Plex wants to live in a country that trades on multiculturalism to pay more attention to the plight of its Native communities.
The Edmonton-born, Toronto-based MC and founding member of hip-hop collective Won 18 (and brand new dad) delivers that message on his solo debut, Brainstorm. The collaborative, eclectic and always confident grassroots collection range from relaxed to raging, taking aim at the rough lives of Native peoples and a public that does not to see it.
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Call hip hop the perfect medium to give the voiceless a way to say something, argues Plex (a.k.a. Doug Bedard, the son of an Ojibwa mother and Ukranian-Romanian father).
“A lot of aboriginal people, especially in Canada, grew up in low-income areas,” says Plex. “A lot of hip hop was based on that, especially in the poorer areas of New York. It’s relatable for us. It’s changed a lot over the years and become a lot more sugar-coated, but I think people are still looking for something that actually says something.”
Well, somebody’s got to, especially when discussing the impact of oilsands in northern Alberta on Native peoples, a subject near and dear to Plex’s heart. As a former insulator on a rig, he says he saw first-hand the environmental and social devastation they brought. Not so easy to find people who will listen, however, when the province depends on the money flowing out of them.
“I don’t think it serves the media any good to push it that much, especially in a province where the oil industry controls so much,” he says. “But the devastation is across the board. People are getting sick. A place like Fort Chipweyan; people have been living there for generations and they’re getting these weird cancers that only one in a million people get and you get several cases in one small region.”
In the meantime, Plex will continue to foster grassroots rappers with his music label New Leaf Entertainment, and encourage aboriginal culture into mainstream circles with The Plex Show — an Aboriginal Voices Radio program profiling indigenous talent that airs across Canada on Friday nights. It’s about breaking down the barriers between cultures, he argues, something Canadians need to do if we’re going to call ourselves truly multicultural.
“Growing up, there was that separation. We were always pushed to one side,” he says. “It always made me feel awkward and ashamed about it. But we shouldn’t feel like that. What has been happening is good, but we’re only beginning to fine-tune that stuff.”