Two-time Juno Award nominees Sweatshop Union is returning to the Yukon to tear up the Whitehorse hip hop scene for Canada Day.
Sweatshop Union, a well-known Canadian hip hop collective, offers three high-energy performances featuring tracks from its soon-to-be released disc.
“Look for some songs that you remember from videos and some new things you haven’t heard, six dudes and one emcee, throwing it down,” says emcee Kyprios over the phone from his home in B.C.
Formed in 2000, Sweatshop Union became a hip hop collective, made up of four politically minded rap acts: Pigeon Hole, Innocent Bystanders, Dirty Circus and solo artist Kyprios.
Coming together through spoken word and hip hop, the fit between the artists was an obvious one. “When it came time to do a record, it seemed a better idea to pool our resources and come together,” says Kyprios.
“It was a bit harder to make a record back then … [now] everyone has a record studio in their basement.
“Opportunities started coming in to do live shows and we felt the need to follow up and form the group.”
Sweatshop Union signed with Battle Axe Records in 2002. Its 2004 album, Natural Progression, resulted in three Western Canadian Music Award nominations and one Juno Award nomination.
It has toured with numerous hip hop acts including, Jurassic 5, Blackalicious, De La Soul and Black Eyed Peas (just to name a few). These opportunities have given it a chance to reach broader audiences but it still needs the support of its fellow Canadians.
“The hip hop scene here [in Canada] still isn’t as supportive of its artists as it should be. They look at the U.S. instead of looking at their fellow country men. That being said, there are some people making some big advancements.
“Kardinal [Offishall] and k-os are making a movement, but it’s tough to make a living in Canada just performing hip hop,” says Kyprios.
Creating music that is accessible to all types of people and audiences comes from the band’s ability to work together for a common goal.
“We craft the music and it’s accessible that way. The producers in the group are successful craftsmen. They can put together a beat that is catchy by nature, they know how to put it down and get a beat that bumps and that people can gravitate toward.
“You have to put the crew’s mentality above your own ego,” says Kyprios.
The band is releasing its latest disc, Water Street, in early August. With a 23-track listing, this band has to compromise for the final product: “There are four different groups here that want equal say. So we look at the songs and figure out what songs have a common theme.
“Musically and vocally, what songs does everyone like? What songs need work? We want what’s on the record to be the strongest and best part of the meat, then we throw the fat away,” says Kyprios.
Heading back to the Yukon is a highlight for the band. Its last experience was positive, but a bit too short.
“Dude it was wicked! It was light out and just gorgeous. It was a blast, but we were only there for one day. This time we want to see more of the land and hang out with the people,” Kyprios says energetically.
It has two shows on its first day in town, Saturday, June 28, at Coasters Bar & Grill. At 4 p.m. there will be an all ages show and then, at 9 p.m., for 19+.
Sweatshop Union will perform again at 9 or 9:30 p.m. on Canada Day, at the Shipyard Park.
For more information, check out its website at www.sweatshopunion.com.