One side effect of being a drag queen's husband is that drag is everywhere.
- Posted on Jul 20th 2012 12:00PM by Jason MacNeil
Ten days after the Eaton Centre shooting, police shut down a hip-hop showcase scheduled for the Rivoli as part of the annual NXNE music and film festival hours before it was set to start.
As reported at the time, organizer Brenden Hewko said Toronto Police and its Gang Unit "received information regarding artists on my showcase bill about potential gang affiliation which lead them to believe that a potential 'gang rivalry' could occur leading to gang violence." The cancellation left some acts scrambling to play last-minute gigs at other venues.
Earlier this week, one of the groups on that June bill, the Antiheroes, released their new video for the song "The Rebels (Listen Up)." A press release accompanied the video, stating the video adds "to the perception that the Police Department's actions were unfounded and based in prejudice."
Unfortunately, the video's release comes the same week as that second shooting in the Toronto suburb of Scarborough.
The Antiheroes' Sha Prince says the separate shootings might influence how police view Toronto's hip-hop scene, but that view would be wrong.
"I really hope not, but I'm sure in a way it could," Sha Prince tells Spinner. "Hip-hop is the younger generation a lot of older people don't understand. Racial profiling and stereotyping definitely come into play if they're ignorant to what really the scene is predominately about and that isn't gangs and gun violence."
Throughout its history, the perceived link between gang violence and hip-hop music is something some artists have played up repeatedly in lyrics or videos, while others have quickly tried to distance themselves from. And for members of Toronto's hip-hop community, trying to further that distance has become a tougher climb recently.
The media isn't helping, of course. Both the National Post and Toronto Star wrote outrageous rap lyric-filled articles this week about Hennessy being served at the BBQ shooting, implying a connection between this outburst of gang violence and the fact that artists like Mobb Deep, Snoop and Tupac once rapped about the high-end cognac.
"People need to wake up and realize crime doesn't equal hip-hop. I'm not sure when those two merged as one," he says. "I'm sure people associated with crime and shootings don't just listen to hip-hop. Blaming a genre of music is a cop-out, it's lame. [People] need to look a lot deeper than that to figure out why people display such ignorance."
Looking back at the NXNE incident, both Sha Prince and fellow Antiheroes member Flex were upset by what transpired. Sha Prince says they weren't even told the police had shut down their show until they were en route to the venue.
"I was pissed," Flex says. "It wasn't only about us being let down, but the people we had coming out to check us. We actually heard the rumor, but had no idea until we actually showed up. I had no thoughts of it being shut down or seen as anything other than positive for the Toronto hip-hop scene."
"My first reaction was, 'Wow, thanks for the notice,'" Sha Prince says. "It was frustrating for me. This was a show that a lot of people were excited for."
The band's new video for the song (which Sha Prince describes as their "anthem joint") -- co-directed by Briin Bernstein and Daniel Rosenberg -- ironically was shot and completed before the Rivoli incident, and according to Flex, wasn't "inspired by the events."
"In a way, I find that more of a statement because it was what we set out to do instead of just doing it as some sort of retaliation," he says.
"It definitely felt nice to put out a video that totally disregards the picture painted of that whole Rivoli situation," Sha Prince adds, about the video which also features appearances by Juno-nominated rappers Rich Kidd and D-Sisive.
While the video's imagery is anything but controversial, its release coincides with the Scarborough shootings which made international headlines. Drake tweeted about the incident, sending out his condolences to the families and friends of victims Shyanne Charles and Joshua Yasay. "Senseless violence in Toronto has to stop," he said.
"My initial reaction was 'not again,' we can do better than this senseless violence," Sha Prince said. "I have children that one day will be teenagers. It terrifies me to think they could be put in a situation like that."
However, Sha Prince says he's not sure how to sway "the public's opinion of me personally or hip-hop as a whole in Toronto."
"I've done nothing that would put me in the category of 'gang related'," he says. "Maybe if police and people in the city paid more attention to positive festivals like Manifesto [and] youth day events the city puts on free for the public every year that mainly revolve around hip-hop they'd realize it's a peaceful movement.
"Both sides need communication and understanding on where we're both coming from and what our goals are."