Doors at 10pm
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I recorded a song back in 1990 called “The Rhyme Has To Be Good”. I made the beat, rapped and did the scratches all myself. I began teaching myself how to do those things several years before, secretly, in the privacy of my bedroom. I grew up in a small rural town called Mt. Uniacke in Nova Scotia and none of my friends were interested in hip hop music. Ironically – given the title- that first song isn’t very good at all. But we all have to start somewhere.
That song got played on the college radio station in the city (Halifax) a few times and soon I started meeting other rappers and DJs. In the early days, it was mostly about performing – in living rooms, at dances, on the radio, in the woods, on roofs, or wherever. I was never the most talented guy around, but it was a huge passion and I took it all very seriously – even when I was acting like a goofball.
A few years later, the focus turned to recording. Through the 90′s I recorded countless songs with friends and on my own. For most of those years my efforts went unheard outside my hometown and sadly, a lot of those recordings have been lost.
Toward the end of the decade (around 1997 or so) I began to find an international audience and a place in a wider underground community with the help of the internet. Small independent labels with names like Four Ways To Rock, Hand Solo and Anticon began to offer help.
By 2000, I had a career on my hands. Music became my sole means of income. Somehow I managed to find my way around the world and pay off my student loans. My wildest dreams had come true.
Then, in 2002, after 12 years of independent hustle, I signed a big time record deal with Warner and moved to France. Since then I’ve worked with musicians from all over the world – some with big names, some with no name at all. And I’ve continued to work with my old friends from my hometown too.
For a while now, people have been saying that the music I make doesn’t exactly sound like hip hop. I think that’s partly because I often hear hip hop where other people might not. Sometimes I hear it in pre-war blues songs. I hear it in albums like New Values by Iggy Pop or Is This Desire? by PJ Harvey. I hear it in experimental recordings by William S. Burroughs or minstrel songs by Emmett Miller. It’s a curse.
My newest collection of songs is called 20 Odd Years. This time around I went back to the formula that worked so well on Talkin’ Honky Blues – I returned to Halifax to build some songs – from the ground up – with my friends Charles Austin and Graeme Campbell. We also called in a bunch of friends to contribute vocals. Plus, I recorded a song with my old pal Jo Run, who I’ve worked with since the early days.
It’s a strange thing for me to consider, but there aren’t many people who were on the hip hop scene in 1990 who are still here today. I’ve seen a lot of talented people come and go in my time. I have no idea why I’ve lasted when so many others have not. I guess that’s up to you to decide. But despite my best efforts, I’ve never been trendy and maybe that’s had something to do with it.
Twenty years seems like a long time but the thought of slowing down or ‘hanging it up’ has not even crossed my mind. Will I still be at it when I’m 50 years old? I guarantee you that I will. There may not always be an audience, but that didn’t stop me in the beginning…