Wednesday the 29th of March, Rap Battles for Social Justice got back on the stage—this time to fight consumerism.
The eighth event in this series was an explosive one. It was also the first one to include an even amount of English and French speaking performers, with more than a couple “bilingual booming battles.” With Urban Science providing funky, hard-hitting background instrumentals, the performers had plenty to work with. The band, which consisted of a bass, a guitar, drums, keyboards, and a saxophone player, were playing improvised tracks to instrumentals from A Tribe Called Quest’s “We the People…” They were impressive to say the least, with mind-bending guitar solos, beautiful, soft keyboard riffs, and solid drumlines holding the whole thing together.
Head organizer and co-founder Dan Parker was wearing an eyepatch. A bike lock rattled off his barcode t-shirt as he hopped on stage along with co-host Shem G, who introduced Dan as the “patchy padlocked pirate.” Both hosts provided a solid sense of energy to a venue that slowly became packed as the night went on. All the performers were front and center, leading by example as they hyped the crowd.
All of the performers, men and women, stepped up to add their voice to the debate around consumerism. The contrast against the traditionally pro-bling mentality of the genre was refreshing to listen to. The event, which was sponsored by the Concordia Student Union, is a late addition to their anti-consumerism week. The English and French angle that the event took added an element of inclusivity to the Battle.
“I’m your future idol / just moving and consuming / your future’s idle,” rapped Taigenz, one of the performers who decided to support consumerism. He stepped on stage with Marley C, decked out in colourful clothing and an even more colourful voice. The duality of the event was once again a focal point. The opinions themselves didn’t matter as much as how the performers presented them. Being able to be vocal about your passions is an aspect of the event that has always been essential. Dan Parker has said that what he hopes for in these events is the chance for people to “battle each other rhythmically.”
Performing a track that they released on YouTube as a promotion for the Battle, Shem G and rapper Bruce Payne went back and forth in a quick-witted and tightly executed performance, with Payne taking the character of business incarnate. Shem discussed the issues of consumerism, especially when it comes to the internet. “From the moment that I get out of my sheets / It’s ad this ad that / Would you like your receipt?”
This show was a bittersweet cypher for Dan Parker, who will be leaving the event after the next Rap Battle, which will focus on Migrant Justice. Dan will be leaving for British Columbia to work as a teacher. Performer Nazim Elrun, who has been participating in the past six events, talked about how tough it is going to be moving forward with the series of events after his departure. Dan said that he hopes the event can continue to grow without him.
What makes the show unique from others was the crowdfunding aspects. In between sets, Dan and Shem asked the audience to donate what they could to help support Greenhouse Concordia. As Shem said, “We are not here to consume, but we can still give.”
Overall, this latest rendition of Rap Battles for Social Justice was a success, with many incredibly talented people coming together to provide a space for up-and-coming musicians and professionals to speak on the issue. This is what hip-hop is all about—a culture of people who come together to speak about issues that matter to their community. As Taigenz said, “We are all roots from the same tree / That’s the city that I come from.”