes of Des Moines’ uninitiated. But that only serves to obfuscate the work being done by locals like Asphate, Prettygirlhatemachine, Angle, Gadema and MarKaus, all lyricists who write honest, scathing rhymes about the world as they see it.

Their podium got a little bigger this year when the Des Moines Social Club opened the Basement bar’s doors to hip-hop acts. It is a tiny space, but the Social Club has planted its feet firmly as a staunch patron of marginalized performers and genres. The venue also serves as a non-threatening environment for people who might not otherwise go to a hip-hop show to get their feet wet and experience first-hand the level of commitment and talent local DJs and MCs have.

In MarKaus’ case, that means being able to witness the purest form of his own thoughts.

“It has to sound exactly the way I imagined it,” he said, speaking of getting a track ready to perform. “I have a song in my head, and when it gets to the point where it sounds exactly like I dreamed? It’s done.” CV

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