Get a Life… checkby Nathan Zeno / 12.08.2009
Lifecheck has been around for a while now and it exists outside of any mainstream media awareness. It is a series of monthly battles at which young MC’s hone their skills and graf artists experiment. Every year around this time it culminates in a day long celebration of that culture. Kids from all around flock in, the BAT centre hall is packed, the parking lot filled with spray paint dust and the deck overflowing with teenagers, and it’s only three in the afternoon. While I recognize the value of Lifecheck to give kids something other than alcohol drugs and delinquency to swell on, I was surprised by the large Red Bull Land Rover blasting out Gangsta Rap and Beyonce hits outside in the Graf area. It set a bad tone. If the alternative to drugs and poverty being offered is rampant commercialism and superficiality, that that music represents, then I’m a little flummoxed.
To be perfectly fair to Lifecheck, I really didn’t stick around long enough to fully take in everything that was going on. The pounding commercial rap outside and the teenagers wearing Ed Hardy set a dismal mood and the battles I did watch were more like “My daddy has a bigger dick than your daddy” than anything approaching a stylistic or linguistic stretch. I totally get that its part of this culture to sift through indeterminable amounts of average gangsta posing to get to that one good moment, but I don’t have the enthusiasm or stamina for teenagers insulting each other in rhyme schemes that always end in “-ness”. I see you think your the business, but I am the fitness and I’m all up in your daddy high test. And, at the risk of sounding like an old curmudgeon, I find it intriguing that the crowd responds to one MC merely repeating the previous MC’s insult with a different emphasis as some kind of triumph. In fact the crowd’s responses all seem to be based on the emphasis rather than style or content. But as I said, it was hot in there, sweat drenched air, stifling, and I didn’t stick around for the end game, so maybe really what do I know?
At least the Graf work was dope…
Apart from the fact that I approached two different young writers, who hang out in this scene, to write this piece and was greeted with these responses, “Why bother?” and, “I’m pretty apathetic about it all”.
Look, in terms of Hip Hop, I’m a Digable Planets kinda guy, so the commercial Rap and R&B pumping out of the Red Bull Landrover might have just thrown me off balance. I totally think that the guys organizing Lifecheck have their hearts in the right place, but either the concept is played out, or they are stretching themselves too thin. If Red Bull could get more involved on a Red Bull Music Academy level, and hook up some kids who want to learn with workshops with Ewok, Black Moss and even some out-of-town guys like Hymphatic Tabs, then maybe Lifecheck would seem more vital. But for me, it was just a display of how Hip Hop has lost its way and become just another form of pop music. A basis for people to express nothing more than the most superficial of playground desires. If only I could have found some young kid to tell me different.
All pics by Dain Withani