HIP HOP IN EDMONTON featuring politic live
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CONTENTS 04 Intro
06 Colour Blind
08 Artist Profile - AJA Louden
16 Dear Hip Hop
18 YEG Represent: A Look Inside Edmontonâ€™s Hip-Hop Culture
28 The Find - Love Your Movement
30 March 24, 2012
Original cover image by Pedersen (3tenphoto.com)
INTRO Here we are again – another one done. In our second issue, head writer Rebecca HaganEgyir takes a look inside Edmonton’s hip-hop scene. She profiles a diverse group of artists who are making waves – waves that inspired some of this month’s other stories, including our artist profile and our “Find”. It’s a great look into a strong community full of great local talent. Marker is new to the magazine world, and putting together each issue is a lot of work. Everyone involved, whether directly or indirectly, is an integral part of the success of this publication, and I can’t thank you all enough. Enjoy issue two, folks.
Brnesh Berhe Founder
Art & Editorial Director / Publisher Brnesh Berhe Head Writer Rebecca Hagan-Egyir Copy Editor Jessica Bateman Contributing Writers Ahlam Sadik, iD Contributing Photographer Vic Mittal (VSM Photo) Contributing Photos (for YEG Represent) by Howard Cameron, NGYOFACE, Pedersen Special thanks Angie Mellen, Lucier Model Agency, The Bower, and EVERYONE WHO CARRIED THE FIRST ISSUE! firstname.lastname@example.org /markermagazine | @markermagazine Insta
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C O L O U R By Ahlam Sadik
B L I N D
You say that you are colour blind third world tattooed all over your body. and I cant help but wish I was a lot like you. Don’t look at me as if I am merely a I wish I was color blind too. bad sunburn” You see, the pigment in my skin will never “Remember that I am symbolic to your let me forget of her stories. people’s history, so learn your history. She tells me, “Never forget that you are a I am symbolic to your people’s culture, so coloured woman; you were marked since learn your traditions. the day you left your mom’s womb.” I am symbolic to your mother’s native tongue, so learn your native language. In elementary school I had nicknames. Make sure your roots stay firmly underI was always that token black girl in my classes; ground; don’t allow yourself to be uprooted. the one with no friends. Stay grounded. I hated everything about me. Gain knowledge. From the shape of my lips, and the colour Don’t let them tell you who you should of my eyes, to the curls of my hair, the and should not be. Have pride in your accent of my parents, and the colour of heritage. Don’t try to change me, and my skin. don’t you dare ever forget of me” I was that child that lived in a poverished apartment on affluent white territory. I was that awkward child. That child that ate food that reeked of strange spices. It took me a long time to realize that being different wasn’t so different after all; it all depends on who’s measuring stick you use and who you want to compare yourself to. I am that same awkward girl, but I learned to love and respect every bit of my identity. My skin tells me to never forget where I come from. She tells me,“Never forget that your parents had to walk through deserts to get here. How they left the comfort of their homes in order to make their own dreams a reality. All the hardships they endured. How they were treated as second-class citizens in this country. How they had to expose themselves to different norms and values and had to understand all this in a different language.” She tells me, “Don’t forget that you do not fully belong here. You might be first world, but you have
She reminds me everyday that she exists; Forcing me to take notice of her, forcing others to notice her. You say that you are colour blind, but you tend to assume things about me even before I get the chance to open my mouth and speak. You think racism has died, but then why do I hear it in her voice? I see it in his face. If racism has died why is it that when someone says shit like, “Go back to your country”, others turn their heads in silence with no objections? I guess that means they agree. So I am sorry if I don’t believe you when you tell me you are colour blind. It is not righteous of you, neither is it polite. In fact my skin thinks you’re kind of rude. She is begging for your attention. She wants you to know she exists in bright colours you cannot hardly miss. She wants you to notice her scars, her pain, and hear her voice with your eyes open. She is not asking for your approval or your tolerance, she is asking for you to respect her, and paint her in colours rather than leave her in random shades of grey.
I’m the Toughest (RIP Peter Tosh). Approx 4.5’ x 8.5’. Acrylic on blank billboard. 2012.
AJA LOUDEN ARTIST PROFILE Interview by Brnesh Berhe
What made you want to venture into a creative career? Well, it took a lot of experimentation for me. I’ve been creative and into the arts since I was a kid, but it took me a while to realize that it was my calling… something that I wanted to make into a career. It’s hard for me to choose a specific turning point. I was in school for the sciences for several years then switched into arts. I always did well in the sciences but I couldn’t really see myself doing that as a career so I chose to follow my passion. One important catalyst I remember was my grandma telling me to just go do it, so I’m sure that was a big part of it. Grandma always knows. (Laughs) Grandma always knows, for sure. So you went to MacEwan for their Design program, right? Yup, majored in illustration; [graduated in 2012]. Do you think that graduating from the program and having that formal training has helped you in your illustration work, or more in your design? The design part of the program is what helped me the most. Learning to analyze things in design terms and look at things as a design challenge. Every piece of art and every illustration is a challenge in terms of design, right? How to convey a piece of information most efficiently while still making it interesting. So incorporating that attitude in my style has been the most useful. Do you feel you’re more influenced by other artists or by random everyday things? I’d say both. I can see a texture on a brick wall that would make me think of something, and later on I’m painting based on that experience. I guess there are a few people along the way whose work has inspired me. When I see somebody’s work and it blows me away, I feel like it changes me as a person; just that one chance encounter has changed my life path and I want to be able to share that with people. How do you come up with your ideas? Well with the [Martin Luther King/Malcom X] piece and Definitions Of The Self [with Pam Grier and the little Sambo character], those are about similar topics; about the power to define yourself or to define the group of people that you seem to belong to. In both cases I’m talking about black people as a group, because at the time that’s the topic I felt was the closest to heart and something that I could make happen visually. It was an important topic for me to talk about and something I’ve dealt with all my life. Growing up in rural Alberta it’s something you’re made very aware of, so it was something I wanted to express. Both those pieces are about the challenge and the power to define you as opposed to being defined from the outside. I’d say in general however, where my inspiration comes from really depends on the piece. Sometimes I just want to do something that’s fun to paint and not worry about the final result.
Malcom X and MLK Armwrestling as Observed by C. Delores Tucker, Tupac Shakur, Fred Hampton, and Marcus Garvey. 12” x 12”. Acrylic on canvas. 2012.
Mutant Science (detail) Aerosol on the first Edmonton Free Wall (2012)
My main goal with my work is to inspire and empower, and I just want to make sure I get closer and closer to that goal.
Definitions Of The Self 12” x 12”. Acrylic on canvas. 2011.
So how often do you go into a piece where you plan ahead? Usually with a large-scale piece or something that is going to be seen by an audience. But when I’m at home working on a personal piece I usually give myself more leeway; it’s a laboratory for me and a chance to experiment.
Lastly, where do you hope your work will take you? I guess in some sense I’m willing to follow my work. I’d love to see where it wants to take me. For the amount I do have control over I’d like to say more with less— I guess that’s part of my design thinking. You can speak to more people like that. It’s more powerful and there’s a lot less lost in the conversation. I’d also like to paint on a bigger scale; the mediums I’m most attracted to have some really interesting effects at large scales. I’d also like to be able to share my work with more people. My main goal with my work is to inspire and empower, and I just want to make sure I get closer and closer to that goal.
You have a lot of experience working with the local hip-hop community in Edmonton. Has that influenced your work? Yeah, I can see a lot of different ways it’s influenced my work. For as long as I’ve been into music I’ve been attracted to hip-hop. It’s a musical style that speaks to me and I think reflects my experiences, so it’s definitely carried into the subject matter I’m painting right now. It’s more of a convergence with me and the hip-hop 2013 is a busy year for AJA Louden. community; I’m painting hip-hop-oriented stuff, they see that and are attracted to my work and I’m attracted to theirs. It creates “I’m part of the committee for Hip Hop in the Park that puts on a community that way. big festival every May. At the end of June, [I ran] a summer camp at Inhuman that I designed to teach youth about art making and art history through the lens of street art. In August, I’ll be working That in mind, what would you say to those who may not be from on a large-scale mural, and in September I’ll be helping set up the Edmonton who feel like we don’t have much going in terms of new Open Source Mural walls, pending a final round of approval.” an arts scene? Well, I’d say, “Y’all aint been paying attention” (laughs) We have a lot of really talented artists here, and a growing sense of community especially within the hip-hop world, but also with Edmonton as a whole. There’s a great Edmonton pride thing that I’ve seen grow over the past few years as well. Sometimes people just choose not to see things.
To see more of Louden’s work, check out ajalouden. blogspot. ca
Original image: flickr
Dear Hip-Hop, I just wanted to take a minute to tell you that I love you. I know you don’t hear it too often these days, but it’s true, and you deserve to hear it. I see you. I see you for who you are. You are radiant and beautiful, and at the same time you don’t take any crap... I admire that about you. I know you’re misunderstood, but I understand you. You are not music, but you are inspiration for the greatest songs ever composed. I despise how some people treat you like a whore. I know you don’t kick it like that, but really, at the end of the day... that’s their problem and not yours. You’re right in front of them, yet they can’t see you for who you are. It’s so sad. It’s like the tycoon who only sees money when he looks at a forest. He puts a price on something priceless and tries to destroy it—destroying himself in the process. And you know what? The forest grows back stronger. I’ve been watching you for a good long while now, Hip-Hop, and I can see you getting stronger too. I’ve gotta tell you some truth. I can throw compliments at you ‘cause I know you like that. Compliments can make you feel good for a minute, but a full meal is not found in compliments. So... here it goes. I look back to the moment you came into my life— it’s vivid. I think about where I was and where I am now, and I’m blessed to have you in my life. You’ve become a part of me—a part that I am not willing to give up. You make me better. You push me to be the best I can be. You make me want to master myself. I know you’re with me and down for me in a major way ‘cause even when it got hard for me, you stuck it out. A lot of people walked away; a lot of people exposed their true colors and made things impossible. You, though… you didn’t walk away. You proved that your true colors are beautiful. I want to tell you that I’m down for you the way that you’re down for me. Things may get shaky for you— they may get hard— but I’m gonna stick it out with you. I won’t take off; I won’t walk away; my true colors are solid… and they are down for you, Hip-Hop. We can make it through anything. And we will. I cannot wait to see you again. Lots of love, iD
Jo Thrillz | Photo: NGYOFACE
YEG RepResent A Look Inside Edmontonâ€™s Hip-Hop Culture
By Becky Hagan-Egyir
Q & A 20
How does Edmonton inspire your music? “You listen to rap music from New York or Europe and there’s a different sound. You listen to rap music from around here and it has its own sound— you don’t hear songs in California with people rapping about three feet of snow, but you hear it in Edmonton!”
MC/founder of Hip Hop in the Park
What makes breaking in Edmonton stand out from other Canadian cities? “The mindset in other cities can be seen in their different styles. In Vancouver people are “hungry”— their moves are more aggressive. In Winnipeg their moves are “raw” and they want to outdo you on the dance floor. In other places like Toronto, there’s a lot of division because of the size of the city. Whereas here [in Edmonton], there’s a lot of love and less division… and since we’re in the West Coast we have more power moves in our breaking.”
What hip-hop artists influence your work? “There are many artists that inspire my work. Artists like Drake, Classified, SonReal, Rich Kidd, Shad, and Madchild are current motivators. But I was raised on Wu Tang, Nas, Cypress Hill, Skee-Lo, Eazy-E, Biggie… the list goes on.”
Lorien Maheu artist
What hip-hop artists influence your work? “As far as graffiti artists go I’d say Adrian Louden has influenced my work. A little while back I saw a documentary on Basquiat [whose career began as a graffiti artist in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s], and after seeing him become so successful by just doing his thing I wanted to grab my sketchbook and start using those drawings as references for my own paintings.”
“[it began as] the voice of people who didn’t have a voice. today, it’s our news channel—how someone from edmonton can communicate with someone across the world.” I’m hearing a revelation about hip-hop from Sonny Grimezz, a DJ and member of Edmonton’s hip-hop music group Politic Live, and it’s very different from what I learnt as a girl. Hiphop was the anthem of “people with bad morals” as some teachers said, but Sonny tells me about hip-hop’s power. He’s one of many in Edmonton who understand the world better because of hip-hop. Critiques on society, politics, economics and neighbourhood events are all channelled through hip-hop culture. Hip-hop artists in Edmonton know that the culture has its problems and that people tend to focus on its darker side with glamorized violence and risky morals. “A lot of people get it confused. Many [hip-hop] artists rap about their experiences and what they’ve gone through… They don’t endorse certain negative things like violence, but other artists do. Rap has both sides of the spectrum,” rapper Jo Thrillz confirms. But the Edmonton hiphop community believes that there’s more good than bad to hip-hop, and as the rappers of Locution Revolution told me, “there will always be people to school”.
RecoveRing hip-hop’s pAst
Taking the public to “school” begins with a connection to the past. This doesn’t mean Edmonton hip-hop artists rap rhymes like Grand Master Flash “…Don’t push me ‘cause I’m close to the edge…” or dress up in velvet tracksuits, rocking their b-boy moves to oversized boom boxes. Instead, they connect with the message that’s been there from the beginning— empowerment—and share it with the city. In 2001, hip-hop culture was recognized for its goal to empower people with the Hip-Hop Declaration of Peace. It was signed by artists and agencies like UNESCO and the Temple of HipHop, and was presented to the United Nations. To further this, the Declaration named the third week of May Hip-Hop Appreciation Week. 22
Politic Live | Photo: Pedersen
Pharush | Photo: Howard Cameron
“ Why wouldn’t you share something that helped you find your identity...” -Pharush, United 1ne dance crew
While Edmonton artists may not have signed the Declaration, many are fully committed to it. Hip-Hop in the Park, created by Locution Revolution’s iD, occurs the third week of every May to honour Hip-Hop Appreciation Week. An event like this one, which just had its sixth running, not only showcases the culture to the city, but allows hip-hop to become “beauty in its purest form” as expressed by breaker Pharush. Other artists, like painter Lorien Maheu, agree with Pharush’s statement, saying, “[Hip-Hop in the Park] is a great place to watch, learn and build confidence as an artist.” The public also gains confidence in hip-hop artists when they see their passion as they perform. Mitchmatic, who has performed there four times, adds that it “works really well for changing people’s perception [about hiphop]”. The negative ideas people have about hip-hop change when they hear and see stories of ordinary lives becoming extraordinary.
“imagine the strength, ‘cause momma there must be the humility that must accompany begging for money stripped of all pride, but your baby’s hunger gives you the strength to be just another number.” This verse from Wanty Wanty on Politic Live’s album, Ellipsis, helps listeners empathize with situations they might not live with, like welfare. “…There are a lot of stories that aren’t being told,” says Politic Live’s Arlo Maverick. He reflects on the Edmonton hip-hop community’s desire for us realize that we can empower each other by putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes— like the hip-hop artists before them. He continues, “Hip-hop is very much about where you’re from. We take a lot of pride in our city. Politic Live’s Dirt Gritie finishes, “Being community-minded is a big part of who we are.”
the ARt of individuAlity
Many artists develop as individuals by sharing their talents with the community. “Why
began in New York as a reaction to injustice in the 1970s. Breaking away from carefree disco culture, hip-hop looked at the lives of marginalized people and used their struggles to create gritty, in-your-face emotions through DJing, rapping, breaking, and graffiti. Today, hiphop uses its traditional roots and our modern commercial society to communicate to people across the world.
wouldn’t you share something that helped you find your identity with other people?” Pharush remarks with confidence, referring to dancing with his crew, United 1ne, fellow hip-hop dancers and DJ and mentor, Creeasian, at Churchill Square on Thursday nights.
shops in schools with United 1ne and Kootenay in Edmonton where he says they demonstrated “culture and not just steps” to students.
edmonton hip-hop’s futuRe?
Lorien Maheu’s paintings aren’t what you expect when you think of hip-hop art or graffiti.
Pharush’s identity as a breaker began with “Graffiti has always been a hard topic for me to discuss. I’ve often his determination to prove that breaking heard the stereotypical saying of how it’s not art, it’s just vandalism,
Locution Revolution | Photo: Nathanael J. Sapara.
involved just as much skill and discipline as studio dances like jazz or ballet. He founded his crew United 1ne along with fellow dancer Poppin Fresh. Pharush says, “People don’t understand the roots of b-boying— a b-boy or girl is their own person.” When he dances, he mixes breaking moves with other dance genres like salsa, First Nations grass dancing, and even ballet, to help people see the unexpected in breaking. Being open to other dance forms and cultures has taken him across Canada, particularly to help youth be comfortable with their identities. “Everybody has a creative potential— dance doesn’t limit you. You get to a point where you’re not thinking [when you’re breakdancing], ‘cause you’re in the moment.” He’s seen many moments where youth feel proud of their dance accomplishments while working with friend and mentor, Conway Kootenay, who’s a member of Red Power Squad. The Squad uses hip-hop to empower inner city youth. Kootenay taught him about First Nations culture, and with this knowledge, Pharush began doing work-
but I love graffiti! In my opinion, it’s as beautiful as a Dutch landscape or impressionistic painting.” Maheu admires graffiti’s form and style, but he doesn’t see himself as a graffiti artist or street artist even though his work is appearing at more hip-hop events like Hip-Hop in the Park. Ideas about what hip-hop can be, like what defines graffiti, are changing. Technology plays a role in promoting this change. The future of hip-hop lies in the past for some artists. Mitchmatic’s comedic 2013 Edmonton Music Award nominated song Why Don’t You Know? uses a track from the ‘50s to create a sound that’s distinctly fresh and different. Other artists like Jo Thrillz, who has wanted to be a rapper since he was six, capitalize on social media sites like YouTube to make childhood dreams a reality. Five years from now people will either love or hate hip-hop— as it’s always been. But no matter how people feel, hip-hop will never stop being an experience that people react to. Locution Revolution’s Khiry Tafari believes people should always react to how artists work to improve hip-hop. “Hip-hop allows me to use my voice to do valuable work,” he says,
“maybe we don’t have a lot of people listening, but at the same time, what’s more important is making the effort to get them to listen.”
Look out for part two of our hip-hop feature on Marker’s website in August.
Photo: VSM Photo | Model: Angie Mellen, Lucier Model Agency
LOVE YOUR MOVEMENT Asha Marshall is an Edmonton-based dancer and choreographer with undeniable passion. This passion is not only clear in the dance classes she teaches, but is evident in the career path she’s carved for herself as well. As a result of her unwavering commitment to her students and their practice, Marshall took matters into her own hands. She says, “I was searching high and low for something dope for [my students] to wear on stage and I decided to do my own thing instead”. And she did just that. In May 2010, Marshall launched her clothing line, Love Your Movement. What began as a decision to design suitable stage wear for her dance students blossomed into a full-fledged business selling everything from hoodies to tank tops and t-shirts. Love Your Movement’s fan base has grown quickly, as Marshall now has the support of local dance and yoga studios. “I cater to anyone who is open minded, who has a movement; anyone who knows what they want and who wants to express it.” To see more of Asha’s line, check out loveyourmovement.com
M A R C H
2 4 ,
2 0 1 2
Just over a year ago, our city received a visit from the neo-Nazi group, Blood and Honour. Not a welcome one, but a visit nonetheless. Ironically clad in black, they spread their message of “White Pride Worldwide” and took it upon themselves to invade our downtown core— antagonizing passers by with their message of hate and intolerance. It was quickly shown however, that the messages of those few were no match for the eclectic group of Edmontonians that were on their way to send their own message. On that not-so-warm March day, I was among those who took the walk from Steel Park to Churchill Square while the police redirected traffic and let us flow freely through the streets of Edmonton. Cars honked in support while others looked on with confusion; all the while everyone walking was fueled by a collective mindset and kept going. “Racist! Sexist! Anti-gay! Blood and Honour go away!” The man with the bullhorn chanted while we repeated in unison. The 20 or so Nazis were verbally battling an ever-growing group of Edmontonians in the area. As they heard the sounds of our drumming and chanting grow louder however, they dispersed underground to nearest LRT station. We tried to follow behind them, but were blocked by police at every exit. And our group slowly dispersed after that. Many people I made the walk with that day felt it was a total failure. They felt that because the police didn’t let 100 angry protesters into an underground tunnel to chase after a group of white supremacists that they were against us the whole time. Wrong. While I didn’t feel great about the outcome at the time, it was completely necessary to show a collective opposition to those who had invaded our city with their neo-Nazi values. I didn’t go to the protest thinking we were going to change the minds of a bunch of Nazis; I think it’s pretty safe to say most of us didn’t. I took part in the march as a form of solidarity, and regardless of the outcome of that day, I’m proud to have done it. After the bombings in Boston this year, Patton Oswalt summed up the acts of those who choose to spread hate and violence in this world:
“When you spot violence, bigotry, intolerance, fear, or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, ‘The good outnumber you, and we always will.’”
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