A&E » Arts

Far from soulless and simplistic

West Coast hip hoppers beyond bling-bling



By Nicole Fitzgerald

Who: Sweatshop Union

When: Friday, Jan. 5, 10:30 p.m.

Where: Moe Joe’s

Tickets: $12/$15

Hip hop music is often stereotyped as a portrayal of mainstream, consumerist culture void of political substance — gangster raps of phat cars and easy women with bootie and bling infecting mainstream radio waves.

Sweatshop Union use big words to talk their way out of the shallow sound with meaningful songs entrenching themselves in themes of social consciousness.

The West Coast hip hoppers beat back to the roots of hip hop where the genre is not so much about music, but lifestyle — the actions you take.

The song The Thing About It from the Vancouver troupe’s sophomore album Natural Progression trumpets this action-speaks-louder-than-words philosophy.

“It’s now just start opposin’ the powers that are rose in ancient days; And pave the way to disclothe it, so control it’s sickening; Most just sit and stare at a television with a distant glare and I’m ashamed to admit it, I’m a slave to the shit as much as anybody but I’m not afraid of it. This is where the change comes in, this is where we make some difference. Embrace what’s within us; And escape from this prison. All it takes is a little bit of faith and a little bit of love to get rid of all the hate.”

Sweatshop Union is a poet’s hip hop. The kind of music you first want to listen to, then dance to and then analyze like any poetical offering from Blake or Coleridge.

But even if you aren’t the studious type, rather the kind of music lover who prefers to get lost in the beat, Sweatshop Union delivers a second-to-none, high-energy show with infectious sound waves that can’t be ignored. Their charismatic music simply demands audience attention.

Each MC of the seven-member collective brings his own unique stamp to the mic. The Juno-nominated Union is comprised of four separate crews from Victoria and Vancouver, including Creative Minds, Dirty Circus, Innocent Bystanders and MC Kyrios.

Voices twist in and out of each other’s rhythms, confirming the old adage that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Like their lyrical content, so too their music pushes the norm with the Union dialing up melodic hip hop with sounds of big band jazz weaving in and out of Sweatshop Union’s newest album, United We Fall .

Sweatshop Union music is both a lesson in conversation as well as a good time. Join the returning group for a live show Friday, Jan. 5 at 10:30 p.m. at Moe Joe’s.

DJ Neoteric and local hip hoppers Animal Nation will warm crowds up.

Advance tickets are $12 or $15 at the door.