Checkmate Welcome To The Game

With the release of his debut album, Vancouver MC Checkmate has ensured that every MC featured on the popular posse cut "Northern Touch" has now issued a full-length missive. A mainstay on the Vancouver hip-hop scene, Checkmate contributed a memorable verse to the Rascalz's "Clockwork" (from their Cash Crop album). But it's his pugilistic rhymes on their "Northern Touch" single where he's gained much of his recognition. "When you think about the rankings and paying dues, I was the least known and I had the least investment on that track," he says. "It was nothing for me to get on there and spit 16 bars." However, proving oneself over an entire album instead of a verse is an entirely different kettle of fish, but the singles he's released since have given a glimpse into his character. While the sleeve artwork and the accompanying video to "The Longshot" gave the impression Checkmate was a generic MC fixated with cars and women, a move he candidly admits he did for marketing purposes, the lyrics revealed something deeper. With the subject matter explored on the "state of the world address" "These Days And Times," tautly produced by Mr. Attic, and the musings over mournful strings on "Would You Die?," it's clear he's more than a battle MC. He balances out the album with fiercely insistent rhymes on "Respect It" and the title track, and is assisted by the unbridled energy of sidekick Concise the Black Knight. Welcome to The Game's refusal to settle into one musical style avoids labels, which is fine by him. "We look at it as a forte, like we can take all audiences on. I would be upset if someone called me a backpacker, but at the same time I'd be upset if someone called me a gangsta rapper, 'cos that ain't me, either one." (Double Up)