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