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YLook [Interview]

YLook (The Circle)

Toronto, ON – As one of the lesser known members of the renowned Circle Crew (Saukrates, Kardinal Offishall, Tara Chase etc.) Toronto MC Salman Rana AKA YLook has seen a lot of ups and downs in the Canadian hip-hop industry. Although he has never released an album of his own, he has been a part of nearly every album in the Circle Crews archive.

Furthermore, he has released his own singles and has been featured on albums put out by other well-respected artists. Many of us probably remember YLook from his memorable verse on Kardinal Offishall’s now classic 12-inch single “Rhyme, Shine and Buss” or his Collizhun produced single “Relate To Me” featuring Kardinal. The music video for “Relate To Me” was played regularly on MuchMusic’s Rap City garnering YLook national exposure. It seemed as though YLook was ready to carve out his own path and make a serious impact on the Canadian hip-hop scene. However, several years passed and there was still no album. In 2003 YLook reappeared and spoke his mind on “Till Now”; a Circle posse cut from Choclair’s JUNO Award winning album Flagrant.

“I sat back throughout the years and watched my peers establish they careers and spit it with no fear but listen here/ My ultimate ultimatum is to fuck the system and to liberate the children peep my vision/ I love my clique ya’ll but I prefer to walk alone/ Deadly like Sars this ain’t about cars it’s about home/ Far off lands where my ancestors roam lets get some rags and Molotov’s I’m aiming at the occupiers”

It became clear that spitting rhymes was not the most important thing in Ylook’s life, but that certainly does not make him any less “hip-hop”.  Ylook remains actively involved in Canada’s hip-hop movement. HipHopCanada caught up with YLook to discuss his views on the current state of hip-hop, politics, religion and his future in the Canadian hip-hop scene.

HipHopCanada: You lived through the so-called “Golden Years” of Canadian hip-hop in the 90’s, talk to me about the changes you’ve seen in the Canadian hip-hop scene.

YLook: I can’t speak on the Canadian movement with any sort of complexity or nuance. I can speak on Toronto’s hip-hop movement with a degree of consideration. The hip-hop movement in Toronto continues to reform and reinvent itself. I’ve seen growth in elements such as turntabalism, b-boying/girling, graffiti art and a general interest in the culture – although most of the genuine interest is deeply underground, which in a way protects it from corruption. Musically, with respect to emceeing and producing, it’s difficult for me to call it. The quality of the music has definitely become better with respect to the sound. Artists are paying more attention to the engineering sciences behind the music. Production wise, because of improvements in the computing power of household computers and the accessibility of production software, the beats are getting better. It seems more producers are paying attention to production theory. Lyrically, there are some talented brothers and sisters and some not so talented. Things generally get better with time. One concern I have is the subject matter of much of the lyrics. Lyrics are becoming more homogenous, there’s less diversity and there seems to be an over-emphasis on the “smack DVD” genre of lyricism. It gets boring. And if emcees are basing their decisions on economic variables they should think things through – it’s going to be really hard for Toronto artists to sell the ‘hood’ in a non-indigenous format to brothers in Brooklyn, Long Beach, Compton, Brixton etc. It doesn’t fly. If with your lyrics, you’re trying to represent your hood and the local street reality, I think the best way to do it is in a format honest to your context and reality, in a language that reflects that reality. Point Blank has one of the most powerful songs I’ve ever heard come out of the city, “Born and Raised”. Along with their video, which I believe is one of the best in Canadian hip-hop history, and one of the best songs I’ve heard period, internationally, they reflect a reality that is uniquely Regent Park and by extension, Toronto. If you’re not from Regent Park, you get a sense of life there from their music. It’s not easy to do that. And that’s why I heard that song on BBC’s 1Xtra radio while in London, England last year, as opposed to other artists from the city.

HipHopCanada: Talk to me about the JOY program/Fresh Arts. How important was that program to Toronto’s hip-hop scene, and your own growth within the industry in those early years?

YLook: By JOY, you’re referring to Jobs Ontario Youth which Mike Harris axed during his term as Ontario’s Premier. That program was important because it provided youth, in particular, youth considered at risk, with summer jobs in areas relevant to their interests. It was primarily important in that respect. Fresh Arts was a program that cooperated with the JOY program, giving many of us the opportunity to work within an artistic environment on our particular artistic interests – while getting paid the minimum wage for the province. Alumni include Little X, Kid Kut, Saukrates, Jully Black, Kardinal, J Wyze, Solitair, Marvel, Vandal etc. That program gave us what most young artists today don’t have access to, tutelage and mentorship. The entire program had a didactic component to it. We were given insight into music theory, production, business etc. Aside from that, we were disciplined and there were heavy expectations on the youths involved to contribute throughout the summer term – termination was always a possibility for any of us who stepped out of line. Our teachers included Motion and Power from the original Master Plan show on 89.5fm. I can speak on behalf of the alumni when I say that most of us are infinitely indebted to them for where we are now.

HipHopCanada: You used to go by the name Kooly. How did you get that name and why did you change it to YLook?

YLook: Kooly was taken from the expression Coolie. Originally, coolie refers to unskilled laborers from India and China. Most of my non-Muslim friends are from the Carribean – and Coolie is a colloquialism that is used to describe Caribbean’s with South Asian roots. Historically it has had a pejorative connotation, but it has been popularized and many people around my friends used to refer to me as such – and it stuck. Many also use it to distinguish between South Asians from the Carribean (“Coolies”) versus South Asians from Asia (“Pakis” – another pejorative term with a deeper history of racism). No matter which way you spin it, it denotes ignorance and stupidity, and I wanted nothing to do with the inanity of the word. So I turned it backwards – there’s no magic too it. I stripped it of its meaning without spending too much time on rethinking a new nickname. It lacks creativity, but I could have cared less at the time. I just didn’t want to be referred to as a coolie or a paki. Two words I don’t relate too and personally, I didn’t want to be confined to neither community. I’m a Muslim, and my world stretches beyond ethno-cultural communities – I’m not a nationalist and I’m not ethnocentric. I don’t have any deep connections to communities based on my ethnicity or race. My identity is defined by Islam – which opens the entire world for me to experience. That’s my choice.

HipHopCanada: Many hip-hop heads in Canada have been waiting for someone to “blow up internationally” and put us on “the map” The Circle was, and is, Canada’s premier hip-hop crew, but many would argue that K-os, Kardinal Offishall, Saukrates, Choclair and Jully Black (everyone who’s had a shot at mainstream success) still have not broken through that barrier. As a member of the Circle how important was it to gain mainstream success back then, and what’s the attitude within the crew now?

YLook: I think most of my friends have always wanted to be able to support their families and endure life as it is while working on things that they love. For most of them that was music. I’m not sure whether “mainstream” is synonymous with “success.” Not all of my friends are supporting themselves off of their music, but a few of them are. With respect to exposure, I think they have it. You’d be hard pressed to find a hip-hop head who hasn’t heard of Kardinal, Saukrates or Choclair – internationally. If by mainstream we’re talking about units sold, we have yet to see what happens. Our proximity to the US tends to influence our perspective or perception on success. We should learn from the British, Germans and French – they basically gave the middle finger to the rest of the world and supported their own indigenous hip-hop movements. Most kids here in Canada have never heard of any artist from Europe, yet they sell millions of units. We don’t have the demographics to sell millions of hip-hop records, but we do have the demographics to sell over a hundred thousand records and support national tours. That’s enough for an artist to earn a good living and raise a family while focusing on continuing to make a good record. The consumer and critics are at fault in my opinion. We had to weather the storm of Canada’s inferiority complex in the 90’s – when most heads were in denial about the quality of local hip-hop. So now, speaking for my family in the Circle that still focus on music, they’re thinking globally as opposed to locally. And if success is granted internationally, Canadian artists will reap the benefits of that success. But we’re not obligated to be concerned about the state of the Nation with respect to hip-hop. If only relationships between artists could be so cordial. But I think my family, the Circle, has learned the hard way that many of our fellow brethren in the hip-hop game are less than interested in reciprocating any good-will. And that’s coming from a crew that actually spent a significant amount of time on diplomacy and inter-crew relations. There’s only a few clicks out there that I actually trust enough to consider extended family.  My friends are working hard. Most of us have always been realists. They’ll consider what mainstream success is when they cross that road. Right now, I think they’re working too hard to pause and ponder fantasies.

HipHopCanada: Education is obviously very important to you. Was there ever a time in your life when you contemplated making a living off of hip-hop? Tell me about your decision to put hip-hop on the backburner and focus on your education.

YLook: I never seriously considered making a living from hip-hop with respect to music. I always knew my friends would be able to do so. But I knew early on that I wouldn’t. The music industry environment (as opposed to a hip-hop environment) was always difficult for me as a Muslim. Being young and immature, and spending much of my time with friends who weren’t Muslim, I was going places and behaving in ways that were unbecoming of me as a Muslim. That has nothing to do with my friends. In fact they had the utmost respect for my faith – so much so that at times they would be protective of it. But the environment is problematic – eventually one becomes influenced by their environment. I was seeing and saying things that when at home late at night, on my own, I would make tawba (repentance) for. You could only last so long with that type of internal conflict. And it’s something I never shared with my friends. It’s something that I had to come to on my own terms. I reached a stage in my life where I had the power and strength to walk away from anything. I don’t answer to emotionalisms, fads or social pressures, and I cherish seclusion… which is easier now with Facebook [Laughing]. I never put music on the backburner. I was doing music while studying. Trying to figure out ways to make it happen without the intervention of the “industry.” And no one would be willing to invest in a politicized Muslim emcee – especially not after 9/11. The internet has made it easier now to disseminate music without any real financial backing. But I moved forward with school, which I love – to this day, I buy more books than I do records. So my absence from the microphone has more to do with me prioritizing what I love.

HipHopCanada: What kind of research are you doing lately?

YLook: Interestingly enough the research I’m focusing on now has to do with the intersection between hip-hop culture and law/normative systems. I’ve given talks to young kids at-risk on hip hop history, I’ve given talks while working in Uganda on the power of political hip-hop culture and just last month I lectured a class at McGill University’s Institute of Islamic Studies on Islamic influences in early hip-hop development. So hip-hop is integral to my identity, including my scholarship. I don’t think I would be where I am today if it weren’t for hip-hop in many respects. It definitely gives me a cultural edge and lends a uniqueness to the work that I’m doing – which I consider very much in line with hip-hop, even if I’m not emceeing.

HipHopCanada: What are you listening to these days?

YLook: Anything from 85’-95’ on a regular basis – especially underground West Coast. My family. A steady dose of anything Dilla. Dead Prez. The new Pete Rock product is on point. Brother K’Naan. That kid Terminology is ridiculous. Lupe Fiasco. Snoop. Styles P. Akrobatik. Joell Ortiz. Immortal Technique. Talib Kweli. Jay Z. Mos Def. Nas. I’m getting more into the Def Jux movement. Kamau. Stolen From Africa.  Feist. Cold Play. Anti-Flag. Broken Social Scene. Radiohead. Little Brother. Anything from Stones Throw. A lot of the U.K. grime scene. The new KRS-1 product is dope in my opinion. Anything by M.O.P. The list goes on. I don’t have any defined interests. While I consider myself a hip-hop puritan, I’m not one that’s into excommunicating artists outside the fold of hip-hop. So I’m open. One of my favorite albums of all times is Bone Thugs n’ Harmony’s debut E.P. Creepin on a Come Up. I was severely chastised for that back in the day!

HipHopCanada: Canada has a whole new crop of MC’s on the come up. Who’s on your radar?

YLook: K’Naan, as mentioned above. I have a lot of love for that brother and he’s always in my prayers. Bishop is another brother I’m riding for. I’m proud of him – I’ve seen him make it a long way. First time a met that brother was over 10 years ago at Spectrum, he thought I was Spanish [Laughing] Watch for his single “Hard Times,” that’s on regular rotation for me. Seazon (Shaun Booth), Arabesque, Anonymous Twist, Classified. But I’m always looking out for the foundational artists. Point Blank, GCP, Mathematik, Checkmate and Concise, Monolith, Red1 (Rascalz) and Jelleestone are some of my all time favorites, by far. So I’m always keeping my ear to the streets and looking out for any of their product.

HipHopCanada: Are you working on new material? What can we look out for?

YLook: Solitair and I are discussing some experimental ideas. It won’t be released as a YLook project – and I don’t intend on showing my face. I’m interested in pushing and questioning the limitations of the music, emceeing and the concepts and ideas behind it. I think ‘YLook’ is to be rendered a pen name now. I’m interested in writing some academic literature on hip-hop. Perhaps a book in the next few years.

HipHopCanada: Alight let’s switch gears and talk about the early years. As the son of Pakistani immigrants what was it like growing up in Toronto? Did you find hip-hop or did hip-hop find you?

YLook: When I was young, we moved to a small city an hour out of Toronto, Brantford. My dad got a job there. It’s famous for being the hometown of Wayne Gretzky. The population, off the top of my head couldn’t have been more than a hundred thousand people. It was a horribly racist city. Racism colored my childhood. I hate that city, even though it has become better now – and many of the people there are very nice and kind – I owe my politicization and anti-racist framework to my experiences there and to the racists who made growing up there miserable. I spent most of my holidays between Toronto and Ohio. I moved back to Toronto in my late teens when I was capable of living on my own and to attend University.  Hip-hop found me through a Blondie’s Greatest Hits album I was given for my fifth birthday. The song rapture captivated me. Later, hip-hop took on a more political meaning for me as it was something I could identify with and utilize as a rejection of the dominant culture and environment that kept subjecting me to racism. I was somewhat of a loner aside from the few other racialized kids and Muslim kids in the city. We all ended up banding together at one point. I read the Autobiography of Malcolm X in grade eight and it changed my life, contextualizing my identity as a Muslim in the West and gave me the courage to confront, what I believed at the time, was an inherently corrupt system designed to see me fail. I didn’t fail. When back in Toronto I stuck to my friends and didn’t explore much. They were less politicized than me, so I internalized much of my outward politics around them – as it probably got annoying for them for me to question every single one of their actions – that was part of the internal struggle I alluded to earlier. I’m in my own space now – and don’t answer to or conform for anyone other than my loved ones. From my late teens to adulthood in Toronto was uneventful. I was done defining myself by that point and was spending most of my time refining myself. I love the city, but it doesn’t make me. I can live anywhere in the world and adapt. I spent the last year in and out of a war zone in northern Uganda, and for the first time in my life any real sense of purpose came to fruition. Toronto has never done that for me. If the opportunity presents itself, I’ll leave.

HipHopCanada: From its beginnings with Afrika Bambaataa to contemporary rappers Mos Def and Euphrates, Islam has always been represented in hip-hop. A lot of traditional Islamic texts are written very poetically. Talk to me about hip-hop’s Islamic influence and how it’s represented through your music.

YLook: I think Harry Allen referred to Islam as the official religion of hip-hop. I would agree with that. Although it’s really the Islam(s) of hip-hop versus a singular notion of the faith. It’s manifested itself in different ways. What’s most unique and inspirational is that it wasn’t introduced by outside influences. Its development was indigenous and spontaneous within the culture – more so in the past than now. Poetry is a noble tradition within the Islamic sciences. I think a lot of my more austere brethren would shudder at any comparison with hip-hip, but in a purely western metaphysical sense, one has to ponder the magnificence of such an ancient tradition influencing such a contemporary cultural movement – it’s fascinating for me and speaks to the relevance of both. And being that hip-hop is a transglobal cultural movement now, I think it can play a role with respect to fostering networks globally, particularly among marginalized youths.

HipHopCanada: Do you think it’s misrepresented?

YLook: Perhaps. Hip-hop has had a tendency to misrepresent a lot of things (Capitalism, women, economics etc.). Like any culture, it has its issues. For one, I can tell you that theologically, heterodoxical movements such as the Five Percent Nation of Islam have nothing to do with traditional Islam. And I think they would admit that themselves. They’re also one of the more powerful movements in hip-hop and have done good – but their insistence to anthropomorphize Allah is problematic for Muslims. Furthermore, their use of linguistic sciences and numerology is debatable. For instance, their view of Allah as an acronym (A.L.L.A.H) for the anthropomorphic being is flawed and has no metaphysical bearing – considering that “ALLAH” as it’s spelt is simply a transliteration of the original spelling of Allah which is in Arabic, and who’s Arabic letters do not conform to the anthropomorphic thesis of the Five Percent Nation. You can transliterate “Allah” as “AAALA” it wouldn’t make any difference, but would challenge the presumptions premised on an acronym of the former. But in many respects Islam(s) have done a lot of good through hip-hop. The Nation of Islam, who Farrakhan has moved closer to orthodox Islam, has done immeasurable good in inner-city America. Apart from the above mentioned examples, the impact of orthodox Islam on hip-hop is well established. From the examples set by Malcolm X and Imam Jamil Al Amin (H. Rap Brown) to artists today such as K’Naan, Mos Def, Lupe Fiasco and Amir Suleiman – there isn’t much room to argue that hip-hop has some how misrepresented Islam wholesale. Any shortcoming of these artists is their own. Any good they due is but by the grace of the One. If anything, Muslims themselves as individuals misrepresent Islam through their own misguided actions – not a culture as a collective.

HipHopCanada: I know that you’re very aware of what’s been going on in Palestine and the mayhem that continues to plague that corner of the world. Give us your thoughts on the present situation.

YLook: This is a complex issue that requires a complex answer, which we don’t have room for here. I’ll say that I’m pro-Palestinian. I’m for a right of return. Ideally I’d like to see one democratic state for both communities in the spirit of Andalusia. But, I’m also a pragmatist and accept the reality of a two state solution.

1. The occupation of the Palestinians is illegal.
2. The war in Iraq is illegal.
3. The situations in Chechnya, Sudan and Afghanistan are human rights nightmares.
4. These conflicts necessitate diplomacy, not arms. I’m on the side of peaceful resolutions and a cessation of hostilities. However, at times, situations necessitate armed resistance.

HipHopCanada: On a recent tour stop in Tel Aviv Erykah Badu said “Palestinians use hip-hop as a form of liberation, pre-resistance and as a form of therapy,” Is the pen mightier than the sword?

YLook: The Prophet if Islam said that the ink of the scholar is worth more than the blood of a martyr. So, yes.

HipHopCanada: Hip-hop has always been the voice of the underdog. On the song “Relate to me” you stated that “the poor think your rich and the rich think your poor so pick your side” and you also mention the “great divide”. The Middle Class has been hip-hop’s major consumer for quite some time. Why do you think kids today relate to what these rappers are saying, and are they being exploited?

YLook: That lyric was pointing to distrust between socio-economic groups, even though both their interests are mutually connected and would necessitate a combined effort against a more dominant power structure. Look at what’s happening in the U.S. with the housing crash – middle class people on the cusps of poverty. We’re not that far apart from one another. As for the kids purchasing the records, they’re consumers. They have a choice. I don’t think they’re being exploited in the same sense that young children are by targeted mesmerizing advertisements. I’m not sure these kids are relating at all. If we’re speaking about the hip-hop that is selling the most, it’s extremely sensational – stories about exotic exploits, the erotification of violence, capitalism gone mad, the objectification of women as sexually manipulative play things– it’s the soundtrack to Hollywood, video games and their deepest and darkest desires finely packaged into an mp3. It’s part of the larger trend of dummifying our youth. From the 1960’s – 1970’s – youth culture was truly revolutionary. Music actually mattered and galvanized millions of young people to protest segregation, war, inequality, racism, sexism etc. Corporations since then, have successfully infiltrated government and media. It’s hard to tell who works for who now. So what you have is a concerted effort at dummifying future generations – the production of uncritical consumers. Stupid people make corporations happy. I work with some kids who can’t string a sentence together without saying “fuck” several times before you finally figure out what they’re saying. They want money to spend money, rather than wanting money to make money. The corporations are winning. Hip-hop isn’t unique in this matter. The more underground the manifestation of the culture, the more insulated it is from corruption, but commercial manifestations of the culture play by different rules. The kids are the ones who loose out in the end.

HipHopCanada: Can you give us more insight into how you think the corporations have manipulated the consumer. Is hip-hop culture responsible for any of this?

YLook: It’s hard to tell where governments end and corporations begin. Especially in the US, which has ramifications for us in Canada. In the past they were invasive. They tried to censor artists (NWA, 2 Live Crew) and lost in the courts. Now that they’re essentially working for the corporations, artists can essentially get away with anything. You have less to worry about government intervention at this stage. Hip-hop needs to start regulating itself – which it does in some respects – but perhaps it can do more. I’m not sure what the Canadian government has done or hasn’t done aside from certain MP’s trying to ban artists from performing in the country and Customs Canada unfairly targeting hip-hop artists with past criminal records. Hip-hop as a culture isn’t to blame. Some of the rap music however can be blamed – but not on its own. That music wouldn’t be there if it weren’t for the machine of the music industry behind it. And the idea that the industry simply gives the consumer what they want is a cop-out. They construct what the consumer wants by manipulating psychological data and playing to our lowest common denominators – our carnal desires – lust and violence – and once one is hooked it’s difficult to go back to anything milder, more subtle or intellectual. But hip-hop as a culture still has a strong undercurrent of counter-culture and resistance based methodologies and ideologies. You can even infer that from some of the more pop-based artists such as 50 Cent or Fat Joe. The “success” ethic – this notion of defying the odds – what were the odds? The obstacles placed in front of them by the system – and they resisted, did things their own way and won. Now, that’s arguable, but it still forms part of their complex. The consumer simply needs to be trained to be more critical. That comes from education. Unfortunately, school is not the in-thing right now – as its counter productive to the dominant discourse – and sometimes participates in it. What’s even more disappointing however, is that non-traditional forms of education are no longer of interest. Kids are giving up on reading, on resisting, on being innovative or creative. They’re clones. They dress the same, talk the same, walk the same and want the same things. Some times schools feed into this. Not to mention that many schools in neighborhoods where they are most vital, are decrepit, under-funded and the curriculums are antiquated and lack relevance with the students. Nevertheless, it’s still better than what I saw in Uganda, where kids would work their summers on the streets in order to make $35 (CAN) to pay for a years school term at a school that lacked any sufficient resources. When Nas said “Hip-Hop is Dead” I don’t think he was making a declaration. I think he was begging a question. And in doing so, a lot of artists are speaking on behalf of hip-hop now – almost like hip-hop ambassadors – and not just the underground emcees. Ludacris, T.I. and Jay-Z have all played on the notion of “saving hip-hop.” I think that’s a good sign of perhaps swinging the momentum of the musical component of hip-hop back towards something more meaningful. You’ll always have your Soulja Boys (ie. MC Hammer) in every generation, which isn’t always a bad thing. Remember, Hammer was actually considered dope when he dropped his first album. But if that ethos of education, power and healthy pride returns to the music, perhaps we’ll see a small change in the behavior of a lot of our kids. But there are countless other influences working against them, far more powerful and better funded than anything considered hip-hop.

HipHopCanada: Have you ever considered getting involved in politics?

YLook: No. I’m not interested in participating in partisan politics at this stage. Perhaps in the future. I can contribute from a grassroots level. But I don’t think I could ever run for political office. I would have to compromise a lot. Besides, could you imagine me running for office and my opponent pulling out the Relate To Me video – “A man ain’t a man if he ain’t got nothing to die for” / “5 pillars and 5 prayers, paradise for the believers – hell fire for the nay sayers.” Look! He’s an Islamist advocating suicide bombings! Politics are dirty. Dirtier than the music industry. I wrote that song before 9/11 – it was given a different meaning afterwards. No, I can’t run for a political position.

HipHopCanada: You recently had the opportunity to travel to Africa. Tell us about the experiences you had there.

YLook: I was working in Uganda for the Uganda Law Society (2006-2007) on human rights and children’s rights. Particularly with respect to the conflict in northern Uganda, Gulu. One of the world’s longest running conflicts. It was the best experience of my life, professionally, spiritually and with respect to hip-hop. I’m working with a group of brothers and sisters using hip-hop as a means of improving the conditions of the children in Uganda and East Africa in general as we expand. You can visit us at . It’s still in development, but people can keep track via the website. I had the opportunity to work with a group of young emcees in Gulu who lived through the war. They rewrote Relate To Me in their language, Acholi, and with their experiences. When I first got there, they didn’t know I was the artist, YLook, on the track. They were speaking candidly about the song for a documentary based on their experiences. I was in the room – they just thought I was a visitor from Canada. Before that day I was ready to give up on any thoughts of ever emceeing again – after seeing what I saw, emceeing seemed less important. The things these kids said about the song nearly brought me to tears – they were the first kids to really get where I was going with that song. That song has a lot of meaning for me – only a few people here have figured it out and I’ve bumped into brothers on the streets here in Toronto who still recognize me and often have interesting stories linked to that song – it’s humbling to know that your song spoke to someone’s heart and not their wallet or hips at a club. The kids in Gulu never saw the video, they just heard the song. That day gave me the energy necessary to get back to emceeing. But like I said before, no face, and under a different name. I want the music to speak for itself, not my affiliation, clothing or on-camera mannerisms. On a side note, Bavubuka would like at some point in the future to bring artists from Canada to Uganda for a yearly hip-hop summit, send us material and if you’re interested or if you simply want to disseminate your music in East Africa,  we can facilitate that as well.

HipHopCanada: Where do you think hip-hop is heading, both in Canada and globally?

YLook: Globally it’s beautiful. It’s alive and well in Africa and Europe from what I’ve seen from my travels and what I hear and see on the internet. Hip-hop culture in all its manifestations isn’t under any real threat. It’s even developed it’s own scholarly discipline with courses being taught on hip-hop culture in some of the most prestigious universities in the world. It’s only the music that stands to be challenged. It can be disappointing at times, but then you get a Common record, or hear a new Madlib joint and you’re hopeful again. Canadian emcees have a lot of potential. I’m excited by all the different developments. Young Aboriginal brothers rapping about life on the reserve, young cats emceeing about life in T.O. hoods. It’s exciting. Artists just need to stop worrying about becoming popular in their own city, be patient and stop releasing product in a hurry and master their sound and style. The internet is the most powerful tool anyone has to exploit – it has brought the entire music industry to its knees – and you can access it for relatively low costs – that’s major. Do your research, study hip-hop culture globally, see what’s happening in every country and send your product to places where you’ll never actually know whether it’s playing or not, and you’ll be destined to gain exposure in a way Toronto or Canada could never give you.

Editor’s note: For more information on YLook check out or

Written by Jones for HipHopCanada

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