Nur-D and Minnesota Orchestra collaborating for hip-hop classical crossover

A man poses holding his glasses
Minnesota rapper Nur-D is collaborating with the Minnesota Orchestra for a two-night concert.
Courtesy Nur-D

This Friday and Saturday, hip-hop and classical music will collide in a beautiful way at Orchestra Hall.

Minnesota hip-hop artist Nur-D will join the Minnesota Orchestra on April 5 and 6 for a unique collaboration.

MPR News host Cathy Wurzer met with Nur-D and Grant Meachum with Orchestra Hall.

Find tickets and information to the show on the Minnesota Orchestra’s website.

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Listen to some of The Current’s in-studio session with Nur-D and the Minnesota Orchestra.

Use the audio player above to listen to the full conversation.

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We attempt to make transcripts for Minnesota Now available the next business day after a broadcast. When ready they will appear here. 

Audio transcript

CATHY WURZER: This Friday and Saturday, hip hop and classical music will collide in a beautiful way at Orchestra Hall. Minnesota hip hop artist Nur-D will join the Minnesota Orchestra for a unique collaboration. Joining us now with a preview of the show is Nur-D and Grant Meachum, director of Live at Orchestra Hall. How are you both doing?

NUR-D: Yo, it's great to be back. I'm feeling very well.

CATHY WURZER: Thank you, Nur-D. Hi, Grant.


CATHY WURZER: Hi. I'm glad you're both are with us. Thank you so much. For folks maybe not familiar, hip hop and classical music may seem, you know, like two different styles of music. But they have more connections than one might think. Is that right? What do you think, Nur-D?

NUR-D: That is exactly, right. No, I mean not only just here in our own community with Dessa putting on multiple fantastic shows with the Minnesota orchestra, but when you look throughout hip hop as a genre, there has always been a connection between classical music, whether that's through sampling or other artists, big artists using orchestras in their music. So it's kind of-- they've been bedfellows for a little bit now.

CATHY WURZER: I'm thinking Kendrick Lamar, comes to mind, Kanye West, Jay-Z, they have explored classical music.

NUR-D: Every one of them.

GRANT MEACHUM: The foundational of hip hop is the beat. And when you have a good arranger like Andy Thompson and a good artist like Nur-D, taking that beat and spreading it over an entire orchestra suddenly becomes a really fun exercise, especially when you have a nimble group of musicians. I think it's that core sound that really lends itself well to an orchestral treatment.

CATHY WURZER: So, Grant, Nur-D, as you know, is fun. He's fearless. What did you hear in his music and see in his performances that led you to reach out to him to begin with?

GRANT MEACHUM: It's that sense of fun, that fun and fearlessness. You cannot go to a Nur-D show and not have a good time. And when you see him out on stage, and you see the comfort he has there, and the joy that he spreads that comes back to him from the audience, it's impossible not to want to work with an artist who's performing like that.

CATHY WURZER: And we should also say--

NUR-D: That's so nice of you.

CATHY WURZER: Isn't that nice? See, Nur-D, this is a great-- we love you. We should say, and you mentioned Dessa, she, of course, has had a great collaboration with the Minnesota Orchestra. But so has Chastity Brown. Cloud Cult comes to mind. So Grant, I mean, you've had a number of collaborations.

GRANT MEACHUM: And it's-- we have a great music community here in Minneapolis. I think that's no secret. But the fact that I also work for an orchestra that's willing to say absolutely, let's sort of see what our place is in this musical community and see how we can create these really cool collaborations because of that.

And we've just worked with-- these artists you've named are just examples of musicians who have that sense of exploration and fun that just merges so well with-- with that same sense that we have at the orchestra. It's just a great place to be making music.

CATHY WURZER: So Nur-D, we talked about Kendrick Lamar and Jay-Z exploring classical music. How did you adapt your music to work with the big orchestra?

NUR-D: Honestly, I got to give it up to Andy Thompson, the arranger for a lot of these pieces. It was a lot of seeing his vision through, getting together, listening to the songs, kind of putting together the story we want to tell. Some of my pieces are easier than others to adapt to something like this.

And so it has been a journey. Honestly, I've learned a lot more about just music and how one makes it from this. And so there was a lot of working with these people, these professional musicians, to get the sound exactly how we wanted it.

CATHY WURZER: Of course, you know we've got to play a clip. We just-- we have this great in studio-- we have this. Yeah, an in studio session that you did with our friends at The Current. This is the song "Brighter Day" with the quartet from the Minnesota orchestra. Hit it.


Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Oh, and if we find our way

We'll make today a brighter day

Yeah and when we find our strength

CATHY WURZER: I love this. I love this. OK, let me ask you something Nur-D.

NUR-D: That was much fun.

CATHY WURZER: Well, you sound like you're having fun. So are you-- how can I ask this? Are you following the quartet? Or are they following you? Or is it a mix?

NUR-D: It is a mix. We have DJ [INAUDIBLE] scratching, even on that track. And it is so much of a collaboration. I've been saying this quite a bit. It is our thing. It is-- we are in each other's houses. So sometimes, they're taking the lead. Sometimes I'm taking the lead. It's a dance, which we've really come to love throughout this process.

CATHY WURZER: You said that this process has allowed you to learn more about music. How so? Because you're already-- you're a musician already, for goodness sakes.

NUR-D: Yeah, I mean, it's funny-- there's just so-- there's difference. There's a difference between what I do and what the orchestra does. And it was when I first-- I remember thinking, this won't be for me. You know what I mean? The orchestra is a certain type of way.

But I have since learned that music, much like food, l the great equalizer for culture and for people to experience different things. So I have learned a lot about musicianship and just sort of the ear that you-- what it takes to hear different people's styles and adapt it to your own through this process just listening, and being around, and hearing, and seeing what they're doing. It's been a lot of just learning through osmosis, to be honest.

CATHY WURZER: So Grant, I bet musicians, your musicians from the orchestra also learn something from Nur-D, what might that be?

GRANT MEACHUM: There's this sense of sort of game recognize game. We've got a bunch of Grammy winning classical musicians who can also recognize that Nur-D is sort of at that same pinnacle of his own musicianship. So there's this playful sense of what if we take these two different groups of musicians with different specialties and just sort of put them together and see what happens?

So the goal, of course, is that this is going to sound organic. It's not going to be like, oh, there's definitely a rapper maybe with an orchestra there. It's this is something that was created with-- that's greater than the sum of its parts. And I think that's sort of that brass ring that we're reaching with a collaboration like this.

CATHY WURZER: There's got to be choreography and costumes, right, Nur-D? I mean, please.

NUR-D: Oh yes, there's going to be-- it's going to be a little bit of everything. This show is unlike anything that I think I've ever done, I know that the orchestra's ever done. It is a full party from start to finish. From the lobby to-- from the lobby to the leaving, it's going to be a wild time.

CATHY WURZER: And I'm betting, Grant, that this is a good door opener for folks-- because I mean, when you hear about the Minnesota orchestra, if you don't know anything about it, you might think, oh, dead old white man's music, right? I mean, but it's not-- I would assume this would open the door then for maybe some new folks to learn about the orchestra?

GRANT MEACHUM: I think above all, our hope is that everyone just comes and has a good time. If people decide they want to come back and hear the orchestra do other things, that's wonderful too. But I think the key here is the orchestra is doing something with an artist we love and respect. If people are new, and they come, they have a good time, that's great. If it serves as a doorway, that's even greater. But for-- but this weekend, really, just the goal is let's come see what these musicians are capable of.

CATHY WURZER: Of course, you know we have to play another song, right? This is recorded with The Current. This is called 20 Cha. Hit it.

[NUR-D, "20 CHA"]

Yeah, yeah

I feel like I'm on Bridgerton right now

Yeah, yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah.

Oh yeah, girl, she's madly simple

In my heart with a magic missile

Eyes so bright went through my AC

CATHY WURZER: OK, no, this is just with a quartet. I like the Bridgerton line there. That was good. What is it like, though, with a full orchestra behind you?

NUR-D: Well, see, here's the thing, with the full orchestra, the vibe is stronger. It's like-- the quartet that I played with, who are amazing, everyone was amazing in that time, it is a taste. You know what I mean? It's like smelling the pie from the windowsill and you float over to it. That's the energy that that was.

And so when you when we get together with everybody, it's a full on movie. It's a whole pie. Let me tell you, a whole pie.

CATHY WURZER: I love that. Nur-D, love you. Thank you so much.

NUR-D: Thank you for having me.

CATHY WURZER: Grant, Grant Meachum with the Minnesota Orchestra, thank you. The show is this Friday and Saturday night. Tickets are available. We have a link on our website. You got to check it out. And the music we played can hear the full in-studio session at

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