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Raincity Rap: The History of Hip Hop in Vancouver

October 21, 2011 | by  |  Music

Elaine Carol is surprised that local mainstream media hasn’t picked up on this weekend’s Raincity Rap event. True, despite being a hugely popular genre, hip hop isn’t a mainstay in Vancouver’s cultural landscape. Instead it’s trumped by DJs on Granville Street and indie bands on Main.

But it’s playing a significant role in a community often overlooked – South East Vancouver. In this part of town, Carol’s Miscellaneous Productions has spent 11 years giving opportunity to underprivileged youth, especially youth of colour, to express themselves through hip hop. Now with Raincity Rap: The History of Hip Hop in Vancouver, those same youth will have the opportunity to connect with its history.

From October 21 to 23, a few of the city’s hip hop pioneers, including Rascalz founding member and K’Naan manager Sol Guy, and DJ Flipout, nominated for 4 Stylus DJ awards in 2010, will be speaking about their experiences, from the history of the industry to the nature of the business.

“[Vancouver hip hop] has only been represented in a tokenistic way,” says Carol, referring to the minimal attention it’s received nationwide. She points to one of the few instances where the genre has broken through in Canada, when the Rascalz’s Cash Crop won the 1998 Juno for best rap recording (they declined the award, citing racism as the reason the category was not presented at the televised ceremony).

When there was a call for events for Vancouver’s 125th Anniversary, Carol knew she had to pitch the history of the city’s hip hop.

“No one’s chronicled [Vancouver hip hop]. There’s talk online, but I don’t think anything has actually been written on paper,” Carol says, referring to academic work.

Prior to moving to Vancouver in 1996, Carol was a hip hop performer in Toronto who became disenfranchised by the rising popularity of gangster rap. She knew she wanted to use the arts to reach out to young people, so she asked the youth in the community what it was that they wanted and the answer was hip hop.

Inclusivity is paramount to Miscellaneous Productions’ mandate, which is why all of the events over the weekend are both free and all ages, from the panel discussions at South Vancouver’s Moberly Arts & Culture Centre to the mixer at Gastown’s Calabash Bistro where those aspiring to work in the industry can rub shoulders with professionals. There will also be a preview of Miscellaneous’ Kutz & Dawgs, an original Westside Story influenced musical.

Dr. Charity Marsh, Canada Research Chair in Interactive Media and Performance in the Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Regina, is the event’s keynote speaker. According to her website, her current project “focuses on interactive media and performance and how cultures and practices associated with this broad category contribute to dialogues concerning regionalism, cultural identity, and community specifically within western and northern Canada.”

Carol has hired a team to film the weekend’s panels and related activities, hoping to capture as much of Vancouver hip hop’s oral history as she can. What she’ll do with the finished product she’s unsure, and that’s fine with her. She’s applying this same strategy to the panels, letting the guests speak for themselves.

“I’m not imposing any thematic dreams on this,” Carol says. “It’s got to be organic, and it’s got to come out of the community.”

Raincity Rap: The History of Hip Hop in Vancouver runs from October 21 to 23 at Moberly Arts & Cultural Centre (7646 Prince Albert Street).

For full itinerary and to reserve your spot go to http://raincityrap.eventbrite.com/

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