On the surface, with its mountain contemporary décor and
upscale design, Whistler certainly doesn’t appear to be the most hip
hop-friendly scene. But, beneath the town’s shiny, wholesome façade, it seems
that the genre is growing.
Steige “Tall Man” Turner, and Mike “Armadillo Slim” Armitage
are the men of Animal Nation, a well-established local hip hop group.
They formed the group in 2004 after a disagreement between the
two over the quality of another band’s performance. The group was the
Terrordactyls — the name is enough to make just about anyone cringe
— and Turner hated their music. Armitage disagreed. A heated argument
ensued, and Animal Nation was born.
The energetic, creative duo is hesitant to label their music as
hip hop, because of the plethora of bad hip hop out there giving the genre a
“I’ve been listening to tonnes of De La Soul right now,” Turner
said, adding: “That’s because a lot of people will associate hip hop with being
bad, but it’s still my favourite genre of music, when you get good hip hop.”
Modern hip hop generally carries a more negative message than
it did in its formative years.
“Hip hop, it takes itself way too seriously now, but back in
the day with the Will Smiths and the De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest, it
was just sort of a joke — they made it fun!” Turner explained.
Now, Animal Nation definitely tries to adopt the same
light-hearted old school attitude in their own music, while labeling their
music “intellectual” hip hop, with reference to their thoughtful lyrical
And their musical influences vary pretty dramatically, from
underground hip hop, like One Below and Atmosphere, to mainstream rock classics
like the Rolling Stones, Modest Mouse, and Beck.
The duo just finished touring 13 cities in three weeks with
Jiminy, a six-piece funk, pop and soul group based out of Saskatchewan.
“It was so much fun — it was unbelievable!” said Turner.
“I’d never been to the prairies before, so it was really cool to go there. I
didn’t know what to expect, going there, and it was awesome.”
They certainly weren’t expecting to find a large hip-hop-loving
contingent, and were pleasantly surprised by the open-minded attitude towards
music they encountered along the way.
“Everyone’s into all sorts of music, and every girl was
incredibly beautiful over there,” Turner added with a laugh.
Whistler’s local music scene has also been treating them well,
They were invited to take part in the entertainment programming
for Crankworx this summer, but were busy touring at the time.
Turner said Whistler is actually a great place to make music,
because a new audience is constantly coming into town.
“We attract a lot of people that aren’t necessarily strictly
into hip hop, and it’s also good because of traffic flow that comes through
here,” he explained. “People will come intermingle, then go home the next year
and tell all their friends, so that works out well, as well.”
These local boys also had the chance to pick up their mics
during Pemberton Festival this past summer, an experience Turner said was
“It was great for everyone that went, and I think everyone had
a good time,” Turner said. “They hooked all the artists up with huge privileges
that we didn’t really need or expect, so it made everyone happy.”
He added that the massive event also helped to put Pemberton on
the map, and was a great opportunity to showcase local talent to a huge crowd.
Long term, Turner and Armitage are working to make Animal
Nation their sole full-time gig.
“Right now, we’re just trying to do as many shows as possible,
just trying to tour everywhere and anywhere, basically.”
There was a two-year gap between their first two albums,
, and the duo is well on track to releasing their
second full-length album, which features another well-known local performer,
Ali Milner, on one of the tracks.
“This one came off as really personal, I think,” Turner said.
“The lyrics are actually way better on this one, and the same with the
production as well as the recording — it’s a lot crisper.”
They’re hoping to release the finished product in the New Year, but right now, they’re getting ready for a new mini-tour, heading to Vancouver, Bellingham, Burlington, and then back up to Whistler for a show on Sunday, Oct. 12, opening for Camp Lo and Ra the Rugged Man at Garfinkel’s.