It always pays to know your history. With that in mind, every Saturday From the Vault brings you a classic music video by a Vancouver artist.
Formed in 2000, Sweatshop Union is one of Vancouver’s longest-running rap acts. Although it hasn’t released any new music since 2013 and has no live performances on the immediate horizon, a recent Facebook comment reveals that Sweatshop Union is “Alive and well, enjoying life.” From the group’s 2004 album Natural Progression, here’s “Don’t Be Afraid”.
The announcement of 10 Barrel Brewing Company’s sale to Anheuser-Busch around this time last year was the cause of much hand-wringing and speculation about how the new ownership might change the company’s operations. Well cross one thing off the list of concerns, because the company’s annual Pray for Snow party will take place again in Bend Saturday night.
“The Pray for Snow party is bigger and better than ever, but it’s still free,” said 10 Barrel partner Garrett Wales.
“We’re excited to take an event that started out as a small thing with a tiny budget five years ago and evolve it for all our customers,” he continued.
To accommodate more activities and a bigger crowd, the sixth annual event will be held outside at 10 Barrel’s brewery on 18th Street, so make sure you bundle up for the weather. The larger venue means a wider selection of beer on sale, with two bars at the event each having 12 to 17 beers on tap. These will include a number of brews from the Portland and Boise pubs not usually available in Bend.
As always, the beer headliner will be the seasonal Pray for Snow winter ale. Brewmasters used five different malts and a new selection of hops in the 2015 batch of Pray for Snow, for what they describe as a piney, herbal hop complexity. 10 Barrel’s cider made from Washington-grown Granny Smith and Pink Lady apples will also be available.
The 10 Barrel pub’s chefs will have verde pork tacos, bacon and sweet pepper chili and barbecue pork or veggie sliders for sale at the event. Designated drivers, the under 21 crowd and kids at heart can stay warm with hot chocolate.
To get you in the mood for winter snow sports, the new 10 Barrel rail jam truck will be on-site. This transformer-like green and black behemoth becomes a 70 foot long downhill run, with boarding experts on hand to demonstrate their jibbing skills until around 6 p.m. After that, the public can take turns sliding down the ramp on specially modified snowboards and sleds.
The musical lineup for the night includes three acts who will each perform a 90-minute set. First on stage at 4:30 p.m. is Eugene hip-hop groove artist Marv Ellis. Next on the bill, at about 6:15 p.m., is Seattle glam electro-rock duo The Fame Riot.
Rounding out the evening, at 8 p.m., is Canadian hop-hop collective Sweatshop Union.
Partygoers will have the chance to win some of the giveaways on offer, including customized 10 Barrel snowboards and a variety of other winter sports gear and equipment. You can put your beer-pong skills to work and earn raffle tickets for featured prizes that will be drawn later in the evening.
Now you may not believe that the Pray for Snow party has any effect on the weather, but 10 Barrel’s Wales points out that during at least two of the previous five events in Bend, it has started to snow.
Coincidence? Maybe. But that’s a better batting average than most major league baseball players, and we can all hope partygoers manage to influence the snow gods again this year!
The Pray for Snow party runs from 4-9:30 p.m. Saturday outside 10 Barrel Brewery, 67970 NE 18th St. in Bend. Admission is free for all ages and free shuttles will run between the 10 Barrel pub on Galveston Avenue and the brewery from 4-10 p.m.
Contact: www.10barrel.com, tinyurl.com/nv86f6x or 541-678-5228
Canadian hip-hop heavyweights Sweatshop Union, have been making righteous, politically charged music for over a decade. Come out and dance off that Thanksgiving dinner at The Hive with Sweatshop Union.
Petey Peak and Biobeat will open for Sweatshop Union and wil hit the stage at 9pm.
10 Barrel Brewing annual Pray For Snow party in Portland!
This fall 10 Barrel Brewing Co. has been traveling the West Coast with its Pray for Snow Road Show. The Inaugural Portland Pray for Snow Party will take place on Saturday, November 14 out in front of its Portland Pub in the Pearl District.
From 5:00pm to 10:00pm 10 Barrel Brewing will be shutting down NW Flanders between 14th and 15th for this one of a kind street party. Portland’s Pray for Snow Party is a way that the Bend based brewery kicks off the winter mountain season by bringing a mobile ski and snowboard run to the Rose City.
This mobile 70 foot mobile downhill ski run and rail jam that is part of a enormous giant truck that will be parked out front. The outdoor fun will be accompanied by live music from Tony Smiley, Ben Union, and Sweatshop Union along with giveaways, street food, and beer. The entire block on NW Flanders outside of the 10 Barrel Portland Pub will give riders of all levels the opportunity to showcase their skiing and snowboarding skills.
All proceeds from the Pray for Snow Party will benefit Children’s Cancer Association.
Victoria Ska Fest outgrows its name to become more inclusive
No matter how popular the annual Victoria Ska Festival became, or how far and widespread its reputation grew, festival producer Dane Roberts always had to answer questions about the musical nature of his event.
Ska — the strain of Jamaican music at the heart of the festival — was a topic of frequent discussion leading up to each instalment. So after 15 years of having to explain the genre that gave reggae icon Bob Marley his start, Roberts and his team at the Victoria B.C. Ska Society, the non-profit group that stages the festival, went back to the drawing board.
They have emerged, in time for edition No. 16, with a thematic adjustment. Now known as the Victoria Ska and Reggae Festival, the five-day event has broadened its horizons to incorporate more traditional reggae into the mix. In doing so, they hope to clear up any confusion.
“We want to make sure we capture all the people that would like the music and programming we are doing,” said Roberts, the festival’s founder. “It was a natural progression based on the programming that we had been offering for the past 10 years.”
This year’s instalment features an array of genres, from electronic (Stickybuds, Dubmatix) and hip-hop (Sweatshop Union, Def3) to the many strains of ska (Keith and Tex, the Slackers, Hepcat). Of course, reggae (Morgan Heritage, Third World) is well represented, too.
Roberts, who works year-round on his festival, spends a great deal of energy making sure Skafest, as it is known to the faithful, has an exotic flavour. While the majority of acts are from Vancouver and Victoria, a handful — including House of Shem (New Zealand) and De Bruces a Mi (Colombia) — are coming from overseas.
“We always try and keep an international focus every year,” he said. “We make a point of it. It’s not just coincidental. We offer music people otherwise would not hear.”
That doesn’t mean some of the acts closer to home are frequent visitors, Roberts added. Hepcat, Mustard Plug, and Keith and Tex are making their Vancouver Island debuts this week, while Morgan Heritage is playing Skafest for the first time in their 20-year history. Third World have not played Vancouver Island in 15 years.
Skafest began in 2002 as a one-day, one-venue showcase for ska-punk acts such as the Pietasters and Pressure Cooker. The event has flourished in the years since, moving ahead incrementally from its beginnings to include more rock-steady and roots-based artists, the bulk of which blurred the line between up-tempo ska and laidback reggae.
“It just became more diverse as the years went on,” Roberts said of the decision to add the word reggae to the festival’s title.
“It was more reggae-leaning than punk. [Reggae] is more familiar to people, especially when you consider all the waves that ska has gone through.”
The current trend in ska today looks back to the classic form from the 1960s, with an emphasis on rhythm and blues and soul. Skafest is nothing if not a barometer, Roberts said, so Skafest 2015 will reflect the current trends in ska.
“Not only have the bands we book changed their style, we’ve grown with that.”
With an influx of reggae bands, to go along with his festival’s new branding, Roberts expects to see more first-time fans than ever at Skafest this week. He upped the profile of acts he booked into clubs as a result, so there should be something for everyone, he said.
“We put a lot of time and energy into the planning so that we could capture some of the general public that knows some of the bands, and mixed them with some underground diamonds. One of the things I like about this year’s festival is that it’s not about one or two mega-headliners. It’s strong all over. I like that approach.”
“Music lovers are sure to sway to the sounds of Sweatshop Union”
As spring turns to summer, B.C becomes an ideal backdrop for outdoor celebration — be it adventure, musical interludes, drama, food for thought, and even consumption. Here is a cross-section of some of B.C.’s favourite fests worth travelling to.
For those who love to rope and ride, B.C.’s cowboy country sets the scene during the Williams Lake Stampede. Marking its 89th season June 26-29, the stampede promises an action-packed program that features a host of western heritage events, including the heart-thumping mountain race and white-knuckle bull-riding competitions (williamslakestampede.com).
Parksville, with its long, picturesque beaches on Vancouver Island’s eastern shore, is sand castle territory. And for those who are serious about the build, the Quality Foods Canadian Open Sand Sculpting Competition & Exhibition is a worthy challenge. Competitors will shape their creations July 10-12, and their fine-grained works of art will be on display until Aug. 16 (parksvillebeachfest.ca).
In the Kootenay Rockies, the high-energy Starbelly Jam outdoor music fest will rock Crawford Bay, July 17-19. This 16th annual celebration is set to showcase an eclectic lineup of funk, world music, rock, hip-hop, reggae, blues, bluegrass, folk artists (and more), including Mother Mother, Ozomatli, Oliver Swain’s Big Machine, Shred Kelly, and Abstract Rude with DJ Rippel (starbellyjam.org).
Musical interludes will strike a chord at the Bella Coola Music Festival, July 18-19. Rock and roots, folk and blues — it’s all here, set within natural wilderness on the western end of Highway 20. Headliners like Barney Bentall, Miss Quincy, C.R. Avery, and Fred Penner (for the kiddies) ensure this musical fest is worth the journey to the coast (bellacoolamusic.org).
Yogis will unite for Wanderlust Whistler, a five-day festival that celebrates mindful living, July 30 to Aug. 3. While this four-season mountain village is a haven for high-octane adventure, it also proves a natural setting for wellness (wanderlust.com/events).
Festive fireworks and seaside views draw annual crowds during the Victoria Symphony Splash — and 2015 promises to be no different. More than 40,000 people will take in the classical sounds Aug. 2 in Victoria’s Inner Harbour, a bustling hub that will be transformed into an outdoor concert hall, complete with a floating stage (victoriasymphony.ca/splash).
Music lovers are sure to sway to the sounds of Sweatshop Union, feel the steady beat of Isobel Trigger and get funky with the The House of David Gang in the northern B.C. setting of Haida Gwaii, Aug. 7-9. Blessed with equal parts energy and chill, The Edge of the World Music Festival melds musical styles and performances, backed by Tlell’s breathtaking natural beauty (edgefestival.com).
There’s much more to Silver Star Mountain Resort than skis and boots; indeed, the Mountain Top Food & Wine Festival in B.C.’s Okanagan showcases the alpine resort’s cultured side during a three-day, toast-worthy celebration of local wines. Set for Aug. 7-9, the fest features Wine Masters’ Dinners, wine and food seminars, art gallery viewings and guided alpine flower hikes alongside the event highlight, The Mile High Wine Tasting (skisilverstar.com).
For high-flying fun, adrenalin-seekers are sure to take it up a notch at the Crankworx Whistler Freeride Mountain Bike Festival, Aug. 7-16. This festival, set at Whistler Bike Park, promises an opportunity to shred the trails during free-ride competitions, pick up the pace during gravity-fuelled races or simply watch, and revel, in the action (whistler.com/events/crankworx).
Noted as Canada’s longest-running summer gathering of Canadian writers, the Sunshine Coast Festival of the Written Arts promises plenty of drama — on the page, at least. This year’s Aug. 13-16 event will feature Ann-Marie MacDonald, Jane Urquhart and Caroline Adderson (writersfestival.ca).
From October 2 to 5, the independent music industry in Western Canada descended upon Winnipeg for BreakOut West. This conference and festival culminated in the Western Canadian Music Awards, the winners of which have now been announced.
The year’s big winner was Del Barber, who won both Songwriter of the Year and Solo Roots Recording of the Year. Other notable winners include Royal Canoe, Said the Whale, Imaginary Cities, Shad and Federal Lights, while Fred Penner was inducted into the Western Canadian Music Hall of Fame
The awards were handed out at a gala hosted by Grant Lawrence at Winnipeg’s Club Regent Event Centre. Performers included Del Barber, Federal Lights, marijosée, Pigeon Hole, Ron Paley and Fred Penner.
The Western Canadian Music Alliance announced the nominees for the 2014 WCMA’s today. The winners will be announced at a gala at the Club Regent Event Centre in Winnipeg on Sunday, October 5. Vancouver’s Shad and Said the Whale are among the multiple nominees.
The BreakOut West weekend celebration leading up to the awards takes place from Thursday, October 2 – Sunday, October 5.
Members of the six western music industry associations, including MusicBC, Alberta Music, SaskMusic, Manitoba Music, Music NWT and Music Yukon, fomr the final jury to vote for the winners. BreakOut West takes place as part of the 2014 Manitoba Year of Music events.
NOMINEES FOR THE 2014 WESTERN CANADIAN MUSIC AWARDS
Sweatshop Union to join Grieves on the Back On My Grizzly Tour!
I’m happy to announce that our canadian bretheren Sweatshop Union will be joining me on the #BackOnMyGrizzly Tour! I’ve also added two additional dates; one in Eau Claire, WI on Nov 8th and another in Rapid City, SD on Nov 14!
Oct 29 – Victoria, BC – Cabaret Upstairs
Oct 30 – Vancouver, BC – Fortune Sound Club
Nov 1 – Calgary, AB – Republik
Nov 2 – Edmonton, AB – Pawn Shop
Nov 3 – Saskatoon, SK – Amigos
Nov 5 – Winnipeg, MB – Union Hall
Nov 6 – Fargo, ND – The Aquarium
Nov 7 – Duluth, MN – Pizza Luce
Nov 8 – Eau Claire, WI – House of Rock
Nov 9 – Grand Rapids, MI – The Stache
Nov 10 – Iowa City, IA – Blue Moose
Nov 12 – Des Moines, IA – Vaudville Mews
Nov 13 – Omaha, NE – Waiting Room
Nov 14 – Rapid City, SD – Sports Rock
Nov 15 – Fort Collins, CO – Aggie Theatre
Nov 16 – Jackson, WY – Pink Garter Theatre
Nov 17 – Billings, MT – Railyard
Nov 18 – Bozeman, MT – Filling Station
Nov 19 – Missoula, MT – Top Hat
From stabbing himself in the hand to a tragic fire, and from being a one-man band to DJ sets to live instrumentation, hip-hop artist Grieves has pushed through his share of experiences and adversity. He talks about staying positive despite hardship, and the importance of all-ages shows, like the one he headlines Saturday at the Pink Garter.
Jackson Hole Weekly: What’s your stage setup like for this Back on My Grizzly tour? Grieves: This time around I’m kind of doing the dance thing. I’ve done the DJ thing, I’ve done the one-man band thing and now I just kind of want to open it up more because what goes into creating music in the studio is so much more. I’ve been using samples for five years, so everything’s been played in the studio so I wanted to represent that on stage. I’ve got keys and guitars on stage and I still make the drums and the bass in the tracks via Appleton. Cuz that’s what I love about hip-hop so much is that glorified gigantic bass with the big drums, so I’m keeping those sonics.
JHW: I read on your Web site that it had “been a rough summer getting back on my feet after the fire.” What happened? Grieves: We spent a lot of last year gearing up to … I was writing this new record and we were getting new places with our business in general and we wanted to take that next step, so we ended up getting our own work space with offices, a merch warehouse, and a studio. About two days from being done with construction, it burnt to the ground. So we lost close to $20,000 in merch, something like that. A lot of gear was messed up. Everything we built was gone. We took a significant loss. That stuff happens. I could let it conquer me, or I can learn from it.
JHW: Well, it seems that many of your lyrics serve as somewhat of a musical therapy for you … working through hard times with a positive outlook. Would you agree? Grieves: I totally would [agree]. That’s all it’s really every been for me.
JHW: Do you have some new tunes in the works since 2011’s Together/Apart?
Grieves: Yes, I do and we’re incorporating them in. It took a long time to teach them to the band … close to a year. Now, with a new record coming to completion, I’ve never done these songs [live] so it’s fun to see these boys step up and incorporate how they feel things should go and it’s really opened up the set.
JHW: It’s cool that the show here in JH is all ages. That’s not usually the norm at the Pink Garter Theatre. Is that something that you push for and what’s the importance of doing so? Grieves: Our fan base is all walks of life, all ages. I feel like if we’re going to spend the time to leave our homes, wives and kids to go out on the road, why should we limit it? I want to do it right. Last time we played in Jackson, there were kids getting detention for handing out fliers in school! I know those kids want to come to the show. It doesn’t seem fair to not let them come, so I rallied pretty hard with my agent and manager. They said “no.” I had given up on it, and a couple of weeks later it got pushed to all ages.
JHW: Anything else stand out in your memory about your previous shows in Jackson? Grieves: Last time I was in Jackson, I put a knife through my hand on accident. We had flown from Mexico that morning and landed in Jackson. I was helping my tour manager take down the merch setup. I was popping off zip ties with a knife and shoved the knife almost completely through my hand, cutting it from the thumb bone down to my wrist. I had to do the rest of the tour with a dead hand because I had cut through the nerves. It was a hot mess.
JHW: If you were not a hip-hop artist, what else would you be doing?
Grieves: For a long time I wanted to be a kindergarten teacher. That’s what I went to school for. But at the same time, I don’t know if I would have ever followed through with it because I have so many disagreements with how kids are supposed to be taught. I don’t think there’s a way that kids are supposed to be taught … I think if you can reach them, you should reach them.
Grieves with Sweatshop Union, 9 p.m., Saturday at Pink Garter Theatre. $13 advance, $15 day-of-show at The Rose, Pinky G’s and PinkGarterTheatre.com.
They’ve been called the Wu-Tang Clan of Canada, both here and on their Wikipedia page, but don’t get Sweatshop Union twisted. The comparison implies their ability to come together like Voltron for one common cause, then go back to their solo identities and projects until needed. They’re not trying to recreate the vibe of the early 1990’s with dirty production, martial arts samples and slurry New York slang. Like much progressive hip-hop of the last 20 years though, S.U. owes a debt to the Wu-Tang for opening the floodgates to creativity, leaving the landscape of North America awash with talent inspired to be originals. The “Leisure Gang” sound and video definitely pays homage – this is some gritty and raw hip-hop music.
“Leisure” may seem like an odd word, given there’s nothing relaxed or mellow other than the sentiment “I suggest y’all giving it a try/sitting getting high just listening to I.” It’s also filled with hilarious sentiments like “Come back as a skinny white Rick Ross, jumpin like Kris Kross.” The video has the feel of being filmed in an Egyptian desert, so if they found a location in Vancouver that looked that barren and sparse, my hat’s off to them. The video came out over a year ago, so “Infinite” has been in the works for a while now. It’s definitely worth the wait, especially when you get to enjoy tracks like the Budo produced “Family Reunion.”
“Soul of the continent, rebirth of common sense
Redirect energy, we reflect God within
Most of y’all forgotten them, trust me this is not the end
I was promised victory, before it’s done I got to win
Momma I’ma take it back, reconcile the sky and earth
They done disrespected you so long brought down a curse
Drought, famine, earthquakes, disease
Tsunamis and they STILL callin you make believe?”
Yes Sweatshop Union is a little bit on that hippie shit, but only if that “hip” still includes “hip-hop.” They don’t go all the way to tofu and granola, but it’s an undercurrent. It’s not one that should cause you to be wary if you’re a meat eater, because their eclectic nature is best reflect by songs like “Space Bears”: “Space age Tupac, hair like Chewbacca/time travel in the house, coat and tube socks/tie dye t-shirt, astronaut head dress/superhuman, superpowered y’all yes yes.” It’s tongue in cheek, tongue pointing firmly toward their group aesthetic, and they only commune to communicate collectively in producing and releasing dope albums like this.
“Dope” is the key to “Infinite” because you can get high on it without taking a toke. All of the NBSBL College produced songs are dope but light up “Feed” featuring Def 3 and Snak the Ripper for a start – it’s some straight up Swollen Members shit as is “King of the Beach.” At times you may wonder why Madchild isn’t making a cameo. Guest appearances are limited though, which you’d expect given they are such a large crew to begin with, so the only other feature to mention is “Listen Up” featuring Claire Mortifee. S.U.’s Pigeon Hole does a few tracks on his own such as the aforementioned “Space Bears” and “Leisure Gang,” and his tracks are dope too. From the slow and methodically delivered pianos of “Time Granted” to the bubbling electronic sounds of “We Ready,” S.U. flows freely over any style they’re paired with, making the title of “Infinite” apt. They don’t seem to have any limitations nor are they likely to find any in the near future.
Music Vibes: 7 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 7 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 7 of 10
If you haven’t caught wind of it through the hip hop pipelines, groovy Rhymesayers lyricist Grieves is currently touring the states with Canadian group Sweatshop Union and Def3. This past Wednesday the tour made a stop at The Waiting Room.
I have a deal with myself to support every Rhymesayers artist that rolls through Omaha, so we made the hump day drive across town, and even got their early to snag my favorite high-top table near stage right.
Too early. Doors were locked for private sound check (lame), and I found myself cursing the door girl under my breath for being on the warm side of the glass.
Once in, I open a tab and claim my special secret spot, Corona in hand.
Approximately one hour and two beers later, Def3, another Canadian rapper, grabs the mic, welcomes the crowd, and gets things started. He starts rapping, and a flutter of excitement rolls through me. This dude is GOOD. Good enough for me to scour Spotify and iTunes looking for his tracks the next day. The row of kids up front are just sort of staring up at him, so I jump up and start rocking out behind them. It’s permission enough for them to start moving. I feel breath on the back of my neck. Others are joining in. Finally, a crowd is starting to form and do this opener justice.
Def3 apologizes for his voice, raspy from being ill, but I barely notice. I’m paying attention to his flow, which doesn’t seem affected. It’s tight. He looks down at the kids vibing to his songs and smiles through the lyrics. He’s passionate about what he’s doing, and it shows. He plays only a few songs to get the crowd warmed up for Sweatshop Union, but it’s enough to leave an impression. (Note to self: find out more about this guy.)
Sweatshop Union comes on and plays all the songs I was hoping they would. “Makeshift Kingdom” and “Bill Murray,” among others. I think I was more excited for this group than the headliner. They played a great set, and I think the cool thing about seeing these guys live is that they have charisma. The type of rappers that you can’t take your eyes off of and find yourself studying. Each talented on their own but also magnetic as a group. Living Legends stylee.
By the time Grieves comes on, the crowd is ready. He has a pretty unique sound. Poppy hip hop infused with groovy, sensual singing. The crowd is vibing and dancing. My girl Quinn drags me up front. We stand next to the backstage door, which gives us a nice side view of the stage. Grieves is happy and feeling good, playing “Light Speed,” “On the Rocks,” and others. He interacts with crowd, laying down funny one-liners between songs and grabbing kids’ cameras and singing into them to give them a close-up shot of the Grieves-eye-view.
All in all, I had the most fun I’ve had at a show in a while. In short, I felt like I was hanging out with my friends all night, and what’s better than that?
There are only a few stops left on the tour (I’m looking at you, Wyoming and Montana). Do yourself a favor and pay the $12 cover for a fun night of love and hip hop.
And boys, you can come back to Omaha anytime you want.
Sweatshop Union was formed in 2000 when Vancouver rap artists Pigeon Hole, Innocent Bystanders, Dirty Circus, along with solo artist Kyprios, merged into one group. They have been blowing minds for quite some time now and the Canadian hip-hop collective has become extremely well known by our mild Canadian standards. They have a gruelling and almost constant tour schedule. They have also played more than 500 international shows and have been nominated for a Juno. In their latest album ‘Infinite’ Sweatshop Union have demonstrated some significant developments in their musical influences.
From the raw, edgy, old school influences of ‘Water Street’ to the ‘Bill Murray’ EP that won a Canadian Music Award in 2011 for Hip Hop Album of the Year. This EP in particular heralded this new direction for Sweatshop Union and additionally was their first release without Kyprios. ‘Infinite’ is the product of some influential refinement, it seems that Sweatshop Union’s fluid style keeps them constantly fresh and evolving. This Canadian super group has never stopped trying new things and succeeding at them. Comparatively this album has a smoother more polished sound, whilst still demonstrating the striking capability of incorporating a huge number of genres into hip-hop. This album is more electronically based, drawing more on jazz, soul and electronic influences rather than funk and rock than some of SSU’s previous releases. Obviously it is not a complete turn around but it is definitely a decided step in a new direction. They do of course stick to their MO of casual yet intensely personal lyrics with a socio-analytical backdrop.
Sweatshop Union is currently made up of six prolific members. Metty the DertMerchant, Mos Eisley, DJ Itchy Ron, Mr. Marmalade, Conscience, and Dusty Melodica. The members of Sweatshop Union also continue to perform and produce separately in addition to their work with the group. Pigeon Hole, Dirty Circus and Metty's side project Trillionaire$ have each released albums in the past few years.
Almost every song on this album has a different texture. This is one of the advantages of the collective, as there are many different sources of creativity to draw from. To demonstrate this versatility I have decided to give a short individual description to the first six songs on the album. The first track is the title track of the album. ‘Infinite’ has a laid back vibe, exhibiting jazz and soul influences whilst featuring a gorgeous silky saxophone. The second song ‘sink or swim’ is soft and dramatic at first with soothing spacious arpeggios, but it builds to a gritty climax. The third song ‘king of the beach’ starts with an angelic synth and some laser scratching. It is a great casual song with wonderful lyrics to fantasize about in the winter. This song does get a little stale by the end as it does not really progress in a satisfying way. The fourth song ‘Day off’ is another great fantasy song about having a day off. It features some prodigious vocal sampling and immoderate production giving it a very new age electronic hip-hop atmosphere. Track five is called ‘space bears’, ya. I love it, the lyrics are marvelously fun and nerdy. There is a nice initial build up, and a very epic bass beat. The sixth song ‘Nvsbl’, has a superbly simple yet epic grimy beat, profoundly philosophical lyrics and very fun vocal effects. The invisible college is a concept dating back to the 17th century, created by Robert Boyle, it is a society of free thinking natural philosophers, artists and scientists. It is also what SSU is calling it’s production team and inner circle.
This album is great for parties, relaxing, biking, driving, working and thinking. Enjoy the title track right here, or check them out here, sweatshopunion.com
While we’ve gotten a couple of EPs in the past couple of years, it’s actually been a while since we got a full length album from Sweatshop Union. Has it really been five years since Water Street? I suppose it has. The Vancouver group has still been active, though, releasing said EPs and exploring side projects like Pigeon Hole and Dirty Circus. That said, it’s nice to get album number four.
Fans that spent time with last year’s Leisure Gang EP might recognize that much of that release is folded into this album, which is a little strange, but in the context of this much more fully realized album, everything sounds even better, so I'm not too upset about it. The six member group always sounds good on a soulful, midtempo track, and the title track opens the album with a great laid back beat that allows the different emcees to trade verses. The song works as a manifesto for where the group is these days, still pushing a message of love to their fans. Lyrically and musically, the group manages to cover a wide range of material. From the classic hip hop of “Infinite,” we immediately move to the weirder and more introspective “Sink or Swim,” which features some dubstep/dancehall elements playing with processed vocals and lots of synthesizers during the chorus, while moving to a more minimal production during the verses that allow for the lyrics to take hold. There are fun songs, such as the laid back “King of the Beach,” and songs that push their aggressive and experimental side, such as “NVSBL,” but none work as well for me as well as “Love.” It features some interesting production elements while still remaining very straightforward and accessible, and reminds me a great deal of The Visionaries’ “If You Can’t Say Love,” which is one of my favorite songs of all time, so that’s a plus as well. Amongst the newer material, my favorite has to be “Listen Up,” which closes the album. It’s a beautifully drawn out and well-developed song with really personal lyrics, driven home by a perfectly placed sung chorus by fellow Vancouver artist Claire Mortifee. The combination takes the song briefly in a Massive Attack direction, but instead of going all in, they pull back and bring the production back around to the beginning of the song, making it all their own.
Hardcore Sweatshop Union fans might be a little confused about the inclusion of Leisure Gang with the new album, but once you get past that, this album works very well. It’s not perfect, but it gives you everything you want out of a SU album. Infinite is the result of a group that after all these years is still having fun trading verses and experimenting with production styles, all while pushing their audience to always strive for more and to be thankful for what they do have.
Last week, while chillin’ in Maine on vacation, it occurred to me that I wasn’t too far from Canada. Not gonna lie; part of me considered hopping in the car and heading across the border to do start an investigation into why dope Canadian artists seem to be coming out of the woodwork at such an alarming rate.
Had I heard Time Granted, the latest effort from Vancouver septet Sweatshop Union, I would have had no choice but to head north. Though this is their first feature, the quality, hard work and talent on display make them sound like seasoned vets. Backed by Mos Eisley’s earnest, piano-driven boardwork, Sweatshop Union showcase a diverse array of styled unified by the members’ shared passion for their craft. Time Granted, which will be soon getting the visual treatment, can be found on the crew’s INFINITE LP, available now on iTunes.
Music from Hip Hop group Sweatshop Union is now available for licensing!
Sweatshop Union are Pacific Northwest hip hop heavyweights and have earned a reputation as the hardest working collective in the region. Having performed over five hundred shows internationally, they continue to change the perception of what live hip hop can achieve.
Combined with more festivals than ever before, and a grueling schedule to start 2013 throughout North America, it’s obvious they are poised for another big year and ready to further the progressive sound they’re known for.
Recently, URB Magazine featured them in their next top 100. They’re not alone in thinking Sweatshop Union is a band worth keeping an eye on. Their consistently fresh and poignant music continues to become more relevant daily and the group shows no signs of slowing down.
Rolling up on a Superfly groove that aims straight for the lower half of the soul, Infinite is one of the smoothest cuts Sweatshop Union ever laid down. The title tune on the Vancouver hip hop collective’s fifth full-length album is different from anything that appeared on its award-winning 2011 Bill Murray EP or the group’s earlier albums.
In a sitdown with Steve Hawking a.k.a. Conscience, Metty the Dert Merchant and Ray Black, the members talked about the group’s longevity as an underground rap act and keeping creativity flowing.
“It’s come full circle again in the scene in that there are a lot of groups making a go of it entirely on their own again now,” said Metty.
“Kendrick Lamar is one of the biggest dudes and he did it largely on his own before Dre came in and started messing. We have been that way all along.”
“Obviously, the rise of the Internet and the decline of the labels from back in the late Nineties has meant a lot of change,” Black said. “If you can’t really adjust to that and learn how to move your career along with social media and such, then you aren’t moving.”
Sweatshop Union released its first three albums on Swollen Members head Mad Child’s Battleaxe Records. Water Street (2008) came out on Look Records and both the Bill Murray EP and Infinite are out on Canadian underground rap flag-bearer Urbnet Records. The many solo releases from members Pigeon Hole, Trillionaires, etc., are on various impirnts as well. These relationships are about distribution more than anything else.
“Pretty much what we have done all along is make cool videos and try to maximize exposure online and see how that works,” said Se7en.
“Then you have got to take that buzz and pack it up and put it on the road so that all that time and experience is off the screen and up on stage,” Metty said. “You do the selling at the venue.”
The group had the advantage of being able to be its own opening acts as well. Pigeon Hole, Ray Black and others often round out the bill with their own sets so the group can come into a venue fully prepared to present the “SU experience.”
Not only does this mean that promoters have even less work to do selling a gig — some of what the members say about poor-quality local opening acts is unprintable but true — it also means Sweatshop Union shows can maintain a level of consistent musical vision. They want that control and take it all the way to the level of DJ’ing the music in between sets.
“As a band and stuff, we have our own profile and sound that we’d rather not mess with,” said Metty.
“We’ve worked so long and hard to keep the experience of our music and our shows to a certain level of quality because there is always hope that you can turn on some new listeners along with the old ones.”
With the departure of longtime member Kyprios and the members touring on active solo projects, all feel that this is a brand new band again. Infinite represents what the unified vision of those individual parts is feeling now. Re-creating the first album is far from anyone’s mind. About the only continous thread in Sweatshop Union’s output is a dedication to blunt lyrical content such as Infinite’s awesome Day Off or Leisure Gang.
“It’s almost impossible for us to ever go back and recreate something like Makeshift Kingdom off Bill Murray or a hit single from the second album or whatever,” said Metty. “We’re just too many minds with too many ideas to manage that, even if we wanted to. Every time we come into the studio what happens is that particular moment in time according to our tastes. Sometimes it drives us crazy, but it is how we do it and it’s too late to try any other way.”
As they head out into the Infinite tour, Sweatshop Union looks forward to reconnecting with diehard fans in such underground hip hop havens as Colorado. Who knew?
This track from Sweatshop Union is not only beautiful, it’s reminiscent, it’s smooth, it’s fucking CLASSIC. I can’t stop listening to it. It has elements of Jurassic 5 rap-wise, but is mainly about the soulful as fuck production, the amazing sampling and beautifully mellow song structure. Just INCREDIBLE.
“Hip-hop force brings tour to Spokane.” – Sweatshop Union
The Sweatshop Union are working overtime.
When the Canadian hip-hop collective came through town in January they were finishing a tour in support of their “Leisure Gang” free limited digital release.
The six-piece rap crew is back at Ugly Bettie’s tonight, and with a new full-length album in tow.
Released last week, “Infinite” features tracks from “Leisure Gang” along with seven new songs, expanding on the hard dance-electronica textures of previous sessions and reinforcing it with straight up, classic hip-hop.
Hard cuts like “Feed,” featuring Snak the Ripper, were made for the battle emcees, while the album’s final song, “Listen Up,” is a soothing a cappella solo acoustic guitar track with R&B vocals on the hook. Sprinkled throughout the album are catchy choruses and positive vibes.
A couple of the emcees in the band have become new dads, and it’s obvious in the way the lyrical content shifts toward family.
Heavyweights in the Pacific Northwest as well as Canada, Sweatshop made a ruckus with its 2011 release “Bill Murray,” which was named Hip-hop Album of the Year at the Western Canadian Music Awards. They were later featured in URB Magazine’s next top 100.
Sweatshop Union kicks off its “Infinite” tour with support from Mark Schurtz tonight at 9 p.m. at Ugly Bettie’s, 211 N. Division St. $7 cover.
“an epic hybrid of music that will make you feel like you can levitate.” – Chimpblood
Both members of Vancouver’s Pigeon Hole are also in the hip-hop collective Sweatshop Union, but Dusty Melo and Marmalade have also found the time to record a new album of their own. Chimp Blood is out on March 5 through Urbnet, and you can stream the whole thing now on Exclaim.ca.
This follows Pigeon Hole’s debut LP, 2010’s Age Like Astronauts. Chimp Blood is said to boast a heavier, bass-heavy electronic sound, ranging from the manically beat-driven “The Turk” to the dark and dubby “Ice Dicks” to the more laid-back “June.”
According to a press release, “Chimp Blood thrashes over a foundation of grimy synths, sampled and chopped over machine gun drum programming, 808s, and massive bass.” This adds up to “an epic hybrid of music that will make you feel like you can levitate.”
Take a listen below and stay tuned for the official release next week.
"Sweathsop Union known more for substance than substance abuse."
Vancouver, B.C., doesn't stand out for having a strong rap scene. But Sweatshop Union, the "Vancity"-bred hip-hop group known for its 2008 full-length Water Street, works hard to put that misconception to bed.
Since forming in 2000, the Canadian collective has penned rhymes known more for substance than substance abuse–tackling topics from rap's rampant misogyny to the Iraq War. Sweatshop Union focus on issues with tracks like "Oh My," a ballad about class consciousness, and "High Grade," about choosing music over "smart" career choices.
With 2011's The Bill Murray EP, Mr. Marmalade and Mos Eisley spit about the famous Hollywood actor, who's "strictly the Billest." "That's Bill Murray," they rap, "You're Chevy Chasin' a dream."
And while former member Kyprios left the group to pursue a solo career in 2011, that hasn't slowed down the six remaining members on their march to Boise's Reef.
"Grieves & Budo, and Sweatshop Union brought the house down in Minneapolis."
The Main room at First Ave is one of my favorite venues in the universe. Not just because of the history which it represents, but because of the unique energy that can be found within. Last Saturday night that energy was on full display. Grieves and Budo, as well as The Tribe & Big Cats and Sweatshop Union, brought the house down.
I admit that going into the concert I wasn’t very familiar with Sweatshop Union. I’d heard the name before, but I hadn’t heard the music. That being said, I was impressed with their live set. Some artists do their best work in the studio, which is fine, but it’s great to see one of those lesser known studio artists put on a great live performance. This is especially true with hip-hop, since the concert is only as good as the energy coming from the stage (and being reflected by the crowd). The Tribe & Big Cats built on that solid early buzz with a typically killer set, and by the time Grieves walked on stage the crowd was hyped.
From the jump, it was obvious that Grieves and Budo love performing. There was no warm up. No forced crowd participation BS. A quick smile, an appreciative glance around the packed house, and off they went. This guy can rap. Not only that, but he clearly loves it. Moving back and forth with a cool confidence, Grieves worked the crowd like a pro. I think the reason this fact sticks with me is that he seemed genuine about it all. When he said “I’ve been waiting so long to play this venue, in front of this crowd” (paraphrasing), I believed him.
Budo’s production had the speakers bangin’, but it’s important not to go too overboard with the bass. Best to stop at bone-rattling and not delve into the realm of eardrum-popping. The addition of some live percussion, multiple guitars and some horn parts really fleshed out the show and displayed the versatility of everyone on stage. Still, even after all that, it was the constant roiling energy which permeated the show that made it great. Even local favorite Prof made an appearance, to a pretty sizable roar from the crowd.
By far the biggest hit of the night was “On The Rocks”, off the duo’s startlingly successful Together/Apart. That album marked Grieves’ first appearance in the Billboard top 200. After seeing his live show, observing his demeanor and watching him command a crowd, I sincerely doubt it will be his last.
"salvia-induced sensory overlord" Leisure Gang music video
After dropping off their new EP earlier this month,Vancouver hip-hop outfit Sweatshop Union strikes back with some visuals for their track "Leisure Gang" which was featured in last week's edition of Straight No Chase.
Directed by Stuey Kubrick, the percussive banger of a song gets a kaleidoscopic visual treatment full of Egyptian imagery. From the jump the video screams salvia-induced sensory overlord. "Leisure Gang" is one of several dope tracks that can be found on the Canadian group's new EP, Sweatshop Union is The Leisure Gang. The seven track project is available for free or for donation on Bandcamp.
Colin “Dusty” McCue of Vancouver hip-hop collective Sweatshop Union talks to Metro about performing in outdoor festivals, being in the music industry for more than a decade, and the group’s future plans. Sweatshop Union plays the Center of Gravity Festival in Kelowna on Aug. 5th.
You guys have sold out shows across the world, opened for high-profile artists, and gained a big following. What’s the secret to the group’s success?
I think it’s just that we genuinely love doing it. I think regardless if people are into it or not, we’d still be doing it. I have the time of my life on stage and I know everyone else feels the same way. Getting in the studio and making songs is an even better feeling. A lot of times I watch bands on stage and they seem like assembled bands. They put on a great show, but it’s more like they’re going through the motions and they’re not actually genuinely loving what they’re doing. We’re like a family. There’s just so much love in what we do I think people just pick up on and it’s contagious.
The group has been known for being politically and socially conscious and mixing it with your rhymes? Where did this interest come from?
We want to be about something, whether it’s something that has some social impact or about impacting someone with a feeling. Right now, our whole thing is encouraging people to enjoy life and make the most of it. It might not be a political thing, but I think it has huge social importance. Once people start enjoying life and seeing the beauty in it, all of a sudden it just becomes better and it spreads. People are happier and they start making better choices.
Sweatshop Union put Vancouver in the hip-hop map, what do you think is the state of hip-hop in the city?
There are all these established guys who are really good and these up and comers. They have amazing venues now in the city and they’re bringing a lot of acts from out of town to the city. I think it’s great.
What impact did growing up in Vancouver have on you in starting the group and joining the hip-hop scene?
For one, it’s a beautiful place. The scene when we were coming up was really close knit and really supportive. To feel the support behind and seeing people doing so it’s actually feasible to have a shot at was just really inspiring and motivating to get the ball rolling and try it out.
Have you grown and how has your music evolved since your first record came out in 2001?
I feel like now we’re all established individuals. When we first put out our first record, it was kind of like we’re all indistinguishable and just little pieces in this machine whereas now, we’re all like individual machines that come together to make this huge force. That to me is the thing I’m the most proud of with the group. To see how everyone can stand on their own and do amazing things, but we still come together and work on things. It’s really awesome to see.
Are you still in love with making rhymes and the rap game even after doing it for more than a decade already?
Yes, absolutely probably even more so now. When I was kid, I loved the music so much. It was what my whole life revolved around. To see hip-hop get huge, die down and watch it rise back up again, go all through these twists and turns and try to find your spot in it and how you can take it to the next level just makes it so stimulating and interesting.
How do you like performing in outdoor music festivals?
I love playing shows in clubs or small bars. That’s a great feeling. But my goal in the next few years is to travel the world and only play in festivals year round. I believe that music is kind of like a turtle tank. You have a small tank, your turtle’s only going to grow so big. But give him a huge tank and he grows even larger. I feel like our music is the same thing. If you put us on a huge stage in front of a huge crowd, we can do huge things.
What kind of experience can/do people get from watching you guys?
"The boys are back and better than ever." – The Leisure Gang EP
Celebrating the release of their latest E.P. ‘The Leisure Gang’ we are bringing you a review of the video of their title track. As always they have served to rekindle my interest in Hip Hop which has been waning recently from a somewhat over saturation in reviews in this genre. However as always their is something about Sweatshop Union that makes me stop and listen.
Even if I didn’t know ahead of time who had written this track I would know it was them. They have a distinctive style that makes them instantly recognizable and is of such great quality that it makes converts of those dubious about Hip Hop (I should know). This latest track shows us that they can only rise higher.
As for the video itself, there’s really no other way to put it. I loved it. The best way I can think of to describe it is that it is like watching Egypt through a kaleidoscope. It has a marvelously surreal feel to it which sparked my interest at the first distortion. These interesting effects alongside a fantastic performance form the artists themselves made for a great video.
So for those of you who haven’t checked them out, firstly, for shame. What’s taken you so long? Secondly go ahead and check out their video. In the description there is a link to the free download for their E.P. Or if you’re too lazy just click here. Seriously it’s free so there is absolutely no reason not to. That’s all for this week. We hope to see you again soon.
Steamboat Springs — Sweatshop Union’s weeklong tour through Idaho, Montana and Colorado got off on the right foot Thursday night in the college town of Moscow, Idaho.
Technically, it was the wrong foot for Colin McCue, also known as Dusty, who was consumed by the excitement and energy of the live hip-hop show and jumped onto a speaker and rolled his ankle.
“I’m pretty much functioning on one foot for the rest of the tour,” he said with a laugh Friday morning during an interview with Explore Steamboat.
Such are the risks when, like McCue, you’re following your dream. The rapper said he wishes his 12-year-old, hip-hop-obsessed self could see him now.
“It’s the best high when you get on stage,” he said. “You have a physical power up there you didn’t even know you had. I can jump and run around and sweat — I could never do that in just my day-to-day life.”
Despite the injury, McCue said he and the six-person hip-hop collective from Vancouver are looking forward to returning to Colorado this weekend. He said Colorado reminds him of back home in Canada.
“Because there’s so many mountain towns, you get the same kind of folks you get back home,” he said.
Sweatshop Union plays a show at The Tap House Sports Grill on Tuesday. The cover is $10 and the show starts at about 9 p.m. It also features Denver hip-hop act Prime Element and Canada’s DEF3.
Sweatshop Union comprises Dusty; his childhood friend Lee Napthine, also known as Marmalade; DJ Itchy Ron; Metty; Mos Eisley; and Conscience.
About to record its sixth studio album, the group now spends about a third of the year on the road in addition to recording with various other groups and projects.
McCue’s love of hip-hop began at a young age.
“I grew up listening to gangster rap and stuff like that. … You just idolize these rappers,” he said. “I always wrote raps secretly. I eventually told my friend Marmalade, ‘I don’t know about you, but I write raps.’ And he was like, ‘So do I.’”
From recording songs in their rooms to playing shows on Vancouver Island, Dusty and Marmalade made their way into the thriving Vancouver hip-hop scene. Through mutual friends in the music world, a few separate pieces of hip-hop groups came together to form Sweatshop Union about 10 years ago.
McCue said they aimed to record music about their views and concerns about the world around them.
“It was about having no control in the world or no say in the world and seeing all these injustices,” he said.
Today, McCue said a similar conscious attitude shines through in their music, but the group isn’t focused on making politically motivated rhymes to affect change.
“I think it’s an energy thing,” McCue said about the impact of the group’s music. “When you come through a place, even when you record a record, and you have this positive intent behind it, that energy, that feeling is contagious. When you show up to a place with good intentions, that just spreads.”
A Burning Man-esque festival will take place next week a little closer to Summit County than Black R… A Burning Man-esque festival will take place next week a little closer to Summit County than Black Rock City, Nev., as the 8th annual Desert Rocks Festival begins Thursday in the red-rock desert of Green River, Utah.
It is setting a different kind of bar for music festivals by integrating world-class bands with speakers, artists and performers, films, eco-conscious food and product vendors and engaging workshops. And, it's dog friendly.
"This year's festival is different from year's past. We've moved it to a private ranch near the Green River that is covered in large welded art installations and tucked into the red rock spires. We're bringing in six stages, an Evolver Film Dome, an art gallery, dozens of speakers and a workshop space,” said festival coordinator Lucia Stewart. “We are really working on expanding the music-focused festival into a share event that can be not a only a place to rock-out and have fun, but also a space to gather new ideas and ways of being. We are showing off some really cool and innovative things: a solar-powered saloon, an illuminarium, a poetry slam, a fire spinning and performance arena, and interactive art installations and playground.”
Author Daniel Pinchbeck, filmmaker Mitch Shultz, activist journalist Charles Shaw and author Jonathan Talat Phillips lead the group of participating creators, along with visionary artists Android Jones and Carey Thompson.
Films will be shown in the Evolver Movie Dome, featuring a line-up of thought-provoking films, panel discussions, Q&A sessions, presentations and workshops. Films on the docket include: DMT: The Spirit Molecule; 2012: Time for Change; Electronic Awakening; For the Next 7 Generations; Dreams of Damanhur; Green River: Divided Waters; and Sacred Economics.
And like Burning Man, an interactive temporary community of theme camps and random acts of art are to be expected. The event takes place Thursday through Sunday, June 10, at the Jenk Star Ranch in Green River.
With an impressive speaker series, visual and performance artists, films and workshops, as well as a healing center and even a conscious poetry slam (with a $1,700 cash purse), the event is sure to please a wide spectrum of attendees.
The vision of festival organizers is to “create an interactive collective experience integrating music with compassion, consciousness, knowledge, healing, laughter and love by offering world-class visionary music, speakers, performance, art and installations, films, workshops, poetry, food, a health center, products and more.” The theme of this year's festival is “Celebrating Consciousness.”
Not to be forgotten as the driving force of the weekend, there is an impressive lineup of bands ranging from rap to reggae to rock to electronica. Scheduled to play include: Beats Antique, The Wailers, Brother Ali, RJD2, The Lucent Dossier Experience, Elephant Revival, JGB featuring Melvin Seals, Random Rab, Chali 2na and the House Of Vibe Gaudi, MTHDS, Govinda, Euforquestra, Octopus Nebula, DeadPhish Orchestra, Willie Waldman Project Featuring Wisdom, Equaleyes, Sweatshop Union, Holy Water Buffalo, Marinade, The Williams Brothers Band, Jaden Carlson Trio, Max Pain & The Groovies, Scenic Byway, Roots Rawka, Wasnatch, Bonfire Dub, Spell Talk, Triggers & Slips, White Water Ramble, Puddle Mountain Ramblers, Funk and Gonzo, The Pillars Project, Luke Benson Band, RKTboy, Soltron, illoom, Dr. ILL, K<3Love, B Town and Maestrobe.
"This year is different from year's past,” said festival director John Ripley. “We will be host to 30-plus films, workshops, and we are host to world-renowned speakers and artists. Also a poetry slam and art galleries. Logistically, its a lot bigger beast to work with this year…but there's a level of excitement around all of it in being our biggest and most attended year. It's a whole new level."
Canadian supergroup raps tribute song to Bill Murray
There are fans of Bill Murray, and then there are fans. And it's hard to imagine a more dedicated se… There are fans of Bill Murray, and then there are fans. And it's hard to imagine a more dedicated set of fans of the "Ghostbusters" and "Groundhog Day" star than Sweatshop Union, a supergroup of Canadian rap acts who have a new single titled simply, "Bill Murray."
The beats are solid but the lyrics (and the repetition of Murray's face in the video) are what sell the song:
You'll never wake up and be Half the man me and Bill is Was then and still is Hands down the billest There really ain't another one Grand like your mother's mum Chill, you ain't like Murray, Bill More like O'Reilly So try me.
There's also an amusing passing reference to "Chevy Chasin' a dream" – remember, Murray and "Community's" Chevy Chase were once on "Saturday Night Live" and "Caddyshack" together – and nods to characters from several Murray films, including "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou" and "The Royal Tenenbaums."
Sweatshop Collective includes several rap names which may be more familiar above the border than below, but is comprised of members of Dirty Circus, Pigeon Hole, Krypios and Innocent Bystander. The tune is part of a new release called "The Bill Murray EP," which was released via Urbnet.
And for completeists out there: This isn't even the first Murray-titled/inspired tune; Gorillaz (another supergroup of sorts) released "Bill Murray" a few years ago, though he's not name-checked in the lyrics.
Who knew that the 61-year old actor's latest starring role would be as a muse?
Sweatshop Union, a Vancouver-based hip-hop collective known for their socially conscious sound, released Dirty Work on their 2002 album Local 604, a reissue of the group’s self-titled 2001 release. Unlike Rush’s The Trees, this song leaves little room for interpretation:
Turning the lights green on the destruction of the Earth / It’s just obvious to me that the way that we do it’s wrong / … we’re losing sacred land as we abuse and rape this planet.
Minneapolis, Minnesota based rapper Brother Ali will headline The Trinity International Hip-Hop Festival next week. Brother Ali will be one of a number of international Hip-Hop acts who will descend upon The Trinity International Hip-Hop Festival, which was founded by students at Trinity College. The festival will take place in Hartford, Connecticut from March 29 – March 31. The free weekend event, which is open to the public, features lectures, performances, art exhibits a film screening and other activities. In addition to Brother Ali, rappers like Los Rakas (Panama/USA), Sweatshop Union (Canada), Native Sun (Mozambique/UK), Ian Kamau (Trinidad/Canada), The Narcicyst (Iraq/Canada), Suheir Hammad (Palestine/USA) and numerous others will hit the stage. For more information visit www.trinityhiphop.com for more information.
It goes without saying that Raquoon Blowjob relies heavily on Canadian rap influences, so I was psyched to also catch Sweatshop Union by the creek yesterday. They've come a long way since their dope but depressing working class rap days, developing a sort of J5 performance and blending comedy with their proletariat punch. They're on some “Bill Murray shit” for sure, but this was no Groundhog Day for anyone who's seen Sweatshop before.
Sweatshop Union prepares for Spiritbar "Sweatshop Union is the most driven crew out there in show/tour land"
Shambhala may be known for their showcase of electronic music but West Coast hip hop crew Sweatshop Union has taken the stage at Salmo River Ranch twice. Christine Hunter, ricardO Hubbs and Brittany Robins caught up with Mos Eisley before their show Saturday night at Spiritbar.
Sweatshop Union is the most driven crew out there in show/tour land, in my (Christine’s) opinion. I have a lot of respect for the hustle you all have been on since I met you in 2005. What or who is your biggest motivator to keep you going?
Thank you for that! Our biggest motivation is the feeling that there is much more that we can do and experience, and many more people and places that we want to introduce to our music and our crazy live show. So far we've toured a LOT of North America, but the rest of the world has been patiently waiting! Coming soon!
You are a group of many; can you please break it down for us in regards to names and each of your roles in the group?
We are Dusty Melo, Marmalade, Metty Dert Merchant, Mos Eisley and Se7en (formerly known as Conscience). We all rap/sing, write songs
and make beats, produce and jump around onstage like madmen. In addition to the core group, we have three DJs that we work with, namely DJ Itchyron, Ray Black (also a rapper) and Def 3 (also a rapper too).
Sweatshop Union is known for its "socially conscious sound." What do you hope to achieve with this?
We became known as a "conscious" hip hop group because our early music was very focused on issues that we were (and are) concerned about, and we didn't pull any punches about it.
Our intention was to provide an outlet for the concerns and frustrations of our generation and hopefully by bringing some of this stuff up, to achieve solutions.
So far, many of our fans have taken that ball and ran with it, becoming Activists, Ecologists, Inventors, Engineers, Musicians, Naturopaths, Teachers and so on. Our current music is less focused on the negative aspects of what's going on (and God knows there is a lot if you look), and more focused on community building, having fun and finding the positive aspects in the adversity we experience as a human race on this crazy blue planet.
We see that you'll be playing at SXSW right after your Nelson stop. Have you played there before? If so, what's your favourite thing about SXSW?
We went there for the first time last year and it blew our minds with how much culture and music and networking was going on there. Our favourite thing was walking down 6th Ave and hearing every kind of music imaginable being played live in hundreds of bars/venues at the same time! Literally the craziest place on earth for a week, when it comes to music. Austin is a beautiful and very progressive town also, especially for Texas. This year we are doing many more showcases than last year, so it'll be even more fun and more impact.
You have performed at Shambhala twice to date. This year you all have graciously joined Christine's Crew during the festival. We would like to know if Shambhala Music Festival has had an impact of your lives?
Shambhala quite literally changed our lives forever, and has brought us closer as a group and as a family. The second year was the birth of Leisure Gang as we know it, which has been such a blessing in our lives. It was so much fun being part of it, and we can't wait to get more involved this year!
def3, we know you as hiphop artist who's been in the industry for many years. Lately you have been spending some time with SSU's as their tour DJ, how has that experience been for you?
The experience has been awesome and we all mesh very well together on and off the stage. The fan response from the shows has been great and its been quite refreshing performing to some new crowds. Im stoked to be rolling with a solid group of talent that are all on the same page and equally motivated. I'm really looking forward to what the future brings and happy to be part of the crew.
What is Sweatshop Union's up and coming projects for 2012?
We are currently working on finishing the Leisure Gang album and on the heels of that the new Sweatshop Union album will be dropping soon. Pigeon Hole (that's Dusty and Marmalade) are working on their sophomore record, and there are a few surprises coming up too! No shortage of quality music, quality videos and quality shows this year! GYEAH!
I’ve said it before, that every year is a good year for global hip hop. Thousands of albums are released every year and from those you can always find outstanding music. 2011 was no exception with competition for the top ten spots as fierce as ever.
We polled some of the most knowldgable people about global hip hop for their selections and reviewed those as well as our own large collection of new hip hop albums to come up with what we thought were the best of the year. I will admit to an English language bias since those are the lyrics I understand best, but as you will see three other languages represented in the top 10. (In order I received them this year…)
Sweatshop Union – The Bill Murray EP (Canada) – “Bring Back the Music” says the group from Vancouver on the 2011 release, and boy do they! For over a decade this Canadian hip hop collective has been known for their positive and socially conscious music. They are a Juno nominated group and this album was nominated for a Western Canada Music Award. The beats definitely appeal to the backpacker/underground crowd as does their quirkiness (at times reminding me of Beastie Boys or Dilated People). The Bill Murray metaphor, they told me at SXSW 2011, essentially means controlling your own destiny. These guys certainly do that, consistently performing and also doing solo projects.
SSU sub-group Pigeon Hole: Our Favorite Hip Hop Artists of 2011
Pigeon Hole makes rap anthems. Using a mash up of samples, synths and lo-fi recording techniques, the duo carve out a sound that is unique in modern hip hop. A sound that will see the new group become a mainstay amidst a world wide underground of trend hopping and disposable music.
Hailing from the left coasts’ talented Sweatshop Union, Pigeon Hole has established themselves both with their powerful live shows and their acclaimed debut record, Age Like Astronauts. The album brought listeners into their world – a world of small town nostalgia, unrequited love and disillusion with the modern state. Oh, and it’s fun. Released this past summer on Urbnet records, the songs have grabbed the attention of radio, press and fans alike.
Pigeon Hole is Colin McCue and Lee Napthine, aka Dusty and Marmalade. They met at school on Vancouver Island then began making music and
Sweatshop Union win at Western Canadian Music Awards
Saskatchewan rock band The Sheepdogs, which won the coveted cover of Rolling Stone magazine back in August, celebrated a Western Canadian Music Awards win for Rock Recording of the Year last night (Oct. 24) for their album "Learn & Burn." Unable to attend the ceremony in Whitehorse, Yukon because they are on tour in the U.S., the four-piece sent in an amusing acceptance speech video shirtless in the shower.
Other wins at the WCMAs – held for the first time in this northwestern territory and streamed live on the CBC Radio from the Yukon Arts Centre – were Del Barber for Independent Album and Roots Solo Recording (for Love Songs For The Last Twenty), the only artist to take home two awards.
Rick Fenton of Canada's BreakOut West Q&A
Pop Recording went to Imaginary Cities' Temporary Resident; Rap/Hip-Hop Recording of the Year to Sweatshop Union's The Bill Murray EP; Roots Duo/Group Recording for The Wailin' Jennys' Bright Morning Stars; Songwriter to Romi Mayes' Ball and Chain; and Urban Recording to Souljah Fyah's I Wish.
Vancouver's 54.40, still going strong after 30-years, was inducted into the Western Canadian Music Hall of Fame. The rock band then capped the show by playing a handful of its biggest hits, including "I Go Blind" and "Ocean Pearl."
Earlier in the show, 54.40 frontman Neil Osborne and Canadian Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences president Melanie Berry presented The Agency Group president Ralph James with The 2011 Industry Builder Award. The Winnipeg native, who started his career as the bass player in the band Harlequin, is the agent for Nickelback, Three Days Grace, Billy Talent, and others.
On Saturday morning at The Westmark Hotel's Ballroom in Whitehorse, members of the music business gathered for Western Canadian Music Industry Awards
Honouring individuals and businesses stationed in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and the Yukon, nominee names had to be submitted in order to be considered for a WCMIA and winners were determined 50 percent by a jury and 50 percent by the members of the Western Canadian Music Alliance.
The Alliance is comprised of provincial music associations Alberta Music Industry Association, SaskMusic and Manitoba Music, MusicBC and territorial association Music Yukon. New this year is Northwest Territories.
Nine awards were given out at the ceremony and Manitoba came out on top with eight wins: Agency of the Year went to Paquin Entertainment Group; Independent Record Label to Head In The Sand; Live Music Venue to West End Cultural Centre; Manager to Gilles Paquin of Paquin Entertainment Group; Producer to Arun Chaturvedi; Talent Buyer to Chris Frayer of the Winnipeg Folk Festival; the Multi-Media Award to a performance film by Christine Fellows called Reliquary/Reliquaire; and engineer to Cameron Loeppky. The other provincial showing was Saskachewan for Best Album Design awarded to Jolene Higgins' Across The Plains.
You want upbeat? You want Sweatshop Union doing its jump up jump up jump around thing with all of it’s blunted body rock and rhyming interplay going on.
Only problem is that the Jarvis St. Saloon has one of the worst configurations for drink service of any nightclub ever. People are actually leaving as the 20-plus wait for a drink is – obviously – serious buzz kill. Not good at all.
The Vancouver rap possee is putting on a rip-roaring set of material from the nominated (and A-rated by me) Bill Murray EP. The joint is jumping too. With a mix of people that is into hip hop, Ridley Bent and Gordie Tentrees it is a weird fashion show. And sweaty.
The Bill Murray EP wins Hip Hop Album of the Year at WCMA 2011
Whitehorse, YK – Congratulations to Sweatshop Union for taking home Best Rap/Hip-Hop Recording at the Western Canadian Music Awards.
The Vancouver-based group was recognized for their Bill Murray EP which first hit iTunes on March 1st. The EP was highly embraced by Sweatshop fans who have waited patiently for a group record to pick-up where Water Street left off. One fan on the iTunes feedback described Sweatshop as “constantly innovating and creating new sounds, but still the same rappers and message I LOVE.” Another boasted, “Beats and lyrics on point, best hip-hop of ’11.” Support the Sweatshop movement and purchase The Bill Murray EP on iTunes now.
"Sweatshop Union put on an electrifying show this weekend."
The Sweatshop Union group put on an electrifying Vancouver show at Fortune Sound Club this weekend. It was the type of show that any music lover would want to be a part of. Their performance consisted of routines that were shockingly well coordinated being that the group consists of six and sometimes seven members. It is astonishing to see so many differing personalities come together to result in something so synchronized on stage. To add to the hype Kyprios took the crowd to another level with a surprise performance with the group. The crowd went nuts, and we would expect nothing less from the boys who have been performing together for over ten years now.
Sweatshops new release is an amalgamation of all of the member’s personalities. It is the type of record that hypes you up for a run on the sea wall as well as one that helps to make a fabulous smoky party all the more interesting. Itchy Ron’s skills as a DJ have become almost unsurpassable. His scratches on the songs “Bill Murray,” and on, my personal favorite, “Bring Back the Music” showcase his finesse, adding to the albums distinctive feel. The boys came together on this release to make it something like we have never heard from them before, and now that we hear it it feels a lil like we have been missin out.
The current members Metty the DertMerchant, Mos Eisley, DJ Itchy Ron, Mr. Marmalade, Conscience, and Dusty Melodica sat down with us before the show to talk about everything from what the new record is all about and why they think it is the best release yet, to losing Kyprios as a member of their crew.
Tell me about the title of the new release.
Metty: Lee (aka Marmalade) slept with Bill Murray on tour.
The Province had an article in it this week entitled “Sweatshop Union Crew at the Peak of their Powers,” do you guys agree with this title, are you at the peak?
Metty: No I don’t think we are at the peak. Fuck that we got lots ta go man. The summit is in sight.
Conscience: We are definitely on an upswing, and the summit is in sight, but we got things to shoot for, for sure. We are ramping up.
Why do you think that they came up with this title? Have you gained power since your last release?
Metty: They are just expressing that it is the best record that we have put out.
Conscience: I know that Stuart (The Province reporter) really liked it, and it is the best work that we put out in our opinion and in his opinion, so that is what he is talking about.
How do you feel that things have changed since your last record, and why is it so much better than your last release and the releases before that?
Conscience: It is three years later; we are all more experienced as writers, and musicians. We are older and wiser.
Metty: I think we almost intentionally made it this way. For the first time we actually discussed this album and really tried to get on the same page, those of us that were working on the record. Like I was outta the loop, and these guys had been on tour and stuff, but when I joined them I picked up on the vibe right away, and you can see the direction that we are aiming for. It’s clear through the music. You can’t sum up our approach in a couple words ya know what I mean, but we got it and you can see the direction.
“Makeshift Kingdom” was your debut single and video off of this release. Why did you choose it to go with as your debut?
Metty: That is the song that set it off.
Marmalade: I would say it is the first one that we made and we really stoked on. It’s a great fuckin song so we decided ya this one could have a great video lets do it.
Conscience: That is probably the one hat inspired a certain direction for the record you know? So it was the go to for the video.
Metty: Soon as I heard it I was like “Holy Fuck, K this is the direction that we are going now, okay now I get it.” That song knocked my socks off man.
Tell me about South-by-South West.
Metty: I always knew that it was some crazy ass business shit, but I completely underestimated it. I knew going in it was gonna be on some next level shit. It was being like small fish in this huge sea of artists. I wrote down on the schedule who was playing and by the time I had tried to schedule who I wanted to see there was like forty shows on the list. We were doing our own shows, but there was so much happening. Everyone that is working toward some common goal floods this city, and it was like the biggest turn up that there had been to date. Something like 600 000 people flood the down town core of this city. There were fireworks for four nights with about ten shows goin off at the same time. We saw when our show was and it was going on at the same time. We were there to rep Canada and it was dope. Canada rented out this club kinda thing and it was the Canadian music embassy. We would all go there and there were fewer than ten Canadian artists there to represent and hold it down. There was Shad, and Classified and us, Ghetto Socks, and it was weird cause you are dealing with all of the rest of the world and America. It was crazy. I didn’t see two thirds of the shows that I would have liked to see cause there was just so much going on.
So you guys recommend it for up and comers?
Metty: Well it is hard to get on. And its hard to fight for attention. I was surprised at how many people were at our showcase, like we were on an international showcase with groups from England and Australia and Africa, it was just crazy shit.
Are you guys missing Kyprios being around all the time?
Marmalade: Ya. He is a good friend. He is a good party buddy.
Metty: Ya we miss touring with him.
Marmalade: Ya we miss him you know. But we all get to perform more of our own stuff, which we all enjoy too.
Metty: I mean he has been outta the mix for other time periods too, like when he did his Sony shit. He was outta the mix for like years or something. That doesn’t mean that he isn’t still part of the crew.
Conscience: Ya we still all talk of course. It’s not like we haven’t seen or heard from Kyp in a long time.
Metty: We miss everyone that gets outta the mix, you know at times Itchy Ron isn’t there, I’m not at times now that I am living in L.A. We are friends and it’s never the same when they are not there of course.
Conscience: It’s a good time to make fun of em when they aren’t around you know?
Your song “Bring Back the Music is all about how the Music channels on television have replaced our music videos with trash TV. Why do you think this is the case?
Conscience: It’s about the money. People aren’t buying records anymore, so the videos are not a commodity. If someone sees a video on TV. and they like the song they are gonna go and download it they aren’t gonna go buy the record so it is not a viable advertisement for a lucrative product.
Metty: it’s selling Pepsi to kids. It’s like a tax credit. Canada has to have something goin. Rap city is now on one half hour of the day every leap year or some shit. It used to be prime time TV. man. It blows me away though. When we first started getting into this shit there was like four opportunity spots to get your video in. There was M.O.D. and regular video flow, and what was that Master T shit? Da Mix. There isn’t any room for videos these days,
Conscience: People that buy advertising time these days don’t wanna pay for the video slots.
Metty: Out East though people tell me they see our videos all the time so it’s a little different. Much Vibe is cool. It’s the channel that you leave on for background music, but we don’t see it here in the West.
I know that you guys work alot with talented producers from around the world, tell me what you take away from that.
Mos Eisley: There are certain people that when you come around them they are like a faucet that fills your cup with great stuff. Chin (Injeti) and Moka (Only), to another degree, are people that you get around and you can’t leave without being inspired, like “wow I gotta be as productive.” I wish I was so creative all the time and they are like the fire that lights that creativity at times. Really it is inspiration to the enth degree in every way. As artists you wanna be around those people, we swarm em like bees cause they are just so inspirational.
What is next for Sweatshop?
Metty: Music. There will be another record.
Mos Eisley: World domination! (Chuckles)
Check out the Bill Murray album under our mixtapes and albums section.
Three years since Water Street and the award-winning single “Oh My” arrived, Sweatshop Union is back… Three years since Water Street and the award-winning single “Oh My” arrived, Sweatshop Union is back with The Bill Murray EP.
The long-running hip hop crew’s first recording since founding member Kyprios departed to pursue his solo career showcases the group at the peak of its powers.
This might be its finest release.
The opening tune, “Makeshift Kingdom,” is a whacked-out psycho babble bouncer possibly inspired by a day off in Elkford, B.C., with a killer video from longtime collaborator Stuey Kubrick.
“This is the fourth one we’ve done with Stuey,” says member Conscience. “We filmed in the ice fields and caves in Banff and at these tunnels in Hope and it’s hilarious how high budget it looks. Because it isn’t.”
The skills to pay the bills and make magic sounding albums on a shoestring budget fits in with the socially-conscious style of the group. Since forming in 2000, members Mr. Marmalade, Metty the Dert Merchant, Mos Eisley, Dusty Melodica, Conscience, Kyprios and DJ Itchy Ron have put out four acclaimed releases and built an impressive legacy of Juno and Western Canada Music Association nominations, solid sales and a reputation as a live unit not to miss.
All the earnings are shared equally among the group and a majority of the songwriting is collaborative, too. Besides Sweatshop Union work, the members also released fantastic albums via side projects like Dirty Circus, Trillionaire$ and Pigeon Hole. Pigeon Hole’s Age Like Astronauts made this reporter’s Best of 2010 list.
How do so many individual talents stay together?
“Although I had nothing at all to do with that project, I am proud to be in some way associated with people who make work that blows me away,” says Conscience.
“We all realize that the reason those projects are possible is because we built up this thing together, too, where it would be so hard to do from scratch. Really, we all just love working with each other; these are my closest friends.”
Early on, the group benefitted from other friends. It signed to compadres Swollen Members’ Battleaxe Records in 2002 to release Local 604. The Juno-nominated Natural Progression followed and then Battleaxe folded. Subsequent albums came out on different labels with the latest being released on Urbnet. Conscience says it isn’t the guys being hard to work with, but rather the realities of the music biz being what it is. Indie hip hop labels are hurting. With luck, The Bill Murray EP gets wide range distribution.
“You can count successful labels on one hand these days,” he says. “We really feel that this is our strongest release to date and that, unanimously, this is the album we’d give to anyone who asked to be reintroduced to the band. This is a total restart, with a bit more focus musically and more of a ‘get it done’ group mentality in the recording process.”
Not exactly like herding cats, but with members residing in different areas and a tour schedule of roughly 100 shows a year, it could get difficult to gather up the forces for an album.
With the smaller configuration, the combo has been able to expand into focussing on longtime dreams such as showcasing at South By Southwest this year and expanding its American tour schedule into more of the extreme sports centres that embraced its music. The back and forth in the van on the road is where the new EP name came about.
“We always like to just bring stuff up to start an argument to kill time on tour. Someone will mention an artist or an actor and then one of us will be coming down on it and so it goes. Somebody mentioned Bill Murray and nobody dissed him. It was like, ‘Yeah, he’s totally cool.’ We were all kind of amazed we agreed on something.”
Later on, when titles were being tossed out, The Bill Murray EP worked for everyone. The song “Bill Murray” was a late addition to the session to make it flow. With any luck, the guys can get placed in one of their hero’s films. In the meantime, they just keep on sweating it out.
"a strong performer that defies expectations, sets a high standard and leaves you wanting more" – The BIll Murray EP
At first glance, Sweatshop Union's unlikely choice of a namesake for their first release on Urbnet and their fifth release overall, might raise a few eyebrows. After all, the last guy who tried to wring a little hip-hop credibility out of a Ghostbuster was Bobby Brown, and that was a long, troubled time ago.
But for a veteran Vancouver hip-hop collective known for going their own way, The Bill Murray EP is surely as good a choice as any. Murray may not be a hip-hop icon, but these MCs make a strong case for him as a kindred spirit throughout the course of their EP's all-too-brief 24 minutes.
Like Murray, these tracks are memorably witty and irreverent. There's a top-notch flow and a top-shelf level of wordplay at work throughout the disc, most notably on collective efforts like "Sunburn," "Makeshift Kingdom" and the title track.
The disc is fearless but engagingly accessible. Sweatshop Union's conscious, compelling approach to its subject matter is as sharp as ever here, from their brutal indictment of the state of music television on "Bring Back The Music" to the heavy but hopeful "Staring At The Walls (Too Late)." It's backed at every turn by eclectic beats and solid production, and the message always goes down easy.
In the end, Sweatshop Union's latest disc is a strong performer that defies expectations, sets a high standard and leaves you wanting more — much like a certain comedy legend we could name. So they've got that going for them, which is nice.
"Sweatshop showed us why they have done so well over the years." – EP release party
Vancouver, B.C. – You might have preconceived notions of what type of night you’re in for when, stro… Vancouver, B.C. – You might have preconceived notions of what type of night you’re in for when, strolling up to the venue, you happen to see one of the opening acts puking behind a dumpster. Luckily these notions were quickly thrown out the window once Sweatshop Union’s EP release party got started.
Okay City had the pleasure of warming up the crowd, and although they didn’t have a dance floor full of fans familiar enough with their music to be eagerly singing along with them, they did have enough energy and stage presence to capture the audience’s attention, getting the crowds’ hands swaying and heads moving up and down.
Two thirds of Brass Tackz provided their ever-present personalities for the next set and were causing their usual shenanigans that make them so memorable. On a night where Young Sin couldn’t be there, Snak the Ripper and Evil Ebenezer were more than able to keep the masses entertained, weaving through the crowd and over to the bar for beers, taking shots from excited fans and cutting tracks when you least expected it. They not only kept the night moving with some solid performances but also partied with everyone while they did it.
Headlining the evening and celebrating the release of their new album The Bill Murray EP, Sweatshop Union took to the stage. Always an energetic bunch they opened with the track “Makeshift Kingdom” from the aforementioned EP and bounced through some new and old tracks with precise delivery of each lyric. Former Sweatshop member Kyprios made an appearance during the middle of their set and performed a few tracks including some of his new solo work. Playing the majority of the tracks from The Bill Murray EP and some old favorites, they attempted to finish the night with “Thing About It” but this group of fans weren’t satisfied, and cheered until Sweatshop reappeared and performed a full four track encore consisting of “Now”, “Radio Edit”, the Pigeon Hole track “Looptape” and the final track “Try” before leaving the stage for the final time.
Sweatshop showed us why they have done so well over the years, displaying a polished live performance that sounds good enough to be a studio recording and a solid fan base who are willing to endure a late Wednesday night, skip their breakfast and coffee, hit the snooze button as many times as possible and run out the door smelling of the night before.
Today’s hip hop world seems to be overrun by auto tuners that over-produce songs written and perform… Today’s hip hop world seems to be overrun by auto tuners that over-produce songs written and performed by self-proclaimed crunk masters. Since the Vancouver hip hop collective formed in 2000, Sweatshop Union has been able to avoid the pull of mainstream hip hop and continuously produced outstanding records in which the beats compliment the lyrics and not the other way around. Their latest release, The Bill Murray EP, is no exception.
The album starts out with an aggressive beat in "Makeshift Kingdom" and follows up with "Sunburn," a track that can only be described as cosmic rap. Each track has its own cultural or political message to get across. In "Bring Back the Music," the MCs spew their outrage at MTV (“What happened to the music videos? All I see is Jersey Shore and these stupid Diddy shows”) rapping, “With no videos it’s like an empty weed sack. It’s useless.”
From the cuts and sampling to the intelligent lyrics and the rhymes, The Bill Murray EP is solid from start to finish. Sweatshop Union is able to ignore the cliché’s of today’s rap world and produce yet another hip hop masterpiece in the name of Canadian hip hop.
"finely crafted. one of the best Canadian hip hop records this year" – The Bill Murray EP
I have to say, I do enjoy having a guess at the meaning behind things like songs & album titles, even though I am rarely correct. If I were to hazard a guess at the intent behind Vancouver hip hop collective Sweatshop Union naming their new EP The Bill Murray EP it would be some analogy along the lines of “they’ve tried the major studio approach in the past and now they are making music their way, doing what they believe in”.
Or, they may just really enjoy Bill Murray movies, I have no idea. What I do know, is that if you’re planning to listen to the best Canadian hip hop records this year, you best include the Bill Murray EP.
The email we got for the album says that the “experimental concept album is best described as a runaway mushroom trip through the cosmos”, but quite honestly, other than the metaphysical leanings of album opener Makeshift Kingdom, it could have been described as “a smooth running voyage through real life for fans of true-school hip hop”. With finely-crafted, personal songs about things like love & fatherhood (Nuclear Family), bringing real music back (to MTV and everywhere else on the D-Sisive featuring Bring Back The Music), having steeldrum-tinged hope in the face of life’s everyday challenges (John Lennon), and good ol’ fashioned braggadoccio (Bill Murray, which uses Bill Murray movie refs aplenty, natch), there isn’t too much experimental about this EP.
That is, unless you consider today’s hip hop so mixed up that making a solid album full of songs that everyone can relate to “experimental”, then this EP is indeed experimental in spades. If you ask me, it’s just good ol’ fashioned hip hop, which is what we all want, right? It’s got good production from Sweatshop Union themselves, along with veteran west coast producer Rob The Viking, and although it often deviates a bit from your standard, boom-bap hip hop production (this could be where some of the experimental-ness comes in), I think it sounds great from top to bottom.
Lyrically and vocally, the EP is very tight as well. This is a group/collective full of experienced MC’s, and it shows. As I mentioned previously, the guys are able to make entertaining songs about subjects other than rapping or swag, which is refreshing, and they are also un-afraid to mix up their deliveries. It’s impressive to hear them switch between somber and serious feel of Nuclear Family to the almost ominous, double-time-at-times flows on Staring At The Walls, and the playfulness of Bill Murray.
When I reviewed Age Like Astronauts from Sweatshopers Pigeon Hole, I wondered if maybe I’d been missing out by not really being up on Sweatshop Union before. The Bill Murray EP reveals that yes, I believe I was. Well that problem has been solved for me, and I’d heartily suggest you go grab the album EP for yourself. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go on an overnight drunk, and in 10 days I’m going to set out to find the shark that ate my friend and destroy it. Oh, you thought you’d get through this review without a Bill quote? Nay my friend, nay
"their strongest material to date" – The Bill Murray EP
Sweatshop Union have been a staple on the Canadian Hip Hop scene for the last 10 years.
A collective made up of several different groups they came together because of their common love for hip hop music.
10 years later they drop ‘The Bill Murray ep’ by far their strongest material to date.
The title is influenced by the fact they have an intrinsic relationship with Mr. Murray in terms of their quiet dominance of the Canadian hip hop world for years. Also the fact that they seem to serendipitously show up in venues the next night after Bill Murray has been there.
The first single ‘Makeshift Kindom’ is currently the highest debuting song on CBC 3. The song features Mos Eisley and Conscience over a hauntingly epic synth heavy beat produced by Pigeon Hole.
All eight of the tracks, including the instrumental opening, really show the Union taking it to another level. They clearly have all been hitting the rap gym.
Although hard to pick the best track, it is the hookless title track ‘Bill Murray’ that takes top ‘Billing’. Five Mc’s with more Bill Murray references than you could shake a stick at. They all murder their verses, making it almost impossible to pick the best verse or the best reference.
It would be nice if there were about six more tracks, but I bet we will hear more from the Union very soon.
The physical version drops on April 12th and includes a tour DVD. But if you want, you can stream or buy the entire album below right now.
So once again it is my pleasure to introduce you all to yet another great group of artists. ‘The Bil… So once again it is my pleasure to introduce you all to yet another great group of artists. ‘The Bill Murray E.P.’ is the Sweatshop Unions most recent release by far that most ambitious record to date. After listening to it once I instantly got ahold of a copy for myself and it is now sitting comfortable in my library.
Their press release describes it as ‘a runaway mushroom trip through the cosmos’, and I have to say I couldn’t agree more. It possesses an otherworldly quality I haven’t had the fortune to listen to since Gorillaz first album. I may not be as knowledgable in this area as some but I think I can safely say that this will appeal to all, from hip hop veterans to those who have crawled out from under their rock and discovered it for the first time.
Once you get past the general feel of the music and eventually overcome the simple pleasure of listening to the music you may find that there is more to the lyrics than you’d think. I won’t say too much because I don’t want to spoil the surprise. All I will say is that there is a depth and meaning behind the lyrics that may come come as a shock to those sceptics of the genre who think it is all about being gangsta.
With the introduction of this to my library I can slowly feel myself being drawn into the realm of hip hop. Despite being one of the few people my age who had been converted, this E.P. has had more power over me than any of the more popular or well known artists. For me it would be more of a surprise if they didn’t succeed than if they did.
Now all that’s left to say is go get their album off itunes then check out their website www.sweatshopunion.com
Metty the Dertmerchant interview | Dirty Circus: Alive & Well
Metty the Dirtmerchant (Dirty Circus) Interview
Author: Pedro 'DJ Complejo' Hernandez
Q: First off, who is Dirty Circus and how do you guys differ from Sweatshop Union as a whole? Why did you decide to go with this particular pairing? Was Dirty Circus in existence before Sweatshop Union or did it form afterwards?
A: Dirty Circus is me (Metty the Dertmerchant) and Mos Eisley. we actually became a group in high school in 1996. All the members of Sweatshop Union had different things going on before we all united in 2000.
Q: You guys have been very successful as part of Sweatshop Union, why did you decide to release this album at this time?
A: Actually 90% of the songs I did for the 4 Sweatshop Union albums, I did with Mos Eisley. Even though we didn't list them as such, Dirty Circus was still the creative force behind those songs. We have been continuously working as Dirty Circus, only we just now released our first album under the group name. To be honest though…we released a low budget tape under the name in 1998 and recorded a full length album in 2000 that we decided not to release. After 4 albums with Sweatshop we felt ready to spread ourselves out a bit.
Q: Has it been a challenge carving out your own identity apart from Sweatshop Union? How does Dirty Circus differ from SU as a whole?
A: I would say there is little negative impact for me from being in Sweatshop Union, at least with fans familiar with our work. I think we have very distinct styles that set us apart. If you selected all the "Dirty Circus" songs from all 4 Sweatshop albums and listened to them together, you would definitely have an underlying theme to our work. I think our new album is another extension of that. Our basic style is VERY golden age influenced and I would say a strong mixture of serious and not so serious, ha ha. We talk a lot about spirituality and the life experience, but also talk a lot of shit as well.
Q: You state this album is an "ode to the traditional classic era of hip-hop," what do you mean by that and how does the sound of this album differ from your work within SU?
A: I don't think we strayed far from our previous work on the Sweatshop albums, however i think this new album is definitely a more concentrated balance of our different approaches to songs. We both are Taurus and both sons of Taurus and we both have young boys that are both Aquarius. There is a lot more at work than just being homies that work on music. We actually discuss very little when we work. It all pretty much seems to flow through us fairly effortlessly. We are very different personalities but we have VERY similar ears when it comes to the music we work on TOGETHER. We both cherish a lot of the same music from the 90's and I think we naturally are inclined to emulate a lot of that influence because that is where we both come from. I think Dirty Circus has a very defined image. maybe its just me, but i feel like it has its boundaries, not in a limitation kinda way, but more like Dirty Circus is not a vehicle for experimenting with trends etc. Its like the Coke Classic to me, I would rather invent new groups to try new things with; to me Dirty Circus is an old school classic group, even if this is the first people are hearing of it. I personally would like to always have it as my group that keeps the original recipe alive.
Q: You have an impressive guest line up for the CD (Shad, Geo, Bootie Brown, Rhettmatic, Moka Only), how did these collaborations come about and why did you choose these particular guests?
A: All of the guests I think are all natural fits for the record. They are all people, some old school some new school, that fit our mold. Some cats just pay rappers to be on their albums because they want to sell records to their fans. Nothing wrong with that but I feel it makes it impersonal. NONE of the guest featured on our album received any money for their contributions. It was all done on mutual respect for each other.
Q: What can fans expect from the album?
A: Fans can expect what we set out to do. Make a rap album for people looking for more than the normal trendy shit. Yes it def is crafted with those who grew up with 80's & 90's rap in mind. I think a lot of that essence and magic from that era is sadly missing in most modern rap. However even if you never grew up on that diet of music, I think younger cats will identify with the honesty.
Q: What is your favorite track off the album and why?
A: My personal favorite is the last song "the?remains" It is a VERY heavy song but also very personal to me. It deals with the topic of death and mortality. For my verse I had to visit some dark places in my memory, my mother passed away from cancer when I was 5 years old and people didn't really know how to help me deal with that. So i buried it and developed a major chip on my shoulder. Both me and Mos had difficult childhoods and we both became very engaged in the concept of death as we got older. We both have a bond and understanding in this area, he is the only person I know who spends as much thought and time studying different ways of understanding such a huge tangent. The song to me was therapy.
Q: You guys went with "Where I'm At" as the lead single and shot the video both in Venice Beach and Vancouver. The group originated in Vancouver, but Mos Eisley, is originally from Cali? How was the experience relocating to Vancouver? How was the hip-hop scene? Were you guys accepted into the scene easily?
A: Mos actually is from many places, Cali was just a pit stop in his life. He was born in Iran, but grew up in Germany, New Jersey and Santa Monica. He moved to Vancouver when he was 16 and met myself and other members in the group. We all started writing raps in school around the same time. The scene in Vancouver was very underground then, but we had a lot of amazing older talent in the graff scene. That was def the major influence for us, we all started out as a graffiti crew, some of the original members of our graff crew are still doing it and succesfully making a living from it. I actually live in Cali now. I've lived in Huntington Beach for the last couple years. That particular song was from Mos' point of view moving from down here to Vancouver…and then from my point of view growing up in Vancouver and moving down here.
Q: How did you guys hook up in Vancouver? Did Mos' Cali roots cause any issues, influence the group's sound, etc.?
A: When Mos moved to Vancouver there were officially less than 6 people even interested in rap let alone rapping at my school and 4 of those dudes are now members of Sweatshop Union. Thats what was dope about hip hop back then, you didn't have to look for others, we all just found each other. We grew up with the guys from Swollen Members as well so they def helped bridge the gap between the older generation of hip hop cats and us…the yunguns haha.
Q: You guys rep the west as hard as anyone, how would you describe the signature sound of Canada's west coast?
A: It's tough because when you think west coast most immediately think gangster rap, but anyone who knows better views all aspects of the west coast traditional scene…Hiero, Soul Assassins, Freestyle Fellowship, Pharcyde, Ice-T, Too Short, The Liks, Saafir, Death Row, E-40 & The Click, Dialated, Beat Junkies, Scratch Pickelz, etc. That encompasses so much variety of unique culture. I think our particular brand takes a little bit from all of those groups. Growing up we never bought into the divide. We all bought music from all of those artists and enjoyed them all the same. I LOVED the diversity of shit back then. THAT WAS WEST COAST. I think we unintentionally represent west coast culture as a melting pot because that's exactly how Vancouver is…a lil' bit of every west coast city.
Q: Why did you guys decide to sign to URBnet for this album? Do you plan to follow up with similar projects in the future?
A: I've always had a lot of respect for URBnet and its artists, due to politics and bullshit we had to release 3 albums we had in the works at a very close approaching deadline. Thankfully URBnet didn't hesitate to join forces with us at the 11th hour. They definitely went out of their way to accommodate our strange predicament. I think our track record spoke for itself in the decision they made.
Q: Finally, any words for your loyal fans?
A: Not much, just much respect and appreciation for your loyalty. As long as you're out there wanting it….we will keep making it. Also, PLEASE remember to support underground artists…IF THEY ARE GOOD. A lot of people have a bad attitude about purchasing music. If you like it, support it.
I had forgotten about Sweatshop Union. Even though I had been a fan of their music, after 12th grade… I had forgotten about Sweatshop Union. Even though I had been a fan of their music, after 12th grade — when I moved out of my parent’s house and could no longer afford Internet, cable or records — they really fell off of my radar. If you’re like me, you’ll need to refresh your memory.
The Vancouver group got together in 2000 and was made up of Dusty Melo, Mos Eisley, Kyprios, Marmalade, Conscience, Metty the Dirt Merchant and DJ Itchy Ron. In 2002 they released the album that most people will remember, Local 604, which featured the single “The Humans’ Race.” Two things may have brought this album to your attention: one, it got a lot of play on MuchMusic and mainstream radio stations; two, it lacked that big, black parental advisory label that got so much hip-hop banned from suburban bedrooms.
Since then, the group has been busy. They’ve toured extensively throughout Canada and the U.S., sharing the stage with groups like Jurassic 5, the Black Eyed Peas and hip-hop icons Blackalicious. The years of hectic touring schedules show through in the group’s live shows.
“We’ve been doing it for the last eight years now so we’ve kind of got them down to a science,” explains Dusty, one of the group’s core members. “We try and amp the crowd up wherever we go.”
Since Local 604 they’ve released three more albums — with one more on the way — and have wracked up a load of nominations and awards, as well as the acclaim of the general hip-hop community.
One of the best aspects of Sweatshop’s music has always been their penchant for creating fun and enjoyable music, mostly absent of the tired tough guy attitude of mainstream rap.
“If I was focusing on bravado, that would kind of be false,” explained Marmalade. “I’m not really that kind of person. We try and make the music fun and we try to make it ironic. We try not to take ourselves too seriously.”
So they’ve focused more on their craft than their attitude, an approach more similar to Jurassic 5's than G-Unit's.
Dusty and Marmalade also record under the name Pigeon Hole. The difference between working in a collective and working in a small group, as Marmalade sees it, is in the planning.
“When we make a Pigeon Hole record we’ll come together with an idea of how we want the finished product to sound from start to finish.”
Marmalade says that collaborating with Sweatshop Union yields something that “you take pride in, but, as a whole sometimes the album is shaped by coincidence rather than by premeditated thought.”
According to Dusty, the next album is going to be an evolution for the group. “It’s gonna go in a lot of different directions just for the fact that we’re all working on different projects right now.”
The group is starting a Canada and U.S. tour on the Oct. 15, playing shows in Regina and Saskatoon on the way. Dusty says that Saskatchewan is old territory for the group. “It’s one of the nicest provinces to play in. It’s got an awesome music scene.”
“It’s hard to get out to,” Marmalade added. “It’s not that often that you get out there, ya know?”
It's the curse of the prairies.
Sweatshop Union plays at The Exchange alongside Def3, Pimpton, Yung Freeze and Murky Waters on Oct. 18. Tickets are $10 in advance and are available at Head2Head Shop , the Exchange or by phoning 306-581-4572.
Pigeon Hole & Sweatshop Union live in concert
For the past 10 years, Sweatshop Union has been a hip-hop force in Canada, but its success as a large group has overshadowed the groups that came together to make up the union. Pigeon Hole—who, along with Dirty Circus, Innocent Bystanders and solo artist Kyprios, came together in 2000 to make up Sweatshop Union—released its first solo record, Age Like Astronauts, earlier this year, more than a decade after the twosome was formed. Best known in the group's hometown of Vancouver, Pigeon Hole's upcoming tour should get it into the field of vision of more Canadians than just those on the left coast.
"clever and pun-laden rhymes over lax sample-based breaks and hooks." – Piegon Hole
It’s a damn good thing that Dusty Melo and Marmalade’s Ma’s and Pa’s didn’t buy into Tipper Gore’s 1985 explicit lyrics “protectionist” syndication. Instead, they decided to let their young boys bounce around the living room to Gangsta rap.
That image, although under the microscope probably a little different, could very well be a description of my own memories growing up with rap and hip-hop, and surely countless other kids of Canadian middle class families who blare what prof. Tricia Rose has called “Black Noise” :
”Doggystyle was a favorite/ even though Mom and Dad probably just hated me for playin’ it/ sayin’ shit like/G’s Up Hoes down/ and beeotch/we would watch Rap City so Loud.”
Even though Ma and Pa probably hated them for it, for whatever reasons, they decided to let their beat drunk kids decide for themselves.
Before you go questioning their parenting skills (though if you’re reading this, you probably already know they are on the mark), check out the second release from Pigeon Hole’s 2010 album Age Like Astronauts, “Looptape,” which hints the “classic” rappers they idolize(d) had a few more lessons to teach these young apprentices than just swear words and sex positions. As they “grew up on the classics/the Chronics/Stillmatics” and read The Source beneath the Biggie Smalls and Pharoahe Monch posters on their wall, PH absorbed a thing or two about the raw stories that lay at the heart of hip-hop; the stories that lay below the riled out theatrics and oft misunderstood violent imagery of legends like Wu-Tang.
And Wu -Tang clearly played a seminal role in their rap education, as PH, Moka Only and Itchy Ron (Sweatshop Union) seamlessly work in well known references like ”Shimmy Shimmy Ya” and “Can It Be All So Simple;” the latter in which Raekwon and Ghostface warn listeners not to get it twisted: rap is a way to overcome hardships of New York City, not to glorify them. It’s taken nearly twenty years, but rap music has done just that for many clever hip-hop entrepreneurs –Jay-Z most notably, who adorns the cover of Forbes this month–who have blown up from the pocket change of young kids like Colin McCue and Lee Napthine.
Now that they’re all grown up and spinning their own take on hip-hop–clever and pun-laden rhymes over lax sample-based breaks and hooks– they have anything but forgotten the greats that gave them this music in the first place: “when Nas wrote ‘The World is Yours,’ it was/still is/I just see ya more.”
“Can It Be So Simple?” PH ask, as they reflect on how beats, rhymes, and records have brought two seemingly different cultures together. If we all listened openly, then yes, it might be so simple. If this “room-for-everyone” mentality isn’t a proudly Canadian one, I don’t know what is.
"on a mission to explode the boundaries of hip-hop." – Pigeon Hole
Though their band name might suggest otherwise, Marmalade and Dusty Melo—known to their grandmothers… Though their band name might suggest otherwise, Marmalade and Dusty Melo—known to their grandmothers as Lee Napthine and Colin McCue—of emerging Sweatshop Union subgroup Pigeon Hole aren’t entirely easy to pinpoint. And frankly, the two MCs, who grew up together in Nanaimo, B.C., weren’t going for anything less than difficult-to-classify on their debut album, Age Like Astronauts.
Through experimentation with different instruments and technologies, the boys have come a long way since their days of looping samples through tape decks in high school. Having toured with acts like Blackalicious and Swollen Members and played prestigious venues like San Francisco’s Fillmore, McCue and Napthine are far from finished developing their music style and career. More than anything, the duo is dedicated to putting out something fresh, something that “hasn’t been done before”.
“There are always new developments,” the ginger-haired Napthine explains in a West Broadway coffee shop. “I’ve been with Sweatshop Union for a long time, and we’ve put out albums and toured as Sweatshop Union. I’ve never done an album with Pigeon Hole. I’ve never made an album that sounds like this. I’ve never shot videos before. I feel like as long as you’re constantly doing new things musically, you’re going to stay in awe of what you’re doing.”
The bandmates are on a mission to explode the boundaries of hip-hop, this emphasized by their willingness to try anything—like the time they played an acoustic set with Canadian pop-folk stars Tegan and Sara while an African drum group kept the beat. And the duo is hardly jaded by the rap game, noting that, even after 10 years in the trenches, they haven’t lost the surreal feeling of genuine excitement that can come with playing for a crowd of 10,000 people, or simply from standing four feet in front of jazz-rap pioneers De La Soul.
Among anecdotes of late-night, post-basement-recording-session 7-Eleven runs with his long-time pal and bandmate, McCue chalks up his undying awe to being able to look back on his younger self: “If I had told 13-year-old Colin that one day I’d be opening for Snoop Dogg, it’d blow his mind!”
“Sometimes you really need that shit-your-pants moment to feel like you’re accomplishing something new,” Napthine says, bolstering the notion that Pigeon Hole has yet to plateau.
“Working on an album, just the two of us, gives a lot more room to be creative,” chimes in the mustachioed McCue. “There are some weird songs we wouldn’t be able to get away with on a Sweatshop record, just because of the real estate on a Sweatshop record. You can’t get away with a ‘Sea Tales’–type song with no drums. It doesn’t work on a Sweatshop record, but with the two of us, it works.”
Unlike their involvement with the local supergroup, the guys are doing more than lay beats and write lyrics with Pigeon Hole; they’ve been picking up instruments and incorporating sounds that are virtually unheard of in the hip-hop world.
“We play most of the instruments on this album,” Napthine says, noting, however, that they may play them poorly. “It’s still hip-hop music. It’s not a matter of playing it well, it’s a matter of playing it right. As long as you’re sampling, you could play for five minutes and only sample two seconds of yourself. You’ll be a virtuoso for two seconds.”
McCue reveals that the group of instruments used on the album includes ukulele, melodica, and Fisher-Price keyboards, a testament to the group’s eclectic tastes and talents.
“You can have a Fender Rhodes and you can learn how to play different things on a Fender Rhodes, but it’s always gonna sound like a Fender Rhodes,” he says. “No one’s been playing a Fisher-Price keyboard. That’s gonna be something that sonically has never been done before. At least in hip-hop music.”
Age Like Astronauts, a diverse 13-track disc, ranges from classic-sounding sine-wave synthesizers on “Voodoo” (think Dr. Dre’s “Nuthin’ But A ‘G’ Thang”) to the minimalist “Bleed” (about the duo’s hometown of Nanaimo).
One thing is certain: there’s no shortage of material, either musically or conceptually, on the friends’ first album together outside of Sweatshop Union.
“I think the whole concept was to challenge ourselves on every song and do something different every time—to just experiment through the whole process of making the record,” McCue says. While the guys are relatively open about the album’s content, they’re reluctant to spill the beans on the wretched tramp who’s referred to on “You Suck”, an unabashedly malicious stab at what would seem to be some reckless heartbreaker from one of the guys’ pasts.
Perhaps we’ll just have to wait for the song’s sequel on the next album to figure that one out. We haven’t heard the last of Pigeon Hole, with the two musicians planning to continue creating albums together well into their old age.
“We’ll be,” McCue says, “the Ray Charles of the rap game.”
"golden ratio of rhymes, beats and content." – Alive & Well
An album many years in the making, this debut album from Sweatshop Union’s Metty The Dertmerchant an… An album many years in the making, this debut album from Sweatshop Union’s Metty The Dertmerchant and Mos Eisley Is somewhat of an ode to the traditional "classic era” of Hip Hop. With carefully selected productions that adhere to that "vintage” format crafted by the group itself as well as Swollen Members producer Rob The Viking, Slakah The Beatchild and the legendary old school DJ Rip One. Alongside the two M.C.’s are featured guests: Bootie Brown of The Pharcyde, Moka Only, Blame One, Geo of Blue Scholars, Shad K, Dynas and DJ’s Grouch, Cysko and ES Nine.
As part of Sweatshop Union, Dirty Circus have been recording and constantly touring for the last 10 years, releasing 5 albums and making themselves at home on the road and in the studio. In the process, they have toured and shared stages across North America with a wide range of artists as diverse as De La Soul and Snoop Dogg, Jurassic 5 and Planet Asia to Tegan and Sara, Black-Eyed Peas and Kokane among many others. Also this particular pairing have been responsible for a bulk of Sweatshop Union’s biggest hits, including: "Oh My”, "Broken Record”, "Better Day” and "The Truth We Speak”. Each song received heavy video rotation including weekly countdown and video award nomination’s from Much Music.
The duo’s years of experience in the studio and on the road have left them in a unique position: releasing their debut album to an already established fanbase. They have spent years honing their skill and delivery for the Dirty Circus album to achieve that golden ratio of rhymes, beats and content that makes a record more than a group of songs, but a living work.
Dirty Circus – Alive & Well | Trillionaire$ – By Hook or By Crook
Besides the Rascalz and Swollen Members, there’s never been another B.C. rap crew to achieve the longevity and commercial success of Sweatshop Union, which this summer marks its 10-year anniversary. The seven-man unit formed in 2000 as an amalgam of various group and solo projects brought together under the supervision of the rapper, producer, and overall sonic architect Metty the Dert Merchant. The beatmaker-MC marks a decade in the game with albums by his two side projects: Dirty Circus finds him hooking up with fellow Unionist Mos Eisley for a meditation on growing old in the rap game, while the Trillionaire$ features Metty and Van City veteran Evil satirizing capitalist excess.
These records mark the opposing poles of the Sweatshop sound; Dirty Circus’s Alive and Well is introspective and gently humorous, with Mos and Metty positing themselves as two of the last men standing in the local scene and admonishing YouTube rappers to pay their dues and respect their elders. The Trillionaire$’ record, By Hook or by Crook, sets modern-day consumerism in its sights; the rap duo (and guests including Moka Only and Josh Martinez) rides the right side of the line dividing social commentary from preachiness. Competently rapped and lovingly produced, there’s nothing new here to change the minds of haters who’ve been selling Sweatshop short for a decade now. That’s their loss.
Oh hip hop, you lovable scamp, I was beginning to wonder if our two-decade plus love-affair might be… Oh hip hop, you lovable scamp, I was beginning to wonder if our two-decade plus love-affair might be starting to fade. Not surprising if the passion did dampen a bit, these things happen in a long relationship after all. But then we found something to light the flame again. It wasn’t something hokey like bedroom role-play, or ill-conceived, like a plan to take a little break to see if the grass really is greener on the other side. No, none of these trite and true methods were the answer for us, we found our answer literally right at the end of our noses: Canada. You heard me correct friend. If you’re old and grumpy like me, and most of today’s mainstream hip hop sends you reaching for your Tapes & your Walkman, there’s a herd of recent Canadian hip hop releases that might be right up your alley.
Case in point: Pigeon Hole. Pigeon Hole is a duo, Dusty Melo and Marmalade, who call Vancouver home, and are also members of fairly well-known Vancouver hip hop collective Sweatshop Union. It sounds as if the duo has been collaborating since the early 90's, but the recent release of Age Like Astronauts is their debut full-length album. It was certainly worth the wait though, as now the rest of us get to find out how talented the Hole is, something Sweatshop Union fans have seemingly known for years.
Age Like Astronauts opens with the deliberate Voodoo, and I think it’s a good sign when a fairly simple song such as this – just the beat (a good one too, chunky drums and a kind of old-school Dre-esque Funky Worm synth), the lyrics and a chanted chorus – is as addictive as this one here is. I won’t lie to you, Looptape converted me to a Pigeon Hole fan the first time I heard it. Yes, the beat is awesome (it’s been a while since I’ve said this, but put some solid horns on your track, and I’m roughly 95% in your corner from the jump), it has features from Moka and fellow Sweatshopper Itchy Ron, and they are reminiscing about awesome old school rap topics (with accordingly awesome scratched in samples). But the clincher is the fact that they mention Ill Al Skratch – I bought Creep Wit’ Me on a trip to Boston in the early 90's, and I have a lasting, if somewhat out of proportion, affection for Ill and Al Skratch.
Light Show has a great, scratchy early 90's sound, and it features the kind of braggadocios raps that are befitting that era. It also features a D-Sisive cameo, which is all the rage in some Canadian hip hop circles right now, and if you know our history, you know that is a welcome development here at the hill. After hearing You Suck, a humorous lady-friend kiss-off, a couple times, it began to remind me of the Pharcyde, even though I don’t exactly know why I’d say that. Sea Tales offers a cool change of pace, with the MC’s bringing fast flows to a minimal track that doesn’t feature much more than static, wave sound effects, some guitar chords, and some faint, jazzy drumming. And it works, which is rather impressive, considering it’s kind of unorthodox.
The first half of the album is fairly fun-loving, and it kind of feels like a super well-done homage to the 90's hip hop that folks like myself still clutch tightly to our chests when it’s nostalgia time. But Pigeon Hole shows diversity, and the ability to write good songs about something tangible (you know, rap songs about something other than rapping) on the second half with songs like the bad-boyfriend ode Jercules, Bleed, a lament for the lost souls of their hometown, and the ominous, police-state warning Year of the Tiger.
In short, if you need something to send your hip hop disillusionment packing, Canada is the place to look right now, and you should start with Pigeon Hole and Age Like Astronauts. They’ve got a great debut on their hands, and I guarantee you’ll be spinning it on the regular throughout the summer. I know I will be.
After years as members of the west coast hip hop collective Sweatshop Union, Pigeon Hole release the… After years as members of the west coast hip hop collective Sweatshop Union, Pigeon Hole release their debut full-length record, Age Like Astronauts, this summer on URBNET Records. Their latest creation boasts innovative production from the mc/beatmaker team and a distinctive sound that borrows, bends, and shapes music without regard for genre.
"We made the record using Canadian psych samples, 60's lounge-pop LP's, baby drum kits, and homemade cassette tape synths,” says Marmalade, one half of Pigeon Hole. “Mostly we drew from the classic hip hop we listened to when we were young. I don't know what you'd call it. Boombap-psych rap, maybe?"
Pigeon Hole consists of Sweatshop Union’s Dusty Melo and Marmalade. The two met in Nanaimo, B.C. Soon after, buzz got around of an exciting young rap group packing local venues.
"jolts of caffeine between enjoyable stretches of relaxing listening." – Pigeon Hole
Vancouver, B.C. – Pigeon Hole, made up of emcees Mr. Marmalade and Dusty Melodica from the Sweatshop Union family, is releasing their debut album as an independent act, Age Like Astronauts mid-June. The album, produced entirely by the two rappers, carries a consistent sound that links the songs in this collection together.
The album has a fun feel to it: “Loop Tape” is nostalgic, bringing the listener back to the golden era of hip-hop as it touches on the way in which kids reacted to that sound. They do a couple of songs about lady troubles – which are amusing to say the least – and the tracks “Light Show” and “Emergency” kick the album into high-energy mode like jolts of caffeine between enjoyable stretches of relaxing listening.
Mos Eisley makes an appearance for the thought-provoking “Eye of the Tiger,” a track which reminds us how Sweatshop tends to keep our eyes open. DJ Itchy Ron appears on “Emergency” and the boy knows how to bring fun to the tables: his scratching is always highly entertaining and on-point. The album features Moka Only and D-Sisive as well, both talented artists that add to the overall sound of this album.
These guys are original: their album is a dead giveaway of the reason they are still in the game and a testament to why Sweatshop Union has been such a success in the industry.
West coast hip-hop mainstay Sweatshop Union is releasing 3 albums on June 15th from various members of the group. The 3 projects include Sweatshop Union Presents: DIRTY CIRCUS – Alive And Well, Sweatshop Union Presents THE TRILLIONAIRE$ – By Hook or by Crook, and Sweatshop Union Presents PIGEON HOLE – Age Like Astronauts. All 3 projects are coming out on URBNET Records.
Pigeon Hole first single leaked – Light Show ft D-Sisive
Light Show is the first leak from the Pigeon Hole (of Sweatshop Union) album Age Like Astronauts. The entire record is produced by the westcoast mc/producer duo & features guest spots from D-Sisive, Moka Only, Itchy Ron & Mos Eisley of Sweatshop Union.
URBNET Records are releasing 3 albums from Sweatshop Union June 15th – Pigeon Hole’s Age Like Astronauts, Dirty Circus’ Alive And Well & The Trillionaires’ By Hook Or By Crook.
"Pure power." – Pigeon Hole first single “Light Show” f. D-Sisive
Here is the latest single from Pigeon Hole’s upcoming project, Age Like Astronauts, which will be av… Here is the latest single from Pigeon Hole’s upcoming project, Age Like Astronauts, which will be available June 15 via URBNET Records. With tons of hipster appeal, this rap duo still finds a way to keep things real hip-hop. Unfortunately, half of you will immediately dismiss them because I used the word hipster, but I urge you to give it a try. Am I wrong though with that label? I mean, look at that mustache. Pure power right there. Anyway, “Light Show” features D-Sisive, who also has a new project dropping soon on URBNET. Age Like Astronauts will feature other artists like Moka Only and the rest of the Sweatshop Union. Give it a spin and share some thoughts.
Sweatshop Union Present Three New Albums This Summer
Veteran Canadian rap icons Sweatshop Union and Canada’s preeminent hip-hop label URBNET are pleased to announce a new partnership which will see three brand new Sweatshop Union releases on URBNET this summer. The three “Sweatshop Union Presents” CDs will be released in Canada on June 15 and in the United States on August 10th.
Sweatshop Union began as a progressive-minded hip-hop co-operative in 2000 and has been enlightening the Canadian hip-hop landscape with their ace combination of perceptive lyrics and neck-snapping beats ever since. They have been extensively touring Canada since 2001, the United States over the last four years and have been recognized in Urb Magazines next 100 for 2009. Comprised of several west-coast hip-hop groups, 2010 sees the crew organizing efforts to concentrate on their bread and butter — moving the crowd while rocking the microphone.
Pigeon Hole, down with the Union since day one, make a strong bid for hip-hop relevance in 2010 with their brand-new full-length “Age Like Astronauts.” Fortunately for listeners, Pigeon Hole’s ten years on the scene have failed to mellow the duo of MC/producers, who proudly refuse to be pinned down to any specific genre or sound. Their music runs the gamut from boom-bap hip-hop classicism to ecstatic psychedelic freak outs — sometimes on the same track. “Age Like Astronauts” features songs with D-Sisive, Moka Only, DJ Itchy Ron and Mos Eisley of Sweatshop Union.
Another charter member of Sweatshop Union returns on June 15 with the release of Dirty Circus’ debut release “Alive And Well.” Years in the making and anticipated by fans for almost as long, “Alive And Well” is meticulously constructed as a tribute to the golden years of hip-hop when beats and rhyme reigned supreme over image and bling. After 10 years and five albums with the larger Sweatshop Union collective, Dirty Circus’ Metty and Mos bring it all back home with deep concentration on this effort, curating beats by West Coast luminaries such as Swollen Members’ Rob The Viking, Chin Injeti and features collaborations by Geo from Blue Scholars and cuts by Rhettmatic. Joining the fun on “Alive And Well” is a virtual whos-who of stunning independent rap talent, including Bootie Brown from the Pharcyde and Canadian underground hero Shad K.
“Sweatshop Union Presents: The Trillionaire$” is the third new CD to drop on June 15. Constructed as both a critique of capitalism run amok as well as a paean to the good life to which we all strive, The Trillionaire$ is hip-hop satire at it’s highest level. Produced soley by Metty (twice nominated for a Juno with Sweatshop Union), The Trillionaire$ is a collaboration between Metty and respected west-coast scene veteran Evil Ebenezer, and features cameos by underground legends Josh Martinez, Frank Nitt from Frank N Dank and AWOL ONE, among other notables.
Still going stronger than ever, Sweatshop Union and URBNET are pleased to announce three brand-new releases by Pigeon Hole, Dirty Circus and The Trillionaire$ this summer. All three full-length will be released on CD and digital June 15 in Canada and August 10th in the United States.
Sometimes the greatest discs are the ones you least expect. Water Street doesn't even look like a r… Sometimes the greatest discs are the ones you least expect. Water Street doesn't even look like a rap album — had I not thought Sweatshop Union a sweet name, I'd have kicked this to my indie-rock pile, where it would have gone unheard. Instead, I popped in this 23-track Vancouver boom-bap masterstroke.
Even with the plummeting economy, few hip-hop acts capture the perpetual struggle just to eat that all, but few of us endure. But on "So Tired" and "Oh My," Sweatshop's seven scribes revive poor man's rap with poignant proletariat laments and giant hooks that should appeal to more than just socio-economic war mongers ("I make money — money don't make me").
I'm not sure where their deliciously sullen strung-out beats come from, but this is the degree of quality that results when large groups get democratic. Complete with equal parts excitement, emotion, and honesty, Sweatshop's "Johnny Cash meets B.B. King" raps should inspire anybody outside the top tax bracket to warm up to the largely slept-on blue-collar strand of contemporary hip-hop. There are times when you just have to take a critic's word for it, and this is one of them.
The heat recently brought by the Pacific Northwest extends north of the border with this stellar outing from the Vancouver hip-hop collective. There are something like 62 dudes in SU (OK, seven), and somehow they’re lacking a weak link (a couple emcees even bring that soothing raspiness like Lyrics Born and Boots Riley). The single ‘Oh My’ is my pick for track of the year.
Vancouver’s hip-hop group with a social conscience, Sweatshop Union, has come a long way since it released “The Truth We Speak” off its debut Local 604 over five years ago. Now its fourth record, Water Street, named after one of the oldest districts in Vancouver and also the street that nurtured the group during its beginnings, is being released this week.
“I think we’re really trying to come clean with our audience. There have been some personal songs in the past but, in general, the feeling of [Water Street] is more carefree,” says group member Mos Eisley. “It’s still serious but it’s more about how we’re feeling instead of just world issues.”
While Sweatshop Union isn’t planning to make music about shiny cars and female conquests anytime soon, Eisley admits that the group hopes that its music will force people to be more socially aware without sounding preachy.
“I feel like when we first came out, [being preachy] was definitely something that we were associated with,” reflects Eisley, who also notes that the group is always working towards finding a balance between acknowledging world issues and offering solutions instead of simply “making everyone feel crappy about them.”
“We just wanted to shake off that image even [when we were making] the last album,” he admits. “We’re not really telling you how you should feel. Not that we did in the past, but I think [any] perception [that we did] will be a lot less this time.”
Sweatshop Union joined the hip-hop scene in 2000, and for those who remember what Canadian hip hop was like circa the new millennium it’s noteworthy to see how much things have changed.
“I think that a lot of the people that were in their embryonic stage back then have definitely flourished,” says Eisley. “When we were first getting into hip hop and deciding that we kind of wanted to do this, there were people like K-os who barely made a couple of videos and who hadn’t yet become the K-os that people know now. He’s definitely blossomed into this whole other person and has had a lot of success.
“Also, people like Kardy, who we really respected, but he was very local at the time,” he continues. “I think he’s almost international now. People know who he is. So in that sense, I think [Canadian hip hop] has changed quite a bit. [But] there really is no such thing as American or Canadian hip hop.”
In Canada, the supposed credibility of urban artists has often been linked to sales figures or the opinions of tastemakers in the USA, but Eisley feels that it is those who take the time to tour and visit their fans that really deserve praise and respect.
“I gotta say people like Classified definitely made quite a bit of a movement in Canada—like he did these 43-day tours,” says Eisley with a hint of awe. “We can’t even conceive that in Canada because [municipalities] are so far from each other. [Also], people like Kardinall [Offishall], but he’s more in the States now and DO. We’re on tour with [DO] right now. I know he’s been doing his thing and trying to be on the road a lot. Aside from that, there aren’t a whole lot of people who are on the road a lot. Many Canadian artists I guess are discouraged by the fact that Canada’s so big.”
While plenty rock bands hit up small towns like Jasper, Canmore and Golden regularly, it’s almost unheard of for a hip-hop act to do the exact same thing. Eisley, however, feels that times have changed and if hip-hop acts want to remain viable, they can’t solely depend on record sales.
“That’s the past, you know? People aren’t buying as many albums so you have to embrace the fact that it comes back to how music used to be, which is [that] you have to connect with your audience in the flesh and be there and prove to them that you really care enough to come out to their town,” he explains. “Then hopefully they’ll respond by coming to your show and having that organic relationship [with you] as opposed to being like a star and having your CD at HMV and having your CD bought without having a good relationship with [your listeners].
“That’s what it’s going back down to,” he adds. “It’s on the way, it’s kind of good. The future is actually in the past because that’s how music used to be.” V
It's not all tooks and beer in the Great White North eh? Sometimes it's aboot the rhymes and beats … It's not all tooks and beer in the Great White North eh? Sometimes it's aboot the rhymes and beats instead. If you go to Canada looking for a little hip-hop flavor, the first mistake would be assuming it's all in Toronto. Sure the T dot O is fly and all that, but truthfully there's a lot of talent hidden in cities all across the world's second largest country. Take Vancouver for example. You might call it small compared to some of the dystopian urban jungles of the United States, but Canada's third largest city boasts a hip-hop scene that could rival any of them. The largest collective of their talent is found at Battle Axe Records – home to Swollen Members, Moka Only, Abstract Rude and Sunspot Jonz among others.
In an curious fit of recursion, the Battle Axe collective has become home to another collective of local talents. Creative Minds, Kyprios, Dirty Circus and Innocent Bystanders came together to form the Sweatshop Union. The implication of organized labor in their name and in album titles like "Local 604" and "Natural Progression" is no coincidence. The Union is as serious about their craft as they are about working together for one common cause – moving hip-hop forward into the 21st century. It wasn't long after they united that Battle Axe saw their potential and brought them into the fold, re-releasing their debut CD and every project since. The question for the hip-hop heads who have yet to join their labor movement is whether or not a progressive collective born from the cold hard Canadian soil can take root in the warmer climates of U.S. hip-hop, where the pursuit of bling bling is solitary as opposed to socialistic in nature.
"United We Fall" endeavors to answer that question. Things are slow to reach boil on the opening "Square One," a loping piano melody that sounds like it came from an cowboy Western and met with a hip-hop drum line. After reminding us over and over again that this is "album number three" things finally pick up speed on "Cut Back (Since June)" – quite literally in fact. The beat is double or triple the speed you'd expect and the various rappers spit rhymes in a quick style more reminiscent of Mike Shinoda than Madchild. Things settle down considerably on "Broken Record," a slower jazzy swing with the kind of sung hook you'd expect to hear from Lyrics Born. Without knowing the members individually, I'd like to take a cue from their union and compliment them collectively. The scratched samples on the chorus are hip-hop classics, and the verses they drop match the song's title perfectly – they don't want to be the same ol' ish.
Ain't it a.. damn shame, music today? Fad's the same, still you ain't got shit to say Expect the kids to pay, this expensive fee When they can get an MP3 off a friend's CD Especially if there's less then three tracks ya like If it was worth spendin money then we actually might So much crap on the mic, labels ain't actin right Making cash from the hype like The Passion of Christ
Now you might be tempted towards skepticism, thinking it's the same old "we're going to prove how real we are by criticizing jiggy shit" that seems to come out on every underground rap album these days. Thankfully the Sweatshop Union is NOT a "Broken Record" by any means. In fact the diversity of musical styles and themes they present throughout the album is impressive, if at times a little erratic. The V in Vancouver stands for Violence on "Close to Home," as the rappers look for peace "without the need to hold the chrome." Lechery takes the forefront on "Office Space" as the Union raps about women climbing up the corporate ladder one boob and blow job at a time. "Cheese Cuttin'" is a humerous interlude of turntablism wizardry before S.U. delve back into some serious quick funk junk on "Come Back" while hustling to get known in rap. The track draws a fair comparison to the organic live sound of The Roots, one of the many different styles the Union transitions into with ease.
There are only two dangers for Sweatshop Union making an equally smooth transition to mainstream status. The first obstacle is that the Union function so well as a collective that none of the rappers strike out an individual identity. While some have compared their unity to the Wu-Tang Clan, it's not apparent that they would function equally well in solo presentations, even though their biography insists that they all have (or did). They compliment each other so well it's hard to imagine them apart. The other obstacle to their success is that even though they've struck on a single theme to unite and work together, there's no definining sound one can associate with the Union. On "I've Been Down" they come off as bohemian rap lite, complete with a Q-Tip sample, but on "Lead the Way" featuring DJ Revolution they sound like a hardcore backpacker cult favorite.
It's odd that after three albums Sweatshop Union would still be searching for their niche, but at least with "United We Fall" it's not boring to follow along as they look for it. Take a trip North for some musical adventure and you'll see more than frozen tundra.
When you're in a seven-member band, there are advantages to crossing the country with another seven-member band.
Twice the fun?
Yeah, that's part of it, says a weary Dusty Melodica from West Coast hip hop act Sweatshop Union.
But it also means you have a built-in opposing team for whatever game you play.
"On our drives we'll pull over whenever there's an open field and have soccer games and stuff," Melodica says of the current jaunt with Pocket Dwellers. "It's awesome.
"Touring with Sweatshop was partying enough, but adding another seven guys into the mix is just crazy."
The insanity rolls into town tonight, as the acts play a jazz fest show at MacEwan Hall.
Sweatshop are touring their latest release United We Fall, another superb slice of inventive, intelligent and illuminating hip hop.
"We were all happy with the final product, which is a first for us," says Melodica of the third album, which was written and recorded as the members split off into separate groups, coming back with finished material.
"Now we're at the point where we're open and comfortable enough with the guys in the group to trust them to do what they're going to do with their songs and know that it will turn out and sound good."
And, what's even more impressive is how cohesive the album is, including recurring themes, such as the realities of life in a touring hip hop act, which Melodica admits is nowhere near what it appears.
"It's been a humbling experience," he says.
"We realized we had this fantasy of what it would be like and now that we're actually in the thick of things, it's not at all like we thought it would be.
"I thought it would be stability, like houses and cars, not excess, like a diamond-studded car or a big gold house."
Does that mean he regrets the life and work he's chosen?
"No," he says adamantly. "I love what I do – I genuinely love what I do. And not many people can say that."
Sweatshop Union gets no love from its local peers, who show little regard for its five-digit-selling… Sweatshop Union gets no love from its local peers, who show little regard for its five-digit-selling albums and even less for its life- affirming world-view. The backbiters, however, seem as much motivated by jealousy as by a genuine distaste for the Union's bourgeois-bohemian brand of hip-hop. United We Fall won't change the minds of those malcontents. Like Sweatshop's past two albums, this one might be a little too pleasant for my tastes, but whatever you think of the music's laid-back vibe, there's no arguing with the slickness of its execution. That polish is due in large part to producers Rob the Viking, Metty the Dert Merchant, and Dusty Melo, all of whom use both samples and live instrumentation to give the record an airy summertime feel.
As for the lyricists, they wag their collective finger at the consumption-mad world on "Close to Home" and "Never Enough (Money Loves Me)", a pair of songs that veer close to sloganeering. Best of the conscious tracks here is "Office Space", which offers an incisive account of a corporate scumbag and his ladder-climbing subordinate. If much of the lyrical impact of United We Fall is dulled by sweeping generalities, this number hints at the heights Sweatshop's MCs could reach if they always conjured such fully fleshed characters.
“Clever and astute. United We Fall hits the mark both viscerally and intellectually.”
“Once you open your eyes, there ain’t no going back to closing your mind,” raps Mos Eisley on “Lead the Way,” one of 15 highly intelligent and defiantly political tracks on Sweatshop Union’s third release. While radio rappers argue over who’s got the shiniest Mercedes, this seven-member Vancouver collective takes on contentious topics like religious hypocrisy (“God Bless”), the addictive nature of money (“Never Enough”) and dishonesty in news media (“F.W.U.H.”). The rhymes are clever and politically astute and thanks to some fine production work — like the sinister bass line that guides “Office Space” — they never feel preachy. With its old-school beats and topical lyrics, United We Fall hits the mark both viscerally and intellectually.
Sweatshop Union have always had solid beats and conscious lyrics on their side, but now they’ve overcome the inconsistency that marked their previous two releases. The members of Dirty Circus, Innocent By Standers and Creative Mindz, along with solo star Kyprios, have improved at combining their talents into coherent verbal assaults and as individual MCs their knives are sharper than ever. United We Fall finds the group taking well-calibrated shots at greedy capitalists, empty-headed MCs and their own insecurities. They even make the familiar pastime of Bush-bashing seem fresh again — "Close To Home," for example, slices through U.S. foreign policy with laser precision — "They say we’re doin’ it for the goal of protectin’ the children/How the children being protected when we’re buildin’ the weapons to kill them?" Although they come off just a little too serious for their own good, Sweatshop Union still create a powerful antidote for the vacant pop-rap they deplore.
Sweatshop Union have always had solid beats and conscious lyrics on their side, but now they’ve overcome the inconsistency that marked their previous two releases. The members of Dirty Circus, Innocent By Standers and Creative Mindz, along with solo star Kyprios, have improved at combining their talents into coherent verbal assaults and as individual MCs their knives are sharper than ever. United We Fall finds the group taking well-calibrated shots at greedy capitalists, empty-headed MCs and their own insecurities. They even make the familiar pastime of Bush-bashing seem fresh again — "Close To Home," for example, slices through U.S. foreign policy with laser precision — "They say we’re doin’ it for the goal of protectin’ the children/How the children being protected when we’re buildin’ the weapons to kill them?" Although they come off just a little too serious for their own good, Sweatshop Union still create a powerful antidote for the vacant pop-rap they deplore.
“Solid, progressive hip hop. 8 out of 10.”
Fans of the Canadian Hiphop underground may already be well aware of groups like Dirty Circus, Innocent Bystanders, Kyprios, and Creative Minds. For the rest of us though, the decision by these four creative outlets to bump heads together and put out this effort under the Sweat Shop Union moniker will be our first experience of these groups’ range of talent. Released on Underworld Records, itself a subsidiary of the more-familiar BattleAxe Records (home of Swollen Members) its no surprise to find out that the ‘Members are involved here in some fashion – Rob The Viking handles production on five tracks.
Things certainly start off the right way, with the quick funky groove of ‘Union Dues’ supporting the aggressive rhymes of the clique as they introduce themselves to the ears. The bubbly beat becomes increasingly more adddictive the longer the track continues, and DJ ItchyRon’s old-school flavoured cuts and scratches top things off nicely. ‘Feelin’ Alright’ and ‘The Human’s Race’ continue to take things in a positive direction, with the former cut being Rob The Viking’s first outing on the boards. Its a decidely Jungle Brothers-esque cut (I even spy a JB sample in there from the track of the same name!), with a simple piano loop laid over a simple ascending / descending bassline and a shuffling drum pattern. Lyrically, its a bugged trip through the psyche of Kyprios, who doesn’t really care what you think of him, as long as he’s “feelin’ alright”. ‘The Human’s Race’ is a much deeper track, breaking down the faults and flaws in mankind over a morose Treefrog beat, and one that really can’t be given enough props by simply WRITING about it – you have to HEAR it. Check the chorus though, for a glimpse of how ill this is…
“Inside the place where we hide out face,
And try to fake out fate with the faith we place,
Inside a worldwide race where the humans chase,
For more than what we’re given.”
Things continue with the swirling ‘Don’t Mind Us’ – a tongue in cheek attack on the glamour and glitz of the commerical rap and R’n'B scene which features the Innocent Bystanders portion of the collective rocking an uptempo Mos Eisley beat to full effect. Later in the album, ‘The Truth We Speak’ features the Dirty Circus heads rocking a similar beat (this time by Metty The DertMerchant) with the same impressive results. Part of the attraction is not only the confident flow that each emcee possesses, or the undeniable quality of the beats themselves… its the vibe they give off. Its that Jurassic 5-styled shot at emulating old school harmonies, only with a few less portions of cheese – on this album Sweat Shop make their attempts sound a lot less forced than the prehistoric quintet. Elsewhere, the bouncy ‘Prose & Cons’ and the fabulous ‘Breath’ both impress, with the beat / lyric quality being high in both instances. Rob The Viking’s other deliveries also impress on here – in particular, the deep ‘Labor Pains’, with its string heavy double-beat, and ‘Blue Collar Ballad’ with its jazz-club feel and catchy “who the hell you think I am” hook both leave a stamp of quality all over this.
Letdowns? Few and far between really. The pedestrian ‘A Wrinkle In Time’ is a damp squib amongst the fireworks, and the muted trumpet on the chorus of ‘President’s Choice’ irritates like that itch you just can’t scratch.
Apart from that though, the rest is solid progressive Hiphop. It certainly ain’t gonna be everyone’s ideal purchase – some will point to the fact that the emcees sounds a little too (*shock, horror*) white for a few acquired tastes. Others will find the whole thing a little too “highbrow”… with a little too much of a “backpacker” sound for them. And that’s cool – do your thing. Meanwhile, I’ll rewind this shit and start from the top again. If you’re open to new sights and sounds – pick this up.
“Substance and style working in perfect equilibrium.”
4 out of 5 – Natural Progression
I remember seeing a cheese-ass Sweatshop Union video last year that made me think, "Oh my god, anoth… I remember seeing a cheese-ass Sweatshop Union video last year that made me think, "Oh my god, another rap group that shouldn’t exist getting pity hype just because they’re Canadian." So when their second album, Natural Progression, came across my stereo, I nearly came across my bedroom wall with surprise. Never judge a group by its video, people. This album is, start to finish, substance and style working in perfect equilibrium.
Philosophizing, politicking, partying and bullshit over varying degrees of funk heat (including production by Rob the Viking, back at the top of his game after disappointing work on Swollen’s latest) prove that like GE, Battleaxe brings good things to life.
The Vancouver hip-hop collective Sweatshop Union is back with their sophomore release Natural Progression. With original beats and stylish rhymes, the Union has put out a great album.
A healthy mix of up-beat and laid-back songs Natural Progression will keep you moving through all 18 tracks. As their name suggests, Sweatshop Union uses their music to push a politically-charged message.
The album is on Vancouver hip-hop label Battle Axe Records, which is owned by Mad Child of the Swollen Members. The fact this album is so catchy and smart is a good reason that Battle Axe and the Swollen Members are giving it serious backing. But the Members better not push it too hard because there’s a good chance Sweatshop will be crowned the new kings of Van City hip-hop.
“Polished but still fresh.” – Sweatshop Union Local.604
A conglomerate of west coast independent hip-hop artists, Sweat Shop Union combines the artistry, beats and words of Dirty Circus, Creative Minds, Innocent bystanders and Kyprios in to both a collaborative effort and a showcase for each of the individual groups. Polished but still fresh with enough roughness to ensure an independent flavour, the Union’s hard work and creativity pay off big time with a classic debut album that is one of the best representations of conscious fresh coast hip-hop around.