We all love hip hop. Whether it be the emo-droning of Canadian hero Drake, the playful raspy gospel of Chance the Rapper or the soulful poetics of Kendrick Lamar, we love it and it's everywhere. Even here in Vancouver — the city that always sleeps — there is an active, albeit hidden, hip hop scene.
A handful of talented acts have made it out of Vancouver. SonReal reached popular appeal and got two Juno nominations. Another up-and-comer is the experimental rap duo So Loki, whose dynamic complexity deserves more than my shitty definition.
When Kanye West came to Vancouver last fall, he spent the entire show on a massive stage floating above the audience. While the grand showmanship of West cannot be denied, the concert-goer is detached from a personal connection with the artist. Contrast that with my first Vancouver hip-hop experiences, where a performance by local trio Rap Goofz happened at arms reach from the emcees in a motorcycle shop repurposed into a makeshift venue for the night. I was hypnotized by the caliber of the lyricism and the flawless delivery. The bar was accessible, smoke breaks were simple and I left with a newfound appreciation for local artists.
An underground rapper will rarely disappoint you. “Whenever I have the opportunity to share something, I don’t take [the audience’s] time and attention for granted. Whether it's one person or a hundred, I will perform with the same commitment,” said Francis Arevalo, a UBC English language graduate. Arevalo will be celebrating the release of his first music project, The Love and Basketball Mixtape, at UBC's Pit Pub this Thursday, February 2.
The significance of a local music scene expands beyond references to notable landmarks and street names. Local music provides an opportunity for collaboration between artists and the community.
“People come to our events and have an idea for something new — we are open to that. We want to give people what they are looking for,” said Dylan Perdue, founder of UBC’s sole hip hop club — Rapper’s Without Borders (RWB).
Pit Hop night is one of RWB's regular events, hosted the first Thursday of every month. RWB also hosts Freestyle Fridays, workshops for aspiring rappers and an end of the year showcase. “We bring out rappers, producers, DJs, dancers and graffiti artists,” said Perdue. “We provide our audience with a holistic taste of local art.”
When asked about the Vancouver hip hop scene, Perdue explained that communicating a positive message was the commonality between local artists. Arevalo had the same response.
“The music that I find myself resonating with is positive and soulful, [rappers] speaking about the community that they live in. There a lot of people putting on for their family and their identities. A lot of the music is heartfelt people speaking the truth.”
So why should you come out to PitHop this Thursday night? I will let Arevalo the wordsmith to answer that. “The honest answer is it will do your soul some good. With having generally positive and uplifting music, I hope that whenever someone comes to the show, they leave with something good in their hands.”