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September-October 2016

Hip-hop is colonizing Canada

Repeat after me: It’s all about bud, basketball, and hip-hop

Dalton Higgins@daltonhiggins5

ThisMagazine50_coverLores-minFor our special 50th anniversary issue, Canada’s brightest, boldest, and most rebellious thinkers, doers, and creators share their best big ideas. Through ideas macro and micro, radical and everyday, we present 50 essays, think pieces, and calls to action. Picture: plans for sustainable food systems, radical legislation, revolutionary health care, a greener planet, Indigenous self-government, vibrant cities, safe spaces, peaceful collaboration, and more—we encouraged our writers to dream big, to hope, and to courageously share their ideas and wish lists for our collective better future. Here’s to another 50 years!


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I am not a seer, soothsayer, oracle, tarot card reader, nor fortune teller. I cannot read tea leaves or your palm. But I will say that these are awfully fun times for me simply because being Black is the new black. And one of my community’s greatest contributions to the 21st century, hip-hop, is currently colonizing Canada.

You don’t need to be able to wield any powers of prognostication to see that it’s a hip-hop world—and you all are just living in it. Check out how some of the leading proponents of Gen Now and Tomorrow talk, walk, dress, and subvert things. It’s pure unadulterated hip-hop. And it’s Blackish to the bone.

The Canadian pop culture output that Baby Boomers once knew and celebrated is on life support, which means that the old stock Canadian Holy Trinity of beer, hockey and rock ’n’ roll will soon be gone. Done. Kaput. Outta here.

I’m not trying to play the Prophet of Doom here, but look at the facts: The Maple Leafs haven’t won a Stanley Cup since Jesus, whilst the Toronto Raptors have become a top tier NBA franchises. Nickelback and The Tea Party might be your thing, but arguably the world’s most popular musician just happens to be a Canadian rapper named Drake. And I’m sure you like to get hammered on weekends like the next guy or gal, but Vancouver’s Prince of Pot Marc Emery’s prophesies du jour of Canada becoming the new Amsterdam have mostly come true, as marijuana is quickly on its way to becoming legalized.

Repeat after me: It’s all about bud, basketball, and hip-hop. How exactly did this cataclysmic transformation happen? You can blame it squarely on hip-hop. Black people of African descent spend much time inventing, innovating, and originating phenomena and things—that will later attract mass appropriation efforts from outside interests. And then a tanning effect occurs—and I ain’t talking about UV rays either—where Black and brown becomes what you need to get down. From Bieber to BadBadNotGood, if you eliminate the Black (music, influence, mentorship) there’s a high probability their music might sound wack.

My audiences and readership are UN all the way; they are Black, South Asian, Indigenous, Latin American, Asian and white European millennials to Gen Xers who speak a near-identical language and have shared values based on not having grown up in (not so) good old homogenous times. When most New Stock Canadians are more into graffiti than Group of Seven, it means their insides are tanning, and there’s no sunscreen that’s been invented to combat that.

And that’s a good thing: the future should be hip-hop. If what we continually project to the world as being “Canadian” continues to be devoid of colour (honestly, the token POC thing is growing really old and tired), culture, and 808 drum kicks, then consider our country “a lower case c”—as my friend Neil once opined over dinner.

Dalton Higgins is a publicist, National Magazine Award-winning journalist, festival producer, and author of six books.

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