Sound Seekers by Fateema Sayani is published weekly at OttawaMagazine.com. Read Fateema Sayani’s culture column in Ottawa Magazine and follow her on Twitter @fateemasayani
How does “strip-hop” work anyway? Is it like a drinking game where you chug at the appointed cue? Hear a three-syllable word and everyone peels?
“It’s not that integrated—I wish,” laughs Jesse McDonald, the Ottawa MC who goes by Jesse Dangerously.
Strip-hop isn’t about dropping your drawers for a choice rhyme; rather, it’s a night of performances by members of the city’s burlesque scene interspersed with music by electro pop team Billz & Woo and MC Dangerously.
“People are accustomed to me taking my shirt off at shows,” Dangerously says of his on-stage showmanship. Off-stage, on gig posters and websites, he subtitles his handle with the words “Genuine Independent Rap Legend,” in keeping with the genre’s boast-and-hype conventions.
Dangerously figures the burlesque organizers approached him for his messages about feminism and being body positive. Some of his rhymes push for loving pudginess:
“Although jerks have mocked that I’m fat since age ten / I work it, I rock it; ask your girl or a gay friend!”
“Half-stepping cats packing weapons ask for rap lessons / while I slap bad physicians on behalf of vengeance for Fat Acceptance.”
“If you don’t think that I could carry that burden / you don’t know the strength of a very fat person.”
Dangerously’s wordplay is sharp. He manages to rap about issues — without being annoyingly preachy. It’s a technique that balances heft with honey. He plays to an audience’s need for fun while trying to keep a kind of consciousness in the mix.
Just this week Dangerously got a chance to teach the next generation about rap. He led a class of 11-and-12-year-olds at Emily Carr Middle School as part of a Jer’s Vision program on anti-bullying. In the warm-up session, one kid freestyled this lil’ nugget: “I love Barack Obama. He’s my llama from another mama.” A cute start.
A political rhyme from Jesse Dangerously goes more along these lines: “No-one in my corner could never privatize healthcay-err / got to keep it public ‘cause I be a taxpayer!”
Those are the kinds of messages that will likely come out at the May Day gig Dangerously will play on Wednesday. It’s an event by the staunchly communist Proletarian Revolutionary Action Committee. He says it’s a group of passionate, politically engaged people.
“They’re more doctrinally communist than I am, but I’m happy about how passionate they are,” he says.
The May Day gig will be followed by a series of shows Dangerously is calling the Stay at Home Hip-Hop Tour. From there, he’ll dive into his next recording with co-producer Corboe (Dream Jefferson, Owel Five). They’re recording eight songs with 18 guests including Buck 65, Wax Mannequin, and Rae Spoon.
It’s tentatively titled, Songs About Anything Else But The Aching Voids Left By The Departures Of My Ex-Lovers, Nearly All Of Whom I Still Desire & Care For. “Fiona Apple-style,” Dangerously laughs.
It’s got more of a New Wave feel to it, a departure from some of the nerdcore style he’s known for.
“I haven’t interacted with synthesizers that much yet,” Dangerously says, who self-identifies as a lover of “Spider-Man spinnerets, itinerant webcrawler of general interest, inveterate yes-y’aller.”
Dangerously returns to Babylon on Wednesday, May 1 for KeThe Proletarian Revolutionary Action Committee May Day party.
Look for Jesse Dangerously at The Herd Magazine launch party Friday, April 26 at the Mercury Lounge, and at Pressed Café (May 3) and ComicCon (May 11).
Her Harbour is the placid-pop project of Ottawa’s Gabrielle Giguere, whose tunes draw a line to contemporary indie artists such as Grimes and Groenland. She hosts a CD release show Saturday, April 27 at St. Luke’s Church in Chinatown.
Hilotrons hitmaker Mike Dubue returns to his other love — scoring for film — with a presentation Tuesday, April 30 as part of the Ottawa International Writers Festival. He and seven other musicians will play live on stage underscoring the fanciful, imaginative 1926 fairy-tale The Adventures of Prince Achmed.
Calypso band Kobotown, popular around these parts in the ‘90s and ‘00s return to the scene Saturday, April 27 at Ritual with a CD release party for their new album Jumbie in the Jukebox.
DJ Peanut Butter Wolf, founder of hip hop label Stones Throw Records (ex-home of Aloe Blacc and J Dilla), is at Ritual Friday, April 26 with current label artist Homeboy Sandman.