TEAM REZOFFICIAL as part of the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards at John Bassett Theatre (255 Front West), Friday (November 26). $35. 416-872-1111.
If you're talking cred, Team RezOfficial have got it in heaps. What's more credible than a crew going against all odds for a chance to represent?
In this case, the odds in question are piled high against the aboriginal collective - they've got nuff discrimination on their plates as it is, and more in the context of a genre where, being non-black is all it takes to getcha on some ol' outsider-status shit.
But, if you've seen the crew's video for Keep On Movin on Much and instantly branded them as wack cuz they don't look like they belong, please, do them a favour - keep on doubtin'. Your naysaying is keeping their fire burning.
"The main fuel for me is the people who are sleeping on us," says Dro, the group's newest member, over the mobile as he cruises Hobbema, Alberta. "A lot of people don't think I should be doing hiphop cuz I'm native. Even my family and other natives around, they think that you're trying to be somebody you aren't. That's something that all of us have to go through. I just want to show that we ain't playin' around."
Dro, Hellnback, Big Slim, L's-Aqui, Johnny Jeex and Lunacy have proved they're not playin' around by forming, like Voltron around RezOfficial, the production team of Big Stomp (formerly of War Party) and J-Mak just 10 months ago.
Since then, the crew has dropped two strong indie mixtape-style burners, Hard Work and Hustle; Hellnback's solo EP, Them Chief Wahoo Caps; and a full-length album, The Foundation, available on Arbor/EMI nationwide.
Listening to that party-themed album as I write, I can tell you it's so surprisingly crunked up, it makes the Ying Yang Twins' hardest shit sound like Charlotte Church's tamest. Full of velour-smooth synths and sloppily bangin' drum patterns, 36 Chambers-era Wu riddims, thug violins underlying teeth-gnashing hooks, the album in terms of sonic quality alone towers above most Canadian hiphop.
It's also distinct because, unlike other native hiphop releases, you have to listen closely a few times before it becomes clear that this was made by aboriginal people. This is partly because, while the production team's based in Hobbema, the crew comes from a variety of North American points from Saskatoon to Pasadena and Cleveland.
"We play off the fact that everyone's from different areas, and it's kind of a universal sound," says Big Stomp over the phone from his crib. "We don't try to stay within boundaries. It's what we deem good music. People try too hard to put Canadian music into one category, and then if the music seems to sound West Coast, they say, 'Oh, they're trying to be from the States,' or whatever, whatever. The way that we do music, we don't care what people say."