Friday, 27 May 2016

Trailer Park Hip Hop

Black Belt Jones had quit a few gigs under our belts, but we were generally playing with Wiggaz or other bands that catered to the heavy music crowd. As far as Brampton went the only other "rap groups" I knew of were "Endangered Elements" and "Team Scam". 

Elements consisted of two members I believe, but the only one I ever met was Kevin McG who lived on Paul's street. He was white, quiet, and fairly reserved. I belive I only ever got to hear one of their songs, but he did join us for our end of the set freestyle session at the Ivy Bridge. 

Team Scam consisted of two of the best skaters to ever shred the streets of Brampton, Navi Singh & Sheldon Street. Back in the 3 n' Pass days we had them open for us at Tremors in Brampton, but since then they had sort of disappeared. To be honest I didn't even know if they were still making music. 

It was tough trying to win over these metal crowds at shows as most of them were there for just that....metal. People were more open minded now to rap even though many of those people despised rap 5-10 years prior. A lot of guys who liked metal and hardcore seemed to appreciate rap, and perhaps it's because they saw and felt the same parallels between the two that I did. It was always a great feeling to see some longhairs flailing around the dance floor while we played, many whom were friends of ours. I couldn't help but wonder if they actually liked our music or if they were just being courteous as it was the friendly thing to do.

Finally the call came we were waiting for, a new rap group to perform with. "The King" Willie New got in touch with us to see if we'd be interested in playing a gig with a rap group from the east coast of Halifax, and naturally we agreed. It was a breath of fresh air to know other kids across Canada were also making rap music. The group in question was called "Hip Club Groove" and us Black Belt boys were highly anticipating the show so we could see what they were all about.

The day of the show finally arrived and we headed down to The Elmo with our gear. We met up with the Hip Club guys and they were super cool. We chilled in the "backstage" kitchen area and enjoyed a few drinks and puffs while getting acquainted. When show time rolled around we finally got to see them hone their craft, and they did it well. HCG consisted of three members; Mackenzie, ChekLove & DJ Moves. Right from the get go I really enjoyed their energy. Both MCs had skills, stage presence, and great voices. 

Mackenzie always reminded me of MCA from the Beasties. He did not sound like him, but had somewhat of a similar look and personality. ChekLove was of smaller stature but he was larger than life. With his long braids, flashy style, and in your face voice, he demanded your attention while on stage. I didn't know what to make of Moves at first, he was very quiet and hard to get a read on. I assumed he was just a quiet guy, or perhaps shy, but in the end I saw him as a white Terminator X, a man who only "speaks with his hands" through the turntables.

Their set was killer, and all us BBJ boys really enjoyed it. Once again it was just refreshing to see someone else on the same page. We did our usual set then busted into the open mic freestyle jam at the end of our set as we always did. Mackenzie & ChekLove came up to join us and the mics were set ablaze. After the gig it was all good and all love. We had made some new friends, and we let them know that we'd take care of anything they needed during their visit.

Sure enough we got the call that weekend. Hip Club were performing in a record store inside a shopping mall, I can't remember where but I think it was the Woodbine centre. They had no idea where or what it was. Pauly gave them the 411, directions etc. and told them we'd be there. Before long we were in the car and on our way there. We met the guys outside the mall and partook in some herbal activities. From there we headed in to watch their performance, and I was honoured and humbled when the guys asked me to come up and spit some frees with them. These boys were a class act.

We were sad to see them go when the time came, but we knew we'd cherish these memories. Demo tape and cd exchanges went down before the dreaded goodbyes. I honestly didn't know if we'd ever see them or get to play with them again. 

The next time I saw Mackenzie was a year or two later. I randomly bumped into him on the streets of Toronto and he informed me himself and Moves were now apart of a band called "Len" who were getting pretty good exposure. It was cool seeing these guys on tv and getting some recognition that they rightfully deserved. 

I never knew what became of ChekLove until almost a decade later when I watched the tv show Trailer Park Boys for the first time. I was stoked to see him on a tv show as one half of the now infamous "Cory & Trevor". Since then, he's gone on to do choreography, directing and creating independent films of his own.

If you ever by some chance happen to see any Hip Club Groove CDs in the bins at your local record stores I suggest you snatch that shit up, as they are truly an important piece of Canadian hip hop history. 

Friday, 20 May 2016

Barn Bashing 101

Somewhere along the road Greg had hooked up with a Brampton band named "Viciousphere" they were somewhat reminiscent to older Metallica, and they did their thing quite well. They had turned Greg onto a rehearsal space in the Rexdale area called Rumblefish Studios, so we were now looking into possible renting a unit there. The boys in Viciousphere had also invited us to play a big barn bash in Brampton, and of course we said yes. I don't remember much leading up to it, but the day of the party arrived and we were stoked to say the least.

I really didn't know what to expect, but when we arrived it was definitely a barn. It was open on one side and boasted a natural earth floor. There was actually a legit stage in the barn which was very surprising to me. I was accustomed to playing small clubs that sometimes didn't even have a stage, or if they did they were generally very small. It was nice to have some room for a change.

I don't recall much of our performance or Viciousphere's, but majority of the crowd reacted well with the exception of some close minded individuals who couldn't fathom why I was decked out in a costume and rapping over metal. All in all though the vibes were very positive, and we received props from many people, all while meeting new folks and making new friends.

Owen was to start shooting for our music video that night, and for the life of me I can't even remember if he showed up. Part of me feels like he didn't as there is no footage from this night in our music video. Perhaps he was there but the footage was unusable? I honestly can't remember. 

Pooh's brother Steve "Knuckles" Donohoe was there, I can't remember if he worked the soundboard or not, but he had brought his crew with him and it was a pleasure to meet this motley bunch. Much like our circle of friends they all had nicknames such as; Scurvy, Bri the guy, Krustull, The Goat, Kid Ibanez, and Flint Rock. Flint aka Melroy was a brown guy and a thrasher, which was strange to me as I had grown up with a lot of brown folk in Brampton but had never met one who was into metal. Flint for one reason or another fed my some psilocybin and I knew the night would just get crazier from this point on.

Crazy may have been an understatement, as things were absolutely wild. There was a giant pile of wooden warehouse skids that were used as firewood. Needless to say the fire was of epic proportions and some of the nut bars decided to start jumping over it, an impressive feat no doubt due to the height and width of the fire, but clearly not the smartest decision on their parts. You can only tempt fate for so long, and eventually someone ended up falling backwards into the fire after a failed jump attempt.

This was definitely the social event of the summer. Great bands, great people, and pretty much zero drama. We eventually rolled out in the wee hours of the morning and as per usual I invited a bunch of people back to the Slayer house. We drank and smoked while revising the events of the evening, but our roommate Noel and a few other friends were suspiciously AWOL. We had all left at the same time yet their cab never arrived at our house which was starting to worry us all.

I can't remember if Noel called or showed up the next day, but their night had taken a turn for the worst. A conflict had arisen due to a debate on a flare rate fare if I remember correctly. Our pal Mark Fantini got into it with the driver as well, who was now trying to kick them out of the cab while calling for backup. Before long they were surrounded by cab drivers wielding crowbars and lord knows at else. Mark had a small cooler that he swung in circles by the handle to keep the mad cabbies at bay. I honestly don't remember how things resolved themselves, but I believe the boys ended up in the drunk tank facing possible assault charges. 

Talk about a sour ending to what had been the sweetest of days...

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Last train to Hooterville

Now that we weren't going to the bars in Toronto as much, we had to resort to the handful of lame bars in Brampton. There wasn't really much at the time, with the exception of Hooterville Station, which was generally inhabited by the college prep/jock type crowd. The place was always packed and we always stuck out like a sore thumb, which generally resulted in us getting kicked out when some pretty boy started shit with us. They did have their own alternative night on Wednesdays, and it was generally the one night of the week the bar wasn't packed. There'd maybe be 40-50 people, but they were at least the type of people I related to and associated with.

A lot of the times when I was going out in Brampton, it was with my newer friend Scott, who I'd met through Shayne when we lived on Homer square. Scott was a typical jock in his high school days, he played football and rugby like most did, but he didn't have the typical jock mentality. He was an open minded guy that had great taste in music and movies. It was through Scott I made another new friend, his name was John McQuaid. Scott had brought John by the Slayer House a few times and we hit it off great. John was also a jock, but there was something honest and real about him. Scott had dubbed him "Pino" because despite his Scottish descent, he looked and somewhat carried himself like an Italian. I generally loathed jocks and wanted no part of them, but these guys were different. I didn't know it at the time, but these two dudes would go on to be my closest friends before the year was through.

For the amount of activity that was happening with Wiggaz, we still didn't have an official jam space. The demo was recorded in the basement at Greg's house, and although we'd have the odd jam there it wasn't a regular happening. We were still playing shows when we could, which kept us from rusting up, but we were going to need a legit rehearsal space if we wanted to grow as a band. In the meantime, Greg's parent's basement and club stages would have to do. 

Black Belt Jones was still playing shows as well, honing our first batch of songs we released on our demo tape. It was the same usual stages mind you, either the El Mocambo or the Ivy Bridge in Brampton. It wasn't much but we were happy to be getting out there and spreading our sound to the masses. Mike and I no longer had our radio show at CHRY, but that didn't stop us from sending them our demo. During pledge week I made the highest pledge possible and in return received a sweet CHRY hockey jersey. I felt the need to support this station, as they were playing our demo and they'd always plug our shows for us. 

As the summer approached, both Wiggaz and Black Belt Jones were rolling with momentum, and nothing could stand in our way. We were looking forward to playing as much as we could and taking any and every opportunity that presented themselves. It wasn't long before some unique offers landed on the table. There was going to be a HUGE barn party in the south end of Brampton, and Wiggaz were invited to play. William New who was still running the El Mo reached out to Black Belt Jones in regards to playing a show with an up and coming rap act out of Halifax called "Hip Club Groove" and we graciously accepted.

Although my relationship with Tara had recently ended, this was indeed going to be a "Summer of love"...