NXNE 2002 featuring D-SISIVE (1 am), MacKENZIE (midnight), ABS & FASE (11 pm), CRYPTIK SOULS CREW with the Quartertones (10 pm) and DJ SERIOUS (9 pm), at the Tequila Lounge (794 Bathurst), Friday (June 7). $18/wristband. 416-968-2001. Rating: NNNNN
D-Sisive may be considered one of the country's hottest unsigned rap prospects, but he doesn't see it that way. De-Sisive thinks of himself as an entertainer, and in his broad definition of the term, that can mean anything from sensitively warbling 80s sitcom themes with a pickup funk band to snapping into one of his curious alter-egos like Randall, the failed new country singer, or Bruce, the macho heavy metal banger.
When D-Sisive puts on a show, you never know what you're going to get.
"I've seen too many shows where people come out, they say, "Hello, everybody,' and it's song, song, song, song and out," groans D-Sisive, aka Derrick Christoff, sloshing down a glass of water as if to rinse the bad taste from his mouth. "Don't they know how boring it is to watch someone stand around and just do their songs?
"I've got to break out of that and try something different, something insane. My biggest inspirations growing up weren't musical, they were guys like Andy Kaufman, Paul Reubens and Tom Green -- people who can captivate an audience. That street magician guy, David Blaine, is brilliant, too. If he's gonna stand in ice for 65 hours, of course people are gonna watch.
"Every performance I do, I need to top the previous one. Some of my friends saw the How D-Sisive Got Doper children's storybook thing I did at NXNE last year and told me I should take it on the road. But to me, it's done. I'll just come up with something even better next time. So watch out."
However he sees himself, other local hiphop artists are starting to be wary of the threat D-Sisive poses. For all his grand stage production plans, D-Sisive is seriously skilled in the fundamentals of party-rocking. He might not look that imposing when he's slouching around backstage, but put a wireless microphone in his hand and he'll light up the room.
Everyone at the Nish Rawks North By Northeast showcase discovered that last year when, after standing in the background for the whole set, D-Sisive got the nod to take over. It took just seconds to raise the roof with his unreleased crowd-pleaser D-Siggy, effectively stealing Nish's shine. He insists that wasn't his intention.
"Nish just asked me up for backing vocals. I wasn't even planning on doing a song that night. But near the end of his set he asked, "Do you want to do something?' Since DJ Serious was on the decks, he cued up the beat for D-Siggy -- which we'd been doing with the Serious Revue -- and I went for it.
"We're family. It's just like this year's showcase (on at the Tequila Lounge Friday). Abs & Fase and DJ Serious and I were all part of the Cryptik Souls Crew back in the day. Phil Rae from Cryptik put on my first show in 96. He knows Mackenzie from when he was DJing for LEN, and Cryptik does the Freestylin' thing with Serious and the Quartertones. It's all connected."
Perhaps if D-Sisive gets fed up with people asking him when his new album is coming out, his long-overdue D-Siggy's Playhouse disc may finally appear, with his potential hit version of D-Siggy included.
He'd originally intended to name the record The D-Sisive Show, but quickly switched to the Pee-wee Herman homage upon hearing that Eminem's new one would be called The Eminem Show. He could do without any further foolish "Eminem biter" accusations.
Not that D-Sisive needs to be concerned about whether his new work's drawing Slim Shady comparisons. If the bold Rush sample gets cleared for use on the track I'm Sorry Canada and the goofy-genius prank phone calls to Maestro, Robin Black and Edwin make the final cut, there will be no mistaking D-Siggy's Playhouse for anything but the product of D-Sisive's twisted brain.
"I wanted to have some between-song interludes on the record, but not in a clichéd hiphop way with me acting like I'm getting a blow job, smoking weed or shooting people who've pissed me off. Well, I might squeeze off a few rounds, because that's just how I'm livin', heh heh -- I gotta keep it real."
When it comes to the nuisance phone call bit, D-Sisive is working from experience, having earned his living briefly as a telemarketer. Evidently, the subway posters he saw claiming that telemarketing would be a fun and profitable career move proved accurate.
"Most people hate telemarketers, but this one guy I called just flipped on me from the second I started into my pitch, like, "You people are fucking thieves! Don't ever call me again!'
"While he was ranting, I checked my call sheet and saw that he was a used car salesman, so I came back saying, "You sell used cars and you're calling me a thief?' And we got into it, with him shouting, "I'll have you fired for that! Get me your supervisor.'
"Since I needed another week's pay, I put him on hold for a minute and came back on the line using a different voice. "What's the problem? Really? Consider him gone!' As it happened, my manager was monitoring the call and asked me into his office. He said, "What the hell was that?' And then he started laughing. After that, I was encouraged to make prank calls, just make up some stupidness and fuck with people while the managers listened in for entertainment.
"Eventually, that's all they were paying me to do. And I had to be good. If a call sucked, they'd say, "What the fuck was that, Derrick? Was that supposed to be funny? Get your act together or find another job!'"
where's the hiphop?
Diversity has never been NXNE's greatest strength.
The festival offers comprehensive coverage of the rock, pop, punk, folk and alt-country music scenes, but has always been slow to incorporate other sounds. The addition of a solid electronic music component -- the annual Block Party -- helped paint a more full picture of the beats shaping pop music these days, but there are still some gaps in what filters through.
Reggae, R&B, international music and jazz are virtually absent from the NXNE slate -- troubling considering the awesome breadth of music made in this city. But the most noticeable absence is a solid hiphop program.
At a time when hiphop is king, outselling and influencing every other style of music, the small number of hiphop performers showcasing at NXNE is hardly representative of the overall music world.
There are genuine reasons behind the lack of beats and rhymes. Past NXNE hiphop showcases have been notoriously behind schedule, plagued by no-shows and endless delays. More troubling, though, is the effect these incidents are having on club owners.
After a fiasco at the FLOW 93.5-sponsored Canadian Music Week hiphop showcase at Lee's Palace, where sets were hijacked by unscheduled performers and an argument over the guest list turned into a brawl, clubs that have previously hosted hiphop showcases have become reluctant to book the music this year.
"At NXNE we're dealing with a showcase format that runs on the hour and is pretty tight," NXNE managing director Andy McLean explains.
"I don't think hiphop as a genre lends itself to that format. There have been problems in the past, and the venues we used previously didn't want a full hiphop program this time around.
"We'd obviously like to have more hiphop at NXNE, but it's a struggle. I think hiphop needs a home in this city. A dedicated venue that supports live hiphop would help eliminate a lot of these problems."