Artistic outsiders redefine hip hop as accepted art form

When Cadence Weapon was made Edmonton’s poet laureate, it was an unbelievable moment for hip-hop artists everywhere.

DJ Cosm

When Cadence Weapon was made Edmonton’s poet laureate, it was an unbelievable moment for hip-hop artists everywhere.

“It was almost like an Obama moment for me,” recalls Teekay, the MC for the Calgary hip-hop group Dragon Fli Empire, which performs at Red Deer College’s Far Side Bar and Grill on Saturday.

Teekay (whose real name is Tarik Robinson) sees it as the instant when hip hop gained official acceptance as an art form. “It was pretty exciting to get that kind of recognition.”

Dragon Fli Empire, which is known for the mammoth 2002 indie hit Mount Pleasant, recently collaborated with Weapon on the new tune Outside Inn, which is getting decent airplay on Much Music, as well as CKUA and CBC Radio.

The song from Dragon Fli Empire’s 2009 album, Redefine, is a tribute to all outsiders, says Teekay, whose family hails from Jamaica. “When I was growing up in Calgary, we were among the only people of my background, so it made for some interesting situations.”

Teekay’s partner in the group, DJ Cosm (Adam Hicks), similarly felt disengaged as a teenager.

“He was always a real music geek. He knew all the facts and statistics about early hip hop. He’s like an encyclopedia,” said Teekay, who considers DJ Cosm “the Godfather of Calgary’s hip-hop scene.”

When the two asked Weapon — whom they got to know from recording at the same Edmonton studio — to contribute a verse, he agreed because he could also relate to the message of Outside Inn.

Weapon (who’s really Roland Pemberton) saw himself as socially awkward, said Teekay. “None of us were the real cool kids in school.”

But at age 28, Teekay, has become known for co-creating uplifting, introspective, and fun hip-hop tunes, in the vein of DJ Jazzy, Jurassic 5, De La Soul, and The Fresh Prince.

It’s been a great year for his group, Dragon Fli Empire. Redefine hit No. 1 on the campus charts and the group’s recording was nominated for a Western Canada Music Award. As well, the duo was nominated for CBC’s Great Canadian SongQuest, and performed before thousands of people at the Calgary Folk Fest and Yellowknife’s Folk on the Rocks.

Teekay says he and DJ Cosm are excited to play in Red Deer for the first time in five years. “We do a lot of crowd interaction. It should be a fun time.”

The concert is free to anyone age 18 and up. Doors open at 8 p.m. Show is at 9 p.m.

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