It was once considered low-hanging fruit — fruit that far too many were more than happy to pluck from the tree, turn into jam, spread it on toast and snack on with a shit-eating grin.
Calgary hip-hop? Hahahahahaha.
Because, well, Calgary hip-hop. Get it?
Those people didn’t get it, didn’t understand that there actually is a pretty excellent scene here and has been for quite some time, with some of those longtime names helping to push it forward, connect it and, albeit perhaps more quietly than some other genres of music in this city, make it something that this music community and consumers can be proud of and get behind.
Hell, do yourself a favour and head out to one of the stacked showcases that the urban music promoters 10 at 10 hold around town or pick up the fantastic 2013 compilation that Teekay from local legends Dragon Fli Empire put out called psYYChology.
Or, you could head to Broken City Thursday, June 13 for the release party for scene vet Sabo Forte’s latest album The Most Obvious Loophole.
It is as homegrown as grown at home gets: Calgary artist, Calgary producer, all Calgary guests and musicians. And it’s brilliant.
“This is a full Calgary hip-hop album, which is kind of fun,” Forte says. “I feel like it’s one of my best pieces of work and I’m happy it came from Calgary.”
It really is a sensational and slick showcase of Sabo’s traditionalist, positive, boom bap hip-hop sensibilities, worthy of comparisons to his obvious influences such as De La Soul, OutKast and the Beastie Boys.
In other words, it’s as bouncy and catchy as anything in the current pop world, but with Forte spitting it out faster and friendlier and singier than most of the other MCs out there — from any part of the world.
“It’s funny you say that,” he says. “I had some early listening parties with some other local MCs — early mixes — and a couple of the jokes from the other MCs was that I should just start writing choruses for everybody.
“Everyone was just like, ‘I don’t know if it’s a chorus or a bridge or an outro but they could all be hooks.’ ”
And it sinks its hooks into you right from the get-go, pulling you through the 11 tracks before you know you’ve been landed and clubbed into submission.
Forte gives credit for the flow and feel to local producer Loophole, who goes by the MC name Definite, and will be one of the openers for the release party, and from whom he bought all of the beats about three years ago.
Since then, Forte spent time writing and composing the words that would inhabit those beats as comfortably as an old white guy with black socks in Crocs, much of that time listening to the instrumentals driving on road trips through the Rockies to Banff, Canmore and Jasper.
Actually, the artist says one of the biggest jumping-off points for the album was the double gut-punch of the grief he felt after death of Leonard Cohen and when Trump got into office — or as he terms it, the idea of a “Trumpster fire world.”
“I think that’s why even just looking at the song titles alone a lot of the songs are transient, like let’s get off the planet (Skydiving on Mars) or let’s get On the Road,” he laughs.
“That’s the one thing that links it — like, Miles to Go.”
Well, again, there’s also the link of locale and celebrating that.
Which is why Forte has invited other MCs from the city to show up for his release, informing them that they’d be “(passed) the mic for least a verse” on the night.
He’s hoping it will be another step in helping to “turn the scene into a community,” and spread the word that Calgary can deliver in a Canadian hip-hop context and audiences will embrace it via the fact that the other openers include Jeff Spec from Toronto and KazMega from Edmonton.
“Every time there’s a new album or a new project or a new show,” he says, “it’s another opportunity for the Calgary hip-hop scene to step up and admit that there is a Calgary hip-hop scene.”
He continues. “I’ve seen people tour here before who are legends in the game and by the third song they’re calling out the Calgary crowds saying, ‘You’re just a bunch of no-love giving motherfuckers, aren’t ya?’ …
“But I’m up to the challenge, it’s one of those crowds that might not cheer until the end of your set, so you have to try and prove it every show.
“And it’s just another opportunity to solidify that there is a Calgary hip-hop scene and it can be supportive and loving.”
And pretty fucking fantastic.
Sabo Forte releases The Most Obvious Loophole Thursday, June 13 at Broken City.