Ricca Razor Sharp [Interview]
Calgary, AB – Back in the late 90’s, New Orleans burst onto the hip-hop’s collective consciousness buoyed by the multi-platinum success of independent labels like No Limit and Cash Money. Since then it seems a new city pushes its way into the spotlight and onto the Billboard charts every year, most recently Atlanta, Houston and the windy city of Chicago.
On this side of the border, T.O. and Van City have been established as urban music hotbeds for some time, but it appears that Alberta is poised to really show the rest of the country that it’s not just oil it’s sitting on – there is an overwhelming amount of talent brewing within the province as well. The City of Champions, Edmonton, and Cowtown (or Stampede City), Calgary, naturally bring forth the large majority of Alberta’s industry players but the scene is alive and growing East to West, North to South.
Positive proof of this is the success of the first I Heart Alberta Rap Festival which took place this past September in Calgary. Organized by Calgary emcee Jonathan Stoddart, the festival featured two nights of performances by rappers from all over the province, an all-ages show and a very fancy souvenir compilation CD – the presentation was on point!
While groups like Lyric1 & Deezus or Dragon Fli Empire aren’t national household names just yet, the talent involved has been locking down the local support and coming together through initiatives like Stoddart’s for the greater good of Albertan hip-hop. Additionally, Alberta has already begun to make its mark on both a national and international scale. Edmonton duo Touch & Nato’s latest album The Representatives In Intelligent Design was last year’s tenth most-played disc on Chart Attack magazine’s campus radio chart, fellow City of Champions natives Politic Live were nominated for a Western Canada Music Award for their 2007 LP Adaptation and E-Dot continues to build a heavy underground following States-side after linking with the infamous Uncle Howie Records some years back.
Politic Live member Arlo Maverick was impressed at how well I Heart Alberta Rap was put together:
“Given the resources they had and considering that it was their first year,” Arlo told HipHopCanada. “The festival promoters truly made something out of nothing.”
Arlo – also known as “Young Mav” – believes it’s up to the artists to make the best of the opportunity I Heart Alberta Rap provides.
“If all they want to do is perform and then add it to their list of performances,” Mav adds, “then the festival fails to achieve what it has the potential to do.”
Jonathon Stoddart performed the second night of the festival; he’s known as Ricca Razor Sharp when rapping alongside partner Mantrakid. He spoke about his plans for the event and his satisfaction during a recent conversation with us:
HipHopCanada: How did you come up with the I Heart Alberta Rap festival idea?
Ricca Razor Sharp: Mantrakid and I owed a show to a promoter in Lethbridge, and we thought about the concept of having a show with one act from Lethbridge, one from Calgary, one from Red Deer and one from Edmonton, but we couldn’t narrow it down. We started making a short list, and we realized that we needed at least two nights, so we decided to call it a festival. The idea just kind of snowballed.
HipHopCanada: How much planning and legwork was involved? Did you guys have trouble getting sponsors and that sort of thing?
Ricca Razor Sharp: Surprisingly, no. We approached only a hand full of sponsors, ones who could really offer us strategic support. There was really no money involved, just sponsorship status in exchange for free advertising, printing and other things along those lines. Mantrakid, who is the President of our indie label Neferiu, did a lot of design work for the print materials. That took a lot of time, because he’s a dope artist, but kind of a perfectionist when it comes to his graphic arts.
HipHopCanada: Did he do the logo?
Ricca Razor Sharp: [Laughing] There is a bumper sticker out here that has been around for years that says I HEART ALBERTA and has a steer head. It is for Alberta beef. We just jacked that logo and used the microphone instead of the steer head. It’s such an iconic Alberta Cowboy logo that it was kind of funny to jack it for an urban music event.
HipHopCanada: Now, the sponsorship was on point, would you say the whole event went smoothly?
Ricca Razor Sharp: Yeah, I think it did. The funny thing is we were so busy organizing the X’s and O’s of it all, that when the event finally went down and I just got to sit back and enjoy all the sets, it was totally worth it. Everybody came tight, and all the artists were doing a lot of socializing and supporting, which made it all worth while. Touch & Nato are one example of an Alberta act that had a really good year in ‘07, so it was great that they came down from Edmonton. The smaller places like Lethbridge and Red Deer were represented as well. Intricate Minds has several members from Red Deer and a crew from Lethbridge called the Boom Bap Baboons who also came up. These are not places that most people associate with hip-hop, but the scenes are building with the youngsters, and they are turning into great places to go and do shows.
HipHopCanada: I was talking to a label rep a couple of days ago, and he said the problem in Canada is there are too few media outlets to promote hip-hop, so we need to create our own. It looks like that’s what you guys are doing in Alberta.
Ricca Razor Sharp: Yeah, it’s true. I’m not stupid. I know that it’s an uphill battle, especially outside of the Toronto/ Southern Ontario area. For us, it has to start somewhere, and we are promoting ourselves as artists, as well as our province at the same time. If you look at Canada geographically, especially in the West, it is not all that ‘urban’ so it makes sense that to promote urban music is going to be a struggle. The fact is that people are buying the hip-hop CDs at HMV and going to the hip-hop DJ nights, so eventually people are going to start realizing that there are good hip-hop artists creating on a local level.
HipHopCanada: Most definitely. Now, what plans are going on for next year’s festival?
Ricca Razor Sharp: To be completely honest with you, all the artists have been tremendously supportive of the format, and are interested in making it happen again. The sponsors were on board, and I think that it’s going to be a good starting point to make it happen again. We can focus more of our efforts on expanding the festival, instead of just setting it up. There has been ideas about having it somewhere besides Calgary at some point in the future, but nothing solid as of yet. And there is always a chance for us to secure some grant money to help expand the profile, which we are looking into with some help from the Politic Live guys.
HipHopCanada: I noticed CJSW had the festival CD on their Top 50 albums chart. Was the CD solely for promotional use at the festival, or is it in stores?
Ricca Razor Sharp: The CD idea happened kind of organically, and was originally meant to be a festival memento more than a commercially available product, so it doesn’t have a commercial number or a bar code, which is why we didn’t really send it to stores. To be honest with you, the whole festival came about fairly organically in the spring, and then we just kind of ran with it in the summer and before we knew it, it was upon us in the fall. The good news is that it went down without a hitch, and was enjoyed by all, so that is our starting point for IHAR2.
Editor’s note: Be sure to check out Ricca Razor Sharp at http://www.riccarazorsharp.com.
Track listing for the I Heart Alberta Rap Festival Compilation:
01. So Fly – Tarren & King James
02. Could, Woulda, Shoulda – Lyrics1
From the album “Get in on the Ground” – http://www.maintainonevoice.com
03. Headphones – Dragon Fli Empire
From the album “Invasion” – http://www.myspace.com/dragonfliempire
04. Gloomsday – Boom Bap Baboom
05. Executive Summary – Politic Live featuring Janaya Ellis
From the album “Adaptation” – http://www.politiclive.com
06. Escapism Episode #97 – Mantrakid featuring Stilz
From the album “Remembering Kansas”
07. Contract – Ricca Razor Sharp featuring SoLeo of Impirical
Unreleased exclusive track – http://www.riccarazorsharp.com
08. Love Is The Real Pain (Remix) – The DC Show
09. Right Now – The EquAzn
10. Coat of Armz – Impirical
From the album “Coat of Armz” – http://www.impirical.ca
11. Bananaz Remix – Emcee E
12. Captain of the Football Team – Lexington & Whatevski
13. Do Not Enter – Intricate Minds
From “The Self-Hypnosis LP” – http://www.myspace.com/therealintricateminds
14. Lady Luck – Planit
From the album “The Whole Process of Things”
15. Adult’s Story – Touch & Nato
From the album “The Representatives in Intelligent Design” – http://www.upinarmsrecordings.com