In Edmonton, as an entertainment and festival capital, many different cultures are celebrated. Hip-hop culture is a quieter force than many of the arts and cultures exposed throughout the city, but it’s growing strong. Hip-hop in Edmonton experiments with its own distinct sound, pulled together from the many art and cultural influences within the city. Locution Revolution is one talent creating their own YEG [“Young. Edmontonian. Gifted.” — a label promoted by local designer Solidaritees] sound that iD (a member of the group) told me is “grown folk-country-banjo-urban-rap hip-hop”.
How does Edmonton inspire your music?
iD: I would say it’s almost indirect — you don’t know it’s there, but it is. You listen to rap from around here and it has its own sound. You don’t hear songs about three feet of snow from rappers in California, but you hear three feet of snow raps in Edmonton.
So is the city in a way your muse?
Khiry Tafari: It’s about reping where you’re from. It’s a lot about making it your own and representing YEG.
So how does representing YEG make hip-hop stand out from places like Toronto?
iD: We have totally different sounds, especially if you look at Toronto and you look at Edmonton and they’re polar opposites almost — for the most part, Toronto has a more commercial sound and Edmonton sounds are more…
Khiry Tafari: Diverse.
iD: Yeah, there’s a whole lot of different sounds, and I’m sure Toronto has a whole lot that I haven’t been exposed to underneath the surface…but Edmonton and a Prairie rap sound comes right down to the dialect [here in the city].
I’ve noticed that here people try and get back to the roots of hip-hop — especially in trying to stand out and make people take notice of what you’re doing.
iD: Yeah and I think that’s something that just happens. You don’t try to be Edmonton [by MCing]… it grows when you develop a style, you develop a sound, and that’s how it’s developed.
Khiry Tafari: Hip-hop is very community minded…. We also realized no one would put us on the map unlike a bigger centre like Toronto, so we had to step it up.
Do you have a message for people who look at hip-hop as offensive?
Khiry Tafari: I’d say, let us perform for you. Someone who watched us and had his own [negative] notions of hip-hop once told us once “you guys have something to say” and he was just in amazement because he saw that rap and hip-hop is who we are and that our messages about living life comes through.
iD: Nobody is going to rap the same way as you — that’s what makes us individuals. Rap has so much influence, especially for kids coming up, and they often play a part because of what they’re hearing. So if you think about your song becoming a hit and everybody in the world gets to hear it, what is it that you really want to say? Do you want to be bragging about swag and popping bottles and hanging with models? You’ve got the floor use it! Otherwise people aren’t going to give you floor next time — it’s a privilege not a right to be on the microphone.
Khiry Tafari: When I was starting out, it was all about battles — about earning respect.
How is your music different from your fellow artists in Edmonton?
iD: The dynamic between us is “unduplicatable”. Individually, I’m a country boy. I’ve got a whole different experience from growing up in the countryside. But together, we both bring something completely original to our sound.
Khiry Tafari: Overall, we’re not afraid — we’re entirely different from everyone else. He’s the country guy and I’m the city guy. For any one band to rise, to be the cream of the crop, you have to be different or have something going for you — that “it” factor. And together, we’re dynamic, we complement each other.
What’s the personal connection between you and rap?
Khiry Tafari: I never knew what I wanted to do [when I was young] until I started rapping at 22-23. I liked being on stage. Rap allowed me to use my voice to do valuable work. When I was a kid, I liked to prove people wrong — listening to De La Soul’s “I Can Do Anything” — I took that literally. But I was also athletic, but I also came to a point where I wanted to show people what I could do with my brain. I wanted people to see that I could do other things. And, I’ve developed other skills by being a rapper too — like being able to work with kids.
iD: Because I was willing to do the work [to become a rapper] it made me see that I can do anything!
What direction do you see hip-hop heading in the future?
Khiry Tafari: It’s hard to say…Rap music has been about borrowing from other sounds. Where we as musicians come in, we decide what our vibe [sound is]. You’re always going to get an original sound — my ear will always hear a different sound.
iD: With hip-hop there’s always going to be challenges and there will always be people to school.
Khiry Tafari: Focusing on the negatives [of hip-hop], means we’re going backwards, and we need to progress — and our words, our dialect have to show that peace, love, unity, and bringing up the youth for the future.
iD: Hip-hop is the future. It’s the only place that where you come from doesn’t matter.