London·Southwest Sounds

SW Sounds: Sum-01

London emcee Trish Kiwanuka (aka Sum-01) breaks down her song 'Down With The System.'

London rapper's newest video meant to inspire people to vote

London rapper Sum-01 released a video for her activist anthem 'Down With The System' on the day of the 2019 Canadian federal election. (Supplied by Trish Kiwanuka)

SW Sounds is a weekly feature that profiles a southwestern Ontario artist and their new music. Listen for it Mondays on Afternoon Drive between 4:30 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. on CBC Radio One.

It's a song that's meant to grab listeners by the collar and shake them out of complacency. That's what made October 21, the day of the Canadian federal election, the perfect date to release the song's jarring new video.

'Down With The System' appears on the latest release from London emcee, Sum-01 (aka Trish Kiwanuka). Unlike most of her output, the track trades her typically jazzy boom-bap sound for razor sharp bass guitars and a distorted drumbreak.


How would you describe your music to anyone who's never heard it?

To anyone who's never heard of Sum-01 or the Sum-01 movement, it's hip-hop, it's activism, it's 'old school.'

How did you decide on the name 'Sum-01?'

In high school, I was trying to figure out what kind of emcee name I would go by. I first started with VIP, which stood for 'very important person.' It didn't last. It was kind of corny, but I knew the essence of what I was trying to project. Over time, I was just writing rhymes, and I wrote a line that said 'call me Sum-01, cuz' I am someone.' That resonated with me. When you say 'I am someone', that someone is all of us. And that has an underlying message of unity and being yourself and being proud of who you are.

Tell us about 'Down With The System'.

I wrote an EP in early 2019 called The Comeback Queen. The final track on the EP is 'Down With The System.' It has punk rock interludes and a heavy bass guitar riff. It was one of my favourite tracks on the project because it's not a traditional hip-hop sound. When I first heard the instrumental by (artist/producer) RoyceBIRTH, it inspired me to create something revolutionary. With the political climate we're living in, and experiences I have as a female and as an artist, it really fuelled the content. 'Down With The System' is not a feminist anthem, but it's an anthem for anyone who may be feeling frustration with the current climate.

The message of the video is mainly to depict the various things that have happened in North American societies, things we we shouldn't forget to create a better future. You'll see images of slavery, segregation, images of Greta (Thunberg) and her climate strike, and civil unrest and rioting. These are things we don't see everyday, but are happening. A lot of those images are there to shake things up and get people to say 'let's not forget about that and let's make sure that doesn't happen again.'

This interview was edited and condensed. Have a listen to 'Down With The System' as part of Sum-01's SW Sounds profile:

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