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MF GALAXY

MF GALAXY is a weekly podcast powered by four mighty engines: * Writers on writing: the craft and the business * Pop culture including TV, movies, graphic novels, and more * Progressive politics, activism, and social enterprise * Africentric change-makers, histories, cultures, art, and more! Mixing brand-new interviews with classic conversations (from my archive of 23 years in broadcasting) with famous and dynamic figures in the arts, Hollywood, and politics, MF GALAXY will take you to places you've never been before, and deliver fresh insights on the places you've been.
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Now displaying: Category: writer - lyricist - hip hop
Aug 2, 2017

Hip hop at its finest is a poetical, political voice for those whose voices have been silenced; it speaks to the anger, the dignity, and the triumphant joy of the oppressed. If hip hop is the music of the dispossessed, then no one in North America should have a greater claim on it than the First Nations. Combine that revolutionary rage and cultural crucible with artistic passion and power, and you have what was Canada’s finest hip hop band—WAR PARTY.

Formed in 1995 under the leadership of Maskwacis Cree artist, lead vocalist, and executive producer Rex Smallboy, and co-vocalists Cynthia Smallboy, and Thane Saddleback, War Party won the Canadian Aboriginal Music Award for Best Rap Album in 2001, and were the first Indigenous crew featured on Canada’s Much Music channel. The video for “Feeling Reserved” exploded across Canadian television in 2001 with a powerful set of voices and images that was thankfully bling-bling- and booty-shaking-free. Instead, the video showed everyday people with extraordinary voices and lyrical intelligence, denouncing settler-colonial genocide.

War Party performed with Ice-T, Wu-Tang Clan, Guru, Maestro Fresh Wes and K-OS among many others, and recently Chuck D. recorded an introduction for the new album “The Resistance.” The band got global attention by representing Canada at the World Expo in Nagoya, Japan and for performing for the First Americans Festival at the Smithsonian Museum.

Fiercely proud of their Cree heritage specifically and their First Nations heritage generally, the band refused to fall into the trap of not wanting to be known as “Native rappers.” Their embrace of their heritage made them universal, in the same way that Miriam Makeba, Public Enemy, or Nusrat Khan are emblems of their people, and emblems of human culture, struggle, and aspiration generally.

While the group has since splintered into factions, one of which is named RezOfficial, their original ground-breaking work lives on. Rex Smallboy continues to make albums and also works as a motivational speaker.

In the summer of 2004, I spoke with band members Rex Smallboy and his then-wife Cynthia at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. You can hear Cynthia Smallboy in the bonus content for today’s show. Rex and I discussed:

  • Finding Indigenous identity in hop hop while fighting the corrupting influence of gangsta rap
  • When hip hop’s real slogan should be “misrepresent”
  • Using Cree slang on wax
  • Representing women with respect in videos
  • Debating K-Os on social responsibility vs personal desire
  • The importance of hip hop innovation to challenge youth and elders alike
  • The artistic burden of bearing an entire race's multiple agendas, and
  • When and why he’d praise a settler for wearing a head dress

Note that our conversation includes reference to the Cree Nation’s reserve that was once called Hobbema, about 90 minutes south of Edmonton. The reserve finally discarded that German name and is now called Maskwacis.

War Party.ca

War Party music videos

War Party with Chuck D. – The Resistance

Rex Smallboy – “Children of God”

Feelin’ Reserved

All for One

Mar 22, 2016

Ice-T is one of the best-known artists from what is now widely known as the golden era of hip hop—the 1986 to 1992 span that saw the widest assortment of lyrical content and the climax of political and Africentric work.

West coast artist Ice-T brought a mixture of allegedly autobiographical stories and fictional ballads named “crime rhymes,” while also engaging in incisive social commentary against racism, media, and government.

In 1992, Ice-T’s musical career nearly imploded under attacks from White police, Charlton Heston, Al Gore’s wife Tipper, US vice president Dan Quayle, and President George H.W. Bush. Ice-T’s heavy metal band Body Count released the revenge fantasy ballad “Cop Killer,” about brutal and murderous racist police.

Having survived the onslaught with the support of The National Black Police Association, Ice-T continued to grow his acting career, which had begun with the 1984 US film Breakin’, grew through 1991’s New Jack City, and later hit its height on television’s Law & Order: SVU.

In the year 2000, Ice-T performed in Edmonton at club then called Red’s. In this episode you’ll hear what he had to say, including:

  • How he’d changed over the years
  • The personal price of political speech
  • How hip hop is overintellectualised
  • Whose opinions are irrelevant for him
  • His experience of the Million Man March
  • The unconventional means needed to help unconventional youth
  • His ongoing relationship with female criminals
  • His thoughts on Will Smith
  • What he doesn’t put into his body, and
  • His reflective and hilarious stories of being a touring musician.

A few of notes: I have no way of knowing what claims Ice-T made of his past are actually true; creating a fictional onstage persona is almost as much a key element of hip hop as it is of pro-wrestling. At one point Ice-T describes having been a pimp; I don’t know if his claims are true, but certainly now as a husband and father, I marvel at my failure sixteen years ago to have asked him about the inherent depravity of such a degrading and misogynistic profession. You are a grown-up, so decide for yourself if you want to listen.

That being said, for those of you who subscribe to the EXTENDED EDITION PODCAST, you’ll hear the commentaries on Ice-T’s remarks, also recorded in the year 2000, by E-Town community activists Darren Jordan and Kelly Fraser.

Also, when I recorded this interview in the year 2000, I’d never heard of Kid Rock. That’s important to know to understand the sarcasm of Ice-T’s comment and my confusion at his answer.

Finally, Ice-T let me interview him immediately after his show. There’s no question that any artist, or speaker, walking offstage after an intense performance is in a mind-state that isn’t suited to honest reflection, but to spectacle and artifice. But note while you’re listening how Ice-T slowly calms, becoming quieter and possibly more sincere. He was generous with his time, and for that I thank him.

 

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To hear the half-hour of patrons-only bonus material about my conversation with Ice-T, visit mfgalaxy.org to click on the Patreon link to become a sponsor for a dollar or more per week.

By funding MF GALAXY, you get access to all extended editions of the show, plus video excerpts from selected interviews as they become available. This extended edition includes community activists Darren Jordan and Kelly Fraser from a Terrordome interview in the year 2000 discussing:

  • Ice-T’s abilities as a social balladeer
  • How his onstage performances address and discuss women
  • How Ice-T compares with Dead Prez and Eminem
  • Whether Ice-T has matured
  • The tendency to dismiss critics as bourgeois
  • The peak of Ice-T’s social commentary
  • What “keeping it real” in song actually means for a rich celebrity, and
  • The discord between Ice-T the man and the persona

 

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