- Associated Press - Monday, January 16, 2017

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - He wanted a light above his daughter’s desk.

Wes Eisenhauer gestured to show where the light should go, just one of the list of instructions he gave to an electrician who walked with him through a partially built house.

Eisenhauer is building his family a house - one he plans on staying in, in a neighborhood he loves, in the city he loves, Sioux Falls.

The lanky, blue-eyed 35-year-old entered the local scene as a rapper, one-third of the trailblazing hip-hop trio Soulcrate. Today, he’s making himself known as an artist and entrepreneur, pursuing a cornucopia of creative projects from photography to coffee roasting.

In the last year he’s returned to the recording studio for a solo album due later this year. Meanwhile, he and his wife welcomed a second daughter and broke ground on a two-story in the McKennan Park neighborhood.

Eisenhauer’s chaotic schedule, busy and varied as it is, might just be a perfect fit for the city that holds both his heart and future home. The mass of particle board and two-by-fours is more than the skeleton of a future residence.

The house represents a homecoming of sorts, to the core of Sioux Falls, where he developed his love for skateboarding and punk rock and the same do-it-yourself ethic that led to Soulcrate, the photography, The Breaks Coffee and the decision to purchase a lot and don the hat of general contractor instead of buying one of the thousands of homes in Sioux Falls that already come with four walls and a roof.

Once, he adopted a rap pseudonym to honor his attention deficit disorder. Now, he’s putting down roots, and doing it in a city he once fled from and antagonized in lyrics.

Maybe Sioux Falls caught his attention at the right time, just before Soulcrate exploded and right after he met his future wife.

Maybe the city changed.

Maybe he changed.

Eisenhauer’s childhood was filled with stitches and broken bones.

There were bike ramps in the driveway and half pipes in the backyard. In first grade, Eisenhauer flung himself from a swing and fractured both arms.

“Everything that he did as a kid was with all of his might,” mother Deb Eisenhauer said. “Nothing got him down.”

When the family moved from Massachusetts to a house on 14th Street, across from Sunshine Grocery, Eisenhauer and his brother, Dan Eisenhauer, fell in with the neighborhood kids, who listened to loud music and skateboarded at Meldrum Park.

After Wes left for culinary school in Portland, Oregon, Dan met future Soulcrate DJ Corey Gerlach at a skate park and started fiddling around with drum beats and lyrics.

“I bought a little four-track recorder and I was recording hip-hop songs in my room,” Dan Eisenhauer said. “And that’s when Wes came back and he pressed play on it, and he’s like, oh, you’re writing rap music?”

Eisenhauer had returned to Sioux Falls with a bag of possessions, planning to return to his life out west.

Instead, he stayed.

Eisenhauer’s decision had cultural implications for Sioux Falls, as did Soulcrate’s decision to remain in South Dakota and develop a local scene instead of riding national attention to a bigger metro, said Robert Morast, who covered the group in the early 2000s for Argus Leader Media.

Their loyalty to the local music scene is one of the “biggest things to happen to Sioux Falls’ culture,” Morast said.

“It just spoke to this sense of local pride,” Morast said.

Soulcrate helped create a hip-hop scene in Sioux Falls, said local rapper Deeno Babik. His first concert was a Soulcrate show, and Eisenhauer is someone he knows he can call if he needs guidance.

“He’s gone out of his way to help me find clarity,” Babik said.

Packaging albums and performing on coast-to-coast tours gave Eisenhauer a chance to hone his own do-it-yourself philosophy and learn how to use it to his advantage.

“Do it yourself, don’t ask permission, if you have something in your head and you want to see it exist, make it exist,” said Alex Hagen, a longtime friend who recently helped the group buy a former warehouse north of downtown that’s become a roof for their more grown-up endeavors.

For every need, the band looked inward for solutions. They recorded in an apartment, running cable between rooms. They made album art. They organized shows.

Jake Anderson, a Minneapolis-based rapper who goes by Prof, found kinship with Soulcrate because both cultivated local followings in their respective cities by working hard and not relying on others for direction.

“At the drop of a hat he was ready to do something creative,” Anderson said.

So when the band wanted photos and videos, they didn’t hire a photographer. They bought a camera.

The lens was a catalyst for Eisenhauer.

The camera, a Canon 5D, came the year his oldest daughter, Jonah, was born.

“He had somebody to practice on,” wife Becca Eisenhauer said. “He wanted to capture these very beautiful pictures of her.”

He dove into his new art form with abandon, with little else than the support of his wife and the belief he could make a life out of capturing something beautiful.

“It felt really powerful,” Eisenhauer said. “I wanted to learn everything I could about it, and I just got consumed.”

He made videos for other music groups, including Phantom Balance, another Sioux Falls-based hip-hop group, the Argus Leader (https://argusne.ws/2jw61Xz ) reported. He made videos for Bush Foundation grant winners, including the First Peoples Fund and the Cheyenne River Youth Project for Passenger Productions, a Sioux Falls film company. He made a video of the “Welcome to Sioux Falls” mural painted across his buildings’ roof, which went viral and led to other paying gigs.

That’s how Eisenhauer seems to operate. Get a shot the world will love, worry later about practicality.

His photo of a buffalo reflected in a water basin was grabbed by National Geographic. A video of the night sky near Custer captured a rare astronomical explosion and went viral online.

Her husband is a big-picture thinker, who learned how to harness his ADD, Becca Eisenhauer said. And he has a gift for making things beautiful.

In his rap lyrics, Eisenhauer once slammed Sioux Falls as a “land of endless mini malls, Starbucks and Walgreens” and blasted the Washington Pavilion for refusing to host rap concerts.

But instead of complaining about what he doesn’t see, like he did 10 years ago, Eisenhauer now creates to fill the void. (He helped with the Pavilion’s marketing materials this year.)

Thousands of fans gathered in the parking lot of the Eight and Railroad Center in September to watch Eisenhauer, his brother and Gerlach headline the group’s annual “That Sounds Decent.” Soulcrate organizes everything, books the other bands, sets up the stage and then cleans up the mess.

“This was the life that we were always kind of looking after,” said Isaac Show, a collaborator and friend. “You’ve got to be constantly hustling, man, to be that freelancer, to work for yourself.”

Eisenhauer shot 18 weddings this year in addition to the other photo and video work he does for his photography company. He helped design marketing and packaging for the Breaks.

“I think he’s teaching the community some things,” said Brienne Maner, communications and membership director for Downtown Sioux Falls Inc.

Eisenhauer has brought national attention to the city with his social media following and his ability to be creative with photo and video. And he’s serving as an example for young entrepreneurs and artists who will follow in his footsteps, Maner said.

Eisenhauer refuses to be limited by a single interest, but at least one project seems to have captured his attention.

Sioux Falls is a blank slate, he said.

Perfect for a man who prefers to do things himself.

Even if it means building his own house.

___

Information from: Argus Leader, https://www.argusleader.com

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