Monday, 16 April 2012

Coachella 2012- Keeping Music Alive

This year, one of the biggest and most important music festivals, Coachella Music and Arts Festival, is held in Indio, California at the Empire Polo Club. Acts include popular artists, as well as up-and-coming ones and attracts about 75, 000 concert goers. The festival ended its first weekend last night (April 13-15) and still has another set list of performers for next weekend (April 20-22). 
Sunday nights line up included performances and collaborations from some of the greatest rappers in the hip hop scene right now (Snoop, Dre, Eminem, 50 Cent, Wiz, Kendrick Lamar)...and even in the past. Let me start by saying that I watched the video of the set list and every minute was amazing and had me wishing that I was there. I have decided that 'attend Coachella next year' or as soon as possible, is officially on my bucket list and it should be on yours. Dr. Dre, looking better than ever and Snoop D-O-Double G owned the show playing all of their classics. They even took the audience all the way back to when they first started together 20 years ago with 'Deep Cover.' 
The biggest highlight of the night is the hologram technology that allowed the rappers to perform with resurrected West Coast homie Tupac Shakur for 'Hail Mary' and '2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted.' I have to admit seeing him rise onto the stage in the video gave me the chills and hearing him speak to the crowd and rap just like he was there is unbelievable. It must have been a weird, but awesome feeling for Snoop and Dre to perform in front of thousands with their boy again. There is now a twitter dedicated to the hologram, @HologramTupac if you want to follow. Honestly, if that could be done at concerts, to experience artists that you would never have a chance to see live, I would enjoy it. Maybe digital superstars will be the new thing? 
Music festivals and tours are what keeps the industry alive and Coachella is going strong.

Watch the full set here:
Part 1

Part 2 (Tupac at 32:00)

Article on more details of Coachella.   

Monday, 2 April 2012

The Beat Down Under

I apologize for not posting in the past couple of weeks. My school year came to an end on Thursday, so I was focused on that and now I will do my best to keep up with the weekly posts. So continuing on...

Similar to the scene in Canada, hip hop in Australia began in the early 1980s and has only really began to build in the past couple of years. Other than listening to it on the internet, Australian hip hop is not something you hear on our local radio stations. So why not give you a chance to hear some hip hop from somewhere other than North America.

The first hip hop group I’ve ever heard from Australia was Hilltop Hoods. I also realized the other day that I just missed their show in Toronto Mar. 22, boo.  They are from Adelaide, South Australia and formed in 1991.  Their latest album, Drinking from the Sun, was released on March 9.

Listen to Hilltop Hoods - I love it feat. Sia off Drinking from the Sun album.
Visit their website

I found a great article highlighting another one of Australia’s top hip hop groups right now and the difference between their style and North American hip hop - Bliss and Eso.  They're also the first Australian hip hop act to tour the U.S. Read the article about Bliss and Eso here. Bliss and Eso stated, "We've found real differences when we have toured in North America." "We've found that turntableism and beat boxing is very rare over here, so the crowds always seem to love it when we pull it out in the shows," said Bliss and Eso. (Music video included in article.) Bliss n Eso played on Wed. March 28 alongside Big B in Whistler.

Listen to Bliss and Eso - Coastal Kids from Running on Air album.
Visit their website here.

I enjoy listening to both groups and find some similarities in the music to North American hip hop. However, they bring their own sound and lyrics that are different and I appreciate that. Also, it seems like seeing/hearing one of their live shows would be a great experience.  

Sunday, 11 March 2012

War on graffiti

From previous posts you will notice that I believe graffiti can be art and I appreciate graffiti writers who put meaning into their work. If you have ever been to Toronto you have probably noticed at some point some form of graffiti. There is a thriving street art community in Toronto and it has become a part of its backdrop.

This past week I had planned on going to Toronto to attend an art gallery opening (based on graffiti) and I wanted to tell you guys all about it in this weeks blog post. Instead, I decided to get sick and be stuck in bed. Luckily, I can still tell you all about it, just not my own first-hand experience and without any personal photos.

For those of you who don’t know, Toronto Mayor (Rob Ford) has been trying to ‘clean up’ Toronto by getting rid of all possible marks of graffiti. About a year ago, he declared a war on graffiti. He decided that he would make business owners pay to remove graffiti off their buildings, even if it was an amazing piece of art and the owners liked the work. Many comments on this issue are that he should be working with the artists, not against them. I agree with this statement. Many artists are just going to retaliate and fight for what they want, which many artists have done. Watch the news clip below.

And with that, SPUD a Toronto graffiti writer, stood up for what he believed and has been aiming his work at Rob Ford. He has been spray painting the streets of Toronto and creating canvases with images of the Mayor as a grotesque worm, a smog cloud, and a human “gravy train,” as a reaction to the mayor’s crackdown on graffiti. 

On Thurs. March 8, 2012 “CENSORED” art gallery opened. The gallery takes Spud’s work inside, both graffiti and fine art pieces, to express his thoughts on the Ford administration's censorship of Graffiti as an Art form. SPUD’s show hopes to highlight the art in graffiti and settle the argument once and for all – graffiti IS art. The gallery reached capacity and had people waiting in line to get in, meaning it is more than just street artists interested in Spud's work. 

Watch promo video here.
Between The Lines Presents Censored: SPUD vs. Mayor Rob Ford) from betweenthelinesdoc on Vimeo.

Read National Post interview with Spud here

The show is open to the general public for the month of March. If you happen to be in Toronto this month, check it out! Located at Don’t Tell Mama Gallery Space. 108 Ossington Ave. Toronto

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Music makes the world go 'round

At the top of my list of Canadian Hip Hop artists is Shad. Shad is a little different from some of the other artists I have posted and I think that everyone can appreciate his music. I hope there are some of you who have heard of him and take pleasure in such a great artist. If this is your first time you have even heard his name or music, I believe you will enjoy it and may even find yourself continuing to listen to him.

Shad or Shad K, born Shadrach Kabang, is a Canadian hip hop artist. He was born in Kenya and was raised in London, Ontario. Shad’s music has been described as an ‘old soul.’ His sound resembles that of some of the old school hip hop artists. He has stated that he grew up listening to artists such as A Tribe Called Quest and Maestro and are influences on his style of music. He is a lyrical genius. It is true that his music is thoughtful and reflective. Real meaning and soul are put into all of his lyrics and sound. Interesting facts: he never uses the F-word in any of his songs and has a Master's degree in Liberal Studies from Simon Fraser University.

To learn a little bit more about Shad watch here. This is a great interview of him at the CBC Hip Hop Summit in 2011.
Shad’s last album, TSOL, was released in 2010. You can find more of his music on his Myspace. The latest music from Shad can be heard on his Mixtape released in December 2011. Listen to it here
He is on tour right now in Canada and will be coming to Toronto on March 22.

One of my favourite Shad song's 'Keep Shining.'

The day I discovered he collaborated with another one of my favourite Canadian artists, City and Colour (Dalls Green) was a great day. 'Live Forever' is always on repeat. The mixture between the two genres creates a perfect song. Listen to 'Live Forever' below. I'm hoping there is more of this to come.

A group that has toured with Shad and other groups such as Bedouin Soundclash is Grand Analog. They perform all of their instruments live, even the kazoo!
All of their songs are great…they even have one featuring Shad.
Listen to 'Electric City' below.
Listen to more of their music here.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Hip Hop Isn't lives in Canada

In this post you will notice that I am sticking to my roots. I want to strictly focus on some of the top Canadian emcees, in my opinion, that are out there today.  Note: this is just the beginning and not an exhaustive list, I will post more. 

Being Canadian, I believe there are so many hip-hop artists that are under-rated. It is only in the past decade or so that Canadian hip-hop has entered mainstream culture and artists are creating a name for themselves. Like most Canadian entertainment, we have the talent, but it takes time for it to be recognized or only fellow Canadians really appreciate it.  Canadian hip-hop began in the 1980s and didn’t really take off until the 90s with this hit:
Northern Touch - Racalz feat. Kardinal Offishal, Choclair, CheckMate and Thrust

This song is a pure classic Canadian hip-hop hit and if you grew up in the 90s you will most likely remember it and agree.
Hip hop in Canada has continued to grow and leave an imprint like the ‘Northern Touch.’ I thought it was best to fill you readers in on some exciting things that are happening with Canadian hip hop recently.  

Classified (Luke Boyd), from Novia Scotia, first began getting notice in the North, but now has a strong presence all over Canada and the States. Also, he has started his own record label Half Life Records. On Feb. 26 Classified went to twitter and announced a video release for “The Hangover” featuring Kayo and Jim Cuddy (from Canadian band Blue Rodeo). The song is from his 14th album Handshakes and Middle Fingers, but is his second major studio album. I’m sure after all of his success in 2011 and after is tour, Class will be in the works of more great music.

Watch the new video here :

Also, check out “Maybe it’s just me” featuring Brother Ali for a song/video with a real Canadian sound and scene. 
Classified is on a Canadian tour right now and will be in Toronto on March 13 at the Air Canada Centre. I have seen him perform live and every song has great energy and he really knows how to get the crowd going. If you have a chance, don’t miss out!

K’naan was born in Somalia and moved to Toronto when he was 13.  He is recognized for his global anthem 'Waving Flag' that was used for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.  K’naan’s music has deep cultural meaning that reflects many of his experiences and he has been compared to artists such as Bob Marley.  

K’naan and Nelly Furtado have teamed up together to give us “Is there anybody out there?”
They performed on David Letterman on Feb. 23. K’naan released an EP (Extended Play) featuring this song on January 31.

Watch the live performance here:

To be continued...

Monday, 20 February 2012

More than a b-boy stance

For this weeks blog post I would like to focus on a different element of hip hop culture most people know as breakdancing, but is referred to as b-boying and the dancers are b-boys and b-girls. There are a lot of comments on the use of the word breakdancing in the hip-hop community. Many b-boys/b-girls reject the term ‘breakdancing’ as a term made up by the media that symbolizes the 'co-optation of the art form.' In other words, a word used to incorporate breakers and the culture into mainstream culture. This type of dance originated in New York City in the 1970s by street dancers. It wasn’t until the late 1990s b-boying and the culture around it became popular. Today, b-boying has a come a long way and there are b-boys and girls, as well as crews from all over the world. B-boying has made its way into mainstream culture, while also still maintaining a sense of underground credibility.
The one thing I love about watching b-boys/b-girls and battles is everyone has their own individual style and it varies depending on where the dancer is from and their influences. B-boying is easy to recognize, since there are four primary elements (toprock, downrock, power moves, freezes), but dancers combine the moves in different ways and add their own style to them. Most of the dance and battles are freestyled and change with the music/beat. Click here to learn more about b-boying.
B-boying has become a popular street dance style and part of hip-hop culture in many countries. Several international b-boy competitions are held each year and I would like to highlight a few of them. There are so many I cannot go into detail and I don’t expect you to read about each one, but I just want to give you an idea of the culture. 

Battle of the Year
Battle of the Year is an annual international b-boying non-profit event that began 20 years ago in Germany, but is now focused in France. It is a platform for B-Boys and Hip Hop culture in general and an opportunity for all participants to express themselves in a peaceful and non-racist environment. Crews (as opposed to individuals) compete from all over the world.
The Notorious IBE 2011 
Every year the IBE is held in the Netherlands and invites worldwide renowned dancers (bboys & bgirls, lockers, poppers, house dancers), DJ's, photographers, video editors and special guests. The program includes battles, workshops, talkshows, danceshows, exhibitions and music performances. 
South Korea is home to the international breaking competition R16 which is sponsored by the government and began in 2007. The main event features sixteen B-Boy crews representing fifteen countries competing in a two day tournament for world championship titles in two categories: best crew performance and best crew battle. The festival features graffiti artists, street wear designers, musical performers and dancers who specialize in hip-hoppoppinglocking and other urban arts subcultures from South Korea and other countries. 

Red Bull BC One
Sixteen of the world's best B-Boys meet to compete and to determine in a 1-on-1 knock-out-battle who is “The One.”

"Our aim is to inspire both newbies and professionals of the break dance scene, and to provide a forum for networking and exchanging of ideas and experiences."

The UK also hosts two international competitions: The UK B-Boy Championships and the World Street Dance Championships.

As you can see by the number of competitions, b-boying has become a popular way to unite different countries and share a common form of expression. After searching all of these international b-boy competitions, I am now making it one of my goals in the near future to travel to one of these countries and witness a battle in person with a live crowd. Watching a video is just not as good. However, all of the links will bring you to more information on each one and more b-boying videos. Sick bboy photos. Enjoy!

Sunday, 12 February 2012

5 Pointz - NYC

In June 2007 I had the opportunity to travel to New York City, one of my top picks for places to see. I was dancing at Fascination Dance Studio in Thorold, ON at the time and my competitive ballet team had qualified to compete at the World Dance Championships. Before leaving for my trip I thought, 'Hey, NYC is home to hip hop.' It was after googling something along the lines of 'graffiti places in NYC' I came across a legal outdoor gallery called 5 Pointz. I somehow convinced my friends and my mom to take the NYC subway and travel to the Queens neighbourhood of Long Island City (not having any real clue of how to get there), but as you can see by the pictures we made it. 

5 Pointz - NYC

5 Pointz is a full city block, 200, 000 square foot factory building that is 5 stories high and is covered in graffiti. The name signifies the five boroughs (townships) of New York City coming together as one. The place is legal and artists who are interested in having their work on the building have to be reviewed and granted permission by the gallery curator Meres One. Jonathan Cohen, "Meres One," is a graffiti veteran and the founder of 5 Pointz. His main goal is to convert the building into a graffiti art museum as long as redevelopment does not happen. Artists from all over the world (well known and novice) have traveled to paint at 5 Pointz and add to the colourful walls. The building is free to the public and anyone can go walk around it. It has become a hangout for local residents and has become a place of hip hop. Graffiti artists, rappers, DJs and B-Boys often gather on site. Several known graffiti writers such as Stay High 149 and Tats Cru, as well as Hip Hop stars Kurtis Blow and Mobb Deep have visited the warehouse. 

Pictures I took at 5 Pointz (2007):

If you ever plan on traveling to New York City I highly recommend visiting 5 Pointz. Even if you are not an artist or have no interest in graffiti, you will be amazed by the building and the work that exists on these walls. 

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Local Art: Street art is not a crime

For this blog post I want to continue with my focus on the local hip hop scene in Niagara, specifically graffiti. First, I am going to make it clear what I mean by graffiti, since it is a term that gets tossed around a lot.  
While searching for definitions I found these from the Oxford Dictionary: 
Art: the use of the imagination to express ideas or feelings, particularly in paint and drawing
Graffiti: drawings or writing on a wall etc., in a public space
Vandalism: the crime of destroying or damaging something, especially public property, deliberately and for no good reason

I realize that people have their own opinions on art and whether they consider graffiti to be an art form. I believe that there is bad graffiti, which is vandalism, when people purposely destroy or tag property. But I am talking about the artistic side of graffiti, artists with a real talent and who give meaning to their work. One of the main reasons is the prospect of fame and recognition of one's artistic talent. Artists also use the walls as a form of self-expression. Vandalism is illegal, but street art should not be. 
I have lived in St. Catharines my entire life (that would be 22 years) and it wasn’t that long ago I realized the art that exists on the street walls, under bridges and highways in the city.  There is a legal wall in downtown St. Catharines, located in the alley way beside L3 Nightclub on James St. Artists have permission at certain times of the year to paint on these walls. 
2010 Live Aids Niagara Graf Jam (Legal Wall, St. Catharines) 
Graffiti can be in the form of murals or productions, when many artists come together to paint a similar theme. It’s unfortunate that there are not very many legal walls in the area for artists to express themselves and showcase their work. Instead, if you want to see real artwork it is at places like the thoth and trussle, located under highways and bridges, not visible or known to most city residents. 

'District 905' - Thoth, St. Catharines

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Local Hip Hop - It was all a dream...

In my PR program, whenever we talk about the media and what they are doing to satisfy their audiences, local content is always one of the main points. So, for my first post I thought it would be best to start off with hip hop from the place I have grown up. The Niagara region, specifically St. Catharines, has its own hip hop movement that many might not be aware of. The thing I love most about the hip hop here is there are so many different styles and not everyone is the same. I want to give you readers a taste of some of the talent that exists in my city. I can’t post everyone, but I want to give a shout out to all 905 artists and thank them for keeping hip hop alive in our city. 

Hip Hop/R&B artist Zay:

Zay has already put so much work into where he is today and this is just the beginning of what is to come. He has the confidence, determination and sound that will make him successful. The 4D Music group, includes Junior Endless and Zay, and has worked with Canadian artists including Rich Kidd, JRDN, Arthur McArthur and Belly. Zay has performed at many venues in Niagara and Toronto, as well as opened for artists, such as Redman.

Endless Records artist Zay, also known as Zak Ali, recently released his first music video shot in Toronto. It is a story about an artist who is building his career and a strong relationship deteriorating as a result. The song was produced by Arthur McArthur (Toronto's rising production star) and the video was directed by Chris Strikes. Watch the video for 'Don't Say It's Over' here:

You will hear this on the radio soon, just wait! and it's available on iTunes.
"I feel the viewer might appreciate it more because it has a story line and a decent amount of dialogue to draw them in emotionally." - Zay

Video release party Wed. Feb 8th at Sutra on St. Paul St., St. Catharines 10:00 p.m. 
Event info
Follow on Twitter: @zayitsfire

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

And if you don't know, now you know

Hey everyone and welcome to my blog. Hip Hop, as most of you know, is very popular in Canada and the United States. Everyone at some point has been a part of its culture, whether you have heard a song, seen someone dancing or emceeing and have walked by a piece of art.

It was in high school I began having a real appreciation for music and discovering my taste, especially hip hop and its culture. Since I started university it has been my goal to work in the entertainment industry. I have decided to focus on this goal and combine it with my love for hip-hop, but all things hip-hop (music, break-dancing, graffiti, emcee’s) both underground and mainstream.

I want to open your eyes to something you may not have much care for or reintroduce you to something you may have forgotten about and better yet help expand a love you may already have. There are several blogs out there strictly about hip-hop, but I hope mine brings you recent news and info about today’s hip hop, while never forgetting the influences of old school hip hop. I will be posting videos, photos, music and information related to hip hop not only from North America, but also other countries. I am not an expert, I don’t make beats and I can’t bust a good rhyme, but I have a passion for real music and lyrics, art and dancing that I want to share. So don’t be afraid to leave your comments, ask me questions or add to my discussion. 
Peace, love and hip hop.
"I start thinking, how many souls hip-hop has affected
How many dead folks this art resurrected
How many nations this culture connected." - Common, The 6th Sense