CHANCE THE RAPPER DELIVERS BLESSINGS ON TOUR

In 2016, Chance the Rapper has: performed at major festivals like Bonnaroo, and Made in America, thrown his own Magnificent Coloring Day festival in Chicago, landed a global ad campaign with Kenzo X H&M, and petitioned the Grammy awards to include streaming only music. This would be a monumental year for any artist, but it’s historic for an artist that has remained independent.

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“Are you ready for your blessing!” is how Chance begins his show, telling more so than asking his audience. Receiving blessings was the them of the night, as Chance recounted his own torrid path before he reached his own blessing. All the talk of blessings, newfound redemption and higher powers gave him the feel of a preacher at his pulpit, and his message wasn’t lost on the sold out crowd in Vancouver.

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Chance the Rapper’s concert felt like an off Broadway revival of Avenue Q, as he was joined onstage by puppets that bantered, flirted, danced, and sang with him on stage. His inclusion of the characters in his live show was a nod to the childlike innocence and optimism in his raps – optimism that is very needed in hip hop right now.

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For a full recap of Chance’s performance, check out Episode 37 of The Screen Girls On Air

Screen Girls On Air: Relic aka Rel McCoy

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The entire vibe of the Toronto hip hop scene has changed since OVO took over in ’09. Fast forward six years later, and the sing/rap style has become all too predictable. It’s important to note that there are still emcees like Ontario’s Relic that are foregoing the trendy path to success, and instead creating sound pieces of music, that remain true to vision.

Relic aka Rel Mccoy is refreshing because he’s so heavily involved in all aspects of the creation of his work from writing to production. He’s a DJ, engineer and producer who’s previously work includes most of the production on Shad’s “The Old Prince” as well as doing engineering for rap group Ghetto Concept.

He’s been working on his own music, and recently dropped The 13th Floor, which tackles the everyday woes of Relic as he navigates through life, the chaos and mayhem that follows (or that he perhaps chases). It’s not at all the glamorous portrait of Toronto that’s oft portrayed; there’s no bitches and bottles to be found in his rhymes. It’s real, but entirely relatable, feeling stripped down and without any accoutrements. It’s a man, his bars and a beat – hip hop at it’s core.

Whether or not this raw and conscious flow can crossover in this climate stands to be seen. It’s dependant on Canadian hip hop audiences and their willingness to (once again) support music with positive imagery. If so, Relic will no doubt stand with Canadian emcees like Shad and Choclair as one of the country’s hip hop wordsmiths.

We interviewed Relic on Episode 28 of Screen Girls on Air and asked him to share with us his thoughts on the Canadian music industry and more.

 

Smoke DZA spreads more than just stoner gospel

 

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Smoke DZA has been typified as the quintessential East Coast stoner rapper since Substance Abuse his first mixtape. The Harlem born and based rapper has released many sinsemilla inspired songs since then, earning him his “Kushed God” moniker. Even though, he possesses an intimate knowledge of the plant, boxing Smoke in as a “weed rapper” is  unfair. Yes, Smoke has waxed poetic about the herb on more than just a few bars. But, the second part of his name (DZA) stands for “Dream, Zone, Achieve” and that’s more befitting of his aspirations for his music.

He’s from a down-and-out area of Harlem, and carries that unmistakable confidence with him, in his raps and on stage. He stays true to the Harlem in him, more bodega than bougie. His rapping style is not confrontational by any means. He’s got a relaxed flow that may (or may not) have something to do with the steady stream of THC flowing through him. He’s become a go to for features, collaborating with almost every new school rapper that matters. From A$AP Rocky to Schoolboy Q, he’s built alliances with artists on both coasts. His fan base is international, and they are viciously loyal to him. Check any music site’s comment section after they release a “best rapper” list and you’ll find his fans screaming bloody murder for looking him over. He’s a perpetual underdog, despite being one of the best performing rappers of recent in both critical and commercial capacities.

What endears his fans to DZA seems to be his willingness to delve into the problems of his community without being patronizing or over opinionated. He’s more of an orator, sharing stories about the hardships and good times he’s gone through while trying to make it as a person and as an artist. His show was an ode to the depth of Smoke Dza as he weaved in advice for the audience and shared stories about how he’d been working his whole life to be on that stage. Dream, Zone, Achieve – it was the theme of the night and the mantra for his life.

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Demrick ready for his debut

Demrick has a storied history as an emcee. He began rapping in Philadelphia, in the same vein of many rappers before him, in the streets and in cyphers around the city. The best thing about cyphers is that it’s an arena where respect really has to be earned. To battle in a cypher you must be quick footed, able to run rhymes around your opponent and anticipate their every move. There’s none of the cushy comforts a studio can bring, no do overs, no second chances. It’s an education in the destruction of the ego, and the first audience stimulus that emcees receive. It was in this environment where Demrick (formerly Young De) found his voice.

It’s been a few years since Demrick’s rap battle days; he’s since moved to California after being discovered by the likes of Kurupt and B-Real of Cypress Hill. The latter whom Demrick ended up collaborating with on supergroup The Serial Killers.  It seems that all of the work he’s put into the game, the cyphers, the mixtapes and the collaborative album with the Serial Killers, has all been leading up to the release of his first full length album Losing Focus (released today). In this album, it’s evident that he’s learned some major lessons throughout all of the trials and tribulations the unbeaten path has brought him. His music is very much like his upbringing, it’s unidentifiable to any sound. He’s westcoast but east coast, he makes party music with the best of them but is also able to speak candidly about growing up with next to nothing.

It’s a candour that is refreshing, he seems to have no need for a lavish lifestyle and aside from a few cringeworthy lines on Skyscraper (I got models / I got strippers/ I got bitches I’m a player) he’s steering clear of any familial paths in rap. We spoke to him shortly before he released Losing Focus and got some insight into his thought process during the making of the album and the different approach he had to take in making his own album, versus a collaborative album. Check out the video here

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Neph and Prevail on Alpha and Omega

Neph and Prevail have a working relationship that took 25 years to foster.

It’s a unique situation, the uncle/nephew duo are at different places in their music careers and in their personal lives. Prevail’s navigated a successful career as a solo artist and as part of Swollen Members. His music catalogue is extensive, a plethora of (profanity free) well thought out rhymes, and a depth and knowledge that can only come out of living life outside of your comfort zone. He writes music without using popular crutches (money, women, violence) in a way that is accessible to the listener, but forces each to form their own conclusions about his verses.

In a way, he’s the perfect mentor for Neph, who’s new to hip hop in comparison. Neph grew up leading a parallel life to his uncle. They’re both Victoria Island boys that moved over to Vancouver to pursue music. Neph could have been tempted to rap about trendy things as it seems to be a surefire way to mainstream success, but instead he’s opted to write only about what he really knows and what comes freely to him, and that’s his saviour from the dilapidated state that mainstream hip hop has become. His verses are raw, they aren’t even flattering to him at times, far from painting himself with bravado; they’re uninhibited reflections of the struggles felt by him and his friends.

It’s this gritty portrayal of his life, set in the streets of Vancouver, that is endearing to listeners. While he and Prevail have completely different vibes and aesthetics, they play well off each other in songs like Viceroy, which showcases their relationship and similar passion for the music. For Neph, music has been his greatest source of self expression (he also draws and makes art) and an way to escape his introverted tendancies.

Prevail is in the position where he doesn’t need to make another record to prove himself. He’s rightfully earned his place in Canadian music, and is purely doing it for the love of the craft. Complacency doesn’t seem to be a word that’s familiar to him though, and that’s probably part of his longstanding relevancy in his genre. So, Alpha Omega is really a fitting title for these two, a collaboration between a novice and veteran, but without any of the power imbalances that it may have. Prevail is just as willing to be the student as he is the teacher, and this keeps their sound at an equilibrium and something that is relatable to many people, who are at different stages in their own journey.

Alpha Omega is dropping soon and we’re excited to hear their voices mesh together on multiple tracks.