Minneapolis LocStarz natural hair salon, 217 Oliver Ave. S., Minneapolis sits on an unsuspecting side street in the Bryn Mawr neighborhood.
Inside you’ll find many of the same things you would find in other salons. The key difference is the focus on natural hair locking and styling. Natural hair is polarizing. A person’s hair must naturally grow in tight curls that can be locked, a key trait of most Black people in America. Understanding the relationship between artistry, hair, community and one’s soul are key to the work of Master Loctician Michael “Micone” Kuykindall. His own journey speaks volumes to the sacred value of people’s connection to their roots.
AS: When you tell people what you do what are people’s impressions in relation to being an artist?
MK: First people think that I change locks on doors (laughter). “You change doors (people ask)? I say, “No, no, no, hair. I have to go into detail. I’m an artist. I don’t get too tied up on costs. I look out for people. Yesterday I was closed and one of my clients was going to Italy. I came in just because I didn’t want him to go looking crazy. With locs it’s really personal. A lot of people don’t want other people in their head. People see that you aren’t going to put negative energy into their hair. A lot of people see that as sacred.
AS: How did your upbringing play into how you do your work?
MK: I grew up in Chicago. We lived in Cabrini Green until first grade and then we moved to Wicker Park. It was a really cultural area with graffiti and rhyming. My mom and pops we’re around a lot until my brother passed in (19)91, ’92.
Experiences in my life made me learn how to listen and communicate with people and build with kids. Sometimes people force locs on kids and I don’t like when they do that. It doesn’t make a good experience for them.
AS: The story about what happened with your accident is powerful. Do you mind sharing?
MK: The summer of third grade the Batman movie was coming out. We went to my grandmother’s house to have a picnic. We were coming from the grocery store heading down Lake Shore Drive and our car was hit by a drunk driver that knocked us into the water. It was me, my cousin Tzadik, my cousin Ebony and my brother Marcus. My grandmother was driving with her husband. Once the car went into the water something told me to swim out of the window. Something just told me to swim though I didn’t know how to swim. I bumped into my grandmother in the water and she didn’t know how to swim either. Somebody pulled us out of the water. The water is 20 feet deep. The car was sinking and my brother and two cousins were still in the water. It just so happened to be some off duty police officers were parked with scuba gear on their boat.
They pulled my cousin, Tzadik, out first, then my cousin Ebony, she was 2 (years old), and pulled my brother out last. We went to the hospital and my cousin (Ebony) died that day. Tzadik was in a coma. My brother, Marcus, came out of a coma but he couldn’t talk or walk anymore. He went to rehabilitation for a while and ended up coming home. My mom was in the medical field and wanted to take care of my brother at home. One day he had a really bad fever and we took him to Children’s Hospital. They sent him home saying he had bronchitis and the next day he died in my mom’s arms with pneumonia. My family took it hard. My mom and father started doing drugs. My mom and father separated. I stayed with my mom but she would disappear sometimes. But I stayed focused on the positive.
I made sure I did well in school. In (19)96 I started my locs at South Shore High School. The principal told me we couldn’t have locs or braids. He called my hair twigs. I said, “No Mr. Horton these are locs.” He was trying to get his “Lean On Me” on (laughs). My best friend, Booda, started working at a shop in Chicago called the Tribesman. Him being there gave me the knowledge from a professional standpoint. In 2005 I moved back to Chicago go work at Tribesman. I decided to move back to Minnesota because my daughter was starting school. We started Nature’s Roots in my cousin, Tzadik’s loft. In 2009 (I) shifted over to work with Dre at LocStarz.
AS: What’s the history behind your connection to Kool Herc?
MK: I had a hip-hop crew in Chicago, Skwd57 – MCs, breakers, graffiti, just a bunch of hip-hop cats hanging out. Booda finished his album around the time I came back. I was driving a cab so I had the flexibility to make music. My crew, Alienated, (was) doing Monday night open mics at the Exodus in Wrigleyville. Booda put a tour together with Kool Herc. I ended up becoming the tour driver and was able to rock a couple songs. It was cool to be in his presence. When we got to Chicago I got to really talk to him. One thing I remember he said, “give the people what they want to hear.” That’s deep. There are different types of people that want different types of things. I really took that in.