|URBAN GROOVE PREVIEW
Wednesday, November 7
Canadian hip-hop finds fans online
McEnroe builds underground following with MP3s and word-of-mouth
Rod Bailey (a.k.a. Roddy Rod) is one member of Canadas hip-hop community that has seen the fortunes of his favourite music rise and fall over several years. Eleven years ago he helped found Farm Fresh, and now he is also a member of the collective McEnroe, along with other Canadian hip-hoppers Park Like Setting and Fermented Reptile. Theyve just embarked on a tour across this soon-to-be-frozen tundra from their base in Vancouver.
While the prairies might be a long way from the stories of the street that dominate most hip-hop especially the music that Rod originally plugged into its most appealing themes were borderless.
The success of Farm Fresh followed Bailey as they went on tour as an opening act for Rheostatics. It was during that time that they were brought to the attention of an increasing number of Canadians, including the record company executives that took the group for many lunches but inked no deals, despite the bands unique sound and approach.
"We dont move enough CDs and were not like others, so we arent priority for the Canadian industry," says Rod realistically.
In the short-term this doesnt seem to be something that will change, but in the long run like many Canadian bands that fall outside of the arena rock format or the singer-songwriter formula this is a music and culture that is fostered by an ever-growing community of fans. Bailey notes that Canadian hip-hop does foster a thriving underground that seems to grow despite the fact that it's largely ignored by radio and the mainstream media alike.
Bailey says that with little national distribution, the Internet is a key player. For example, the music of Baileys new group, McEnroe, is available online at www.mcenroe.net. Theyre making steady sales, and not just in the Canadian provinces that theyve toured. Rod says they do about half of their business south of the border.
Their online fan base has translated into wider appeal, and Canadian promoters are finally twigging to the idea that hip-hop can be as lucrative as any garage band.
"(N)ow, you can call up a person and say were coming through town and get a venue that network wasnt there three years ago," says Rod.