Minnesota’s only all-hip-hop record store, Fifth Element, is the latest casualty to the coronavirus.
A staple of Minneapolis’ Uptown area since 1999, the Fifth Element location at 2411 Hennepin Av. S. was shuttered on March 16 and will now stay permanently closed, its operators at Rhymesayers Entertainment announced Friday. They will continue to operate the website fifthelementonline.com as the official retailer for its large roster of artists.
The closure’s announcement hinted Rhymesayers — the record label behind the Soundset festival and such acts as Atmosphere and Brother Ali — was already refocusing its attention to new ventures even before the now state-mandated quarantine.
“Last year, while discussing our next steps for 2020 and the coming decade, we began developing some creative new strategies to better serve the needs of our artists and our community,” the announcement read. “With that outlook in mind, and with respect for recent events requiring temporary closure, we’ve chosen to permanently close our Uptown Minneapolis retail store.”
Over its 21 years, Fifth Element hosted in-store events by the likes of Lizzo, Dessa and Macklemore in addition to in-house acts, also including Prof, Dem Atlas and the late St. Paul indie-rap hero Eyedea. The store was also a hub for DJs and hosted open-mic events that helped foster a generation of rappers.
Rhymesayers’ chief operating officer Jason “J-Bird” Cook offered up his personal memories on social media about how the store anchored his move from Chicago to Minneapolis in the late-’90s to come work for the label, whose offices are located above the store.
“Back in those days, we all worked the cash register at Fifth Element a few days a week — artists included,” Cook reminisced. “This is back when Kowalski’s was a Super Value and Chipotle was an Ember’s on 26th Street.
“Working at the store selling and playing records was my real introduction to the Minneapolis scene. The local Hip Hop community visited the store on a regular basis, plus several touring Hip Hop artists always fell through Fifth Element — it truly was the must stop home for anyone into Hip Hop.”
Rhymesayers added in its announcement, “Countless memories have been made in that time and space, while serving our local community as well as traveling visitors and artists alike, and we are thankful for all the love and support you’ve all given us in return over the last 20+ years.”
All of the store’s merchandise currently in stock is being sold at 25 percent off via fifthelementonline.com with the discount code “THANKYOU.”
Fifth Element was a key element in Rhymesayers drawing top hip-hop talent to the Twin Cities every Memorial Day weekend for the Soundset festival, which Forbes recognized as “having ever-increasing success” in 2016. Back in January, Soundset was called off for 2020 in order to reassess and focus on Rhymesayers’ 25th anniversary later in the year, a move that now seems unforeseeably fortuitous.
Rhymesayers ended the Fifth Element announcement with this message to fans: “Please continue to support independent artists and businesses as best you can in these challenging times.”
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Part One. Fifth Element holds 21 years of life lasting memories for me. I first visited the location for Fifth Element at 2411 Hennepin Avenue South in 1999 before it was an official record store. This was a couple of years before I moved to Minneapolis, when @kevinbeacham21 and me started driving west on 94 and crashing at Siddiq's crib on South Clinton to attend some of the First Avenue Soundsets and Rhymesayers shows in the 7th Street Entry. Between 1999 and 2000, I began working independently with Rhymesayers while I still lived in IL - helping out with distribution, booking and tour managing multiple tours with Atmosphere and Eyedea & Abilities. In early 2001, I moved to Minneapolis to work with Rhymesayers full time. Back in those days, we all worked the cash register at Fifth Element a few days a week - artists included. I lived at 22nd & Garfield and walked to work everyday, this is back when Kowalski's was a Super Value and Chipotle was an Ember's on 26th Street. Working at the store selling and playing records was my real introduction to the Minneapolis scene. The local Hip Hop community visited the store on a regular basis, plus several touring Hip Hop artists always fell through Fifth Element - it truly was the must stop home for anyone into Hip Hop. I have worked at multiple record stores in my life and have visited hundreds all over the world, but there was something real special about Fifth Element, its connection to the community, a home for traveling artists and being the brick and mortar for Rhymesayers record label. A record label that owned its own record store was truly a beautiful thing all these years. Continued in next post. Part Two. Photo @danmonickphoto #rhymesayers #fifthelement
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Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658