Alison: “Hey everybody, how’s it going? Hey Chase!”
Chase: “It’s good to see you.”
Alison: “It’s good to see you too.”
Chase: “I know we talked to you last year about this, but for anyone who wasn’t listening last year, why are you here and what’s your involvement?”
Alison: “I am always here for the same reason, and I’ve been coming out before there WAS a march in Toronto. We have been sharing the message that not only do we want cannabis legalized and regulated here in Canada for EVERY possible reason: religious, medical, social, anything you can think of. Cannabis needs to be legalized and regulated once and for all, and today is the day we speak about that.”
Chase: “Definitely. Yeah, so there are lots of people out today. It’s a nice sunny day. Everyone is out to support it, and for a lot of different reasons.”
Chase: “One of your reasons is medical.”
Alison: “You bet. I am actually one of Canada’s first medical marijuana patients and have been since 1994, and I find that I need some help here in the country because I choose medical marijuana long before there was such a thing as medical marijuana and I end up, luckily, getting a lot of people to understand what I was talking about because they too were finding the same thing with cannabis and it was a good reason to get away from pharmaceuticals and use something a little more natural, a little safer. So I have been fighting for the right for people to use medical marijuana here in Canada since, like I said, openly since about 1999 – 2000, but again I have had my own license since 1994. Been going for a long time Chase!”
Chase: “Yeah, definitely. And the Toronto Freedom Festival has been going for a long time too right?
Alison: “This is the thirteenth year!”
Chase: “But we have had some problems with it this year. I know we here at DOPEfm did not really know what was going on or who was going to be here. The permits weren’t available-”
Alison: “Yeah, it was canceled completely at one point till Tommy Chong saved the day for us in California.”
Alison: “I don’t know if people know about that. There was a big YouTube Toronto Freedom Festival video with Tommy Chong which is absolutely hilarious.
Alison: “Tommy is the man, I’m telling you, and he is one of the reasons we saved the Toronto Freedom Festival this year here in Canada, and the Global Marijuana March.”
Chase: “Wow! Do you think that there will be a problem with it next year?”
Alison: “Absolutely not, we are not going anywhere – can’t you tell – I have heard one guesstimate of thirty thousand people and that was around one o’clock. And you know what I heard too? That a lot of people are getting ready if they are not already going out on the march. The march started at 1:45 and they said the park was to be empty and there are probably about fifteen thousand people minimum that I can see alone when I look out now, and apparently there is a good chunk of them again, but I did see the first group leave for the march about twenty minutes ago.”
Chase: “Yeah, I think there are a couple of waves, about three or four waves of marchers going out.”
Alison: “There are about three or four waves just to reduce the numbers because there are so many people again this year. Chase, it’s unbelievable. It gets bigger and bigger every year. We are not going away. We are not going to stop spreading the message that this isn’t fair to arrest non-violent drug offenders. It’s not fair.
I also wear another hat, I’m a speaker for LEAP Law Enforcement against Prohibition and I have been trying to legalize and regulate all drugs for the last, probably, two decades. I am not a noble person. I am 47 years old, and I have been fighting this for a long long time and I need you guys to step up and take the reins now. I’m in a wheelchair and I’ve been fighting every day of my live. My health, battling chronic progressive Multiple Sclerosis, and a violent pain in my face 24 hours a day that I rarely get relief from unless I have copious amounts of cannabis. So we need you guys, Chase, for sure.“
Chase: “I know a lot of people out there, like me, who don’t smoke and don’t participate in that culture are actually really surprised. When I came here last year, I was actually a little bit scared.”
Alison: “I bet.”
Chase: “I didn’t know what was going to happen-”
Chase: “Everybody here, I swear, is super friendly.”
Alison: “Exactly – fabulous people”
Chase: “Fabulous people.”
Alison: “Cannabis culture is a culture of its own. These people are not thieves, they’re not drug addicts, they’re not bad people in any way. We are people that love each other, we love this plant, and we love the earth we live on. We want people to live in harmony and we want people to get welcomed. That is all we all want.”
Chase: “Yeah, so, it’s pretty cool to see that. I mean, that kind of breaks – I mean I know some people have images and stereotypes.”
Alison: “They sure do!”
Chase: “And why they want to say, ‘Oh it’s a drug! Let’s shut it down, let’s jump on that! And really, as far as harmful effects go, I mean, just like anything there are some-”
Alison: “I’d like to know what you found.”
Chase: “But there is a lot more harmful stuff-”
Alison: “I have a website called the Medical Marijuana Mission that we have had over 50 million visitors to from all over the world disputing that garbage our governments all around the world have been telling us – the lies about cannabis and other drugs.
What I would like people to know is that drugs are not harmless in any way, but that some drugs are maybe a little more beneficial than some. Not only medically, but as I said, some people use cannabis for example religiously, a lot of people smoke it socially.
What I am trying to do, I’m also a retired law enforcement officer, and what I am trying to do again is trying to get these drugs all regulated and legalized and all given an age limit and given an umbrella to be put under so that basically children won’t have access to them the way they do now.
As it stands now, when I became a medical marijuana patient a number of years ago here in Canada, I had nowhere to go but the street for my medicine and children were the first ones to offer me help. That is wrong and that caused me serious serious doubt about our country.”
Chase: “Yeah, that’s pretty scary.”
Alison: “It is pretty scary.”
Chase: “The access kids have to things. I’m an elementary school teacher and a student in grade 5 this year got suspended because she brought some cannabis in.”
Alison: “I’m not surprised.”
Chase: “Where does she get it from? I’ve seen grade 8’s before hiding over there-”
Alison: “Yeah, you bet.”
Chase: “So, the kids have access to this stuff already.”
Alison: “Faster and easier than medical patients who are licensed like myself Chase. That’s terrible! That’s not acceptable in my country. Not at all!”
Chase: “Yeah, but the other interesting thing here is that I see kids here. There are some families here at the festival today.”
Alison: “Yes there are! And we say, bring your children and make them understand. Drugs are not all for social use, and at LEAP we don’t ever condone the social use of any drug. I happen to be a medical patient and I have, yes, tried cannabis before when I was younger, but I would not have been able to have my career in law enforcement if I had kept with it. I decided to put that aside while I was getting older to work on my carrier in law enforcement and then I got sick and everything came back in full force to me and full circle, so much so that all of a sudden I had to use cannabis and couldn’t go without it, and then my job was in jeopardy. So what did I do?
I had to retire because of my health, but to this day I probably couldn’t go back to my job in correction, as a corrections officer, as I was for over a decade in Canada, because of using and choosing cannabis as medicine and not being able to go without it anymore. Mainly because that’s my choice, I don’t want to take all the pharmaceutical drugs they want me to take. I can go back to work if I took all my pills, but then I couldn’t even work so what would be the point?”
Chase: “Yeah, because they weren’t as effective right?”
Alison: “Right, not barely. I’ve got a violent pain in my face, Chase, that I have 24 hours a day. I doesn’t go away. I’ve had it for 19 years and I get no relief unless I use copious amounts of cannabis all the time, including morphine, I can’t get away from using morphine and cannabis, but I can use far less morphine if I use cannabis. And I also was able to eliminate over 32 other pills that I took, for 18 years, Chase, that got me up to over 50 pills a day at one point. So, now I no longer take all those pills, I just use a lot of cannabis and morphine and basically that’s it. So that was a real turn around in my life.”
Chase: “That’s really interesting, because, I know myself I’m kind of straight edge .”
Alison: “Right, that’s cool though.”
Chase: “If I have a headache I don’t take a Tylenol.”
Alison: “That’s very cool.”
Chase: “But some part of me thinks that all the drugs that the doctors prescribe are not necessarily a great thing for people to be having. And it sounds like you needed quite a lot for a long period of time.”
Alison: “Chase, if I stood up now I have the most violent shake in my right leg, from medication that I can’t get rid of. The doctors tell me that it may go away, but that’s what I live with. I had medication that kept me in a wheelchair, and you saw at one point, my head and neck shook so violently that it went from one of those little puppy dogs in the back of a car window.”
Chase: “Oh, wow.”
Alison: “Because every time I went to talk with my head shaking, I could not control it until somebody stopped and held my head because it was that uncontrollable, but that’s the way Multiple Sclerosis works. I have also gone blind from it; I have gone deaf from it for over a year in one ear, everything you can think of. I lost full feeling from the waist down, could not walk at all years ago. I’m walking again because of the vitamins, fatty acids, antioxidants, and cannabis that I rely on now that are all natural therapies, instead of 32-50 pills a day that the doctors gave me for 18 years.”
Chase: “That’s awesome!”
Alison: “It’s unbelievable!”
Chase: “When I first rolled through here today I saw you walking around and I was like IS THAT Alison? Because that’s really cool to see!”
Alison: “You better believe it – I’m getting better and better every year, the more I use cannabis the more I can stand on my feet. I used to dance up a storm all the time, I can’t dance as much as I used to anymore but I’ll tell you, I’ll never stop dancing in my head.”
Stranger: “Alison, this is for you here” (hands her a bag)
Alison: “Awwww, thanks, thank you. People are so fabulous here, I’m telling you.”
Chase: “Yeah, everyone is really friendly at Toronto Freedom Fest here.”
Alison: “We’re all loving and giving and a lot of us know each other and love each other and a lot of us have been working a lot of years on this all over the world Chase. I don’t just do things in Canada. As you know, LEAP is Law Enforcement Against Prohibition whom I speak for as well is a US organization and I just got asked to speak for another US organization involved in protecting patients, which is a really cool organization. Involved are a couple of us from LEAP.
One of the fellows who started it is named Nate Bradley, and he is a younger guy than I am, and basically he decided as a law enforcement officer that maybe there was some truth to the fact that those of us up in Canada and other places where using marijuana to feel better and it was working. So he tried it and now he has started this group called Men Protecting Patients because of it. So I am one of their now most vocal spokespeople again, so I wear a lot of hats, I love it!”
Alison: “I’ve been busy!”
Chase: “Yeah, it’s interesting to see how certain law enforcement, and even teaching styles I know are kind of changing became we see that there is a different way to do things.”
Chase: “You know, just because we always did it this way doesn’t necessarily mean we should continue to do it that way.”
Chase: “You know, there are better ways to reach people and to communicate certain messages. I know the same thing has been happening with gang violence.”
Alison: “You bet it has.”
Chase: “If we can get those kids to do something-”
Chase: “Productive and positive-”
Alison: “And keep them busy-”
Chase: “And giving them programs so that they don’t fall into that kind of thing.”
Alison: “You bet.”
Chase: “And then we have these kinds of education and different things. You speak really intelligently and with such purpose about this.”
Alison: “I am very passionate about my fight, I really am. At one point it was only me and my partner Gary Lynch, the two of us were out roaming the streets literally on our own everywhere we went. You know, we came to Toronto and said we could make more noise in Toronto and we got that spark right away.
When I came out of the media I went to the local media in Toronto, not where I live in Burlington. Burlington is a great little town, I love that city I should say, wonderful city, but I knew I would get national attention if I came out about medical marijuana in Toronto. I knew that, Chase, and that’s the thing I wanted, I wanted to make every single household all over the world by the time I was done, have medical cannabis or marijuana as a topic on their table at dinner. I wanted everybody talking about it, and we have done nothing ever since but make it grow larger than we could have ever imagined. All over the world.”
Chase: “Wow, amazing. Toronto certainly is a force and it is kind of cool that you being from Burlington and us being from Hamilton, that we are a hop, skip ,and a jump from here, so we can tap into that.”
Alison: “Toronto is a hub.”
Chase: “We can really use our location.”
Alison: “We sure can, especially with the media though Chase, because the media is the message remember. The kids need to know too – all you guys who are listening out there – this issue is so important to people like me. Look us up on some of these forums that we are on, check me out on Twitter, I’m Alison Myrden. Check it out, go out there and know what you are talking about when you go to talk about this at school and to your friends and to your family. I want you to also check out another really incredible group, a young fellow who was out with me last year who I am kind of sad isn’t here this year, Caleb Chepesiuk.”
Alison: “Caleb is from students for sensible drug policy. A lot of you guys know of him out there in radio land for sure. Caleb has actually been a driving force behind the Students for Sensible Drug Policy Group here in Canada and actually speaks very openly and very publicly about the issue that would concern a lot of the students that you have listening in.”
Chase: “That group is also on Twitter.”
Alison: “And we are on Twitter, I mean they are, they are also I know at McMaster, UofT, and Ottawa. There are some bigger city’s starting first, there may be other groups that I’m not aware of that involve students for sensible drug policy here in Canada, but again, I’m just kind of running with one’s off the top of my head right now. But I know Ottawa is the biggest one and that’s where it started here in Canada, the Canadian students for sensible drug policy, check them out for sure.”
Chase: “Yeah and anyone listening back there, just dig through our archives and you can listen to that interview from last year.”
Chase: “That was pretty good talking to Caleb last year as well.”
Alison: “Good. Also, just to let you know, for educators like yourself, Chase this is very important, there is another group called Educators for Sensible Drug Policy and I would love for you to check them out. They actually might give you a real eye-opener if you are an educator out there or a professor or somebody listening in who teaches students of any kind, check them out: Educators for Sensible Drug Policy, a real real fantastic alternative to something that is really harmful like DARE.”
Alison: “Seriously, check them out. I think you will be really pleased and really really surprised.”
Chase: “Very cool, Awesome. Well, it is always a pleasure talking to you and seeing you around, so thanks for taking the time.”
Alison: “Always my pleasure darling, always my pleasure.”
Chase: “Awesome, and we’ll get back to Daddy J now, I know he’s got some stuff from the main stage that he is going to air. Bands are playing in the background but we got some speakers coming up and you will be able to listen to them.”
Alison: “Beautiful, stay tuned you guys, you ain’t herd nothing yet! Thanks again Chase, take care Daddy J. We will be in touch.”
Chasing Content is a monthly feature here on Silent Cacophony.
This is how it works, at the start of each month I look back at the blog entries I posted the previous year in that month and highlight some of my favourites. This gives us a chance to dig through the old posts and unearth some gems that might otherwise get buried in the archives.
This page will be the table of contents of all of these “Best Of” posts.
I will update this page every time I post a new Chasing Content entry. It is my goal to archive every single month.
I hope you will take some time to dig through the archives.
We just played the track ‘Third Eye.’ That was my first taste of Kellee Maize who, I believe, is the number one female rapper on Amazon right now. It’s nice to see that you have such an online presence. I’ve even seen a few freestyle videos where you are in a cypher with a whole crew. It’s nice to see a female rapper spitting like that and being able to form that kind of a community. So, do you find that there are barriers being a rapper and being a female?”
Kellee: “I think if you had asked me that a couple years ago when I really started performing heavily, I might have said that. Over the last four years, I’ve probably done 200 shows. I’m not really sure how many, it feels like a ton. Most of those shows were in Pittsburgh and it felt like I was always being booked with men.
A lot of the times, I was really connected myself because I am a natural promoter. I know everyone and I’m always connecting with a lot of different people so I would hear about opportunities, I think, just because I was a promoter and they were, ‘Oh, she’ll help us bring people,’ or whatever it may be. That’s not to say that I haven’t been respected for my craft. It just seemed that I was one of none that were out there.
There are a couple promoters out here and there are some amazing female emcees in Pittsburgh and I slowly started to learn about them. But at the same time, I think the reason that some of them aren’t quite as active is that it is still sort of a man’s game. In general, the promoters who are doing the shows are still, by and large, men.
To me, I look at something like that and I believe you just got to study, create it, and look passed it. It’s not necessarily an issue. You don’t have to see it as a problem. You just need to create whatever it is you’re going to do.
But in the past, I definitely would have thought that like, ‘Why is it so difficult to be a woman in this scenario?’ And obviously, if you look at the main stream, until Nicky Minaj, there was nothing. There had been Lil Kim, Foxy, and ten years ago there seemed to be a little bit more, but even then the ratio is still pretty heavy on the male side.
It’s been more difficult and I have probably 20 theories as to why that is. But at this moment in time, if a woman is really passionate and serious, she can make it happen. You hear people say, ‘Oh, if you’re a woman and you’re not good, you’re immediately dismissed.’
But the same thing happens with men. If you can’t rhyme or you can’t hook people’s attention or don’t have content that anyone is interested in, it doesn’t matter if you’re male or female, you probably won’t get anywhere. But at the same time, those people would argue listening to main stream hip-hop,’How are some of the main stream artists really getting anywhere with the content and the style that they use?’ It’s all a conversation. To me, it is just about creating whatever it is you want to create.”
Chase: “Very cool. I want to spin another one of your tracks that I find amazing too. I want to play ‘Revival of the 5th Sun’ because you are rapping over Mobb Deep but I really like what you do on the track. If you know the original and you rap it in your head, the same time that you’re listening to you rap it, you have the same cadence with different words and a very different message than the original track. I want out listeners to hear it and feel the vibe you got going on that one.”
Kellee: “Cool, thank you.”
Chase: “So, we’ll spin that track and we’ll be back to wrap us this interview with Kellee Maize.”
Chase: “That was ‘Revival of the 5th sun’ by Kellee Maize. I don’t know what that title means but I really like that track.”
Kellee: “Depending on who you talk to, in terms on Mayan Scholars that talk about the 2012 propehcies, the Mayan calendar and whatnot. Some say that we are in the 4th sun and we’re entering the 5th sun. Some say we’re in the 5th sun and we’re starting a new series. There are 5 suns in the Mayan calendar and each represents a certain period of 5,000 years. One sun is 5,000 years – I don’t want to get too complicated.
I actually chose the 5th sun because ever since I learned about the Mayan prophecies, I have been told that we are in the 5th sun. There is such this fear that the world is going to end, but really the Mayan prophecy just says that there is a new world coming and that the structural systems that are in place are going to fall apart. But in my opinion, that is already happening. The world isn’t going to end. The emergence of using totally different parts of our brains and the consciousness of separation is changing to a consciousness of unity.
As humans, we really need to feel the separation at its worst imaginable place to come to unity. In a nutshell, that is what it means but it’s a it more complicated. I think that we are exiting the 5th sun, but either way the title still works.”
Chase: “Well, I’m hoping we can build a culture of inclusion instead of exclusion. It seems to me that society is pretty adversarial these days, just the way people talk to each other and the reality TV shows that seem to be really popular. It seems like going away from where we should be going and talking about unity, and peace, and love, and all the things you talk about in your music. That is one of the reasons I find it refreshing to listen to you.”
Kellee: “Good! I’m glad. I’m hoping I can presence people to that because it really is there. If you look and really focus your attention on love and turn off the TV and turn off a lot of the things that are bombarding us with fear. There are definitely things happening. The other side is very strong and there’s a very serious change that needs to be made. We are gonna feel both sides of the mirror, so to speak, but for me, I really intend my music to be a vehicle for people to rally themselves in the face of agreement in the whole world.”
Chase: “For sure. So, how can people find out more about Kellee Maize?”
Kellee: “Well, the easiest way is to Google ‘female rapper,’ I actually come up first – KelleeMaize.com. I worked on that for a long time. You can download my music for free. You can also search for me on Amazon. I’m obviously on Facebook and pretty much any imaginable portal for music, if you can remember my name or Google ‘female rapper’ you’ll find me.”
Chase: “Thanks a lot. It has been a pleasure to have you on DOPEfm. We will continue to spin your music. Thanks so much for calling us up.”
Kellee: “Thank you so much, I really appreciate your invitation. I think it is awesome what you guys are doing, so keep it up.”
Chase: “All right everybody, this is Chase March and we are lucky enough to have Kellee Maize on the phone. You can download this interview for free, stream it with the player below, or continue reading. So, how’s it going Kellee?”
Kellee: “It’s going great. Thank you.”
Chase: “I’m really excited about having you on the show because I first caught wind of you when I was looking for female rappers online for a show we put together on International Women’s Day.
I saw your video for ‘Third Eye’ and I was really blown away by it. I was really impressed with it. It’s a little bit different than what a lot of people might be expecting from a female MC because you have this spiritual essence that you portray in a lot of your music. I was wondering if you’d like to tell us what that is about and where that comes from?”
Kellee: “It’s kind of my way of life. I, more or less, write about what is present for me at the time, whenever I am writing. I try to be connected to my spiritual, higher self. It’s been a huge part of my life for the past ten years or more. I’m really just writing from what I am learning every day and what I living every day.”
Chase: “Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process, about how you go about writing your songs?”
Kellee: “I would say that it’s different every time, every song is a little different. Generally, the process is, 70% of the time, I get a beat that I like from a producer, or sometimes we actually buy beats online, it depends. And I will just sort of listen to it, over and over and over again, along with all of the other beats that are in my catalogue at the time.
Something happens. Maybe I’m driving to it or I just have it in my head for the rest of the day and something will just spark. I’ll think of a line or two lines, sometimes even 16 bars or 32 will come out from the middle of nowhere. That happens pretty frequently.
Once that happens, then I will sit down with the shell, the one verse, the hook, or something like that, and construct a song and write to the rest of it.
It’s somewhat of an editing process. A lot of what you hear when you hear the completed song is really the first draft. It was kind of what came out. But sometimes once I put it to the beat and I record it, I might switch things up, or changes certain words, realize my diction was a little off, or I’ll want to really focus on a certain idea that wasn’t mature enough in the first draft.
Most of the time, I am writing as fast as I am thinking. It is somewhat of a freestyle in a way. It sort of all comes out.
I write pretty consistently in notebooks. I’ll just be sitting there and out of nowhere think of a bunch of bars, a melody or something like that. I’ll type it in the computer of write it in my book. Once I’ve done that, I go back to it, review it, maybe memorize it, and then I’ll go look for a beat that specifically will fit that melody so that I can re-create the melody a little bit or re-create the way that I am spitting it to the beat.
That’s probably the two main ways. My preference has been to write with a band like I have done in the past. I really love that process of working with live musicians. But, given the status and state of my life and all that I’ve been doing in the world, it’s been a bit of a challenge, at least until this point, to work with a group of live musicians all at once. It’s really do to scheduling.
There are tons of talented musicians in Pittsburgh but they’re all really busy. So, for now, I am just working with me.
Once one of those two ways happen, I record it to the beat and then I work with my recording engineer and my mixing engineer, who is usually the same person, to finalize it, put on some effects, change up the beat, rework the beat or whatever to make the final song. We usually will then send it to get mastered depending on what we are using it for, and then it goes out the door.”
Chase: “You do a lot more that just music. You have a whole foundation, don’t you?”
Kellee: “I started a company about five years ago. It’s more or less female owned and operated, although we do have men that work with us also now. We`re a marketing firm and we`re all sort of activists at heart. We are all into raising awareness or creating positive messages.
We started to really promote independent artists, musicians, and filmmakers, and very quickly realized that we couldn`t really sustain ourselves off of that so we became a full service marketing firm. We work with all kinds of different clients, locally and nationally. We`re still a small outfit overall. We work really, really, really hard to do what we do.
It’s all non-traditonal marketing. We don’t do radio or TV or anything like that. We do online marketing, event planning, and event marketing. We’re all event planners by trade, sort of speak. We also do Facebook and run accounts for different clients and stuff like that. As well as street teams, we will hire different girls or guys to go out and promote different products and become brand ambassadors for all kinds of different things.
It’s definitely like my little baby that is kind of walking and running on its own. I’m just watching it grow, slowly but surely. It’s pretty cool.”
Chase: “That’s awesome! It’s nice to see you’re focused on females as well. Quite often female rappers get overlooked or they don’t get the kind of recognition that their male counterparts do. It’s a shame to see that because there are so many amazing female rappers out there and they are just not getting heard. So it is nice to see you putting some force behind that.”
Kellee: “Yeah, I’m trying. Trying different things. In a way, the business is spiritually based. We don’t necessary use it in a public fashion but in the way we run the business and how we talk to each other and how we deal with issues or problems comes from a spiritual perspective.
My music is something we all felt excited about promoting and seeing how people would respond to it. It’s been pretty awesome so far.”
Chase: “One of the interesting things you do, is give away your music, like all of your music. I know some people do a mixtape and then an album, but if you go to your website, you can download all of your music for free. That is quite different from what most people tend to do.”
Kellee: “We’re trying to do what nobody else does. That’s one of the ways that we determine what to do next, like, ‘Okay, what’s nobody else doing?’ The record industry has completely changed so our main goal is to just give it away for free.
For me, as an artist, I love the idea of it being accessible to everyone. There is not any kind of roadblock for them to listen or have it in their possession. I love that idea. It was a hard decision to come to because as an artist, I have to value my work, I have to get paid for my time and my work, but at the same time, I was so psyched about the idea of having it for free.
It became somewhat of a marketing strategy at the end of the day, because I think when people resonate with something, it doesn’t usually happen until they’ve been exposed to it. You don’t buy the car without test driving it. The same thing goes with new music, like you’ve never heard anything like it before.
You need to get yourself centred into what it is you’re listening to. By giving it away for free, I’m giving them that opportunity and the people that dig it, dig it, and people that don’t, don’t. Hopefully IO can build a community of like-minded people who do like it. And then eventually I’ll be able to sustain myself selling a song a month or touring, that kind of stuff.”
Chase: “That’s an interesting model and an interesting way to take it. I know that you have recently released a few songs with ‘Pay with a Tweet” where you put it on Twitter, ‘I just downloaded Kellee Maize and you can too,’ or something like that. That’s another good way to get the music out there.
It’s interesting to see how you are using the Internet in all these novel ways. The other thing is that your music videos are very well producing. It’s amazing to see that you can have that much quality to them when you give away your music for free.”
Kellee: “We’ve just been really lucky with everything. For me, this is much bigger than music or money. What I talk about in my music, I’m dead serious about it, or alive serious about it. I really am. I believe that there is transformations going on in the planet and it is very important for humanity to take it to the next level.
So, yeah, we’ve been creating visuals, free music, and all of that kind of stuff. It’s really important, we thing, to getting it out there and people paying attention to it. If you look at blogs, or people like yourself who are interviewing me or paying attention, the videos are really, int 80% of the time, seem to be what initially got people’s attention. Once we realized that a video was what was making people pay attention, we got really serious about it.
The cool thing about Pittsburgh is that is is really inexpensive to live here. If I told you what I live off of every month, you’d probably laugh. It’s a great place to live, and the cost of living is so low, and there is so much opportunity here, and there’s so many talented people. A lot of movies have been filmed here. We are covered in colleges and universities.
So there is all kinds of young, aspiring people like myself that have the same vision that I do. They want to get their work out there. They want people to get their message or see their artistic integrity get out in the world so they are willing to work with me for incredibly cheap prices so we can make it happen.
I barter like it’s my job. I really think that it is something that anybody can do. It’s just a matter of committing that this is going to happen. It’s all about creating reality and saying, ‘Okay, this is what’s gonna happen, and I’m gonna focus on the work that will make that happen, and it’s all going to work out.’”
Chase: “That is really cool to see. I know a lot of people say, ‘This is the way you gotta do it. And I’m gonna charge $20,000 dollars for a music video and I’m gonna charge this and that.’ Well, why can’t we work together to get the same vision out. It;s cool to see you combating that kind of thing and really making it work.”
Kellee: “I’ve created all kinds of new friendships and the videographers I’ve worked with. Everyone in all of my videos are friends. I’ve created a community out of everything.”
Chase: “Nice. It’s time to spin one of your tracks. I really love ‘Third Eye.’ It’s one of my favourites. I want to spin that for sure and then come back and talk to you some more.”
Kellee: “Sounds good.”
Chase: “All right, so this is ‘Third Eye’ by Kellee Maize off her album ‘Aligned Archetype.’ Daddy J drop that track and we’ll be right back.”
“Work to Learn – The person who does the work is the ONLY one who learns.”
I can’t take any credit for creating this motto. That goes to Harry K. Wong. When I discovered this quote his the amazing book, The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher, I set to work right away at creating a poster to help inspire my students.
If a student whines about having to do work, I walk over to the poster, tap it, and read the motto aloud. I often tell my class that we do our work to get better and to improve ourselves. I also add that I don’t assign any work to them that I wouldn’t, or haven’t already, done.
School work isn’t merely a waste of time. I make sure to teach to a sense of purpose, to let my students know why we are doing the particular work that we do each and every day. I try to relate our classwork to the real world.
I like to use Tony Hawk as an example. He had to put a lot of work into his sport and craft. He learned how to do tricks that no one had ever attempted before. He learned all of that through hard work. He didn’t just watch his friends skate or copy their moves. He put in the work and it paid off. He is now the most recognized and accomplished skateboarder in the world.
School work isn’t as exciting as skateboarding. Not by a long shot. But there are still all sorts of ways it can pay off. Learning as much as you can will help you in life. I guarantee it.
So go out there, put in the work, and learn something new. You’ll be surprised at how far it will take you.
This is one of 19 access points to The Walter Bean Trail. It is located on Homer Watson Boulevard and is only a few minutes from Highway 401.
Running through Waterloo, Kitchener, Cambridge, Woolwich and North Dumfries, the trail provides easy access to more than 25 per cent of the Grand River’s 290-kilometre watershed.(City of Kitchener)
The Marguerite Omston Trailway runs for a kilometer or so and then seems to end at a small park at the edge of the road.
But once you cross the street, the trail continues along the Grand River.
Walter Bean was a business and community leader who believed in contributing to the welfare of area residents. He championed the vision of a public hiking trail along the Grand River. Following Walter’s death, his many friends took up his challenge and in 1998 formed The Walter Bean Grand River Community Trails Foundation. To make his vision a reality, this non-profit fundraising corporation has partnered with the cities of Cambridge, Kitchener, Waterloo and the Township of Woolwich to build and maintain a recreational trail.(Walter Bean Trail website)
Construction is underway to upgrade the Kitchener Wastewater Treatment Plant. Not the nicest thing to find alongside a nature trail, but it is a part of life, I suppose.
I’m not sure what this small building is, but it must be part of the sewer treatment plant somehow.
Finally, a hill to run up. Up until now, the trail has been mostly flat.
At the top of the hill, I found a side trail that I decided to run down.
I like these small trails where it feels like I am the only human in the large forest.
The side trail was well worth the trip as it gave me a great view of the Grand River.
This trail goes on and on but I had already been running for about 15 minutes at this point. So I turned around and ran all the way back to the community trail sign. My time was 27:51 and since I know my regular pace is about 4 minutes per kilometer, I ran roughly 7 kilometers today.
So far, the first half of June has been great. It’s been a bit hectic at school as we race to the finish line to complete the final assignments and all the other tasks teachers have to do at this time of year.
So why not pause today to take a moment to look back at some of the great moments from this month three years back?
It’s time for “Chasing Content,” that monthly feature where we dig through the archives like an historian going through an important record, which of course, Silent Cacophony is.
Different Roles We Play – I think that most people can admit to the truth behind this metaphor. It is brilliant and reveals a lot in its sheer simplicity. We do play different roles in this life and perhaps, as such, we are all characters in several different but interlocking stories. Something to think about, isn’t it?
I’m Not Ready – There are so many things that we simply cannot be 100% ready for. My advice is just to jump in and do it. No more excuses.
Survived By Stuff – My first short story since I embarked on this writing life. Please give it a read and let me know what you think.
Stealing Lines – I think borrowing lines from older rap songs is a lazy process that needs to be retired. It used to be cool to pay homage to an artist or pioneer by copying a short line here or there in a new song. This practice is so watered down now that we truly need a footnote system to keep it all in line. Either that, or we can just stop stealing lines.
The Ultimate Question We seem to be constantly striving for a reason or purpose to our existence. I think one author had a great take on this topic. Once again, I am holding up a work of fiction and interpreting it in ways that might seem improbable to men of science or religion. Yet, I think that we can find a lot of truth in the humanities. As such, we owe it to ourselves to explore all the great writing of our time.
Colourful Language – It seems like the unwritten laws of acceptability change all the time. Is it okay to say “damn” now? Can you say “hell” or do you have to use the less offensive “heck?” And is a euphemism actually any better than the word you substituted?
I have admired Maestro Fresh Wes since I first heard his iconic hit “Let Your Backbone Slide” way back in 1989. I have every album he ever dropped since then.
When Built to Last came out nearly ten years later, I caught him in concert. It was a pleasure to see Canadian Hip-Hop Royalty. Maestro put down an amazing show and surprisingly, even gave some time to the fans afterwards.
As you can see, the marker was starting to get a bit worn out and faded, but I got an autograph from Canada’s first hip-hop superstar, Maestro Fresh Wes.
I actually met again a few weeks back at the Stylus DJ Awards. He was being inducted into the Hall of Fame for his lifetime achievements in hip-hop and entertainment. Here is a small clip from that award show.
Stay tuned to this blog next week for the coverage we did for DOPEfm at this year’s Stylus DJ Awards. We were there on the red carpet and talked to quite a few amazing artists, producers, DJs, and MCs. It was a lot of fun!
More of My Autograph Collection
Eternia (a fellow Canadian MC who appears on more than a few tracks with Maestro)
The end of the year is always a busy time for teachers. I haven’t had the time to write a new Teaching Tip for you this week, so I decided to dig through the archives and repost this one from nearly four years ago. It’s a great game you can play with your class and it would work really well at your year-end class party.
My students really enjoy Classroom Deal or No Deal. The first time I played it, I didn’t have a Smartboard so I couldn’t use the website or one of the many online resources to play this game. Instead I just used a random number generator, the chalkboard, and a calculator (as a mock phone to the banker.)
After playing Deal or No Deal digitally with my class earlier this year, I must say that I prefer the low-tech way. It really allows me to ham it up.
Here’s how I prepared this game for the classroom.
First, I went to the Deal or No Deal website and copied down all the money amounts. Second, I found a random number generator on the Internet. Then I typed in all the money amounts into the generator and it produced the list you see below. I printed off the list and put it on my clipboard. On one side of the board I put up the chart of the money amounts like you see in the show.
I then drew 26 rectangles on the board and labelled them from 1 – 26. I asked the class to pick a suitcase. They picked case number 10. Ironically case ten held ten dollars. I didn’t tell them this, of course. I erased rectangle number 10 from the board and wrote it beside the number chart.
I then wrote the rounds on the board. Round 1 = 6 cases, 2 = 5 cases, 3 = 4 cases, 4 = 3 cases, 5 = 2 cases, 6 = 1 case, and every other round would also be one case to open.
I counted off the first six students by going up each row of desks. This way everyone knew where we would be stopping the first round. One by one I let the students pick a case. I then erased the chosen case from the board and the dollar amount it held from the chart. After we “opened” six cases, I pretended to talk to a banker by using a calculator as a phone. It was hilarious. I really hammed it up.
Each student had a piece of paper on their desk. If anyone liked the deal, all they had to do was write their name on the paper and bring it up to the front. I would then write the dollar amount under their name and stick it on the board. The point of the game was to come out with the most money at the end.
I had some students stop at round 2, 3, and 4, where the offers were $32 000, $64 000, and $99 000. It was exciting for everyone involved. By round 5 all of the big amounts had been knocked off and the offer fell. And just like on the show, I had students play all the way to the end and come away with the ten dollar prize.
The sole winner in the class was the person who took the deal of $99 000. I had three people tie for second place because they took the $64 000 deal and two students tied for third place. I think everyone really enjoyed the afternoon’s game. I know I sure did. I was surprised at how well it actually turned out.
I even gave out prizes for the winners. It was a lot of fun and something I now do with my class every year. Oh, and I forgot to mention, it even teaches probability (but school can just be fun sometimes, can’t it?)
Chase: “All right. We are back with Witness. If you missed the previous parts of this interview transcript, you can go back and read it now. You can also stream the entire show with the player below, download it for free, or just keep reading. Thanks for tuning in.
Chase: “So we just played ‘Sunburn’ by Witness. I love that track! (starts singing the chorus) Nah, I don’t need to start singing it.”
Witness: “Do it man. You can do it, you can do it. If you want to handle a chorus on the next record, you want to handle it?”
Chase: “I would love that.”
Witness: “It would be great man.”
Chase: “You know what would be really cool too. I have some really enthusiastic kids in my hip-hop club song at school. We’re learning a Nieve track right now. He gave us the instrumental and the lyrics to the track and we’ve been working on it.
It’s hilarious because I have about twelve girls in my hip-hop club at school and they are all 8 or 9 and they’re hammering out this underground hip-hop song.”
Witness: “That’s incredible.”
Chase: “You know what would be cool. I mean, I’d love to do a chorus or something on yours, but knowing that you’re a beatsmith, it would be really cool if you could give us a beat and we could do an original song.”
Witness: “You know what, man? I am so down. For people listening, you heard it hear first. It’s definitely gonna happen. I’d love that. Ya know, I’ve always thought about that. It’s something cool but unless you have some kind of hook up, it’s sort of weird. But you know it would be super-cool. I’d love that.”
Chase: “My hip-hop club is basically a choir except we learn rap songs instead of singing songs. The kids really love it. At first I had a huge group and then when the kids realized it was hard work, ya know, it’s hard to learn all those words and be on time, it kind of dwindled and dwindled. Now I have about a dozen girls in it, but you know what? They’ve got such a heart. It’s so cool, especially to see young girls involved in hip-hop. It’s pretty awesome. I’m impressed with this group.”
Witness: “It’ll be really interesting to see what happens when they grow up. That’s the kind of thing that when they grow up, some of them will hold on to it, some of them might lose it, but I bet that at least one of them will be real dope.”
Chase: “All right, if we’re going to do this, hopefully you can send me a track soon because we only have a month left of school now. It would be so cool to make something happen like that.”
Witness: “I definitely will. That’s a great idea! I love it!”
Chase: “Awesome. This is so cool. I love being on this show. All the connects on here. I never even thought I’d talk to you. It’s pretty cool when you write a blog post saying, ‘I love this album’ and then all of a sudden the artists is like, ‘Hey! Thanks for writing that.’”
Witness: “Yeah, that’s crazy dude. When I listen back to this, I’ll probably wonder why I was heavily reminiscing, but I started up in this when I was 15. I went on my first tour when I was 19 and the Internet was there, but the way to set up shows was still pretty iffy.
There were a lot of ways to do it. You were known on circuits that were basically old punk rock circuits. I told you I’d tell you a story. This story is not very crazy, but it gives you an idea of what we were going through.
We had a show in Providence, Rhode Island. It was my very first tour and I had no idea what I was doing. I was just stoked to be out there. Sage Francis helped set this show up and when we got there, they said, ‘Oh, we’re sorry.’ The promoter who set up the show was fired and your show has been replaced by Gothic Pajama Party.
We didn’t know what to do, and we barely had any money. Sage Francis ended up taking us out to lunch. He had just got back from playing Paid Dues and the Wu-Tang Reunion show that year. He was sitting at the table and asking who of us were rappers. That was just so surreal because I’d been listening to this dude since I was 16.
With the Internet now, you have everything at your finger tips that you previously never had. I mean, honestly, I don’t even remember how we set up that tour. I think, at the time, MySpace was just coming up. Sage Francis told us we should get on MySpace and we had no idea what it was.
But before then, the Rhymesayers dudes were all running the circuit. I saw Eyedea at a concert, I think it was in 2000, in Philly with like 50 people in the room. And oddly enough, every single one of those people I still talk to and about half of them are either doing really well for themselves in something related to hip-hop, or some of them are MCs that you listen to now, or some of them are making beats.
It’s kind of like everyone who is in this, has an opportunity to make something for themselves. You’re right. It’s kind of cool that you can write a blog article and next thing you know we are talking about making songs with a bunch of kids.
Chase: “Yeah, isn’t that hilarious?”
Witness: “It’s a cool thing man.”
Chase: “And for people out there putting in the hustle, I tried to get a rap career popping in the late 90s, and once again before the Internet was really viable and we could use it the same ways. If you look, I’m sure you could still find that out there somewhere, Like Nardwar says, ‘The Internet never forgets.’”
Witness: “Yeah, that’s true man. There’s definitely some Witness jams in some crevice of the Internet that I hope to never see again, ya know? That is the unfortunate part of the Internet. But like you said, anyone out there that is trying to do this, they only thing I can say man, is honestly, you shouldn’t stop.
I rolled with a bunch of dudes and honestly, you get older. You’ve got bills to pay, you’ve got some many things and responsibilities. I know so many talented bands and emcees that just had to stop. But I can assure you, I can promise you, from somebody who is out here in L.A. doing something they never thought they’d do, it’s not exactly my ideal but it’s a life experience.
And it would have never happened if I stopped doing this. And along that road, I assure you, some people are going to think you are crazy. People are going to think you’re irresponsible. But if you just keep doing it and you genuinely believe you can do it, you’ll actually make it work, and everyone will think they’re crazy for not following you in the first place.”
Chase: “Well, I can think of one example, right off the top of my head. Like I said, when I was trying to come up in the late 90s, we had the message boards and that was really the only way to promote yourself. I kept seeing this name Classified all over the place.
Classified is an Canadian MC and he just put out his 12th album but it was his 11th album that hit and made him a star.
Ya know, I quit, This guy kept going on and on and on. So there’s a testament right there about what you’re saying. If you have a passion for the music and you keep doing it and can put in that work, everyone else is gonna fall off, and it might just happen for you one day.”
Witness: “It’s true. And I’ll tell you right now, there’s no such thing as a debut album. It doesn’t exist. I probably made close to 15 – 16 albums. For the people who know me and know my music, for some of them there is only one, for some of them, there is three.
But, yeah, I’ve made 16 albums worth of songs and I’m still not there yet. I’ve got a long way to go. But also, you’re a great example too. If somewhere along the road you decide you don’t want to continue doing it, it also doesn’t mean that you can’t find something that you can do in this culture.
There is something that you can do in hip-hop culture, it’s just kind of a matter of what you want to do. I know it sounds like old-school television after-school special ‘never give up – trust your heart’ kind of thing but there is definitely truth about staying on the grind as long as you can and eventually people will start to take notice. And if not, worse come to worse, some of the best writers are those who didn’t get their due until well after they’d departed.”
Chase: “The weird thing is that I’m hip-hop, through and through, to the bone, and I never, ever though that I’d land in radio. So this is kind of cool. We’re in community radio. It’s volunteer. We’re not getting paid. But I’m having so much fun.
I tell ya, I went from being a listener of community radio to this is how I get my hip-hop, to phoning in to the show as a fan, to actually running, producing segments, and doing these interviews. It’s pretty amazing. You know what else is amazing? Meeting all these MCs and talking to them.
It has been so cool talking to you. I know we have an overnight show here. And it feels like I could talk to you all night long, but unfortunately we do gotta cut this and move on tonight.”
Witness: “I hear ya. It’s been a pleasure man.”
Chase: “Yeah, we’ll have to do it again man, soon. Next time you got something out. Well, I’m sure we’ll be in touch.”
Witness: “Hopefully people will be hearing our track pretty soon, right?”
Chase: “Yeah, for sure. And when this goes up on the podcast I’ll painstaking transcribe it for the blog as well. I like doing that for prosperity’s sake.”
Witness: “And I like reading them. Even if there is an audio file, I’ll read it. It’s definitely getting use. I appreciate it man.”
Chase: “Cool. So, tell the people out there how they can find out more about Witness.”
Witness: “Go to WitnessHipHop.com There are three records you can download for free right now. We’ve got some shirts and everything in. If you’re one of the Facebook kids, the same thing. Come and say ‘What’s Up?’ Say you found this interview and say. ‘What’s up?’ and I’ll promise that it’ll be me that will respond.”
Chase: “All right. Well thanks so much. I’m sure we’ll be linking up soon.’
Witness: “Yeah, man. Cool. I appreciate it. Peace!”
Now, let’s continue the interview transcript right where we left off.
Witness: “You still need people that are talking about the ugly things just as much as you need everyone else talking about all the beautiful things. The best MCs are the ones who are going to bring both to the plate.”
Chase: “Yeah, I definitely agree with that. I think MCs need to have a range. If you only rap about one thing all the time you’re one-dimensional. You’re not really human. It’s good to see a range there.
One of my favourite MCs of all time is 2Pac, simply because of the emotion he can put out. He can do a hard thug song, and then he can do a love song, and then he can talk about his mom and do a dedication to her. You can feel that passion coming through the mic in everything that he does.”
Witness: “And you never once doubt it either. I grew up on 2Pac. I hadn’t listened to him in a while, but a couple months ago I put on ‘Smile’ and I was shocked at the content. I’m like, ‘This is radio material?’ I mean, you look at the radio now and it’s not so great. But this was not only on the radio, but it was teh most popular stuff. And this dude had range.
How did 2Pac get away with all that? He wrote love songs and still had a hard gangsta edge. I think people had an understanding back then that artists had to be versatile.
It’s not that hip-hop has changed, it’s that entertainment changed. People will go to one artist for one song. That’s all they need. They just take that one song and it’s on their iPod and they go to the next artist and the next song. And then that guy is pigeon-holed into whatever that category is.
As we ground ourselves in the Internet era, I think things will start moving backward. I don’t think having all your songs on your iPod or MP3 era is going to die. But I also do think that there is going to be a return to an idea of – Here’s this artist. Here is this full spectrum of thoughts and sounds, and those will be the best.
Some of the best emcees will put out a new record and will talk about something they’ve never talked about before, and it’s almost kind of shocking. If they do it well, your respect for them goes up because they just went into a territory you didn’t think they’d go in to. You walk away from that album and you feel like you know them. I think that is the trick to the legendary emcees in life. You’ve never met them before but after that album is over, you feel like you know them a little bit.”
Chase: “That’s the one thing that is kind of lacking these days. It’s hard to know an artist when it seems to be moving towards this single-based, single-song industry where everyone just has this one song. Some people don’t listen to albums any more. I like albums and I like to see a whole project together. I still bump albums like crazy.”
Witness: “I hear ya. It’s a weird thing. Even my friends, some of my friends I’ve known since first grade, we’ll be out having drinks and I’ll find that they have something of mine on their iPod and they’ll have two songs. I mean, ‘I don’t expect you to have my full album on here but I just think that everyone has moved towards this single-oriented thing, to the point where it’s kind of crazy that people are making albums at all anymore. But I’m glad they are.
I’m glad that there are people still striving to make complete albums. For me, if you tie it to this whole weird commercial thing I just did, you’re guaranteed that I’ll probably never really be jumping in to the mainstream. My personal ambition is to make a good album before I ever make a song that would be your favourite song. I’d rather have people say I make a good album than have them say I make a really good song.”
Chase: “Speaking of that, we’ve been talking a long time. We gotta drop some more music. You told me in an email that you’d have some crazy stories to share during this interview. So, we’re going to play a song and then I want to hear one of your crazy stories.”
Witness: “I think I’ve got one or two for you.”
Chase: “All right, cool. I either want to play ’23’ or ‘Sunburn.’ Those are two of my favourite tracks.”
Witness: “Go ahead. Your choice.”
Chase: “Okay, let’s play ’23.’ Daddy J will drop that track. This is Chase March on the interview tip, and we will be back with a crazy story from Witness. Stay tuned.”
Chase: “All right, that was ’23’ by Witness. I love the chorus of that. Very catchy. But it also seems kind of sad, ya know, by 23 it’s all downhill?”
Witness: “It hasn’t been downhill at all for me. I’ll start by saying this, a good friend of mine said that being in your twenties is weird because it feels like every year is worth 5 in terms of experience. And I think there is a lot to be said for that.
I’m 26 now. When I look back now, when I was 21, I look back and think, ‘What was I doing? Why did I think that was the way I needed to handle my life?’ That’s crazy. You’re either naive or just kind of ridiculous.
By the time I hit 23, it was kind of a big, taking stock kind of moment. I looked back on everything that I had done up to that point and looked forward as well. I think it’s kind of an area where in your early twenties and late teens, you really do think you know everything. You think you have a general understanding.
I think it happens to different people at different times, but for me, when I was 23, it definitely dawned on me that I had no idea what I was talking about, about anything. And honestly, I think the sooner you accept that in life, the quicker you end up learning more. I think the person that thinks they’ve got it all figured out is the person that actually knows the least.
That’s happened too in hip-hop, for me, for sure. I’ve definitely grown a lot. I’m doing a lot more things I’d otherwise have been closed-minded to. It’s kind of a matter of trusting yourself.
But at twenty-three, a lot of crazy things were happening. That was also the time when I made the decision to move to Minneapolis. I’d lived in Philly my whole life and just dropped it and went. I decided to just let life kind of lead me the rest, not try to go after it.”
Chase: “Cool! You recently put out a short collection of instrumentals called ‘Hope Springs Eternal.’ Do you want to tell us a bit about that project?”
Witness: “That was my first ever release of just instrumentals. A couple of years ago, me and my friend, Emancipator, both ended up getting signed to Japanese labels. We were both initially signed to the same label, but he ended up on a different label. The label that I’m on is sort of the sister project of the same label. It’s kind of complicated bu basically that’s the easiest way to explain it.
Nujabes made a lot of music that inspired my own direction. With his passing, I wanted to do something to show respect. So I ended up making this album, ‘Hope Springs Eternal,’ which is a collection of instrumentals. They were actually beats that I’d made and I ended up putting them aside because I thought they were too much in the vein of something he would make.
I think that whether they want to admit it or not, ever rapper, every producer, sometimes if they listen a lot to one cat, it just somehow ends up in your work, to the point where you are like, ‘I can’t even release this because it is so similar to another artist.’ So I had a lot of stuff that kind of reminded me of his work.
I think a lot of dudes are nervous when it comes to saying, ‘This artist inspires me,’ especially if they are a new artist. That’s a weird thing in hip-hop. But Nujabes definitely inspired my instrumentals and my approach to music.
I think Nujabes single-handedly make it okay in hip-hop to make ‘pretty’ instrumentals. That dude took samples from records that huge, huge producers had touched before. But he would find that one part of the record that wasn’t taken, and that was a real good sample, but for whatever reason, that sample was never touched. And that guy found them. He definitely changed the way that I listen to albums when I am out digging. For the rest of my life, without question.
I wanted to pay tribute to that so I put together this instrumental record. It ended up going to a lot of great people too. There have been so labels that asked me to expand on it and make it an album. I turned them down because it is not something that I would want to make money off of. I felt terrible even promoting it. So, it’s sort of a lesser known thing that I have done, but you can get it on my site as a free download. It’s probably one of my most proudest projects, because it’s from a place of genuine respect.”
Chase: “You don’t see that very often, like here’s a tribute but it’s not just a DJ spinning someone else’s songs. It’s creating something new in a tribute and doing something really positive with it.”
Witness: “I’ve been thinking about this a lot, if someone who is contemporary influences you, there is a weird thing in hip-hop where you don’t even want to say that. You’re not going to get a lot of MCs saying, ‘I was inspired by Atmosphere or Brother Ali’ because those dudes are still new, but I don’t know a single emcee that wasn’t inspired by an Atmosphere record whether they are going to say it or not.
I think we’re kind of entering an era now, with a new generation of MCs, where we are being open and honest with who your inspirations are, even if they are very close to your sound. That isn’t a bad thing. People will hear you in something of your own. In a worse-case scenario, if they do think you are somewhat similar , they are going to have a respect for you for being real. I think that is a positive thing.”
Chase: “I just copped the new Atmosphere album and there is a song on there that is about domestic abuse. It’s really heavy. And Brother Ali, he’s one of my all-time favourites.”
Witness: “I actually caught that interview. It was very good. Very good.”
Chase: “Ah, thanks, man.”
Witness: “I like what you guys are doing. I think it is important that you are getting interviews and reaching out to dudes and they are getting documentation. Because at the end of the day, thirty years from now, if they’re in some hip-hop history book, or not, you’re at least out there documenting some of what is happening while it’s happening. And that definitely deserves respect.”
Chase: “I consider myself to be a hip-hop historian. I’ve been here on the station and on the blog, just letting people know what hip-hop is about. It’s a culture and it’s a lot more than just rap music and what people think. We’re celebrating it because that’s what we like to do here at DOPEfm – Daddy J, Gamma Krush, and myself. We’re holding that down.”
Witness: “Respect, respect!”
Chase: “So what can we expect next from Witness?”
Witness: “I’m kind of shifting all gears towards an official full-length, which sounds kind of confusing. I’m one of those emcees that has dig himself in a hole because you have no idea that the albums you have heard are not ‘official.’ But that just my own, kind of, lack of self-esteem in my own work.
There is a little bit of method behind the madness. There are a lot of songs about topics in particular that I’ve literally been holding on to for three of four years until I felt that I’d reached a point where I’ve reached a point in my own output where I could officially do them justice. They’re a lot more personal.
I want to finish this record, when it’s done, whether you like me or don’t like me, I want you to have some kind of opinion about who this guys is, as opposed to, ‘Here’s a presentation of some songs and some poems that I’ve made into songs with a couple of friends.’ I want you to have some kind of experience when you walk away from it.
It’s a bit of an undertaking. I’m going to be pulling out all the stops with the friends I’ve made along the way. It’ll probably be about next year for the album. They’ll probably be some mix tapes in the mean time to hold that over. I’m doing a little tour on the east coast in May. I’ll probably do a national tour with a five-piece band. That’s exciting to me right now. It’ll be a new format for live shows. I’ll definitely try to get up your way as well.”
Chase: “Try to get to Toronto if you can, at least. We’re just a hop, skip, and jump from there. It would be great to see you put it down live.”
Witness: “I’m not Brother Ali. I’m not Atmosphere. I can’t just roll into your town and get 500 people rolling through the door. So I like to mix it up and work with a lot of local cats on every bill. I try to contact them directly and get them involved. It makes it a bigger night. I want to see your scene too.”
Chase: “Let’s spin another track right now and then come back and wrap this up.”
Witness: “Let’s do it.”
Chase: “All right, this is ‘Sunburn’ from Witness off of the ‘Everafter LP.’ Daddy J is gonna drop that track and Chase March is gonna be back to wrap this up.”
Chase: “All right. We are back with Witness. If you missed Part 1 of this interview, you can go back and read it now. You can stream the entire thing with the player below, download it for free, or continue reading. Thanks for tuning in.
We are on the phone with Witness. A minute ago, we mentioned Rhymesayers. You’re not on Rhymesayers but you are based out of the same area, right?”
Witness: “Yeah. I moved to Minneapolis about three years ago. Before that I was in Philadelphia.” I’ve been doing everything independently since I started this when I was about 15. It’s not necessarily a total product of me saying screw another label.
These days a lot of rappers try to find their ways on to labels by a mainstream approach by sort of pitching themselves to a label. I’d rather just build stuff organically and end up either working with them on the same stage or by another means. So, it has its own benefits. It has its own drawbacks. It’s just like everything else.”
Chase: “You do a lot more than just MC when it comes to hip-hop culture as well, don’t you?”
Witness: “Yeah, yeah. I make all my own beats, for the most part. I can list other Mcs or producers that I’ve worked with. I try to keep it almost exclusively for people I’ve become friends with.
I think hip-hop in general has a feel to it where people are like, ‘You two should hop on a track together.’ As soon as you meet an MC, everyone just wants to do songs together. I feel that it’s the only genre like that. If you look at other genres of music, it’s not very common that you’ve got a vocalist guesting on every other track. I want to keep that kind of feeling to hip-hop. I think, while it’s good to mix it up with other artists and get different sounds going.
Like you said, with the the incredibly, incredibly ridiculously flattering comparison to Illmatic, but partially the reason that album was as good as it was, is that it only had one guest on it. That was a crazy concept at that time. And he carried that album on his own. I think that should be a benchmark for all MCs – try to carry an album all on your own, and once you’ve got that, then sure, load up your album with a bunch of other MCs”
Chase: “I agree with that. There are too many MCs who sound good for a verse but simply can’t carry a song. Or they sound good peppered all over the place where you are hearing them but then you hear their album and it is disappointing. It’s watered down with guest appearances and they aren’t really holding up the fort themselves. So there is definitely something to be said about that.
The other new trend in hip-hop are these one-off collaborations. There are so many one producer / one MC albums coming out. I was just wondering if you’ve ever considered doing one of those and being behind the boards instead of in front on the mic?”
Witness: “I’d love to. But to be honest, when I’m making beats on my own, I’ll either find a sample or chop up a sample and get a loop going and a chorus and a 16 bar beat, and then I won’t touch it for a year. So I’d have to kind of change my whole productivity to do it, which isn’t a bad thing at all, but God bless the MC that has to deal with that. I probably wouldn’t be the easiest producer in the world to work with. But it would be something I would definitely love to do.
The producers I love best can make beats and you know their beats, but then they make a record with another dude and it is completely different style. I’d want to make an album with an MC where I am fitting their style and it is just my interpretation of it. I think would be a lot more difficult. It took me ten years to figure out my own style, ya know?
It’s something that I really want to do. I dig those one-off albums. I think it is a really interesting thing that is happening right now. I think hip-hop in general is in a really weird place right now.”
Chase: “Yeah, there are so many different aspects and sub-genres and styles and ways to do it now. I’m an elementary school teacher and the stuff I listen to is so far removed from what they listen to. The one thing I’ve noticed about kids and hip-hop is that if I play some rap music for an eight, or nine, or ten year old, they invariably hear swearing in it even when there is none.
So many people have this perception of rap as being vile and just about sex, swearing, and all this negative stuff. But there is so much positive music out there that I try to expose people to as much as I can, either at school or here on the radio waves”
Witness: “That’s a really positive thing. It makes sense if you think about it. I can even see where they are coming from. Even as much as I have listened to it coming up, there are some records that don’t have any swearing on it and I find out later it doesn’t and I’m like, ‘Really? That whole record didn’t have any.’
So I guess you kind of assume as being a genre of music where there isn’t anything that can be held back, which is a positive thing. But at the same time, there are different ways to use it.
I think I might swear a couple times on the ‘Everafter LP’ but even I try to keep it down. The reason why is because I’m trying to keep it clean. I have a terrible mouth. But it’s mostly because it feels lazy. There are so many words. There are millions of words you can use right there.
I think it’s good where it’s used for emphasis. I think it’s pretty obvious where some cats are just using it to fill a space. I think trying to avoid it actually promotes good writing. Hip-hop is amazing in that regard. I always joke with my friends that writing a rap song is way more difficult than writing in different genres.
If you look at their lyric sheet and it’s like a paragraph. You look at a rap song and it’s like two pages. You are writing a lot more. There’s a lot more content. There are a lot of different boundaries and a lot of different rule sets that you have to apply to, and they force you to be a better writing.
I think that as a teacher, it is great that you are exposing kids to it. It’s genre that essentially taught me creative writing. I learned about syllable structure, iambic pentameter, and much more, all through the process of writing songs.
I know a couple of teachers in our age-group and that is exactly what they are doing. As we get older, people will start viewing it less as something that has to be threatening. It can be so many different things.
I think it should be threatening. Every genre should have something that is threatening and non-threatening, beautiful and ugly. That’s what life is and if we are supposed to be writing about what life is, then you have to mirror all of those aspects of it.”
Chase: “That is the one thing I like about hip-hop is the freedom we have to write about a lot of different topics and how real it seems to be. I know that I focus on lyrics and pay attention to what people are saying in their songs regardless of the genre. I know a lot of people just listen to the beat or the chorus or the rhythm, but I listen to what people say.
There are so many pop songs and rock songs where if you listen to what they say, they really aren’t saying anything. There’s nothing there, and what they are saying doesn’t make sense half of the time.
I like hip-hop because it is saying something most of the time. And it is doing it in a very clever way. And now that we have all of this history behind us, it is starting to get recognized and appreciated. Hip-hop is no longer seen as a fad. We have rich history we can look back on and celebrate and I think that is amazing.”
Witness: “I do too. As it gets older, it becomes a different animal. There’s a picture floating around online of Ice Cube in his NWA days.
He’s got his full get-up, super-threatening picture and underneath it, there’s a picture of him from one of his movies where he’s got a life vest on and a fishing rod. You look at it and it’s kind of sad, but it’s kind of realistic too. People grow up. Hip-hop grows up.
I think that there is definitely a threat that as hip-hop gets older and a little bit more common that people will look at it as a safe thing. I think that is the most dangerous thing for it.
Personally, I started off writing mostly political stuff. Eventually I got so burned out being worried about politics that I shifted my focus.
I don’t think hip-hop should ever become something like what punk rock became. I don’t think it should be anything where its roots are lost.
It was people coming out and saying things that perhaps you’re parents don’t want you to be listening to, which does have a value to it because those things are real. There are definitely records out there where people are talking about stuff they’ve never done, but there are just as many records out there where guys are talking about things that legitimately happen.
So as an MC who doesn’t talk about a lot of that stuff, I still have a love for it. Those are the records I grew up on. There’s a lot of reality in those records. That is what is going to keep hip-hop alive, that broad range of material.
Like Odd Future. Some people might call it horrorcore, which it basically is. But, you still need people that are talking about the ugly things just as much as you need everyone else talking about all the beautiful things. The best MCs are the ones who are going to bring both to the plate.”
Chase: “On that note, let’s play ‘Beautiful’ by Masta Ace and then come back and talk some more with hip-hop producer and emcee Witness.”
Chase: “Remember to come back tomorrow to continue reading this transcript. If you don’t want to wait that long you can download the whole show right now or stream it with the player below. Thanks for tuning in.”
Chase: “All right everybody, this is Chase March, Daddy J is on the boards, and on the telephone lines we have Witness. For all the listeners out there, remember you can download this interview for free. You can read it on the blog or stream it there as well. Enjoy!
So, Witness, it’s nice to finally have you on the program. I first heard your Everafter LP last year and I was really blown away by it.”
Witness: “Thank you.”
Chase: “It’s a really nice album. I blogged about it and you ended up in my Top 10 Albums of 2010. You actually found that post and that is how we started talking, so that’s kind of cool.”
Witness: “It was flattering, man. That was a hell of a compliment. I really appreciate it. Thank you.”
Chase: “The one thing that is interesting about that album is that it is fairly short. It’s about 26 minutes long, I think. Ten tracks. But in the day and age where so many people are putting out huge albums with 21 tracks and long mix tapes with tons of guest appearances, there is something about a short album, such as yours, where it is just perfect. I didn’t even realize it until I wanted to write about it, so I decided to see what other people had said about it. They said, “Well, it’s short.”
And I’m like, “Who cares?” It’s slamming from beginning to end and in that way it kind of reminds me, I know that this is probably a crazy comparison, but it reminds me of Nas’ Illmatic that way.”
Witness: “Wow, thank you. That’s a huge compliment. Thank you.”
Chase: “It’s nice and short and to the point and beautiful. You know what I mean?”
Witness: “Yeah, there’s definitely a reason behind it. Growing up I dug all kinds of different music and I always respected the punk, kind of, hit-it-and-quit-it approach. There are very few emcees and very few producers that can carry themselves on a track for 5 or 6 minutes.
There is a standard of three verses and a chorus, and while it definitely has its place, I feel like there is no point in extending a song for an additional length of time if I feel that I’ve got the concept as much as I can possibly say about it, ya know? There’s no real reason to stretch it to four or five minutes when you can get the same point.
It is something that I want to do. I don’t think I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve found the correct backdrop for my own sound where I would want to do it now. It’s something that I definitely want to aim at. Shorten songs and having them with a shorter verse, I think, makes the whole flow of the album a little easier.”
Chase: “Yeah. I didn’t put my finger on that’s why I liked it so much. I downloaded it one day, kind of on a whim. Quite often, being in hip-hop radio, I go digging to see what I can find. I know some people think this is weird, but sometimes I will download something based solely on the cover art and the name. And that is why I downloaded yours.
This looks like it might be good. This looks like it might be a female MC. I was doing a whole show on Women in Hip-Hop. I put the CD in and I get this jazzy, laid-back kind of flow, and I was like, ‘Wow, I really like this.’ My girlfriend did too and that became one of the most bumped albums of last summer for us.”
Witness: “That’s real cool.”
Chase: “We definitely gotta play a track right now so people can hear what we are talking about. I have some favourites on here but I was wondering if you had a particular favourite that you like us to spin?”
Witness: “My favourite one off of that album, I’d definitely start off with ‘Watercolours.’ That has a sort of tone to it that fits the album and makes the other tracks pop some more.”
Chase: “Okay, we will spin that. Daddy J will drop that track. This is called ‘Watercolours’ off the ‘Everafter LP’ by Witness. Chase March is on the interview tip. Witness is on the phones. And we’ll be right back y’all.”
Chase: “That was ‘Watercolours’ off the ‘Everafter LP’ and we are lucky enough to have Witness on the phone right now. How’s it going?”
Witness: “It’s going great. I’m out in sunny L.A. right now.”
Chase: “Yeah? What are you doing out there?”
Witness: “It’s kind of crazy. Back in February, I put up a video on YouTube. I was kind of jumping into the whole fast rapping thing that was going down online. Then about two months later, I got an email and someone just asked if I was interested in hearing some details about a promotional campaign. And the next thing I know, they’re asking me to fly out to L.A. And do two commercials for T-mobile.
So I am here in L.A. for some event for it. There is a big party with some celebrities and I think The Strokes are playing. It’s all surreal, man. I`m a pretty normal dude, so this feels out of my league in a lot of ways. I think it’s a life experience that very few people would turn down for the sake of how ridiculous it is.”
Chase: “It definitely sounds interesting. I know that a lot of people might say, ‘Oh, you’re selling out. You’re doing commercials.’ But, ya know, back in the old days commercials were done with professional voice-overs and actors dedicated to that, but now every commercial you hear on the air, the voice-over is done by Morgan Freeman or Donald Sutherland.”
Witness: “Yeah, and hip-hop is no stranger to it. Nate Dogg was doing St. Ides and all that. It happens. And it’s selling out if it becomes the thing that changes your art. If all of a sudden you are making different records, or you’re doing something else. But I think there are very few Mcs, where if someone came up to them on the street and said, ‘We’ll pay you this money if you’ll rap for twenty seconds on any topic I give you,’ I think very few MCs, especially since it’s hard to get the money you need to record or put an album out, would say no.
But for me, it’s more of like, if I get exposure from it cool, if I don’t get exposure from it, it doesn’t really matter. It just helps fund something I do care about. And worse comes to worse, if it does introduce people to my music through a means I wouldn’t necessarily be comfortable with, it will at least expose people to a sound that they would otherwise might never have heard.
If they say, ‘I’m not really feeling this Witness dude but they end of finding some Rhymesayers stuff or picking up an LP record and getting lost in this whole genre, then something was done. Something was done well.”
Chase: “All right, so let’s play one of your commercials now for the blog audience. We’ll come back and continue this interview here on Silent Cacophony tomorrow. You can continue listening to the podcast of this show with the player below, or you can download the entire hour for free right now to listen to at your leisure. Thanks for tuning in ya’ll. See you soon.”
Today, I would like to share with you an invaluable resource for teaching vocal music. I inherited it from a retiring teacher years ago. These used to be on overhead transparencies. A few years ago, I scanned them into my computer so I could use them on the SMARTboard.
The Rhythm Pattern above is ta, ta, ta, ta (which are all single claps and are timed with a 1, 2, 3, 4) , the next measure is ta, ti-ti, ta, ta (a ti-ti is pronounced tee-tee and is two quick claps but still follows the same time of 1,2,3,4) The Z like shape is a rest and you can clap a rest by bringing your hands apart.
To start clapping this pattern in unison, count the class in.
Say, “Clapping hands ready. 1, 2, ready, go.” You can tap the beats out using a meter stick if you find it helpful. I certainly do until the class gets a feel for the natural timing.
This is the first in a series of eight lessons that you can use as a warm up for the first five minutes of your music lesson.
Here is the second lesson / warm-up.
As you can see, the warm ups get progressively more difficult.
Junior One – Lesson Three incorporates the doh finder. This symbol looks like an old-style skeleton key. The forks of the key point to the start of the musical scale, which is doh (sometimes spelled “do”)
The circle at the top of the key marks which note on the staff is “so.”
Using these vocal warm-ups will help your students learn how to sight read.
Each line or space on the staff marks a specific note. For the younger kids just learning how to sing, it is not terribly important for them to know that the bottom space is an “F’ but more important that they know according to the doh finder on the staff just above this block of text is “Mi.”
This last line is hard to sing because it is very low in key.
The top line above is a lot easier for young voices to hit correctly. You can also see how the clapping pattern has become the singing pattern.
Junior One – Lesson Seven
Junior One – Lesson Eight
There are more lessons to this series. The Junior Two worksheets are a bit more advanced and difficult. If you would like to have them as well, please contact me and I will be happy to email them to you.
I hope you have found this week’s Teaching Tip useful. Remember that we do this each and every Tuesday here on Silent Cacophony.
I love finding new places and trails to run. I also like taking my camera along with me and snapping a few photos as I go. This way I can document the trails that I have run and give you a little tour of some nice spots you might like to visit.
Today’s Visual Running Tour takes us to Stoney Creek, and not the township that is part of Hamilton. This Stoney Creek is part of the Thames River Watershed in London, Ontario.
Stoney Creek enters the North Thames River, which then travels through Chatham to Lake St. Claire and into Lake Erie. It takes 4 to 10 days for water in Stoney Creek to reach Lake St. Claire. (Upper Thames River Conservation Authority)
London, Ontario has lot of great trails to explore. This is one of several that offer a concrete pathway. I don’t particularly like running on cement. I much prefer a dirt trail through the woods, but this trail does have a few highlights that make it worth the trip.
I love trails that run alongside water.
The creek was moving at a fair speed today too.
There are several nice bridges that allow you to look out over the creek.
There were quite a few paths to choose from once you are a fair way into this trail.
A boardwalk is always a nice thing to come across during these nature runs.
This one went on for several hundred meters.
I was surprised to see this Nature Butterfly Garden that was created and maintained by a school, that was until I took one of the short trails and saw that the school was within a few minutes walk.
I would so love it if my school was this close to such a great resource. There are so many different landsacpes to discover.
There was even a short portion of dirt trail to run. My favourite!
I love how this system of trails loops and curves through the 38 square kilometers of watershed.
Photography by Dana Kathryn
I hope you have enjoyed this visual running tour. Here are a few more that you might like to check out.
Christine Nesbitt – It was a honour to meet Gold Medal Olympic Athlete Christine Nesbitt. I absolutely loved watching her win at the 2010 Winter Games held in Vancouver. I was able to do a quick interview with her at the homecoming celebration the City of London, Ontario held for all of our athletes. You can read the article and download the podcast for free.
Lissa Monet – She was awarded Female DJ of the Year at the Stylus Awards 2010 and we were there to cover the whole event for DOPEfm. Last night, she took home that same honour for the second consecutive year. She also nabbed a trophy for mixtape of the year. Way to go Lissa!
Stylus DJ Awards – Here is the complete coverage that Daddy J and myself did for our hip-hop radio show, DOPEfm. You can look forward to coverage from the 2011 Stylus DJ Awards on our show this weekend and on the blog here next week.
The Illusion of Permanence Online – I have had a few of my favourite websites go down unexpectedly and in the process have lost access to some great resources. The key point here is that if you find a great resource online, you have to save it somehow. Either print it off, or save it as a file on your computer and on a thumbdrive.