Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Dalton Higgins Writes Canada's Hip Hop History, From Master T to Drake

Author Dalton Higgins never thought he would see it happen in his lifetime: the hottest rapper in the game coming from...our Toronto?

For those of us that grew up in the Canadian city, we would probably agree. For years we saw our talented local rappers hustle, grind, and work hard on their craft, only to be snubbed by even our national radio stations, television stations, and awards shows. Sometimes even snubbed by each other.

But it happened. Hit after hit, radio stations around the world were playing Drake songs, Drake collaborations, and everyone from Jay-Z to Jamie Foxx was singing his praise. Loudly. Torontonians everywhere couldn't help but feel a sense of pride. Drake's success and acceptance was our success and acceptances. Canadian hip hop had finally broken the barrier, in the most spectacular way.

And then on Sunday night, our hometown hip hip hero Aubrey Drake Graham took home the Grammy award for best hip hop album: "Take Care." The award wasn't televised (despite hop hop being a huge part of the music landscape, and huge money maker in the music industry), but the news was still celebrated. After 12 nominations since 2010, Drake had music's top honour to add to his repetoire of successes.

In a category with hip hop legends Nas, and The Roots, hit makers Rick Ross and 2 Chainz, and Lupe Fiasco...it was a great honour.

Who woulda thought?

Regardless of one's personal thoughts about Drake's music and style, or their opinions on how he fits into the bigger hip hop landscape, the truth can not be denied. He made huge movements for Canadian hip hop, and he will go down in history as a big part of this generation's story, and impact on pop culture.

I had the pleasure of attending Dalton Higgins' session at the Toronto Public Library on Saturday, February 9th, 2013, as he discussed his latest book: "Far from Over: The Music and Life of Drake, The Unofficial Story." Released in September of last year by ECW Press, this is Dalton's 5th published novel, and a natural project for the music expert and seasoned journalist.

A music presenter by day, Dalton has been at the forefront of Canadian hip hop for years. In fact, he booked Drake's first major performance in Toronto back in 2007 along with the Urban Music Association of Canada. He was responsible for one of K'naan's inaugural concerts in 2005, as well as played a role in the written works of other Canadian hip hop heavyweights like K-Os and Kardinal Offishall. He has been there from the beginning, documenting each of our Canadian legends on their rise to fame.

He penned a story about veteran Much Music VJ Master T, and has been waving the flag for the publication and communication of our stories for over ten years.

Just hearing his stories, at the North York Centre branch of the Toronto Public Library, it is evident that Dalton is someone who has been at the forefront of the Canadian hip hop industry since day one. He gets it. He understands the history, and having travelled the globe and written for hip hop publications like The Source, he can also see the bigger picture.

I think it's important that a Canadian writer is telling the story of this Canadian artist, Drake. I think it's important that we own stories, and our journey as Canadians, and that we have the ability to tell truthful renditions of our realities in this country.

It's Black History Month, and every year in February we are reminded of our legacy, and motivated to continue in a positive direction in hopes that we too can inspire and encourage those who follow us. So as a writer, when I see Dalton Higgins paving the way for other writers, I think it is only fitting that he also carries a torch for hip hop journalism, the hip hop industry, and that he uses his talents to help complete the historical Canadian documentation of our time.

Higgins called it a "renaissance"...the emergence of chart-topping artists from our beloved Tee-Dot. From Drake, to Kardi, to Melanie Fiona and even Justin Bieber. There is suddenly a surge of international acclaim for the artists from this country.
  
He promises that the book has many candid conversations with Drake's network, and those who have been here from the beginning watching him evolve from an actor on Degrassi, to one of the world's top MCs. With stories and information gathered right here in Drake's hometown, with the people who knew him best, and the individuals who have witnessed the unfolding of history, Dalton uses his journalistic background and passion for music to tell a story that is truly representative of the current generation of urban Canadian culture.

I look forward to reading this book, and again, couldn't be happier that a knowledgeable Canadian is the one who is genuinely telling the inspiring story of Mr. Graham. "Far from Over: The Music and Life of Drake, The Unofficial Story" is available widely in bookstores, and can be purchased online through Chapters and other major booksellers.

Drake just dropped this video this week: "Started From The Bottom..."

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