MC COLLIZHUN'S ALL YOU CAN EAT SUNDAY JAM MC COLLIZHUN'S ALL YOU CAN EAT SUNDAY JAM MC COLLIZHUN'S ALL YOU CAN EAT SUNDAY JAM
with the TOUGH DUMPLIN BAND and DJs MUSIKLEE INZANE, SERIOUS, GROUCH, MASTERMIND and the SOUL CONTROLLERS at Reverb (651 Queen West), Sunday (February 11). $10. www.kolakube.com
the path to jerk chicken stu-
dios is blocked by thousands of reggae 45s, shelves sagging with CDs, a pair of turntables and several hundred records randomly strewn across the floor.Get through the door and you're immediately confronted with record sleeves lining the walls, an SP 1200 sampler and battered CD player fighting for space on a makeshift shelf, and a list of Yo Mamma jokes taped to the mirror.
It's here that the most innovative and original hiphop in the megacity is made.
The studio, which doubles as the cramped North York bedroom of Tristan Graham, aka MC Collizhun, is unassuming, but the music that comes out of it is anything but.
Until recently, Collizhun was the mouthpiece for the incendiary hiphop trio Nefarius. On the verge of breaking big, the group blew apart this winter, and now Graham has taken his Tough Dumplin Foundation For Better Beats solo.
Even if his stuttering beats and dancehall-juiced rhymes weren't snapping necks from Kamloops to Kingston, Jamaica, it's unlikely Graham would fit in with the rest of the T-dot hiphop crowd.
How can you sleep on a food-crazy MC who rhymes constantly about curried goat, bully beef and ackee but can't actually cook, who is about to release a record dominated by instrumental tracks -- in case fans want to make up their own rhymes -- and whose live shows offer free jerk chicken and rice and peas and find Collizhun backed by a violinist and an upright bass player?
"I like to stand out," Graham laughs with typical understatement. "The worst that can happen is I get booed."
Or battered. Graham's explosive freestyles and dramatic beats have drawn considerable attention around town, but it was his penchant for saying what's on his mind that really earned Nefarius their name.
In the not-so-big Toronto hiphop world, Graham has a reputation as a serious shit disturber. He's not afraid to speak out on what he sees as the uninspiring state of local hiphop, where simply copying the hot sounds of the day is often praised rather than challenged.
Collizhun's infamous demo recording You Can't Handle The Truth dissed Maestro and others by name, while the now-classic Nefarius track Pondering talks about needing a pillow when listening to most Toronto hiphop. A skit on the forthcoming Tough Dumplin album calls the celebrated RapEssentials collections "the two most wack compilations ever to come out of Canada."
"I'm broke," roars Graham, perched on a chair in the one corner of his room that isn't covered with records or recording equipment. "I've got nothing to lose, so why not say what I feel? I'm not concerned with what he thinks or what she thinks."
In fact, operating apart from the familiar faces dominating T.O. hiphop has actually worked to his benefit. Graham has managed to create a unique sound in a music that often rewards familiarity and laziness with number-one albums.
MC Collizhun's self-described ragamuffin hiphop mixes rugged beats with molasses-thick patois and rhymes about plantain and oxtail. The forthcoming Tough Dumplin album even includes a handy glossary for those who don't know the difference between bashment and batty rider.
The dancehall-hiphop hookup seems obvious, especially considering that Graham's father is renowned CHRY 105.5 FM reggae DJ Delroy G, the radio host whose ads once boasted of his ability to "reggaematize" people.
What is remarkable is that there aren't more people in the local scene making those links, especially considering the strength of the Caribbean community in Toronto.
"It's easier for me to write in patois than in English," Graham admits. "It also gives me a more original sound, something a lot of other people can't cop.
"Some other people have come with that sound, like Ghetto Concept and Kardinal Offishall, but they never held it for an entire song. It isn't the most accessible thing, so if you're trying to reach a wider audience, I can see why you might want to tone it down a bit. I just spit whatever fits the song.
"A lot of times, when you hear patois, all you hear is a lot of English and then someone shouting "Bloodclaat!' I use it totally different, more in terms of a cultural reference than just slang. It's not a novelty."
It's also much more in tune with Toronto than the steady stream of imitators within the local scene rhyming like they're living in the 212, not 416.
"A lot of people took offence to the line "You're living in Toronto but you're rapping like you're living in Compton,' but everybody knew it was the truth," Graham agrees. "People were, like, "I rhyme about living in the projects and waving guns -- maybe he's talking about me.'"
Expect Collizhun's sound to get even wider and a lot more personal now that he's on his own.
The wildly anticipated Nefarius/Tough Dumplin album was pushed back in January when Graham and DJ Don D acrimoniously dissolved Nefarius.
Graham won't get into the specifics of the breakup. The DJ, meanwhile, has posted a blunt message on his Web site (www.geocities.com/BourbonStreet/5989/) alluding to an "erosion of trust and integrity."
The Nefarius disc is tentatively set to come out in late February, but not exactly with the DJ's blessing.
Even more traumatic was the loss of long-time Collizhun sparring partner Kwesro, who died in his sleep in the spring of 1999.
Listen to Collizhun and Kwesro's blinding, 15-minute CIUT FM freestyle on the Tough Dumplin album and it's obvious that the duo had a true partnership. Graham is still shook up by the loss, and talking about him is the only time the jokester MC loses his smile. "It was so easygoing with Kwesro," he nods. "We never rehearsed or planned things out. I could make a beat, and then we'd work out the rhyme over the phone.
"He was just an all-around good person who didn't smoke or drink, and we had this amazing connection. Every time I make a beat, I still expect him to call and want to hear it."
The Tough Dumplin album is in part a tribute to Kwesro, but for Graham it's just the beginning. Ragamuffin Hiphop, a follow-up record planned for this summer, is already half finished, and if folks were freaked by his earlier material, just wait.
Already in the can is a pumped-up hiphop/drum 'n' bass fusion as well as a hilarious song about life in a Jamaican household that dissolves into a heavy rock track featuring guitar by former Change of Heart strummer Ian Blurton.
"I just want to be as different as possible and have fun with the music," Graham insists. "I can't be happy if I know that this track sounds exactly the same as every other song out there.
"If a tune is eight bars, I'll only write six and improvise the rest, just to make it even more spontaneous, and I'll work with anyone who can share that vibe."
firstname.lastname@example.org collizhun adds Jamaican flava to T-dot hiphop By MATT GALLOWAY COLLIZHUN COURSE