Zen and the art of maintaining

"Hip-hop is a lot like rock was in the '80s," says Pgnut, the doe-eyed MC, producer and driving force behind Smyrna-based trio Minamina Goodsong. "Girls, cars, money, jewelry — it's all there and people are getting sick of it. And just like when grunge came along to negate it all, hip-hop is on the verge of a similar change."

Maintaining integrity in an industry divided by the acerbic flow of underground luminaries — Atmosphere, Anticon, the Def Jux crew, etc.-- and the big money absurrrdity of the Lil Johns, Nellys and P. Diddys of the world is all a matter of how you flaunt what you've got. And for a subversive outfit that's balancing a childlike fascination with pop culture and restrained tree-hugging experimentation over materialism, all in the shadow of a corporate sponsorship deal with Budweiser, Minamina Goodsong is on top of its game.

Churning out bulbous beats swelling with references to the Muppets, skateboard videos and various '80s obscurities, for the group's core lineup — Pgnut flanked by MC Ted Jon and DJ T'Challa — product placement is a nonfactor. Minamina's third full-length The Transcendental Game of Zen (on Arc the Finger Records) harkens to the naivety and sample-laden piracy of the Yo! MTV Raps era of hip-hop — a time before the talons of copyright law left a permanent scar on the music.

"We're just pop-culture freaks," says Pgnut. "Hip-hop has always vandalized and stolen from where it came from, and if you take that away, there won't be hip-hop anymore."

Minamina Goodsong plays Echo Lounge Sat., March 20. $8.