Sunday, April 10, 2011

Elekwent Folk by Chibwe Mweene for Discorder Magazine

Illustration by Shane Scott-Travis

I first met Slippery Elm in a UBC anthropology class a little over a year ago, but back then I only knew him as Geordie Kennedy. We’d exchange a few words every class, but I knew there was more to him—he always wore headphones while burying his nose into a little notebook. Fast forward to sometime last fall when I discovered the smooth styles of local hip-hop outfit Elekwent Folk, which features none other than Slippery Elm himself. In retrospect, he was probably writing down rhymes in that book.

Along with fellow MC A-ro (Armando Hernandez) and Astrological (Nate Drobner) on the boards, the trio produces hip-hop reminiscent of groups like A Tribe Called Quest and KMD.
Slippery and A-ro both spit story driven lyrics that span all sorts of everyday topics. The opening lines of “B.C. Epiphany Pt. II,” a song off their 2010 LP, Folk Fest, has A-ro talking about waking up and preparing to head out to the beach for the rest of the day. Adding to the layers of production, A-ro also showcases his scratching techniques a few bars before his verse begins.

Slippery Elm also uses his imagination to set up situations in atypical and creative ways, like how he opens “The Way You Feel,” from the Milky Ways EP, with a few lines of spoken word poetry.

The duo also display their chemistry rhyming together on Folk Fest opener “Elevate,” recalling the classic back and forth flow between Q-Tip and Phife on A Tribe Called Quest’s “Check the Rhime.”

Astrological’s beats, meanwhile, bring Elekwent Folk’s music to the next level. “I make a beat, then I send it to these guys. I never expect the way they’re gonna interpret it, and what kind of ideas they’ll put on it,” he says. “So it’s always really fun to hear what they get from the beat.” It’s no wonder that A-ro and Elm are able to compose such colourful lyrics; Astrological’s beats are jazzy with smooth bass lines and cleverly chopped samples ranging from clips of speech to saxophone loops and psychedelic guitar chimes. He also adds his own layers of keyboards and bass as part of his production process.

Though their forthcoming LP, Northern Lights, is still in the works, it is sure to exhibit the previously mentioned ideals of hip-hop that each group member has. A teaser track off the LP, “Mark My Words,” can be found on their Facebook page.

Though his plate is plenty full with Elekwent Folk, Slippery Elm is also part of the Mobile Cipher Caravan. For those not in the know, in hip-hop, a cipher, or cypher, is when a group of rappers come together and freestyle, often to the cadence of a beatboxer.

The Mobile Cipher Caravan consists of local artists of all kinds, including rappers, visual artists and dancers. The cipher allows them to voice their opinions and spread awareness on current issues. By using “mobile cipher” tactics, like moving around downtown with speaker-mounted bikes and portable microphones, they are able to reach a larger audience as they cover more ground. Doing so helps avoid the noise complaints they may otherwise receive.
“If we just posted up on a corner with speakers, I’d say within an hour, cops would come and bust us,” says Slippery Elm. “So [we] stay somewhere for half an hour [and then] bike somewhere else.”

What drives the MCC is the activism they practice during each cipher. Their current goal is to raise awareness on oil tanker traffic in the Burrard Inlet. In conjunction with activist group No Tanks Vancouver, the MCC strives to inform the public of the dangers of oil tanker traffic in the Burrard Inlet and eventually to gain enough public interest so the B.C. government can move to reduce activity in the area. The reasons behind the campaign are to avoid the risks of potential oil spills and to maintain a clean, unpolluted city.

All in all, Slippery Elm is doing everything in his power to represent the best interests of Vancouver. Whether he’s in the studio working on the next Elekwent Folk record, or out in the streets freestyling to spread a positive message, he’s sure to leave a lasting impression.

Elekwent Folk are playing The Media Club, April 2.

Posted on March 30, 2011

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Elekwent Folk and the Olympic games...

Twenty-one spotlights stain the night sky. In constant motion, their chaotic, blinding, and purposeless discharge of energy seems to reflect the overall ambience of the city itself; a city gone mad with conflicting emotions, a city needlessly haemorrhaging fuel and money, a city attempting to cope with spotlights of a different kind—the collective eyes of an entire planet. The air is electric. Not just with the ever-present hum of helicopters and planes, but with the great emotional unrest that ripples through the atmosphere: outrage, passion, jubilation, anxiety, and excitement, all intermingling. The feeling is as overwhelming and contrasted as the suffocating hot-cold dizziness of post-salvia-trip recovery—as if a powerful tide of experience has just blown past, and your left shivering in its wake. This emotional turbulence, coupled with the countless numbers people flooding in by the hour, has Vancouver swollen-- like a balloon on the brink of bursting.

Zoom in to where the rubber is stretched thinnest—and find two Elekwent Folks—A-ro and myself, in a crowd of several thousand, marching through the streets of downtown Vancouver. We refuse to let the negative impacts of the Olympic industry go unnoticed by the World, so have gathered to turn the great spotlight on our city against the very people who have brought it here. Traffic is disrupted on all sides as we march to the beat of drums, chants, and old First Nations songs. Approaching ever closer to BC Place—the site of the Opening Ceremonies—the mood becomes more tense, a few people up ahead light torches, and the chants increase in volume and power. We pass hundreds of tourists, onlookers and news teams from around the World. I try to make eye contact, but their faces are repetitively obscured by the constant flash of cameras.

We arrive at BC Place about an hour or so before the Opening Ceremonies, and are met by a row of Police men, a couple hundred strong, in full riot gear. Here, the march stops. A standoff between the protestors and police ensues, though aside from the occasional bottle being thrown, things remain peaceful. Night begins to fall, it starts to rain.

3 days after the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Olympic Games, I am far away from the chaos Downtown on a forested cliff, overlooking the wide Pacific Ocean, watching the sunset. The weather is incredibly warm for February, I have snacks, I’m with my friends about to indulge in a nice contemplative doobie—life is good.

After a time, our session is interrupted by the much-out-of-place sound of a great engine. A helicopter, flying almost level with where we sit at the top of the cliff, enters our field of view between the treetops. I guess you can’t escape the Olympics’ presence...even at a place as isolated and tranquil as Wreck Beach.

I get to thinking of the games, of what’s occurred so far, of their omnipresence. Every billboard, commercial, banner and bus-ad insisting we support our Canadian athletes, celebrate diversity, peace and community, and that we immerse ourselves in Olympic hype and excitement. Of course, never far away from these beer and merchandise ads dressed in Olympic clothes, are Royal Bank logos, Bell Mobility logos, and a plethora of other corporate sponsors. I chuckle. Sure seems a funny group to be pushing peace Canadian pride and community.

Then there were the riots the morning after the opening ceremonies. I’m frustrated by how ironic it is that the black-clad rioters marched with us the day before, and then through their violent actions completely undermined the efforts of those thousands of Vancouverites resisting the Olympics in peace. The story of what began as an inspiring demonstration of democracy became one of violence, fear, and stupidity. And thanks to the mindless destruction of just a handful of confused people in black masks, the peaceful protestors of the day before are no longer concerned citizens in the eyes of the public, but freaks, faggots, zonked-out hippies, and junkies. If those confused brothers and sisters who partook in the riots that day really gave a F%CK about the environment, housing crisis, Enbridge Oil Pipeline, or any other cause they claim to support, they would have thought before smashing all that sh!t on Robson St.

The helicopter is long gone. I’m startled out of reflection by my homie DK bumping my arm telling me to pass it on cus I’ve taken to long with my rotation again. Ha! Oh well.

The Olympics are here, the damage is done. Maybe in the future people will build on the protest, and on the efforts of all Vancouver activists. Maybe they’ll work towards making the Olympics a blessing to a city, not a curse. Cus hey! Why can’t a great festival of athletic excellence, international togetherness, and peace, be GREEN and ETHICAL?!!

Anyways, to everyone who heard me out—Elekwent Fans or not: Peace to you!

To the masked, black-clad rioters of last Saturday: Rise up!! There are other ways to use your voice...

And finally, to all those drunk chumps downtown rocking Canada flags chanting “THEY SAY PROTEST WE SAY PARTY”: Don’t get your patriotism, happiness, peace and community catered to you by RBC, Bell Mobility, and McDonalds. Dig for those things within yourselves! There is much more to life than, beer, fireworks, beautiful Swedish girls, and free DeadMau5 shows!

Divine Love y’all

--Slippery Elm of Elekwent Folk

Saturday, January 23, 2010

JUST UP!! elekwent is gettin' it in this year....

OUR MISSION: To make you dance and have fun; perpetuate love, inspiration, confidence, happiness; and instill a sense of wonder concerning our planet and the little things in life, that is unfortunately far too much subdued in this crazy fast paced age we live in.

Riding the wave of energy brought forth by “The Genesis” Elekwent knew the time had come for a group album. Fun was had, beats were made, rhymes were scribbled, and soon enough Folk Fest was born.

Those who liked the Genesis will love this free spirited, feel good, musical mosaic, guaranteed to getcha off your seat. “We are really influenced by early nineties hip-hop” says Slippery, “We choose to work in this style because that’s what inspires and moves us. Having said that, we don’t want our fans to get bored from hearing the same old same old so we try to keep it new and interesting.”

Folk Fest truly is a folk festival, where different cultures harmoniously collide in a vibrant melting pot of colour and life. The album is a celebration, an offering to music and to the world. It is a collection of young men experimenting with the English language, funk, jazz, and progressive rock, to propel them into the future. And what that future has in store for these youngsters…The Funk only knows.

So for any of those peepin this, what up! Just got into all this internet shit for the group so bare with me and it'll go alright. I never thought i'd be writing a blog but I also never thought most of what is going down would be going to so it all new yo...... we've been given a great oppertunity by the great Prince of Poetry so we, in 2010, are going FULL FORCE. get ready suckas....

peace, A-Ro