Friday, April 6, 2018

New Hip Hop Documentary "Another Decaying Crown" features Toronto Artist SepTo

SepTo is an artist's artist. A creative mind. An introspective soul. A brilliant wordsmith. A reflection of others. A voice for many. Because he is a true and authentic artist, it makes the mere development and presentation of his documentary "Another Decaying Crown" (aka ACD) even more poignant. The very reason why his artistry is being reflected in itself art. And that's why SepTo is so dope.

Created by SepTo and Alex Huard, the documentary debuted at Carlton Cinemas for a private screening on the evening of April 5, 2018. A full theatre of friends, family, supporters, media, and industry-folk were engaged for the hour-long film that reminded anyone within view why his musical journey should in fact, never decline.

Yes, never. (See album: Almost Nevr)

The film featured Toronto-based hip hop artist SepTo in his natural environments: the home, the studio, with his wife and kids, and among his peers, as they discuss the state of hip hop in confessional segments and intimate conversation. While each individual contributor had their own perspectives on the music industry and their personal role in it, it is the presence of SepTo in the Canadian hip hop landscape that is the point of attention. And rightfully so.

For over a decade, he has become a name of true artistry to those that know real hip hop in Toronto. He has become a voice of reason and an expert lyricist to those that appreciate lyricism. He has rocked many festival stages, and released albums of his thoughts and perspectives over the years. His demeanour has remained consistent. His quiet strength, still powerful. SepTo's talent has only amplified as time has passed, and his voice (both written and spoken) has become a source of intellectual banter.

The music has only highlighted a portion of his writing talent. There have been blogs, newsletters, podcasts, and various other forms of communication to amplify his reasonings. But the reason why SepTo is SepTo, and why that crowd of theatre attendees showed up to witness "Another Decaying Crown" on an unexpectedly cold and odd snowy April day in Toronto...was to see what was next.

ADC chronicles the time after his 2015 album "God Mind" release, and the processes, thoughts, and decisions that he was faced with. His most acclaimed body of work to date, "God Mind" also marked what may (or may not) be the "end" of his public rap career. More than one contributor to the film vocalized the collective hope that this actually wasn't the case.

The film shows his loss of inspiration to promote the 2015 album, as well as "greater themes of artist struggle and internal conflict" while facing the realities of the current state of the music industry. The film's creators also noted that ADC "examines the decaying usefulness and impact of today's true artist within a newly-evolved and over-saturated market."

It's a struggle that most artists are familiar with. The infinite battle between traditional activities and the creative pursuit of happiness. Any real artist knows that battle. The one that exists between doing what you love because you love to do it...and having to justify what you love to do, in the greater context of the world around you. The people. The expectations. The standards. The criticism. The praise. The ambiguity.

And the ambiguous life of an artist is just that: an unknown journey. It is this adventurous journey that drives many artists to fulfill their passions...and it is also this journey that discourages those same artists to realign their objectives and acknowledge that pursuing a life of art and creativity is a path seldom travelled. Because it's hard.

It's frustrating to watch! Someone with the talent of SepTo, placed in a time and place and city and spirit of Toronto right now. Toronto five years from now. Toronto five years ago. A city that is so beautiful and filled with life and culture...yet such a difficult place to navigate as a professional artist. Despite the size and world-class appeal of our beloved Toronto, it has never been an easy town to master. Particularly in the field of hip hop.

It doesn't make sense! Someone like SepTo deserves all of the acclaim and recognition he receives...and then some. He deserves to have his voice heard around the globe, and to tour internationally, and share his knowledge with the hungry minds of young hip hop fans. He deserves it because his messages are authentic, and come from an authentic place. A good place. A place of progress and understanding. And yet all the understanding and rationalization of this predicament still can't explain why someone as talented as SepTo finds himself in a position where it's almost not worth it to continue to pursue this particular expression of his dream.

Watching the documentary evoked thoughts of disappointment in my surroundings: knowing that lesser men have achieved greater things, and weaker messages have travelled more miles. The old familiar feeling of Toronto resentment almost set in because it seems as though doors get opened for the undeserving at times, while the humble and inspired remain unexpectedly conflicted.

These feelings of resentment are not to discredit the city of Toronto (that I love and will never, ever leave) or the amazing work and progress that SepTo HAS made over the years...but rather, it's a frustration that the artistry of SepTo is now discouraged from continuing the journey. What is it about our city that fails to nurture the great, and yet somehow still acknowledge the wack? It doesn't make any sense.

I loved this expression of frustration. The film was introspective and was funny at times, and also endearing. Listening to nostalgic reflections of SepTo were particularly heart-warming, and the sentiments expressed by his father (who vows to eternally harass his son for new albums every 6 months) was beyond beautiful.

The film was necessary for so many reasons, and the main reason was to shout out to anyone listening that we can not continue to live in a musical society that accepts bullshit, and suppresses actual talent and passion. We can't continue to endorse fools and elevate the culturally destructive front-men of our culture. We should not allow the hip hop culture to become a mockery of music, and an embarrassment to those who take the craft (and its heritage) seriously.

"Another Decaying Crown" was a strong message, in an artistic package, that art is indeed a reflection of the world around us. And even the most humble, the most talented, the most lyrically adept, and intellectually conscious members of our surroundings can get discouraged by the sad state of our collective values.

We're living through a transition: from analog to digital, and the replacement of actual human interaction with cyber-relationships and device dependency. The absolute beauty of this documentary is that it will stand as an artifact of this moment. The statements made, the music played, the opinions and the intentions will now be cemented in our culture as a public declaration that something needs to change in order to help our culture thrive.

Fortunately, creative types can never really stop being creative, so even if we don't get any new music from SepTo right now, I'm certain that the creativity will manifest in another form, as a means of still communicating his thoughts.

I will continue to enjoy SepTo's previous recordings, read his published writings, and know that whenever he DOES return to the industry, that he will be wise enough to know that the audience will finally be ready to hear what he has to say.

It's worth waiting for.

Written by Stacey Marie Robinson for Kya Publishing's "Urban Toronto Tales" blog.

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