A Lyrical and Political Fighter
Interview with Hip Hop Artist SPIN
By Noah Fine and Shakeel Lochan
Hip Hop culture and all its components was born in an environment of racism, gentrification, suppression and violence within the eastern US. It tore through the veil of ethnic equality, and exploded in the five boroughs of New York, in the poorest ghettos. It fused elements of Jazz, Blues, Reggae, Dub and Spoken Word and created itself upon a history of black and Latino struggle.
We live in a growing era of war occupation. An era that sees imperialist countries such as the US, UK, and Canada waging war in the Middle East, Africa and Latin America. Since Hip Hop has spread out internationally, and many young people around the world are using it as a way of expression against daily brutality and misery under capitalism, in actual sense it has become a tool for resistance and opposition in contrast to what is mostly known in mainstream life as a tool for making money for big business.
Spin is an established base of political or rather conscious hip hop/spoken word art in Canada coming out of Toronto as a refugee from Guatemala. A community activist a leader within youth organizing, and participant in piles of progressive grass roots and labour organizing, a true spiritual and dynamic cat. Spin works to bring hip hop and revolutionary activism together as two inseparable elements of oppressed people’s fight back against imperialism. Spin rhymed in front of thousands of young Venezuelan’s from the barrios of Caracas in 2005 and was the only poet to spit spoken word at the Havana International Hip Hop Festival in Cuba in 2004. His relationship to oppressed people and their struggle is life-long and will continue onward until a better world is created. Spin is a dreamer. A follower of Che, Brother Malcolm X, and in their spirit knows a better world is possible and he will be a part of making it. Spin is a member of CUPE local 1281 and the Recording Secretary for CUPE Toronto District Council.
Fire This Time met to interview Spin while in Vancouver performing for Vancouver’s Hip Hop Festival Against War & Occupation 3. You can check him out in all elements of the festival from giving a workshop on “Hip Hop Internationalism” to spittin conscious lyrics on the stage from 1-11:30pm Saturday July 21 at Sunrise Pavilion in Surrey (10341-135 Street) and Sunday July 22 at Strathcona Park (Venables at Malkin Ave.) from 12-8pm.
Fire This Time (FTT): What brought you to Hip Hop?
Spin: Coming into Canada as an immigrant, having to leave my country as a refugee, having my father sell out my mother and having her raise me by her own. I saw a music video by Naughty by Nature, a hip hop group, an amazing hip hop group, and they have this song called Ghetto Blaster and he speaks about growing up without a father. He also speaks about growing up angry. This video, really impacted me because it spoke to the pain I was feeling and the anger and rage that I carried inside. So I guess I came into hip hop through anger and rage and I spoke to the injustices that were happening to me, which made me relate to the reality of black youth in the ghettos of the United States. So that’s what came to me as a fan, as a lover of the music, and later on when I started performing my poetry, and it being very much associated with hip hop or rap, it getting me into hip hop spaces and build a connection with hip hop artists, to where I am today man, just like KRS One said “I am Hip Hop”.
FTT: What do you think of the era of wars and occupations plaguing Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and all occupied lands?
Spin: It’s disgusting man, I mean, you also got Puerto Rico being occupied, Haiti being occupied. The case of Afghanistan particularly hurts me man because I was just reading about the sister Malailai Joya in Afghanistan who, according to the reasoning of the Canadian government of why we are there, about bringing liberation to women and promoting women’s rights, this women Malailai Joya who’s a 28 year old parliamentarian, democratically elected, should be the president of that country as a very outspoken critic and in reality she was just expelled for 3 years for condemning the fact that theirs war lords that according to her own words, 70% of the Afghan parliament consists of war lords, drug lords and criminals. It really angers me that people are so stupid, that they don’t realize that we are doing nothing anywhere close to bringing democracy and that we’re actually as Canadian troops that are over there, we’re basically enforcing former war lords that are responsible for the sad state of affairs that Afghanistan is in. With Palestine, what hurts me now is that there is kind of divide and conquer the Palestinian militant groups have turned on each other which is exactly what the oppressor wants, divide and conquer. United we stand and divided we fall. In reality it works out to the brutality that the state of Israel has Palestinian people under, and the lies that you see in the media which never, ever tell the accurate truth. You actually have to go and dig in make an effort and research for yourself what’s actually happening. And then of course you have Iraq, which is a complete disaster and we shouldn’t be there. We’re in Afghanistan because of a pipeline that’s running through Afghanistan and to benefit the U.S. oil interests, U.S. foreign policy. We’re in Iraq out of geopolitical positioning, or whatever. And I mean, Israel’s been abusing Palestine for decades. It’s just really angering to me that this is happening and so many people are fooled by the lies that they see in mainstream media.
FTT: What about hip hop you think, lends itself to the fight for a better world?
Spin: Hip Hop started in political roots. Like Immortal Technique said ‘I remember the time when hip hop was not economically viable,” but people really did it out of love and out of a need for expression. They would go bomb a train, and by that I mean graffiti, tag up a train. I don’t want to wined up with “Security Certificates.” It was about a message. And if you travel throughout the world in spite of the corporatization, that has taken place with hip hop and how it has become a commodity. The hip hop and the third world, or what I call the recovering nations, is political man. They go to Colombia and hip hop’s denouncing military abuses. You go to Palestine, their spraying graffiti on the Apartheid Wall that the state of Israel is building. You know what I mean. You go to Argentina their talking about the economic state of decay and the abuses that the government afflicted on the people. Where ever you go, hip hop is the voice of resistance. Even within Canada, or so called Canada, really Turtle Island, you see the Indigenous hip hop artists really taking a stand through the music and reclaiming their culture. It’s really meant to be a weapon for the poor and a voice for the voiceless.
FTT: What would be your message to the youth?
Spin: To the youth!
FTT: To the new generation.
Spin: To the new generation, first and foremost I would like to speak to the thugs, you know. I got love. Hip hop has love for you. I was never a thug but I was associated with people who were and still are. And I understand where this rage comes from. If you’re Latino and your out their wanting to slash, cut somebody, you got all this rage to you. Understand what was done to your people. If you from Ecuador, Guatemala, wherever your from, understand what was done to your people, understand, what it is that brought us here. Most of us here leave human rights abuses. We have a legacy behind us man. We come from Kings and Queens. If you’re Indigenous people up here, and your out their gang bangin, whatever you’re doing, just understand that we have a powerful, powerful, history, herstory, and a powerful future in our hands. When we self-destruct, we’re giving the power to our oppressor. What I really want to say is, know where to aim that line in a poem. There’s a line in a poem that goes, “Spitting poems doesn’t make me a non-violent cat. I just happen to know, where to be aiming that gat.” And dream. Know what your dreams are and live them out “By any means necessary.” Just like Malcolm X said. And the brothers, respect the women. For every single youth, that maybe reading this paper right now, we need you. And I have every bit of faith that this world can be left in your hands and you can better it. Amend the mistake that we have made. But never, ever give up on your dreams, and never try to be something that you’re not. Dreams come true.
FTT: Thanks Spin.
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