It isn’t very often you get a story of two bitter rivals growing to become a unified force of positive vibes and prodding, provoking messages in the music game. Far more often it’s the opposite we see in this business, but that’s essentially the story that united Edmonton natives E-Dot and Darp Malone over a decade ago and brought them to this point as the Toronto/New York connection known as Hero. Malone handles double duty on the duo’s tight eponymous debut set, creating lush, sample-free hip-hop grooves laced with a diverse sound collage of slick guitar licks, unique bass lines, varied percussive sources, and an expanse of synth tones to go with his many soulful vocal insights. All of this forms the platform for E-Dot’s compelling, issue-laden raps, as the evocative MC dices up questions spanning everything from love and infidelity to global conflict, incarceration and indifference. The fanciful swing of leadoff cut "Mogadishu” helps to lighten the lessons of a man troubled by his decision to serve overseas, while tunes like the frustrated "They Don’t Care” find the MC trading tales with Wordsworth about a society with its back squared to those young and black. It’s an admirable show of honesty and conviction that definitely speaks to the group’s heroic moniker.

Where did the idea for the single "Mogadishu” come from?
E-Dot: My sister got married to an army dude and he had to go to Mogadishu. He was telling me stories about how crazy hot it was, and how over here doesn’t even compare. Telling me how our gangster people — if you see the reality of the world — dudes talkin’ gangster stuff really don’t know what the hell they’re talking about. They don’t even know real craziness until they see certain things. And he was telling me the stories about Mogadishu and how his little brother was getting into all this craziness, and that whole experience. I penned that out right when my sister got married.

What drives you to try and tackle so many issues in each of your songs?
Darp Malone: With hip-hop, you hear a lot of the same things over and over no matter what artist you’re listening to and there are very few people out there that are actually speaking from the heart and talking about real life experiences. So, we both thought it was important to make sure that we’re honest from A to Z with everything that we talk about. It doesn’t necessarily have to be true-to-life experiences, or my personal experience, but we try to do a lot of things that speak about somebody [being] vulnerable. (Thirsty)