GHETTO CONCEPT at Berlin (2335 Yonge), Friday (March 22). $10 at the door, free with CD purchase. 416-489-7777. www.ghettoconcept.com
Even before the Ghetto Concept video for their slammin' posse cut Still Too Much hit high rotation, there was speculation that the Toronto hardcore hiphop bangers would be giving up gunplay for party jams after cutting a deal with BMG for their new disc, 7-Bills All-Stars: Da Album (Vik).
There were already signs that Ghetto Concept might be moving away from their thuggish "reality rhyme" style when their joint Too Much appeared on the Baby Blue Soundcrew's platinum-selling debut party mix. That seemed to be confirmed by the conspicuous absence of bloody violence in the booty-bumpin' Shake It track that preceded the album's release.
And getting crossover ringer Snow to appear in the Still Too Much video was a good indication that Ghetto Concept were making moves to broaden their audience beyond their street-level stronghold.
"A couple of kids who heard Shake It on the radio were saying, 'Yo, the new stuff is cool, but what's up with the underground shit?'" says Kwajo Cinqo over a cellphone. "I told 'em to wait for the album so they can get the whole picture. We're in the business of selling records, so what we send to radio needs to be formatted for radio."
"We do reality music," continues Dolo. "Everything we experience goes on our records. It's only natural that we've changed with time, so our music has changed, too, and I think it's a change for the better."
Ghetto Concept, in fact, have not gone soft. Listening to the 7-Bills All-Stars album, it's clear there's still a fistful of brutality around every corner. And if it doesn't feel dirty and nasty like their previous work, that's due to the significant jump in production levels.
"We didn't use any loops on the record," insists Kwajo Cinqo. "Everything was played in the studio except for a little sample stab here or there. As a producer, using loops just constrains you."
With the Still Too Much video getting continuous play, no doubt due in part to the Northern Touch vibe created by the appearance of Maestro, Kardinal Offishall, Red-One, Ironside and Snow -- all of whom, it's rumoured, will show up at Berlin for Friday's (March 22) record release party -- it was inevitable that a Juno nomination would be forthcoming.
While Ghetto Concept sound pleased by the nod in the best-rap-recording category, they still see a need for improvements in the way the Junos deal with hiphop.
"For some reason, hiphop singles and albums are not broken up into separate categories. You've got people shedding real blood, sweat and tears for a year making an album, and they're up against some dude who goes into a studio and bangs out a song in a couple of hours. That doesn't make sense.
"I mean, there's a lot of room for growth in other areas, like maybe having individual categories for best hiphop solo artist and best hiphop group. But for now, just give us one more category."