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A union worth joining

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Who: Sweatshop Union

Where: WSSF and Garfinkel’s for Battleaxe Warriors 3 CD Release

When: Wednesday, April 16

Sweatshop Union is not just the name for how most of the locals who work here see themselves by the end of the season. It is also the tag for a merry band of lyricists, MCs and DJs who are offering the world a new direction in conscience-carrying, placard-waving, peace-loving hip hop.

This group of seven from Vancouver has been garnering much attention of late thanks to two music videos in heavy rotation on MuchMusic that have refreshingly made it out into the open between all the Justin Timberlake and bling-bling, bang-bang clutter.

Radio stations are playing tracks off the Sweatshop Union album, Local 604 , mostly throwing down their latest single, The Humans Race. They’re on the hallowed Battleaxe label, where hanging with Swollen Members can’t be a bad thing for business and they recently opened for big-name brethren, Jurassic 5.

The Union is made up of four different B.C. acts that got together two years ago to do something unique and as one unified force. Folded into Sweatshop’s fabric are Dirty Circus (Moses and Metty the Dert Merchant and DJ Itchy Ron), Innocent Bystanders, Creative Minds (Mr. Marmalade and Dusty Melodica) and Kyprios, a solo performer.

The collective decided pooling resources, money and moral support might be a better way to get noticed. And it looks like the gamble is paying off. Sweatshop spokesman, Moses said the focus has already shifted from ‘Get Noticed’ to ‘Get Better and Better’ – together.

"We are embarking on a whole new chapter with the Union unit now. It’s not about getting ahead anymore, it’s more like this actually works and we’re having so much fun doing it. The crowds are liking it, the critics for the most part like it and so we feel like this could be something we’re in for a long time together.

"I can’t really imagine our live shows any more as individual groups. I think the impact now is definitely more powerful as a cohesive collective," said Moses.

True, these guys do seem like a walking hip hop festival – five bands for the price of one if you really want to think about it.

Sweatshop’s mantra is to promote an intelligent new way of thinking in terms of the hip hop mould.

"We want to up the ante of underground hip hop. We feel that a lot of people are doing good things by being themselves and progressing musically but at the same time there is an underground ethic that we’re also trying to distance ourselves from – the purist ethic. We’re musical purists but not dogmatic hip hop purists. If a song wants a certain instrument or a certain type of flow, we’re not going to deny it because we don’t think it will fit into the main frame of what people perceive is underground."

At the same time though, Moses is quick to point out that there’s no one agenda they’re trying to push at people.

"It’s more that we’re trying to encourage people to think beyond the box and perhaps help find a way for all of us to live in harmony, in a way that doesn’t harm the world."

All this positive energy is making me a bit light-headed. After all, we have a 10-day party going on here in Whistler, I remind Moses. So I ask him if, with all seriousness aside, they are enjoying this moment in the spotlight.

"We’re still getting used to it but it’s pretty humbling to come back home and go back to our real jobs. We don’t have big heads that’s for sure but there’ll be a point where we hope this gig will be full-time and pay our rent, but not just yet."

And with that, Moses has to get back to work, the "other" work. His day job, just like the rest of us.

Catch the Sweatshop Union playing with the Swollen Members at the DKNY Jeans Outdoor Concert Series and again later that evening for the Kokanee Freeride After-Dark Series, when Battleaxe Records brings you their Battleaxe Warriors 3 CD release party at Garfinkel’s.

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