It’s that time of year again! Call me introspective but I love taking the time to reflect on the best moments of year that passed and preparing for the year to come. Things happen way to quickly these days and my memory has never been my forte so these end of year lists are the one of my favorite indulgences. Enjoy!
Top 5 albums
Black Radio – Robert Glasper
Bizarre Tribe: A Quest to The Pharcyde – Gummy Soul [Amerigo Gazaway]
Something You Feel – Jai Nitai Lotus
Sunwalk – Modlee & Vlooper
The Good Fight – Krystale & Kaytranada
Top 5 Mixtapes
Collation Vol.1 – Dead Obies
Supafam Mixtape – Nomadic Massive
1999 – Joey Bada$$
The Bite Marked Heart – Brother Ali
Soul Sisters Stand Up – Skracth Bastid & The Gaff
Top 5 tracks
If (Janet Jackson Remix) – Kaytranada
Midnight – Nomadic Massive
Magic Look – Marques Toliver
Thinking ’bout You – Frank Ocean
Five – RT Beat
Top 5 Shows
Kalmunity Vibe Collective [Dilla Night], July 16th @ The Savoy [Jazz Festival]
Robert Glasper [Black Radio], February 24th @ Gésu Theatre
Jai Nitai Lotus [Something You Feel Launch], November 21st @ O’Patro Vys
The Narcicyst [Last show in Montreal .. for a minute], July 4th @ Bell Groove Stage [Jazz Festival]
Slum Village, BIG Pooh, & Dr. Mad from Alaiz, May 24th @ The Belmont
Top 5 Artists of the Year
Rose Pacesix [aka Sikk]
*Late Addition: Aisha C. Vertus
I’ve known this moment was coming for months now but I still can’t believe that this week our main ‘Man in the Mirror’, The Narcicyst, will be leaving Montreal to start a new chapter of his life in the Emirates. For the past 12 years, Yassin Alsalman has been giving his heart and soul to this city in so many ways. You may have feel in love with his intellect, story and rap steez back in 2003 when Euphrates (The Narcicyst, Nofy Fannan & Sandhill) dropped their debut album A Bend in The River or was it the follow up Stereotypes Incorporated that you felt particularly connected too.
Personally, cause of my tender age, I joined the Narcy experience around 2007 when Nomadic Massive dropped Nomad’s Land. That album was the first album to ever make me care about lyrics, prior to this I only really cared for kick, snare and nice melodies. Narcy, as well as the other nomads, has such a strong crisp way of rapping that message hits you hard whether or not your mind is open to it. Within a week I was rapping along to every track and even though I had yet to see a live rendition of the Grandmaster Narcel, I was following his career with a zoom lens. By then he had already dropped 3 other highly significant albums; Stuck between Iraq and a hard place vol.1 (2004), Stuck between Iraq and a hard place vol.2 (2006), and The Arab Summit, Fear of an Arab Planet (2006). The latter being one of my personal favs.
But beyond the amazing music that was being created, many of us had no clue that Yassin was sharpening his intellectual sword so that he could further share his knowledge. With a BA in Political Science and Communication Studies already in his pocket, Yassin started tackling his Master’s Thesis in Media Studies at Concordia University, which later became his first publication The Diatribes of A Dying Tribe (2011). With so much on-field experience and a strong educational back bone it only made sense for Yassin to begin co-teaching (along side Marc Peters) the first university accredited Hip Hop class in Montreal (probably in all of Quebec too), offered at Concordia University. I had sampled one of his lectures a few semesters back and already knew that taking this class would open mind to much grander pastures. Last semester after being on the waiting list 3 times I finally got to know the Man in the Mirror as a professor who quickly became a great friend. What we learned and experienced in that classroom was much more than Hip Hop History 101, it was about how to use your mind, how to be critical, how to question things you love or do and how to not fall for the imaginary human limitations you’ve created for yourself. Marc and Yassin really sparked that Do-for-Self attitude in us whether you were a trueborn Hip Hop Head or just a student looking an easy 3 credits. They managed to teach us the essence of Hip Hop and encourage us to use that strength for our own endeavors and for that I am eternally grateful.
If we back track to what was going on in his artistic career we fall onto Stuck between Iraq and Hard Place vol.3 (2009) and the amazing instrumental masterpiece Warchestra: The Symphony, which he produced in collaboration with his wonderful partner in life Sundus Abdul Hadi as the complimentary album to her art collection Warchestra. 2009 also happened to be the year his most revered album The Narcicyst dropped with a posse of insanely epic videos such as the one for P.H.A.T.W.A and Hamdulillah. Of course, as a born asthmatic I truly do know the meaning of ‘every breath counts’ and felt a hyper connection to his mixtape Mr. Asthmatic (2010).
Now in 2011 when we North Americans were becoming aware of the Arab Spring, which was years in the making fyi, it was a real blessing to able to have such strong advocate of Arab culture in our own city to counteract the contrived information we were receiving. The #Jan25 video gave a new voice to the Arabic diaspora, which is always so desperately needed. The follow up project to that whole experience, Arab Winter (Sundus Abdul Hadi, Tamara Abdul Hadi, Sawson Al Saraf, El Seed, Karim Jabbari and Yassin Alsalman) is the most profound and beautiful multimedia exposition I have ever seen and Narcy’s video/track Fly Over Egypt is still hands down my favorite piece of 2012.
As you can see the list of contributions that this one man has made to the world could go on and on, and I haven’t even started taking about his acting career, leadership skills or style. The Narcicyst has been an extremely important pillar in the Hip Hop scene of Montreal for the past decade+ and I have great faith that he will continue to be so even while residing in the Emirates.
If you have yet to experience The Narcicyst live in Montreal you still have one more chance this Wednesday night at the Bell Groove stage for the Montreal Jazz Festival at 10 pm SHARP!! (Seriously, the jazz fest don’t play). For all you who already know his amazingness I doubt that I need to convince you to make it out but let’s just say I’m excited to be with you all on Wednesday to celebrate 10years+ of collective Narcissism. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the Man in the Mirror over the past few years is that he’s only a Narcicyst because he carries a piece of each of us in his soul and that kind of pride can only come out as Narcissism.
Narcy Beaucoup Yassin!
We look forward to more of you wherever you are.
Ce n’est qu’un Au Revoir.
Proof that this man loves us back:
”Le procédé” from Obia le Chef & El Cotola is an 11 track hip-hop opus from the montreal duo in the tried and tested one MC (Obia) & one producer (El Cotola) format. In the tradition of such bonafied classics as Rakim & Eric B’s Paid in Full or DJ Polo & Kool G Rap’s Wanted Dead or Alive, Obia and Cotola deliver an EP that is thoroughly solid from start to finish. Some have compared this great record to Nas’ seminal debut album Illmatic because of the quality over quantity aspect (the album tops out at 33 minutes of boombap) and lack of featurings (MTL MC L’Xtrmst.Zen is his AZ), however I would go further and argue that Obia is the closest Montreal has gotten to a franco incarnation of God’s Son. At times, Obia’s biting pince sans rire style can be as pretentious as this assertion. However, he backs it up with devastating lines and a bragadicious flow that perfectly complements Cotola’s incisive production. Nasir Jones took the rap world by storm with his cunning verses and painted a grimy picture of hood life using intellectual wordplay. Well if Nas is your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper, Obia is the undisputed French battle king, the most feared lyricist in Quebec. He lays down thoughtful tracks that cover important subjects such as police brutality (État Policier) and teen pregnancy (L’Histoire se Répète) while going after fake rappers (Je Sais) and even tackling the illmatic anthem (Le Monde T’Appartiens) switching it up on the sociopolitical tip. Whether it be storytelling,ego tripping or dropping knowledge, Obia consistently maintains a high octane delivery. But it’s more than ambitious song structures and subject matter that make Obia stand out, his lyrical arsenal includes explosive punchlines with a belle province flair (”c’est des tit-vierges comme Guillaume Lemay”) and complex rhyme schemes whose rich verses are punctuated by an encyclopedic array of references (Basil Parasiris,Summarian tables, Dahomey kingdom ) and verbs (”les bâtards titubent”). Throughout the album Obia manages to stay focused and razor sharp, he walks the fine line between egocentric bragging and insightful politickin’ and yet manages to have more than a few rewind moments and rhymes you get after the fact(”un triplex, ça c’est trois 3 1/2!”).
If illmatic had ten tracks this album has eleven if you count the instrumental track that manages to get a message about immigration across using only a beat and scratches (X immigrés). To say Cotola has deep beats would be an understatement. Obia killed it lyrically but its Cotola’s musicality that will keep you reaching for the repeat button. He has brought back the hard beat, deep cuts production style in a decade where synth led production has flooded the airwaves. Member of the instrumental hip hop collective Metazon (and new project agua negra) Cotola released a beat tape (twin obelisks) in 2009 that made the rounds in the underground Montreal scene. The futuristic thump of Le Procédé’s intro (featuring up n’ coming RnB signer P-Noyze) is an throwback to the sci-fi section of the second-half of that tape. However, Cotola then veers off in a totally different direction and delves into a wide array of sample sources from all over the map to lay down complex beat-scapes that are bangers from start to finish. From the asian tinged meditative Focus to dramatic string stabs and a recurring vocal sample on Je Sais, Cotola brings the bass(Hein!?!),horns(Grosses Bastos), the drum breaks (T’as compris) with some psychedelic guitar licks for good measure and also let’s samples simply shine through (État policier). Cotola succeeds in balancing grimy moods with uplifting rhythms and sprinkles just enough interesting skits to keep things flowing, making the EP an end to end burner. It’s rare to hear a rap album that doesn’t only have a couple of hot tracks, instead this EP is a carefully crafted gem where both MC and producer equally shine. Indeed, the final track Le Procédé features an appearance by Cotola on the mic and announces the greatest conclusion: that the Procédé is only a prequel to the real album (set to drop this autumn) Le Théorème.
This is a strong Montreal record from a duo that truly represents this city’s wealth of diversity and depth of talent. Furthermore, it has benefited from an incredible series of videos the latest being one of my favorites the certified banger Grosses Bastos.
In fact, two of them were produced by Cotola himself (the album does at times have an almost cinematic feel to it) and edited by Obia. I have not heard such a complete album since the Narcicyst (S/T) and in many ways Obia has the same hunger, cynical spite and raw intelligence as the Iraqi Montreal MC (he used Cotola’s Volvi beat for one of his songs) add that to Cotola’s duro beats and you’ve got one the best franco rap records to come out of this city in a long time…so needless to say COP THAT!
Piece written by: Antoine-Samuel Mauffette Alavo
(New Member of the Say Word writing Fam. Keep your eyes peeled for more!)
This Week’s show was particularly huge!
As always we began with a quick Hip Hop News Feed so S/O to Sikk for her new website pacesix, Jjanice+ for his new video ‘Aléas’, Hala Alsalman for getting a spot at the New Port Beach film festival for her Film Bêtes Humaines, Simahlak for working with the guys from Lonely Island and dropping the beat for Spin the Globe, Sarah MK,The Narcycist and Nomadic Massive for landing spots at the Jazz Fest and last but not least BIG S/O to Karim Ouellet and Kaytradamus for landing spots at Osheaga!
We followed up with a talk spot about the political situation in Montreal which unfortunately seems to be awfully stagnant on the government’s part. To Lighten up the day though we had a great interview with Dr. Mad (Beat maker extraordinaire and member of Alaiz) about his current projects and trip to California which was followed another amazing interview with Aisha C Vertus where she also told us about their trip to Cali but mainly talked about the highly anticipated Piu Piu Documentary that she’s working on right now. It’s was a pretty epic episode so be sure to listen to it right here!
We also took the opportunity to RAVE about how great the new Dead Obies album ‘Collation vol.1’ and luckily for y’all we were able to book an interview with them this Thursday so be sure to tune in to CJLO 1690AM (www.cjlo.com) from 11-1pm.
Respects to Nik Brovkin for the great Piu Piu artwork
In honor of J Dilla’s Birthday we played a purely Dilla set today and talked a bit about his life and impact on the Hip Hop community.
We also had to the chance to get The Narcicyst on the phone lines to talk about the huge Mtl Hip-Hop conference happening on Feb.14th called ‘Slang Democracy Rap: Deciphering the Cypher’
Thank you Egypt for inspiring us all. Our Hearts, Minds and Fight stand with you.