Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Press Release: Toronto 2 Chicago (#TO2CHI)

Two days, two nights, two banging tracks. This past summer, Crossword and MC FÜBB (The Cypher, H3/Hip Hop Headz) took a road trip from Toronto to Chicago. While the main focus of the trip was to bring Toronto-based event The Cypher down to the windy city, the two emcees also linked up with studio engineer John Randle at JDR Sounds. The first recording session went so well
that FÜBB and Cross came back the next day to lay out another track. The end result: the Toronto artists banged out two joints with Chicago artists they'd never met prior.

The products of their collaborations are unleashed in Toronto 2 Chicago (aka #TO2CHI), a hard-hitting double single release that bridges the distance between artists in the two great cities in the name of creating high quality hip hop music. The two track release features Chicago emcee Cada Bug and Toronto's DJ Nef-You on "Casey Anthony," a high-octane track with a murderous beat produced by TO's Justunlimited. Producer/emcee Shake LaBomba rapped on and provided beat for "Not Impressed,” on which all three artists spit diverse flows over a 6/8 timing instrumental (an atypical meter for hip hop music).

In a musical era where monotony and lacklustre quality are commonplace, Toronto 2 Chicago raises the bar by infusing a fresh dose of creative production, original lyricism, distinctive flows and raw hip hop flavour for astute listeners worldwide.

                                    [TORONTO 2 CHICAGO DOWNLOAD LINK]

Artists: Crossword and MC FÜBB

Project: “Toronto 2 Chicago” (#TO2CHI) – Double Single Release

Recorded by John Randle at JDR Sounds (@JAYRAN20). 
Mixed and mastered by Phame at GameTyme Studio (@PhameOne).
Project cover art design by Olivia Allen (@liv_allen).

THE CYPHER TO2CHI Road-Trip Video:

Artist Information:

Crossword: Emcee, band member, journalist, promoter and connector are all titles by which Crossword is known. A lyricist serious with his craft since the age of 13, the Iranian-Canadian entered the scene determined to establish his presence. He began by planning concerts at landmark Toronto venues such as Lula Lounge, The Drake Hotel, and the Silver Dollar Room. Having performed alongside Chali 2na and recorded on production by Rich Kidd (Drake, Kardinal Offishall, Andreena Mill), P.So The Earth Tone King (NYC, AOK, 2dopeboyz) and Juno nominee Fresh Kils (D-Sisive, The Extremities), Crossword's career is just taking off. This past September, his band, the Vibonics, released their debut self-titled EP, and he is now working on two solo projects - The Eclectic mixtape, and the Different Light EP.

MC FÜBB: Rapping since the age of 15, MC FÜBB (pronounced "emcee foob") began taking his career as a hip hop MC seriously after graduating from the University of Toronto in the spring of 2009. In Sept. 2009 he dropped his debut EP Foundations which is available for global digital distribution, and followed up with his mixtape Blue Collar Worker in May 2010. He founded a hip hop community called Hip Hop Headz (H3) with which he started the event THE CYPHER, where MCs/rappers come out to showcase their talents and skills. In combination with his fellow H3 members, THE CYPHER has grown to become a staple hip hop event in Toronto, one which FÜBB hosts and freestyles at monthly. His first full length LP In the Face of No Agreement, a collaboration with Brampton producer Noyz, was released in April 2011 under his self-owned label Revolutionary Times Records (RTR). Whether laying down his poetic, intelligent, and intricate verses in the booth or just freestyling in a cypher, MC FÜBB brings a level of intensity and skill to be reckoned with in the world of hip hop. 

Cada Bug: Cycada Alexander, known by the stage name “Cada Bug” is a hip-hop artist born in Chicago, IL and raised in the near west suburb of Bellwood. Born June 10, 1990, Cada Bug began rapping at the age of 15 with two other teenagers who formed the group R.N.C. To date he has recorded over 200 tracks with plenty of hits and 1 mixtape! Cada Bug attended Clark Atlanta University for three years where his networking skills were perfected and he got a chance to work with artists from all over the country, underground and mainstream. Now he lives in Chicago & has a mixtape appropriately titled "A Bug's Life" with over 25,000 downloads that can be found here --->

Shake LaBomba Kelvin "Big Shake LaBomba" Wallace from Bellwood IL. Music producer, song writer and performer – “passion for the art” is the best way to describe him. The Chicagoland area is big and through that big city Big Shake has covered much ground producing, performing, and killing tracks. In the middle of all that he put out his first underground LP entitled, "BIG MAN ON CAMPUS," which is a 17 song hip hop musical. “The best has yet to come,” says the big guy as he continues to work with other talented artists as well as develop his own work. “More work, more progress is the key.”


For all media and booking inquiries, please contact:


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Honking Horns

I can’t live today off of yesterday’s truths. I can’t bank a success or a gain from the past and whip it out in the future and hope that it will be enough. I can’t live my life in what I’ve done and who I’ve been; sometimes I wish I could, but I can’t.

The world can judge me, respect me, hate me, rejoice with me – it’s all good, and it’s all fleeting. Nobody else has to look at me in the mirror or occupy my mind when I try to fall asleep at night. How I view and relate to myself is of ultimate importance to my own well-being, and most of the time I don’t think very highly of who I am.

I frequently occupy a space in my own psyche that I would compare to standing in the middle of an intersection with cars on all sides honking furiously. They all want me to move, they all want me to go somewhere, most of them issuing conflicting orders and differing directions. Sometimes I just sit there and listen to them honk and scream as if to say: “I’m in no hurry…honk all you want, assholes.”

But even that’s a lie. I know time’s limited for all of us and I could easily depart at any moment. So I have a sense of urgency, a sense of foreboding like I need to give all that I can now before I’m gone. Frankly, I don’t think most people walk around with that kind of burden on their shoulders. I do. Go figure.

So the times that I’m sitting on my ass, watching TV or indulging in some other relatively mindless activity, I feel like I’m letting the world down. I’m letting down kids dying in Ethiopia because the world is too greedy to feed them. I’m letting down addicts who just need someone to show them a way to recover and give them hope that a new life is possible. I’m letting down my hip hop community because they need artists like me to give it our all and raise the bar of what’s considered good music. Fuck it – I’m not that noble. I’m mostly just letting myself down because I know I can be better than who I’m usually being at any given moment.

The world isn’t honking its horns at me – parts of my brain are blasting their thoughts around at other parts; at one part in particular, which I identify as myself.

So I pray. I sit quietly and listen. I write. I rap. And I hope that what shows up is something that somebody in the world might look at and deem to be something they call, “art.”

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Album Review: Ian Kamau - One Day Soon

We believe in a gaze that is shorter than our goals/ as empty as our pockets and as stubborn as our souls/ holding stones, looking for a place for our hands to hide/ standing in a place where many took a stand and died/ feet inside the earth, eyes towards the skies/ the land that we live on is the same they occupied/ unsure if our story is a blessing in disguise/ we pray to see the light but we will not open our eyes…
-Ian Kamau, “Maybe” (track #9 - One Day Soon)

For anyone familiar with Toronto’s hip hop, spoken word, poetry, or music community in general, Ian Kamau is known by many as a staple artist and pillar of the communities that he represents. Having released several projects in the past (2 EPs, 3 Mixtapes, 5 Podcasts), Kamau’s latest release and first official full length album, One Day Soon, is a strong testament to his creativity, depth of content, and growth as an artist to those who have been following him, and a great introduction for first-time listeners. It would be quite difficult to fit Ian Kamau or One Day Soon into a specific genre; predominant spoken word and hip hop vibes echo throughout the album, however it might be better to simply characterize this LP as soul music. For those seeking an immersive listening experience, something not only to nod your head to but to absorb and reflect on, One Day Soon possesses a wealth of Kamau’s accumulated perspectives and personal wisdom.
One Day Soon is a heavy and lyrically-packed album at times, requiring listeners to attune their ears to rapid-fire flows and emotionally charged words and phrases (e.g. track # 12, “Black Bodies,” in which Kamau expresses his frustration at the violence and death that plague the black community). Kamau juxtaposes the faster-paced hip hop songs on the album with more mellow tracks on which he spends most of the time singing (e.g. track #8, “Sleeping Giant”), nonetheless still expressing powerful and inspired ideas. In fact, Kamau does a great deal of singing on this album, displaying his ability to embody different spaces as an artist both vocally and in terms of his role on each track. One Day Soon is a very ambient LP, due not only to his atmospheric production (yes, Kamau also self-produced the entire album), but largely due to the way Kamau’s smooth background vocals compliment his spoken words/raps, which at times can come across as a bit monotonous sounding on their own.
This LP is an album of bold statements and complex ideas. The first line on the album, “I am a new kind of human being” (track #2, “Heading Home”) is a great summary of the kind of thinker that this artist is. Kamau is a heavily reflective and philosophical thinker, as evident by the lyrical content of his work. There are times on the album when it seems that Kamau is a full-fledged idealist and dreamer: “we’ll speak our mind, seek and we’ll find/ the ties that will bind us, the trees to the vine/ our roots only help us in being divine/ and forcing the change we’ll be seeing in time/ and believing in signs that we will overcome” (track #3, “The Village). Even the title of the album (One Day Soon) expresses a yearning and hope for a better world and life. It’s clear, however, that Kamau is also a realist and is keenly aware (even at times painfully so) of the harsh realities of the world around him: “black stakes in the heart/ bullets, like bats, tend to fly after dark/ we make sure the children are home from the park/ a shame - every day, another name to discuss/ flood the streets with their guns and they blame it on us” (track #12, “Black Bodies”). Kamau’s messages throughout the album are thematically focused on confronting difficult issues in society and uplifting the communities around him.

Ian takes responsibility for being the voice of a disenfranchised black community, the voice of an alienated and uncertain generation facing tumultuous circumstances. He expresses with sharp words and astute insight the damaging effects that the history of slavery and cultural displacement have had on black people: “torn from our home/ born in a new world, we’re more than alone/ and the more that we change, more we stay the same/ sat and prayed at the place that the slave-ships came” (track #3, “The Village”). One Day Soon is not simply a recounting of past horrors and there is definitely not a tone of victimhood in Kamau’s lyrics; quite contrarily, the artist seems to look with fondness and admiration at his community, for all of its accomplishments despite their harsh conditions. Track #8, “Sleeping Giant,” while targeted towards the black community, is an inspirational tribute to oppressed communities everywhere: “louder than your empty promise, louder than your arms/ louder than your foolish comments, louder than your bombs/ bigger than your false division, keeping us apart/ louder than your false religion that warps the truth inside our hearts.” It is perhaps that Kamau has uncovered his own greatness through his art, despite facing the same obstacles as the people around him, that he is able to see the greatness in other human beings, despite the difficult conditions that they face and even internalize within themselves.
While he seems to be focused specifically on problems affecting Toronto’s black community and the history of people of African descent in general, Kamau’s reflections are universally applicable because the struggles he expresses are, fundamentally, human struggles. On track #13, “Traffic,” Kamau talks about the human tendency to go after short-sited goals, fulfill base desires, and run on autopilot whilst neglecting spiritual needs and broader societal issues. While the historical circumstances of his community are specific, the recounting of past relationships and stories from his own life make clear that people from all walks of life deal with similar human conditions. A pervasive theme in Kamau’s writing is a coming to terms with clichés and idealized values that are in contradiction with life experiences. On track #5, “Now That I’m Alone,” Ian confronts the heartaches of a past romantic relationship that still occupies space in his psyche. Expressing disillusionment with common notions of love, relationships, and romance, he repeatedly sings “I guess love aint enough” on the chorus, as he recounts the circumstances that led to the severing of ties with his former romantic partner in his verses. On “Maybe” (track #9), Kamau courageously displays his own vulnerability, fears, and pain, which are evident both in his lyrics, “so often I sit in places I’d rather not be/ my eyes embrace realities I’d rather not see/ my angels and my demons, they are constantly warring/ and the things I do at night often catch me in the morning,” and in the tone of his voice on the track, which seems quiet and meek in contrast to his resonant voice on other tracks. It’s clear after listening to the song a few times, however, that “Maybe” is perhaps one of the most emotionally touching and lyrically powerful songs on the album, largely due to the artist’s honesty and open sharing of his own self-awareness.
While being a singer, emcee, philosopher, spoken word artist, community activist and more, it’s clear that Ian Kamau is a poet at heart, as evidenced by the vividness of his writing and skilled use of language throughout his work. One Day Soon is not only a great work of art, but is incredibly relevant to issues facing modern society and the world as a whole. What makes Kamau’s work so credible and touching is that he is coming from a place of both acknowledging and accepting the inequities he sees around him without condoning them, while at the same time standing for a greater future for himself, the people he knows, and the world around him. For anyone who believes in building towards a brighter future for the human race in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, for anyone who is a lover of poetry and good music, and for anyone who loves art in and of itself, One Day Soon is a must own.
We’ll never have a renaissance, ‘cause we stand and point our finger, but we’re all confused/ you’ll never have a renaissance, if you say you’re for the people but it’s all for you/ we’ll never have a renaissance, ‘cause we say we’ll get together, but it isn’t true/ we’ll never have a renaissance, if we speak about a movement, but refuse to move.
                                 -Ian Kamau, “Renaissance” (track #16 – One Day Soon)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Zaidy John


My Zaidy didn’t have to
read about the Holocaust,
to hear anecdotes,
watch videos,
or sit in a history class.

My Zaidy didn’t “hear about it” from someone
or need to ask what it was
or debate whether or not it happened
and how many died
and “was it really as bad as they say it was?”

My Zaidy didn’t hear about the brutality;
my Zaidy was there.

He saw the horror with his own eyes,
heard the screams with his own ears,
smelled the stenches, the fumes, the smoke…

He told me about lining up after getting out of
the cattle cars—
about the babies yanked violently
from their mothers’ arms,
the children and elderly to one side,
to their deaths,
himself and the others
into the concentration camps
without consent.


And after the war,
after being liberated from hell on earth,
Zaidy told me how he waited,
how every day he checked the lists,
hoping, yearning, anticipating
the reunion with his family.

But that day never came.

I can only imagine the depression,
the despair and the loneliness
upon realizing that they were all gone,
not knowing if, how, when, or where they died,
the uncertainty of whether or how
to move on, to start again,
to live.

“I was lucky,”
he told me,
“that I was only in the camp for a year;
some of them were there for two, three years.
I think that’s the reason I survived.”


a grown man,
my Zaidy weighed only fifty-eight pounds
when the British troops arrived at the camp.

He told me the story
of the man that he and his friend
tried to keep alive,
how they carried him
to see the armies coming through the gates,
only to have him die in his arms
on the day of their liberation.


“Sometimes the past still comes up,”
Zaidy told me.
“It’s a part of me that will never go away.”

He told me how he got a phone call
about some “restitution money”
that Germany was dispensing to the remaining Survivors.

“A couple thousand dollars
is better than nothing.”

They could give him a million dollars,
they could give all the survivors
all the money in the world,
and it wouldn’t even skim the scars
that the past has left upon them.


I’m grateful
that my Zaidy was courageous enough
to tell me what he went through.

I’m grateful that my grandparents were survivors,
that they not only survived
but lived on after their real-life nightmares.

I’m grateful that they didn’t use going through hell
as an excuse not to create heaven on earth.

And I’m grateful that despite all the love they lost,
despite the pain of losing their entire families,
the memories, the dreams,
the questions without answers,
I’m grateful that they still love me,
that they still gave and continue to give of themselves,
that they refused to let their pasts
shape who they were in this world
and who they still are to me.

On the Possibility of Peace

I've spent the past few weeks arguing with many people and debating both sides of the issues surrounding the ongoing conflict in Israel. I have concluded that the blame-game and the right/wrong debate is absolutely useless in this matter, as it often is. There are certain perspectives and interpretations that neither side will likely ever give up.

There needs to be a new type of dialogue being fostered that concerns only the possibility of peace and the things congruent with that possibility. Our way of talking about the issues needs to change before the transformation will take place in reality. It starts with the conversation, and the conversation needs to take on new dimensions to be productive. As Albert Einstein once said: “Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.”

How to foster such a type of conversation in the minds and hearts of those who are filled with hatred seems to be a monumental task, and where to begin this task I do not know. I will start with myself and the way I talk to people. I hope in doing so others will be inspired to do the same.

(January, 2009).

My Response to A World that Hates Israel: Never Again

As a proud Jew, Zionist, and staunch supporter of the existence of the nation of Israel who is not afraid to voice his opinion, I meet a lot of opposition in this world. Sometimes people are reasonable and willing to talk about things calmly, but most of the time I am met with emotionally charged rhetoric, violent threats, anger, belligerence, and accusations based on hatred and misunderstanding. So here is my best attempt to set the record straight - why I believe in Israel's right to exist in peace and why I defend my position vehemently.

Israel exists so that the Jewish people of the world can have a homeland. There is no other nation in the world that Jews can call their home. Conversely, there are dozens of predominantly Christian, Muslim, Hindu, etc. countries in the world. Throughout the history of the Jewish people, and even before they "became" the Jews (as slaves in Egypt, for example), the Jews have been persecuted and killed. In every generation, in every era, there have been those who sought to destroy the Jewish people and eradicate them from being. This hatred of the Jews (which I refer to as anti-Semitism, for lack of a better term), is irrational, racist, and just as bad as any form of discrimination or prejudice that exists. Furthermore, it is persistent. It has persisted throughout history and continues to persist today.
The Holocaust happened only 60 years ago. This is a relatively recent event in world history - less than a century ago. The world sat back and did nothing while 6 million Jews, not to mention countless other minorities, were exterminated by the Nazis. And the world said "never again."

But the Jewish people have learned from the Holocaust that "never again" means we can never again wait for the world to intervene and come to our aid. Never again can we afford to allow anyone to discriminate against us for being Jews, because passivity breeds tolerance for intolerance, and this only leads to escalations of hatred. Never again will we march like lambs to the slaughter or wait for the hang-men to tighten the nooses around our necks.
And this is why Israel exists: to make sure that the Jews have a way to fight back when those who seek our destruction begin to emerge from the shadows. And since Israel is the metaphorical and material symbol for Jewish unity, strength, and the right to exist, it is also the target of the world's anti-Semites.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not claiming that all who criticize Israel or oppose Israeli policies are racist or anti-Semitic. In fact I think it's the responsibility of all Israeli citizens to scrutinize and criticize their government and its policies. But I am asserting that much of the anti-Israel and anti-Zionist rhetoric in the world, much of the hatred of Israel and its policies are nothing more than veiled anti-Semitism; the same anti-Semitism that has plagued the Jewish people for thousands of years.

To those whose hatred of Israel is motivated by anti-Semitism, I have nothing to say other than that we are here to stay, so you better get used to it. Israel and the Jewish people will never be eliminated, and we will never cease to fight for our God-given rights as human beings; the rights to live, be free, and find peace in the world. I pray that you find some peace in your hearts and realize that your hatred towards us reflects your hatred of your own self, and that you someday overcome this burden.

And to the rest of the world, who hate Israel for every other reason in the book: because of its military campaigns, because of its intolerance of terrorism, because of its refusal to let the death of its people go unnoticed, because of its values, beliefs, and unyielding resolve and commitment to its purpose at any cost, tell me this:

What would you do if you were Israel?

How can you reason with those who deny your right to exist?

How do you create a conversation of peace with those who would rather kill you than accept you?

How can you be diplomatic when every concession you make leads to greater bloodshed?

How would you deall with a world that would rather accuse you of being wrong than work for the common goal of lasting peace?

How can you reason with those who do not utilize the faculty of reason?

I tell you this, world: Israel cannot afford to wait for things to get worse. Israel cannot afford to maintain a status quo of living under constant attack and fear of destruction. Nor should it.

When one's basic rights to life are not being met, one must pursue a dialogue to attain those rights. And where that dialogue is ineffective or impossible, one must pursue legal means to attain those rights. And where the law is too limited, powerless to act, or ineffective itself, the use of force to stand up for one's rights is justified.

This is why I support Israel and will defend that great nation and all it stands for until the day I die. This is why I stand for what I stand for. And I will not kneel before anyone in this matter.

With prayers of peace in Israel and the entire world,

-Daniel Farb
Proud Jew, Zionist, and lover of Israel
(January, 2009)


Yellow-gray light
filters through the craggy branches
of a bear locust tree.
Most leaves have decayed completely,
some decompose under the ice and snow.

This isn't the kind of sadness that leaves you;
it hangs around like remorse
for a past mistake that refuses to be silenced.

But like a long-lingering odour in the air,
it can be tolerated
and eventually accepted.

This spiritual condition,
this silly circumstance of my humanity,
I own it and take responsibility for it

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Chicago Roadtrip with THE CYPHER Crew (Hip Hop Headz/H3)

I went down with some Hip Hop Headz (H3) to Chi-City aka Chi-Town aka The Windy City this past summer to make some music, bring THE CYPHER to Chicago, travel, network, build and have fun. Here is the highlight reel from the trip: