The National Campus and Community Radio Association (NCRA) have launched an impressive Canadian talent development initiative called Dig Your Roots. The main goal of Dig Your Roots is to promote underground Canadian acts through the release of genre-specific compilation CDs. Each compilation will feature three acts from each of the five regions of Canada: (1) BC-North (2) Prairies (3) Ontario (4) Québec and (5) Atlantic. Check it out online at www.DigYourRoots.ca
The first such album is a hip-hop compilation. In early December 2002, Dig Your Roots announced the top 100 finalists for the 15 available spots on the compilation. Subsequently, I took the time to listen to all 100 finalist songs and chose my own top 15 songs based on quick listens.
Having accepted submissions from artists throughout Canada, a paneled jury narrowed it down to 15 lucky artists. Obviously this jury had different criteria than I, because several of my sure shot picks were missing from the final list, such as CatBurglaz '2001 Arguments,' 2-Tone's 'Crosshairs,' Asia's 'Independent' and Sweatshop Union's 'Union Dues.'
Disappointed as I was to see those four impressive tracks missing, I was soon swept up by the true underground feel of the compilation album. Upon first listen, it became obvious the jury was in search of newer and unreleased tracks to give the album a freshly distinctive feel. As well, the album contained an impressive collection of some of the more prominent, experienced and professional underground Canadian hip-hop acts.
Given that the album was organized by National Campus and Community Radio Association (NCRA), it was not surprising to see it catering to the underground sound fluent on the Canadian campus stations. The album avoids nonsensical rambles about drugs, hoes and money by promoting conscious content such as on the impressively simple and guitar-tinged 'Snapshots' by Eye + Eye.
Josh Martinez' 'Another Day' is the perfect musical blend of flutes and drums to provide relief after a stress-filled day. War Party's provocative and appealing 'Feeling Reserved' is the first of two songs on the compilation with a supporting video. The other is likely the compilation's most mainstream-appealing and hard-hitting track with Classified's 'Unexpected.'
The enjoyment doesn't stop there! The duo of Illa Brown & Kutcorners present one of my favorites with a catchy sample and a nice beat on 'Rock on Ya Block.' The jury even breaks down opting to include the chorus-catchy 'Chant it Ooh Ah Oh' by Ink Operated. Legendary Halifax DJ, Jorun, makes a production appearance on the amazing 'Down with Putting Raps Down,' as he's backed by former Vet Cru members, First Words (Sean One & Above), Anonymous and Cess.
As impressed as I was with the majority of the song selections, I still felt some lesser known, but more deserving artists were overlooked. In my eyes, this compilation could easily have made the jump from enjoyable to a classic by simply replacing 3 or 4 of the lesser appealing songs. Then again, the compilation's artist selections succeed in giving it the credibility needed to help push these already underground-established artists to the next level. Regardless, the compilation is definitely worth picking up as it's one of the best Canadian underground hip-hop compilations to date.
In addition to appearing on the album, the selected artists will also take part in a series of five nation-wide live simulcast broadcasts. From March 17 to March 29, artists will perform at their respective regional concerts in Surrey, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal, and Halifax. Each of these shows will be aired coast-to-coast on participating campus and community radio stations. Check the official webpage for more details: www.DigYourRoots.ca
The schedule is as follows:
March 17 Surrey BC at Snackerz (10727 King George Highway) 6 PM local time
Featuring: Illa Brown/Kutcorners and Ink Operated
March 20 Winnipeg MB at Avenue (333 Portage Avenue) 8 PM local time
Featuring: Dangerous Goods Collective, Frek Sho, and Warparty
March 23 Toronto ON at Alto Basso (718 College Street) 9 PM local time
Featuring: Eye + Eye, Kamau, and Vandal
March 26 Montreal QC at Foufounes Electriques (87 Ste. Catherine East) 9 PM local time
Featuring: Les Architekts, Wyzah, Josh Martinez, and Half Life
March 29 Halifax NS at The Khyber Club (1588 Barrington Street) 10 PM local time
Featuring: Classified, First Words, and The Goods
For more info, check out Dig Your Roots webpage
This review was written March 9, 2003