Who: Sweatshop Union
What: Natural Progression CD Release Party
When: Tuesday, Feb. 17
Barely out of the gates with their sophomore CD Natural Progression , Island hip-hop collective Sweatshop Union has already been acknowledged with a Juno nomination for Best Rap Recording.
Though the album had been selling over the Internet in Canada since its completion in late 2003, its official release date was Feb. 10 th . Word of the nomination reached the coast via Union member MC Kyprios the very next day. Thats got to be some sort of land-speed record.
But, as the Juno people likely realized, it doesnt take multiple listenings to know that Natural Progression is worthy of recognition.
The seven-member Union, a collective of Northwest hip-hop projects Creative Minds, Dirty Circus, Innocent Bystanders and MC Kyprios, has managed to corral all the best parts of progressive hip-hop into one unique sound. Theyre activists without losing their sense of humour. They can throw down an ass-shaker party jam without resorting to industry cliches about booty and bling.
In their latest video The Thing About It , they drive Volvos and intersperse the MC footage not with scantily clad females or thug life but with stills of pressing social issues.
But refreshingly, theyre not taking off one hat and putting on another, which seems to be the case for many of their contemporaries putting in time in the activist trenches to heal their image before going back to the bling. The Union seems real. They think about social issues, therefore they write about them and set them to infectious beats.
The unique trinity of humour, activism and wry observation is what attracted fans to the Union in the first place and it continues to drive their success. According to Creative Minds Dusty Melodica, a.k.a. Colin McCue, the collaboration has been going so well, the Union members have decided to pursue working together as their primary interests.
With five producers, seven performers and four separate, independent projects there are unlimited opportunities for inter-group creativity.
"Were kind of all more dedicated to Sweatshop at this point," says McCue. "Its a more unified collaboration.
"The first album we all worked as separate groups, went into the studio on our own and came to the table with songs we already completed. With this one it was definitely more of a group effort."
As the title signifies, the album represents a natural progression, confirms McCue. Theres no need for any sort of departure and the wealth of creative talents pretty much guarantees there will never be a Union formula.
"Were still on the same trip as we were before, weve just kind of grown as vocalists, writers and producers," says McCue.
"Were just a little more experienced and a little more relaxed now in the studio so I think that sound comes through."
Sweatshop Union plays a CD release party for Natural Progression at Garfinkels on Tuesday night. Opening the night will be Whistler DJ Mat the Alien with the MK Ultra crew of MCs Subliminal JC and Ty C in tow.
Tickets are $10. Call 604-932-2323 for more information.