What do you like about beats?
I like that our heart is one.
Also, they seem to grow well in the Yukon.

Daniel Mackenzie shows us his “you are cordially invited” face

Daniel Mackenzie started Free the Beat Foundation with a mission to “encourage people to express themselves through the art of rhyming, singing, beatboxing, freestyling, playing musical instruments, producing, recording [and] scoring, on a march to promote positive mental health.”

Sitting with Jeremy Linville, a board member, and Dan, we rapped about music. If, reading this, you think: “But I’m not musical,” Jeremy will tell you, “It’s not true. Music comes from inside you [whether or not] you picked up something physical to make the music.”

And Dan agreed.

“You know, music is energy. And I think thought is energy, and when you put thought into something to make it something, it’s its own music,” Dan said. “Every sound that you can interpret as something good to you, I would almost define as music, not just sound.”

He gave the example of a chainsaw cutting lines through bush to put survey equipment down. That’s music.

Hip-hop culture is well established underground, but any casual listeners are turned off by aggressively sexist and materialist messages and glorification of drug use conveyed by mainstream hip hop; records bear stickers warning parents of offensive language.

Now things are changing as shows are for all ages and billed as drug and alcohol free. The Free the Beat Foundation is gaining momentum and these shows are becoming more frequent at the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Center and Splintered Craft.

You may have seen Yukon hip hop artists perform at Kid’s Fest, or the Yukon Aboriginal Women’s Council. You may have heard that on March 10, there was a songwriting workshop in Haines Junction at the Leaders in Training Conference.

“In 2016, we had our first show. [Recently] we raised some money for the Boy’s and Girl’s club to buy music equipment, so we could pursue our further commitment of putting on workshops, teaching [youth] how to use this equipment and encouraging them to do so.

“Using it not just as a means for having fun, but indeed as a tool of life, where you can address different issues inside of you that may be causing mental illness and have this constructive tool to address it in a positive way – which is really hitting it home. We want people to be knowledgeable and educated, but we also want people to be happy inside, and not bottle anything up. It takes these two things and pushes them forward.”

I’ve wondered about music as therapy; could it be that a key to mental health has been under our nose? Jeremy told me about his experience on a psychiatric ward. He felt that doctors and drugs were ineffectual when it came to curing depression and addiction. “I like to use [poetry] and wear it like a cape. I became my own superhero, I can speak my thoughts truly by my own experiences and I’m not afraid to do so. I mean, that’s the point to being an MC, you really gotta step up there and say the things that you’re afraid to say. A lot of it is talking about depression, talking about your mental state.”

Ever the poet, Dan used a metaphor: “You know, when it rains, it pours in life. And at least, helping people open their own umbrellas for situations is kind of what I am seeking for this, and educating them on how resistant those umbrellas can become.”

There is a drop-in studio at Inner Vibes located at 404c Ogilvie Street, and keep your eyes (and ears) peeled for Battle Rap for Charity.