In hip hop, James Owen Brown found a vehicle to express his voice in song but what he was saying oft wasn’t making it into the minds of the audiences in local bars. Looking to find receptive ears, the emcee, also known as the Poetically Organized Entity, ended up hooking up with a poetry group, the Burlington Slam Project, and found a different way to approach novel audiences.
“The BSP is a group of poets and a community of spoken word enthusiasts,” notes Brown. “When I started going to the BSP events, it was as a rapper. After watching the scene and the other poets, I started to evolve as a writer and performer. I learned to tackle topics and issues, I learned to cater to a different audience who was more willing to listen and actually dissect my writing. After a year of taking notes, I was able to make the team they send to the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word and as a team, we came in fifth in the nation. Rap was the reason I started but poetry was the reason I kept coming. I fancied myself a poet and wanted to prove to myself and to the community that I could be.
“I definitely find a more welcoming environment in the poetry community,” he adds. “I feel better received there and that's where I've been aiming my material lately. I never wanted to be catchy — I wanted to be brilliant. If the average concert goer can't keep up with me I'll put myself in front of people who can.”
POE’s newest disc, P.O.EvilUTION, features local dub step producer DJ Arum [Shane MacDonald] and offers a more pronounced attack with a more imaginative and perhaps literary vibe.
“Arum's very creative and has the ability to make all different types of music while at the same time keeping a hip hop flavor,” offers Brown. “I worked with his beats and I got to be very creative — my BSP experience definitely helped with that. I've reworked a few of my older tracks to work with his material and I feel like this is how they should have sounded in the first place from the get go. My content and themes are still pretty much the same. I'm still flexing my lyrical muscles but there is a bit more variety because of the creativity of Shane's beats — some are darker than others so I had to push myself to really get nasty or evil on a few tracks. I haven't forgotten my spoken word career on the CD either. I have a track that tells the story of a woman dealing with a husband with Alzheimer's disease and I revisited a track I wrote about my own father.”
POE combines the worlds of spoken word and hip hop for his CD release with the BSP. The event showcases both of his loves and is meant to bring both the BSP spoken word and his music to larger audiences.
“This event is a fundraiser to support the BSP's trip to the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word in Saskatoon competing against the best that Canada has to offer,” explains Brown. “There are five of us going as a team to represent the Burlington/Hamilton area so we need some extra help to cover our costs for the week. We won a provincial contest back in August making us the best in Ontario and I like our chances going in. BSP is a very strong and talented group of poets with a ton of experience under our belts. What sets us apart is our diversity as a team and our ability to be poetic and accessible at the same time.
“I haven't had many opportunities to perform my music for a spoken word audience and that's exciting,” adds Brown. “They've heard my poetry and I think they will be curious to see what my music is all about. My poetry is a very similar style to my rap lyrics so I think it will translate really well and that's why I liked the idea of fusing the two together. This show will be like all my shows. It's important because it's a release and in conjunction with BSP but I'm not doing anything different. The audience is definitely going to see some of the best poetry that Canada has to offer. I hope people will find it inspiring and different from what they're used to seeing on stages in Hamilton.”
P.O.E plays this Friday October 5 at the Lyric Theatre with the Burlington Slam Project, the Hamilton Youth Slam Poetry Team and more. Doors open at 7 pm and $12 gets you in. Find POE on facebook or click on burlingtonslam.wordpress.com
Let’s Talk About Adelleda
When we first met Adelleda, they were releasing their debut CDEP, Herkimer Street, and they hadn’t even played a live show yet. But the punk upstarts featuring Adam Shea (vocals), Steve Vos (guitar/vocals), Chris Allan (guitar), Kevin March (bass) and Simon Marshall (drums) have matured substantially over the last 18 months and it’s now time to examine the new CDEP, Let’s Talk About Adelleda.
“I recently listened to Herkimer Street and I was taken a back at how far we've come as a band since that recording,” confides Shea. “I guess we have really matured as musicians over the past 18 months. We still play a few of the tunes from that record in our live set but when we play them now they are literally twice as fast, and they seem tighter and flasher now.
“I don't regret recording an EP so early, but our new material is a better representation of who we are as a group,” adds the vocalist. “We learned a lot about the modern recording process when we recorded the Herkimer Street EP ourselves, live-off the floor, in my living room. This time around, we decided to record at Toneland Studio in Burlington, still live-off-the-floor but [producer] Lee [Buckland] was able to help us get some amazing takes. Lee has been in the local music scene for a lot of years and he's a big fan of skate punk so he knows what sound we are going for.”
Stronger, faster and with a resolved intent, Adelleda are more confident and competent with their attack and Shea and company are proud to be a part of the local growing underground scene that appreciates their music louder and faster.
“We have played gigs with many different types of bands, from punk to hardcore to metal,” offers Shea. “Our material is diverse enough to cater our set to the night. If it's a metal or hardcore night, we will play our heavier tunes. When we are the loudest band of the night, we'll go with more melodic skate-punk tunes. But it is hard trying to find our place to fit-in. There are tons of punk shows in Hamilton every week. A lot of bands are coming from out-of-town because they know that Hamilton has a solid scene. It's guys like Jamie Problem or the dudes from Hammer City Records who should be credited with organizing all these great shows.
For their hometown release, Shea will actually be inexplicably unavailable but Vos will handle the lead vocals for this out-of-the-ordinary showcase. Regardless of who might be leading the charge for Adelleda, they deal with adversity and adapt to the situation. It’s very Hamilton, and when talking about Let’s Talk About Adelleda, the chat often veers to the locale that spawned the band.
“Most of the songs we write refer to our lives in Hamilton, or the lives of various people we have come across,” explains Shea. “Our song ‘Champion’ was written specifically as an anthem for Hamilton. There are a lot of tough, hard-working people in this town, many of them have overcome extreme personal tragedies and still struggle on a day-to-day basis just to put food on the table. Hamilton can be a cold place, but the people who live here always find a way to make the best of it. It's in our genetics to keep fighting! They are proud to say they are from Hamilton even though live here has been hard.
“Our music carries a positive message. A lot of kids out there feel lost or alone in today’s world. Music has always been there for us when we are feeling down or lost. I feel that delivering a positive message is very important for our band, especially within the punk rock community. What’s with all the hate? Respect each other in the pit, and remember that we're all in this together. We all love punk rock music for the same reason - it makes life worth living.”
Adelleda play this Friday October 5 at the Casbah Lounge with Curbside, Giants Among Men, Rudiments, Davey Knight and more. Doors open at 9pm and $5 gets you in. Click on adelleda.com
It was around 1996 when L.J. Lavallee was inspired by the Beat Factory's Rap Essentials Volume One compilation CD and he immersed himself in hip hop. Lavallee embraced his childhood nickname Vision, or his alter ego Viktor Shade (both nods to his love of comic books and the Avengers), and became a budding emcee - helping to lead a hip hop collective our of east end Hamilton dubbed New North. But as the years progressed, Vision’s music did as well and this weekend, he offers his latest solo collection of rhymes, Grow.
“That Rap Essentials disc showcased only Canadian hip hop artists and it changed my world; it let know that I had talent in my own backyard and that I too could do it,” recalls Lavallee. “New North is something I am always going to be proud of, I helped form the group out of high school with my old classmate, 2n, but we kept adding new members and at one point we were like the Hamilton version of Wu Tang. We were inspired by our community people like Fresh Pro and Eklipse, we were all young and hungry, New north was involved in some of the best hip hop shows in Hamilton in the mid 2000s. But back in 2008, I thought I needed to get better so I took time away from the stage and worked at honing my craft, a lot of people were busy making videos or logos for themselves while I was in the studio working on new rhyme patterns and tweaking instrumentals. I call my new release Grow because it’s exactly what I have done; I went from a loud mouth battle rapper to a real musician. I produce all my work, I record and edit everything myself, I had no idea how to do any of this I had to grow up a little and take it more seriously. It’s important we all grow.”
Vision’s commitment to developing as an artist shows in the tracks on Grow with a musical vibe that’s engaging enough to set toes to tapping and enough lyrical word play to bend your mind.
“I feel the songs should speak truths and have good times,” says Lavallee. “A lot of hip hop is just about partying, which is fun but there is more to life than that. I try to keep it a little abstract; I want people to have to dissect my lyrics so they catch the puns, the wordplay. It’s very, very important to me. I try to reach a broad range of subjects and emotions; I feel it’s crucial in relating to your audience.”
A decade in development, Lavallee is proud of how far hip hop has come in Hamilton and with his new release, hopes to add another solid voice to a growing community. Vision’s new collection of songs will be available electronically via his website this Friday and the following day, he debuts the tracks live.
“The local scene inspires me,” smiles Lavallee. “I get energy when I rhyme with people like Arcane and Lee Reed, I feel completely inspired watching Canadian Winter or seeing Hachey the Mouthpiece, I am in love with the Hamilton hip hop community it’s full of amazing people and I urge others to come check it out! Big ups to all the Steel Gold family. If you’re new to my music, but are a fan of hip hop, you owe it to yourself to see what is possible in your community. Come out and get inspired, Hamilton is on the verge of greatness, especially in the hip hop community there is so much talent I am thankful to have my place in it.
“And I personally still buy CDs all the time, but I know a lot of people do not, and at the end of the day I would rather just get heard then make a bit of money off CD sales,” adds the emcee. “I would love to get heard in cities I normally would not have a chance to, with the internet I might be able to go to these cities and do shows because of online downloads. Live shows are my favourite aspect of music. For the release party, I plan on bringing my ‘A’ game, this is a collection of my greatest work, I am very proud of this record and really want to share it with the world. My pen game is real, real sharp right now, and instrumentally I have never been better. Hopefully, we can all grow together with this record.”
Vision performs this October 6 at The Casbah with Es, Supa83, Lady ASG, The Phorce, The Demon, 3RD SUN, DJ Kryme Won and more. Doors open at 9pm and $8 gets you in.
Click on www.viktorshade.com V