Filipino beats meet Aboriginal rhymes in this collaboration from The Remix Project
"It's actually one of the oldest things in the world: storytelling through rhyme." Advisory: mature language
The Remix Project acts as a bridge between talented youth from under-served communities in Toronto and the creative industries they're trying to enter. The project offers workshops, production facilities and mentorship from the likes of Drake producer Noah "40" Shebib. For their Collective video, they enlisted the help of the program's alumni, who wrote, filmed, shot and directed a series of interconnected music videos featuring City Natives, an Indigenous hip-hop group, and Datu, a Filipino musical collective.
Here's what the program's founder and CEO Gavin Sheppard had to say about Remix and their video.
What's the story behind The Remix Project?
The Remix Project is basically a cultural incubator, working with talented young people from across the Greater Toronto Area. Our mandate is to level the playing field for young people looking to get into cultural industries who are facing different barriers — whether that's related to the justice system or housing issues or systemic barriers around race, religion and sexuality. These youth come from communities that have entrenched conflicts with each other, and the arts really help bridge those gaps and start to build honest dialogues and relationships.
This video brought your alumni together with two outside groups: The Datu Collective and the indigenous hip-hop group City Natives. Can you tell us a little bit about them?
Those two collectives were actually friends of Remix. City Natives is a group of East Coast Music Award–winning First Nations MCs from the east coast of Canada, and Datu is a Filipino-Canadian music collective that uses indigenous Filipino instruments — gongs, drums — and incorporates them into electronic music. It was a lot of fun to work with so many brilliant young people with different perspectives.
So we've got Indigenous rappers and Filipino beat makers. What was your intention in bringing together these different styles?
The cypher is a congregation. It's a space where information is exchanged, as well as a competitive space. Even though it's often talked about as a youthful culture from North America, it's actually one of the oldest things in the world: storytelling through rhyme. What we wanted to do is take the traditional cypher, which in hip hop is a couple MCs and some turntables, and flip it a little bit. One of Datu's members suggested that we make a cypher that replaced the turntables with Filipino gongs: First Nations meeting First Nations. Indigenous, but also authentic to street culture in North America. We just wanted to create this mashup, bringing everything together.
All four members of City Natives perform in this video. What are the key messages in their lyrics?
It's different for each artist, each time. The topics range from youthful braggadocio to more political messaging. We wanted to allow these guys a space to really talk, and not to be anyone's stereotype, but to be themselves. I think the important thing to understand is that it's all life, and that it's all real, all the way through. Just because we want to have fun doesn't mean that we don't care about what's going on in the environment, or don't care about what's going on in our country. And it's about the raw essence of rap music, which, at the end of the day, is the drum and the spoken word.
What do you hope people will take away from the piece?
We wanted to do something that brought people in from different stratas, neighbourhoods, and ethnic backgrounds — and also different histories. The history of First Nations people in Canada is told very differently when you are in a community of First Nations people than when you're in a community of the descendants of colonialists. We wanted to be able to create that space, without trying to own it… to show the differences that exist, but more importantly the commonalities. And the touchstones: the things that we all relate to and build from.
More about The Remix Project
The Remix Project was created in order to help level the playing field for young people from disadvantaged, marginalized and under served communities. Our programs and services serve youth who are trying to enter into the creative industries or further their formal education; The Remix Project provides top-notch alternative, creative, educational programs, facilitators and facilities. Our mission is to help refine the raw talents of young people from across the GTA in order to help them find success as participants define it and on their own terms.