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Thursday, December 22, 2005

Shootin' (a scene) at 50 Cent

Just to keep the frightened middle classes updated... the 50 Cent concert in Toronto went off without incident. (editors note: I can't claim authorship of that first sentence. It was a brilliant start to the always excellent music critic for the Toronto Star - Ben Rayner -- about the only journalist in this city that's been able to bring some sanity to all the ink being spilled writing about linking rap and Toronto gun violence.) What better place to shoot a final scene for The Toronto Rap Project then the much debated appearance of 50 Cent. Yes, security was very tight entering the building (something on par with boarding your standard aircraft) but I guess it's better to be safe then sorry? Nice to see our Police and security resources so gainfully employed in patting down all the white, suburban kids attending the show. And yes, that was the dominant demographic present on this night. We managed to interview many people as they were leaving the show, with the question on everybody's mind, "Does seeing a fiddy concert make you want to fire a gun?" The answers may surprise you...

Monday, December 19, 2005

Don't Blame Fiddy

We did another great interview for the Toronto Rap Project this weekend. Lawyer/Professor/Journalist Alan Young. Alan decided to share his thoughts on the recent 50 Cent controversy in Canada with a piece in NOW Magazine. I really liked a lot of what Alan had to say and figured he would be a great fit for the doc. Unlike so many other journalists who just don't get rap, Alan was in a unique position to comment on the issue. In the early nineties Alan worked one of the few legal cases in Canadian history when rap music actually found it's way into our courts. A London, Ontario music store was brought up on obscenity charges when it was discovered it was selling a banned 2-Live-Crew album. Alan defended the store owner. While he eventually went on to lose the case, Alan can't help but a see deja-vu with the whole 50 cent controversy and so-called gansta imagery of his music. Like the 2-Live-Crew case, Alan once again can't understand why extreme forms of black culture are a target for media and activists but an artist like Quentin Tarantino movies play in our theatres and nobody says boo. I'll be the first to call Tarantino a genius but I'll even admit that any violence depicted in one of his movies is a hundred worse then anything fiddy has ever shown. But in our world, Tarintino is the genius and 50 Cent the villain. You can only wonder why?

Sunday, December 11, 2005

A Criminal Mind

A big day of interviews for the Toronto Rap Project. It started early in the day when I see that the Reelworld Film Festival is having a screening of "Redemption: The Tookie Williams Story" starring Jamie Foxx. I had actually wanted to see this film as Tookie has been so in the news lately with his scheduled execution for this Tuesday December 13th. I find the case quite fascinating and I am very curious what the end result will be this Tuesday. Will Governor Swartznegger save him? It's a tough case... while I can't say that I'm a believer in the death penalty -- it is the system in that part of the U.S. and NOT killing him would set a strange legal precedent. I do find it ironic that they finally have somebody that seems to have been rehabilitated by the system and is now preaching positive words towards troubled youth, and what are they going to do with him... is kill him. Gotta love that U.S. criminal system. With that said, my real excitement for the screening is when I saw who was going to be the guest speakers. When I saw that Toronto rap legend "Maestro" Wes Williams and CITY-TV reporter Dwight Drummond were scheduled to speak - I knew this would be a great opportunity to try to interview these cats for the Toronto Rap Project. Of course, a blizzard hits Toronto early that morning and I begin to wonder would anybody even show up for the screening? Would it be cancelled? I get to the theatre and Maestro shows up early so a great opportunity to introduce myself quickly arose. I have to admit that I can get a little nervous approaching "celebrity" names - especially people that I want so badly for the documentary. But things got comfortable very quickly with Maestro (Wes) and he was really into hearing about the documentary project. It wasn't long before Wes said "no problem" to an interview. After the film, there was some media gathered interviewing Wes and some of the other speakers about the film and Tookie. All I could see was the light was really dingy in the theatre with lots of background noise. I knew this wasn't the place for the interview. By now, while still quite cold... the sun had come out and I knew the best place for the interview would be outside. I do feel a little guilty about asking Wes to stand outside for 20 or 30 minutes in the freezing cold doing an interview. But what can I say? We're real low budget and the right light is outside. Thankfully, Wes was real cool and had no problem with going outside. In the end, it was a great interview hearing the insights of a man who's been in the urban music game fo so many years and hearing his thoughts on the T-dot. But the real surprise of the day happened a little later over lunch with Wes. We head over to Harvey's to grab a bite. And while chatting about the different music I'm planning for the doc, I mention I would love to use some of Maetro's music.. but there's no way I'm going down that road - that is, dealing with record companies or publishing companies on licensing music for the doc. It's just ain't in the budget (not to mention I'm not in the mood to deal with the bureaucratic bullshit that goes along with licensing music). I say to Maestro, "that Criminal Mind song you did with Larry Gowan was fuckin' great. Another brilliant sample to use -- I could only dream about using such a track in my project. " without missing a beat, Maestro says.. "go ahead. use it." I couldn't fucking believe it. It turns out Maestro owns the masters of this recording and there ain't no fucking record companies to deal with. I think Maestro appreciated one artist to another just trying to create the best thing possible. So right now, I'm feeling the pressure to edit something great given the opportunity to work with such a cool song.