Canadian Government Shirks Hip-Hop Funding

Canadian Government Shirks Hip-Hop Funding
According to a report from The Canadian Press posted today on The Globe and Mail's website, only four hip-hop acts received federal grants in 2007. That’s a miniscule number compared to artists of other musical persuasions who won monetary favour from The Canada Council for the Arts.

This revelation is particularly shocking in an age when Canadian hip-hop has grown far beyond the roots planted by pioneers like Maestro Fresh-Wes and Dream Warriors. Think of the hip-hop talent blossoming across the country, from mainstream flirters like Cadence Weapon, Buck 65, K-OS and Kardinal Offishall, to lesser known but viciously potent rising artists like Abdominal, K’naan, Grand Analogue, Sixtoo, DL Incognito and Ghislain Poirier.

Even though three of Canada’s ten bestselling digital tracks in 2007 were hip-hop, according to SoundScan (though none were actually by Canadian artists), and Canadian hip-hop acts continue to gain critical notoriety and commercial success at home and abroad, it seems that this musical form lacks the respect and support afforded other genres by the federal agency committed to encouraging the arts.

Environmentally focused rapper Freeworm was given a grant, solo artists Red 1 and Kid Koala received professional development grants, and Aboriginal group Eekwol was awarded a grant through the council’s Aboriginal Peoples Music Program.

Approximately 300 artists applied for funding in the non-classical category and yet most of the successful applicants were classical and jazz musicians. The committee members who dole out approvals are supposed to be made up of an eclectic mix of musicians representing a variety of musical tastes but apparently hip-hop wasn’t one of the necessary flavours on the menu. An assessment report used by the arts council reveals that not a single committee member reviewing non-classical applications was considered a hip-hop artist.

To my logic, it seems this lack of knowledgeable representation undermines the criteria expressed by panellist Mireille Moquin, a singer-songwriter from Edmonton. "It is mainly based on how creative the project is, what jumped out as being out of the ordinary and original,” Moquin said.

So, hip-hop artists could conceivably end up relying on someone like Alan "Don’t Forget Me When I’m Gone” Frew to determine how fresh their concept for a crunk opus is? That’s almost as ridiculous as writing "fresh,” "crunk” and "Alan Frew” in the same sentence.

Mils Knight, manager of successful applicants Eekwol, admits that more work needs to be done to recognise the influence of hip-hop on Canadian culture but also thinks hip-hop artists need to take some responsibility and learn to play the game. "It is a competitive process and artists have to learn what the jurors are looking for, refine their application and also learn about the numerous funding options of musicians.”

Of course, having any valid representation of hip-hop whatsoever in the governing body would do wonders to balance the mix of artists receiving those grants.