The Kids Are Alright – Hip Hop Edition

•October 17, 2013 • 1 Comment


I’m part of the generation of hip hop heads that grew up listening to BDP, PE and Big Daddy Kane – then Tribe, De La, Gangstarr and then Nas, The Roots, Biggie and…..yes, even Jay-Z and Kanye.

I am one of those that would often opine about mid-90s hip hop, as early as 2000! I’d rant about the “glory days”.  However, I got tired of doing that pretty quick since I listen to other genres of music, but for hip hop, it will always be about my era – from ’85-’95. Period.

Now, there are many, many of us from this generation who are very quick to label all new hip hop as “shit”.  You hear it all the time: “this new shit is wack”; “Drake sucks”; “Kendrick Lamar is not Nas”…blah blah blah.  None of it is wrong mind you, it’s all opinion.

What does strike me as ‘wrong’ is when the same folks of my generation start to label the younger generation of fans as somehow ignorant of good music.  I hear it all the time: “these kids don’t know what’s good from what’s shit”; “they only like what they think they are supposed to like”.  While this may be true for a large percentage of kids – it wasn’t untrue when WE WERE KIDS either.

How many people do you recall in your peer group at 15-16 years old were really banging Leaders of the New School?

Anyone who tells you they weren’t bumping Kriss Kross is liying, but we all bumped EPMD right along side!?!?!?  All the jokes about how Drake is a soft girly-man today would apply 110% to PM Dawn back then.  Pop music still ran the show back then, only difference now is Rap music IS pop music, and we (the older gen) make the mistake of labelling everyone who listens to Rap music a hip hop head.  That’s just not true, it was in OUR day because hip hop was still growing.  If you were a “hip hop head” in the 90s in Toronto – you knew (directly or indirectly) EVERYONE in the hip hop scene in Toronto by name.  You can’t do that shit anymore, it’s too big.  It’s pop music now, and the “celebrity” of it removes that element of community that once existed – now hip hop is splintered into a local and popular scene – even within Toronto

More importantly, I feel, is the sheer volume of hip hop music that is out there.  Imagine you’re 11-12 years old, and you hear Macklemore’s song on the radio, and you decide that you want to download some more rap music.  Where do you start?  You’ve now got 30+ years worth of music to choose from, with tons of sub-genre’s and a MASSIVE explosion of local artists able to create hip hop in their bedroom!?!

Like everything else on the internet, the volume of information present requires a deft ability to filter it.  The kids, and more importantly the kids who are interested in HIP HOP, can approach the music from any angle they want:  hippy raps, horror raps, thug, trap, boom bap, bounce….the list goes on and on.

Compare that to ‘discovering’ hip hop in the 90s.  You couldn’t just go to the internet and DL everything – you had DJs filtering FOR YOU, putting together mixtapes, doing club nights, and mix shows on radio – period.

So this brings me to the title of my little piece here, the Kids Are Alright.  I see young folks at hip hop jams, and they are bugging out to Jeru, rocking with Lords of the Underground, and then rocking with Odd Future, and then a Drake tune.  What they are doing is filtering for themselves, creating a hip hop universe that is their own.

So who are we to judge?  It’s their taste, their opinion.   More to the point, how would you put into context a BDP song from 86, a Gangstarr song from 1991, a Tribe song from 93, Pac in 96, Jay and Kanye in early 2000, Eminem, up to today with Kendrick Lamar and the new school of rappers?  Without any nostalgia to colour your opinion of these artists, it’s EASY to see how kids could write off KRS One against Kendrick – the sophistication of the music 30 years later is far more advanced – what Kendrick is doing in 2013 vs what KRS did in ’86 is apples and oranges.  BUT…..and here’s the thing – the real hip hop kids today DON’T write KRS off….they still go to see him live.  They go to see Masta Ace, Kane, EPMD, Tribe, De La…..because they ARE putting it in context.  They just also are absorbing the new hip hop with as much vigour as the old.

We only absorbed the old classic hip hop with that level of enthusiasm, because we were there for it.  Let’s not kill the younger generations enthusiasm for hip hop by berating their contribution to the art form.  Let’s continue to participate in the writing, producing, DJing, sharing, and learning about hip hop – and let’s allow everyone to contribute something to the movement.  If we don’t do that, hip hop WILL die.

And that would be a shame.

Why You Don’t Have to Like Kanye to Like Yeezus

•July 4, 2013 • Leave a Comment

So, I was one of those “fuck this Yeezus shit” when I heard about this record.

But then I heard the crappy quality youtubes of “New Slaves”, and watched as the madman we all know and love, Kanye West, stoic faced in the video, absolutely RIPS a socially relevant and strikingly powerful song.  For the first time EVER, I didn’t even care about the beat….and that was the only thing I ever cared about before with Kanye.

I was intrigued.

Then the album “leaked” and everyone was spewing on about it.  What was interesting to me was that there was a lot of people in my circle who typically  get into the pop style hip hop, and enjoy it – and they didn’t get the record AT ALL.

Again, peaked my interest.

My first mistake was skimming the record. I heard abrasive synths and weird vocal samples (Black Skinheads) and was immediately turned off – like “this ain’t Kanye hip hop!”.  I also didn’t “get” the record.  But then I thought to myself – that’s exactly why I should listen to it front to back – it’s NOT typical Kanye hip hop, and it’s not often I hear a hip hop record that I don’t fully “Get” within the first 4 bars!?!

Once I let Yeezus play through, it made sense.  It all came together.

This record is a bold shift sonically for Kanye and for hip hop. Kanye (it seems with a massive hand from Rick Rubin) gave this record an industrial hip hop feel – stark beats, angry bass, twisted synth lines – all expertly juxtaposed with the occasional beautifully warm arrangements.  The contradiction in sounds totally matches the contradiction that is Kanye West.

I am no fan of Kanye the man – he is erratic, egotistical, arrogant and emotional – but it is precisely these traits that make this record vocally engaging.  Kanye let’s you see exactly how fucked up he is.  Songs like “I Am A God” show you how Kanye is well aware of his ego maniacal behaviour, and his perceived self worth (both by himself, and the media). I mean, when he yells “Hurry up with my damn croissant!” in the hook of the song, you just have to laugh at how utterly pretentious his whole life must really be, and how he just doesn’t give a fuck…..or maybe he does?

At times on the album, he stabs at pro-black concepts, only to fall into the typical traps of rap culture (cars, women and money).  He strives to express and understanding of real love, only to revert to misogynistic lyrics that the lowest common denominator would use.

However, there is bravery on this records as well.  Kanye does not have a song on there that one could say is a “summer  radio single”.  It’s an angry record, front to back, made by a conflicted black man who is more famous than anyone is capable of comprehending.  My point with all this is that you don’t have to like Kanye to appreciate this record. In fact, if you hate him, you will enjoy this record equally as much as a Kanye fan, simply because it will re-affirm that hatred.

It’s this contradiction that makes Kanye “Kanye”, and it’s the contradiction that makes Yeezus a brilliant reflection of the most tormented soul that hip hop has known since it’s birth.

Tru-Paz: Behind the scenes…..

•March 20, 2013 • Leave a Comment

The members of Tru-Paz talking about how they created the album “Tru To The Game Without A Pause”.

Tru-Paz – Step Aside (Our History in Toronto Hip Hop)

•March 11, 2013 • 1 Comment

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Since 1997 Akim (@akimtrupaz) and I had been working our crafts as MC and Producer/DJ. In my parent’s basement, I had been digging through my pops vinyl collection, working up loops and breaks on little 8 second samplers running into a four track, and Ak would be writing and working with our peoples, namely Too Real, Lethal Lee and with me and D-Squared (he’ll post about his history himself!).

But we, as Tru-Paz, decided that it was time to set some tracks down properly, and start releasing music. Our first “official” release in 2000 was “Step Aside”.

I had the beat half done on four track since about 1999. I had the chorus loop chopped already, but it took all four tracks to do piece it together!?!? So I had to work out in my head what the verse beat would sound like. Thanks to the MAN Chris “Christafari” Anderson at Definitive Sound, we were able to work out the bassline and arrangements.

At the time, the God Black U-Sun was running tight with the Tru-Paz fam, and was working on his spoken word and rhyme game. For us, collabs have always been less about “the name” and more about the true spirit of the word “collaboration”. We wanted to work with like-minded people, and give them a chance to display their craft – so it was a no brainer to bring U-Sun in on the track – and as you can hear – his hook delivery is TIGHT.

So, we have the track mixed and mastered (on DAT) and the next step was, of course, to press vinyl……cause that was what you did back then!!!! I don’t think anything tripped me out more than finally getting our first pressing of our first 12″ in hand. Being a DJ, and putting my own record on my 1200s and cutting it up, like I said, was a trip.

The next step was a personally gratifying moment. Since about 1991 I had been buying records at Play De Record. My dad was a good friend of Eugene, and anytime I came through the spot, Eugene would have a stack of Soca records for my dad! But for me, with our 12″, taking it in to Play de Record and having Eugene (@playderecord) place the record on the shelf was like a rite of passage. Years of buying records off that rack, and then to see my shit alongside other great records……man, any TO artist will tell you, that is some special shit.

But it only got better.

At the time, I had been writing for RICE Magazine (big up @CAP) so a few folks around the way had recognized my work in RICE because of a DJ Premier piece I wrote. Well, we started to deliver our 12″ to the DJ’s and radio shows in the city…..and of COURSE we had to hit up Mastermind (@Mastermindlive) who had a show on Energy 108, with Russel Peters (@therealrussellp) as his DJ (Yes…..THE Russel Peters….and YES, he is a dope DJ – I got another story on that later!).

So, we’d been running around hitting up 88.1, 89.5, 105.5, networking, building and servicing the 12″. During that time, we met so many cool people, many of whom still hold down Toronto hip hop (but that’s another story). So naturally, for the next couple weeks we are listening to the radio INTENSELY – not that we already didn’t listen to ALL of those shows – but now we were listening with bated breath. So I tune in to the Mastermind Street Jam about two weeks later, and low and behold, at the top of the second hour, Mastermind runs our song.

Dudes….hearing your song for the first time on COMMERCIAL FM radio is a life altering experience. Russel cut it up a few times on the intro (the bounce intro got diced!!) and afterwards, Mastermind gave me (ME!) a shout out, referencing the Primo articles I wrote in RICE Magazine!?!?! Mad peoples were calling me, talking about “YO!!! Did you hear that shit!!!”. I can’t front, that shit felt GOOD. I felt validated. Something about the radio static, the energy of the song coming through your radio, hearing a radio personality announce your song after it was played….it was electric! That experience sealed the deal for me – I was hooked!

Years later, many albums later, I am still starstruck by that whole experience, and still thankful to all those folks in radio at the time – Project Bounce (yo, where’s Albar?), Droppin Dimes, Real Frequency, Masterplan Show (DTS!!), Sound Junction (Grouch and O), Bigger Than Hip Hop, Stylistic Endeavours, Channel 9, Drill Squad, Backroads Radio and my mans Ski and CAP – they all gave us a shot, and played our record. Blessings to ALL y’all!!

Enough yabber though – here’s the link to the free DL of the track, “Step Aside”:

Note – the pic above is the original sticker we stuck on EVERY 12″ we sent out.

Dj Unknown @deejayunknown

Superman Vs. Budos Band

•October 15, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Just a quick example of how sampling and ‘fair use’ are NOT just about ripping off other peoples ideas, but instead, can be about truly creative work.

Exhibit A: The Budos Band’s video for The Volcano Song (Dir. Stephen Pitalo). This is one bad-ass video:

What makes this video even more awesome is that the video is composed of footage spliced together from two seperate Max Fleischer Superman cartoons from 1943!!

Here are the two Fleischer cartoons – I love how Pitalo rearranges both and creates a whole new story without the man in the blue spandex, and probably thus avoiding legal action from DC.

Note: you will come to learn of my disdain for Superman aka “The Boy Scout” as I write more.


Magnetic Men Live @ BBC Radio 1

•October 13, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Can’t stop watching this….

Flux Pavillion – I Can’t Stop (Youtube)

•August 14, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Hey people….thanks to @harboursharks for dropping this track on me.

This has been in HEAVY rotation for a bit now, and I everyone I play it for thinks its banana’s.

Check it for yourself and judge. Don’t be turned off by the ‘dubstep’ label ;)



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