Hiphop Freq fest

Arcee and crew keeping it real on FLOW

SUPERFRIENDS: THE REAL FREQUENCY ANNIVERSARY PARTY featuring BLACK MILK with KARDINAL OFFISHALl, SAUKRATES, TONA and JD ERA at the Sound Academy (11 Polson), Friday (February 1), 8 pm. $10 at the door. 19+. Rating: NNNNN

Given that few rap careers last beyond two albums, the fact that the Real Frequency trio of Arcee, P-Plus and Musiklee Inzane have been breaking the hottest new joints every week for at least 11 years – starting at York University’s CHRY 105.5 and Ryerson’s CKLN 88.1 before arriving at urban oasis FLOW 93.5 in 2005 – is a long-ass run in hiphop time.

The amazing thing is that the Real Freqs haven’t succumbed to the wackness that might be expected to follow a jump from the community radio fringe to a mainstream commercial enterprise run by market analysts who know more about what their listeners wear, eat or drink than which songs will make them nod their heads.

“The cool thing that we have going at FLOW,” says Arcee, “is that even though we’re on commercial radio, we maintain 100 per cent control of what goes on our show. So we still play a lot of independent hiphop, and that’s fundamental to Real Frequency.”

When they started playing Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt on the show back in 96, he was a relatively unknown artist and the album an independent release. The same thing goes for Kanye West and many others.

“If the spirit of the music is underground – like Jay-Z’s American Gangster – we’ll play it,” says Arcee. “What he’s doing on that album is reflective of someone who doesn’t feel the need to alter his sound for the sake of sales. He’s just making the music he’s feeling, which is more like the mentality of an underground artist.”

While the number of higher-profile artists featured on Real Frequency has gone up since the move to FLOW, the length of the program has decreased to an hour. The net result is that there are fewer mind-blowing stormers out of left field that make you say, “Who was that?”

Just take a look at Arcee’s Quintessential Hiphop 2007 list posted on the Real Freqs blog and you’ll notice something interesting: the conspicuous absence of any Canadian hiphop. There are big-ups for Detroit rhyming producer Black Milk (see sidebar) along with J Dilla, Kanye West, Jay-Z, UGK, Devin the Dude, Pharoahe Monch, Common, Little Brother, Ghostface Killah, Scarface and even a Peanut Butter Wolf compilation, but evidently no love for anything made in Canada over the past year.

“I don’t know that there were no good hiphop records released in Canada in 2007. Certainly, there are guys still doing good stuff. I just didn’t hear any Canadian project that touched me like the last Grassroots album did when it came out.”

Arcee’s list is a matter of personal taste. Maybe Anonymous Twist’s self-released The Crucible disc and Abdominal’s Escape From The Pigeon Hole aren’t his steez, but they definitely deserve to be considered for play.

“Anonymous Twist probably could use more exposure on Real Frequen-cy, but he never came to our show or sent us a copy of his record. The same thing goes for Abdominal. It’s important for all artists to make sure they get their releases into people’s hands, because so much stuff is constantly coming out now.

“How we get music has changed, and it’s all about access now. It used to be like we’d stop off at Play De Record to pick up a few new singles before a show and that’s what we’d play, but now we have a guy working full-time scouring MP3 sites for the newest shit. We used to lug around crates, but we don’t even bring in records any more, just our laptops!”


Guilty Simpson (Detroit)

From the town that brought you Eminem, J Dilla, Elzhi and Black Milk comes an emcee as filthy as the city itself. The beats rarely outshine Guilty on his Stones Throw debut, Ode To The Ghetto (out March 25). Not easy when your album is produced by Madlib, Dilla and Black Milk.

Jay Electronica (New Orleans)

Erykah Badu started a record label after she heard Jay Electronica. Since then, he’s been co-signed by everyone from Nas to Just Blaze. Maybe the world is finally ready for an emcee with the power to unite fans of conspiracy theories, Dilla beat tapes and Michel Gondry.

Moss (Brampton)

Less than six degrees separate hiphop heavyweights like DJ Premier, Ghostface Killah and Slum Village from a quiet dude in Brampton named MoSS. Reared on a bizarre diet of psych rock and Korean cinema, MoSS makes beats that make you ask yourself: Why are you still sampling soul records on 45?

Skyzoo (Brooklyn)

When I first heard Skyzoo, his flow kind of reminded me of a modern-day Craig G. Most rappers might not take that as a compliment, but with music from 9th Wonder, DJ Premier and Marco Polo, does it really matter what I think?


Tona (Scarborough)

When the artist formerly known as Daetona dropped Dial Tone over a year ago, my faith in the new generation of Toronto rap cats was temporarily restored. Last year’s Don’t Holla EP further solidified the chemistry between his signature rasp and beats by up-and-comers King Samson. Word on the street is a project produced by Agile (Brassmunk, Big Black Lincoln) is on the way.

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