Johnny Hardcore, photo by Kelly Best
Featuring artists from across the island, including Johnny Hardcore, Radar, Lee Fitz (St.John’s), Letter 10 (Corner Brook), Compton and Juice (Grand Falls) and others, filmmaker Colin Browne‘s full-length documentary, The Heart (A Newfoundland hip-hop documentary) will have its world premiere on September 30. Elling Lien got in touch with Browne to ask him about the film.
When did you decide to do a documentary on local hip hop?
The idea of a hip-hop scene in Newfoundland was something that had never really occurred to me until about January of 2006. I was living in Montreal when my friend Andrew sent me 2 CDR’s in the mail: an instrumental rock group called Battles, and Gazeebow Unit’s Airport Heights. Returning home late from work, which I desperately hated, I was just sitting down to open some wine and prepare for bed when I decided to listen to one of the CD’s, neither of which I had heard of before. Battles was kind of boring me, so I stuck on Gazeebow and it all came from that moment.
I have been a big fan of hip-hop, mostly old school, since I was about nine. In fact, you may have me seen me competing on Da Mix with Master T in 1999 for a special episode called Hip-Hop’s Biggest Fan where the contestants had to answer hip-hop related trivia for a chance at 10,000$. I didn’t win but managed to walk away with 250 dollars, a Roc-a-Fella jean jacket (which I promptly sold for thirty dollars) and the illustrious title of Hip-Hop’s Biggest fan for eastern Canada, having defeated the competition in Halifax about 2 months prior to the Toronto taping.
How did you track down the people you did? Do you think you found a good representation?
I met the guys from St.John’s at last year’s Homegrown Dope Jam. On the walk to the bar I was thinking “this is a stupid idea” and that I was gonna maybe get attacked or laughed at because I didn’t know anybody and [here I was] showing up by myself with a tripod and handheld camera. But the guys were all really nice and I couldn’t believe the lyrical taIent that was being displayed throughout that night. To find the other artists, I rented a car in Tilton and drove across the island, randomly hunting people down in different areas. In Corner Brook, I ended up finding one guy in the meat department at Dominion.
Why is there so little hip-hop going on in Newfoundland?
Most people think hip-hop in Canada ends in Halifax but, as I see it, the Newfoundland MCs have got more unique personality, and can lyrically dominate anything Halifax has to offer. I think there’s a perception of what it means to come from Newfoundland that naturally makes people think twice about what you might have to offer as valid, or (it being) worthy of being marketable to a mass audience. Even some people from here have a tendency to buy into this idea that it must be second best if it’s from Newfoundland. I just don’t think there’s a place for that way of thinking anymore, whether that’s in hip-hop or fashion or whatever.
Catch the documentary this Sunday, Sept.30, 8pm at the LSPU Hall. $5.