‘Da’ What is Hip Hop? – Cee of The Movement Fam (Editorial)
What was it like to grow up a hip hop fan in Australia? What difficulties do foreign rappers face when moving to a new market? Cee is an Australian hip hop artist currently living in around Toronto, Canada and he has the answers. He is signed to a small label in the US, manages The Movement Fam, is shopping his debut album AND runs a successful hip hop karaoke night at the same damn time. This week we are going international again as Cee talks about what hip hop means to him and what it was like in Aussieland. Hit the jump to read the latest editorial from Cee for ‘Da’ What is Hip Hop!
“Hip Hop gave me life.
As a young, suburban kid from Melbourne, Australia, discovering a culture created by folks on the other side of the planet was a mind-blowing experience. The twelve-year old first hearing the more mainstream sounds of Kris Kross and Vanilla Ice bugged at the tenacity, emotion and aggression that this music had. The thirteen-year old lost his shit over the West Coast P-Funk and blatant cussing (I loved that shit) of Snoop’s ‘What’s My Name?’ The fifteen-year old was so inspired by ‘Illmatic’ that he picked up the pen and gave rhyming a try himself.
I repped Hip Hop.I lived it, I breathed that shit. From rockin’ my pops old jeans backwards in grade 6, to bringing a knife to school in case the punk motherfuckers who continually tried to get me shook for rocking baggy jeans, oversized jackets and Fugees tshirts tried something. Being the only cat at my all white, private, Lutheran school into Hip Hop (or at least the only one who showed it – at the time, you wore your music taste on your sleeve) wasn’t easy. But hip hop was, and still is, the only thing I’ve discovered in this short, twisted life that has brought out this much passion in me.
Who would’ve thought that at 32 years old, I’d be sitting in my crib in Montreal, Canada, writing a piece for a blog about what Hip Hop means to me, and that I moved here because I was signed to a small label in the US, I’m currently shopping my debut album, worked with some of my heroes, managing a crew (The Movement Fam) and running a successful Hip Hop Karaoke night in the city? It still trips me out. Everything I have, Hip Hop brought it to me; my style, my way of talking, my interests, my taste in women, the movies I dig, fashion, technology, my work ethic, my business ethos, my life fucking mission. I’m forever indebted to this incredible culture.
Watching it grow has also been crazy. I distinctly remember that my homies and I used to fucking run the dance floor at the underage dance parties we hit up as teenagers. Then in 1997/98, we started hearing fools blasting shit like Tupac’s ‘All Eyez On Me’ like every damn place we went – house parties, in the whip, at the crib. It drove me nuts. I suffered for this culture and now these fuckers wanna act like they know the deal? On the daily, I had questions like ‘Is Wu-Tang West Side or East Side?’ Seriously. I was the resident Hip Hop expert wherever I went; I have every edition of The Source from the mid-1990s until the early 2000s, when it went downhill. I studied that shit, son.
Finding Hip Hop in Australia was so difficult that I had to frequent special spots to cop imported CDs for around $30-50 a piece. I dropped hundreds every other week just to keep up to date. This was before the internet and downloading became easy, so if I saw an ad in The Source and it looked dope, I copped it. Only occasionally would I bother listening to it first, which didn’t always prove to be a wise decision. Gear was tough, too. Most of the ‘urban’ clothing brands were either fake or super expensive. It wasn’t uncommon to find shitty ass Wu-Wear and Shady Gear on the cheap at the local markets, though I often shelled out for original joints from brands like Ecko, Johnny Blaze, Pure Playaz, RP-55, Triple 5 Soul, etc.
When I turned 18 (the age of drinking and driving in Australia), I was literally the only white boy in the club. They played all the jams I’d loved growing up (mainly R&B to be honest, Aussies were scared of Hip Hop for the longest time) and I was in my element. Over the years, I saw the white quota increase exponentially, and to this day, that fucking Crooklyn Clan is still the biggest joint in any venue on the damn continent. As great as it was that Hip Hop was finally charting and invading the mainstream, it killed me to see the constant misunderstanding of it’s message through both the media and the people. I’d get called a ‘wigga’ on the reg, and idiots would do the ‘rap hands’ and be like ‘What up homie G?’ Fuck, I’m glad I left. This was even when Hip Hop had penetrated that cultural barrier; though I must admit that when I left in 2010, things were pretty good. I’d seen Australian rappers go from super underground, doing shows to 20 staunch cunts in flannel shirts, to my boy 360 doing sold out tours and releasing multi-platinum albums. That’s a beautiful thing right there.
In Canada, I assumed that it’d pretty much be like New York. Shit, Toronto is a fucking hour’s flight away from where Hip Hop began. I was buggin’ that TO would be my new Sydney (the cheap and easy weekend getaway). But alas, that wasn’t the case. Hip Hop was considerably more ingrained in the culture in comparison with Australia; mad people understood the ebonics I spoke, and I felt that a lot more folks had a deeper understanding of the Hip Hop cultural references I threw at them. There were way more Hip Hop nightlife events, shitloads more artists coming through town, and an actual 24/7 Hip Hop radio station, a white unicorn back home.
A greater understanding of the culture results in more participants. I don’t think I’ve ever met more rappers in my life. However, as an immigrant artist trying to make a name in a foreign scene, it’s definitely a little easier due to the increase in outlets for promotion and exposure. Plus our story is more interesting here. It’s more competition versus more opportunities, really. Folks here didn’t have to struggle to get a piece of the culture like we did back home, but my initial expectation of everyone walking around rocking New Era’s was unfounded, and Hip Hop is, to this day, still fighting for a place in mainstream culture. And with the influx of garbage music that the majors are throwing at us, it’s giving both Hip Hop and us as cultural members a bad rep to those who aren’t familiar with the beauty within. Life is full circle; it’s only a matter of time before that stuff fails to blind the masses and we return to where it all began.
Whether it’s in the suburbs of Melbourne, Le Plateau in Montreal or Ossington in Toronto, Hip Hop is officially worldwide. Big ups to all the artists, DJs, producers, b-boys and b-girls, writers, bloggers, promoters, activists, designers, business owners and fans who keep the culture thriving. Salute.” – Cee