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Double trouble

Cale Sampson knows that in hip hop, you go big or you go home.

Cale Sampson knows that in hip hop, you go big or you go home.

It’s why the Toronto-based rapper made his self-titled first solo effort a double-album of exuberant urban jams. And it’s been a long time coming. Sampson has been building his name and in the Toronto hip-hop scene with his compatriots in Rhythmicru, a prominent act on the local rap circuit, for the past five years. The group gave its blessing and help — the Cru and its extended family are ubiquitous on the album, along with DJ Kemo (of Rascalz fame) and Classified.

“The solo thing is something I always wanted to do since day one,” Sampson said. “Being in Rhythmicru is great, we’re like a sports team. Being a solo artist is rewarding from a creative perspective because it allows me to hit certain emotions that I can’t in a group session.”

Sampson waxes on picking up club girls to embarrassing drunken nights documented on Facebook, but it’s his politically charged material that’s gotten the most attention. His song The Facts Of War — a fact-filled recital on the Bush administration written in 2002-03 — was called “the most incendiary anti-war track ever created” by NOW Magazine and has been requested by students and teachers across the country for class presentations.

“I was going to tear into the people who brought those buildings down,” he said. “But if you do a political song, you better make sure you do the fact checking. I did two months of research and the more I found out about Bush and Cheney the more I changed my mind.”

The success to this point hasn’t come easy for Sampson, who notes there’s nowhere near the market for hip hop in Canada that there is for contemporary rock and post-punk. “It’s still a rock ‘n’ roll country,” he succinctly puts it. But he’s used to being the odd one out. Growing up in The Beach, a relatively affluent, left-leaning and waspy Toronto neighbourhood, he says the local kids listened to rock while he plunged head first into rap and penned his own rhymes.

“I was on the football team in high school and people still thought I was weird because I was ‘the hip-hop guy,’” he laughs. “Then rap got popular and everybody wanted to talk to me. Things happen in cycles, but I’ve always stuck with it because I love it. You’ve got to be genuine to yourself.”

 
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