Mindy DuPonte sees the big picture. No matter what aspect of her life is in question, she's prepped with an answer, a plan, or an approach, whether she's talking about songwriting, one-year plans, or mixtape rollouts. It's likely the best way to operate at the moment, as DuPonte's hip-hop career is looking to jump off. Rapping under the moniker Miny, she's dropped a cypher on the roof of HipHop DX's headquarters, has just released her mixtape Demon, and is about to leave to play the iTunes Music Festival in London this month.
This isn't the first time she's experienced musical success, however, even if the likes of which is more than noteworthy for a local artist. You also may know DuPonte from her days in Hellen, the death metal act that featured her on drums and vocals. Formed when she was just 13, with her older sister Desiree on guitar, Hellen made waves both near and far.
Born in Framingham, Massachusetts, DuPonte's family relocated to Peoria when she was 7 and Desiree was 12. Having been raised on the likes of early Black Sabbath from their father and AC/DC from their mother, the DuPonte sisters set out to form their own death metal band, "playing what we wanted to and not trying to be anything at the time," she says. Granted, the girls were in their early teenage years at the time, but their authenticity couldn't be doubted.
"It was just in your face, girls trying to kick ass," DuPonte says. "We weren't holding anything back, and it just garnered a lot of attention because it was so weird. Just to go to a club and see two girls in skirts, who didn't even look metal, playing super-heavy."
In 2007, Hellen came to a shuddering halt. Desiree was found dead at 18 from inhalant abuse, which "took the whole family by surprise," DuPonte says. She wrestled with the idea of continuing the band, eventually holding tryouts for new members and choosing a guitarist and, later, a different guitarist and bassist for Hellen's two reincarnations. DuPonte, in no short part based on her unique role in the band, soon was endorsed by Pearl Drums, Vic Firth Drumsticks, and Supernatural Cymbals. Hellen was then opening for such bands as Canadian metal outfit Kittie and Los Angeles nü-metal act Otep while garnering praise from bands like Lacuna Coil.
It wasn't until a typical rock star moment for DuPonte that she realized her creative beliefs no longer were in metal, instead shifting toward rap songs she'd written and produced when she wasn't working on Hellen. After eight years of sitting behind a drum kit and belting out larynx-shredding vocals, she knew that it was time for a change.
"This woman had me sign her baby, and that should a really cool thing, like 'Things are getting kind of crazy. I just signed a baby,'" she recalls. "Instead, it rubbed me the entirely wrong way. I felt like it was inauthentic, [that] my heart was in hip-hop. I was a closeted hip-hop superfan. I wasn't doing it justice."
Following the release of Hellen's 2011 record, Sorry for Screaming, DuPonte made the jump. It was a fresh approach to her creative output, one that she feels was truer to herself at that moment and less reflective of the jadedness she harbored toward the end of Hellen.
With the change, she quickly found that she needed a collaborator whose line of communication was as open as possible. After attending one of his solo shows, DuPonte linked up with Kyle Collins, currently playing as Sincerely Collins and previously of Weird Is the New Cool, and recruited him as her producer. From the get-go, it was a harmonious situation for both artists.
"The main thing that attracted me to her was more of her brain than her music," Collins says. "Our minds just connected, the stuff she wants to talk about, the impact she wants to make -- these are the things to make me work with her. It was really more just talking to her that made me want to work with her as an artist."
Of all the missing pieces to DuPonte's puzzle, coming across Collins and enlisting his talents seemed to bring her vision together as Miny. When talking about the unspoken connection between siblings in bands, however, she tears up a bit. No matter how seamless a collaboration is, there's nothing that has compared to the musical camaraderie between her and Desiree.
"You feel very naked to open up and take risks, make mistakes in front of people," she says. "You have to really push yourself to find someone who that's possible with, and I don't think it will ever be as possible as a sibling, but you can find people that will adapt and be comfortable with you taking risks."
Risk seems to both pay off for DuPonte more often than not. Evidenced by her genre switch alone and the success that came with it -- albeit with much legwork and networking on her part -- her visual presentation cannot be overlooked. Having graduated from ASU with a degree in film and media production, weaving all aspects of her artistic approach together is the only way she knows how to work.
"I edited my first music video, I continue to edit my music videos and direct them. I'm really glad I chose to stick with that," DuPonte says. "I wanted a backup plan, I guess, but it fits so nicely into what I do now. When I do write songs, I start thinking about the video early on in the first stages of writing. It's cool to be able to challenge myself and say 'Okay, is what I had in my head really taking place on screen?'"
The visually integrated approach has brought DuPonte serious attention for a local artist, even if it stemmed from being a fallback plan. Miny's YouTube channel, mostly featuring her self-produced videos, has racked up well over a half-million views, featuring bright, immersive music videos and behind-the-scenes footage.
You'd be right in thinking that DuPonte has a tireless work ethic. Even if she's remiss to admit it herself, other artists have taken note, including Kittie guitarist Tara McLeod, who noticed DuPonte's drive while touring with Hellen. They've since grown to be friends, and McLeod makes mention of DuPonte's sheer artistic ability, showcased throughout Demon.
"The fact she's a talented drummer and a legitimate musician is helping her out, showing the musicality it has, she's just more rhythmic," McLeod says. "It's definitely not the only thing she has to offer musically -- she has an incredible singing voice. Some of the album was a little shocking to me, honestly, it shows how diverse she really is."
The musicality shows when breaking down DuPonte's songs to semantics with the artist. She references polyrhythms, in terms of time signature and rhyme, and how they play a key role in her work, taking Collins' production to another level by enhancing his tracks with her cadence and flow changes. It's these minutiae that make her both ear-catching for all and downright interesting to fellow musicians. Details like these are what DuPonte specializes in, more for her than for anyone else.
"I think I'm addicted to the chase," she says. "You have little milestones that are really validating, but I think that you are ultimately trying to make the music that's most potent to you."
Download Miny's mixtape, Demon, at www.minymusic.com.
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