Red 1’s Beautiful Struggle

Red 1’s Beautiful Struggle
Photo: Matt Barns
Red 1 has had enough. "We’re doing music on the level that’s as good as anybody in the world,” he says. "So we should expect the same treatment and the same results, that’s all.” Referring to the lack of support for domestic hip-hop, Red 1 is clearly dismayed by the reluctance of record labels to sign talented acts and the rapidly shrinking number of radio stations devoted to playing "urban” music in this country.

If anyone is qualified to speak on this situation it’s Red 1. A veteran figure in the Canadian hip-hop scene, the Vancouver-based MC has been a member of the Rascalz (nee Ragamuffin Rascalz) for about 15 years. One of this country’s most enduring hip-hop crews, they were thrust into the mainstream spotlight through their pioneering coast-to-coast collaboration "Northern Touch” and by refusing their Juno for Best Rap Recording because none of the urban music categories were being televised. While the Rascalz are set to regroup to record new material in the summer, Red 1 is focused on taking control of his own fate — starting his own label, Killawatt, developing new artists and issuing a solo album, appropriately titled Beg for Nothing. While it’s clearly a hip-hop record, the reggae and dancehall influences that have always been present in the Rascalz’ material are more pronounced and there’s plenty of genre hopping in the production.

"I wanted to show that we’re versatile up here,” he says. "I don’t have to throw on a bunch of American artists and collabos to show that we’ve got skills at making music. Give me the R&B beat, the reggae beat, the rock beat, the hip-hop beat — give me any beat. That’s what I wanted my album to represent.” It’s clear Red 1 is not going to back down from any challenge coming his way. "The victory ain’t sweet without salt and struggle,” he says. "I love salt and I love struggle.”