Thursday, August 28, 2008

Artist Profile: Luu Breeze

Published in UR [September 2008]

Toronto's Hip Hop Prince Ain't No Gangsta

Regal titles are nothing new in hip-hop - Jay-Z and Nas famously fought for the "King of New York" crown a few years back - but it's rare for a Canadian to hold such a prestigious honorific. So, when a young rapper from Scarborough was christened "The Prince of the Dot," people took notice.

He now shies away from the moniker, but Luu Breeze still carries large expectations on his shoulders. He first gained attention rapping on the underground Rap Sheets DVD, and now he's topping urban radio charts with "Million Dollar Dreams" and "Break 'em Off." He's currently wrapping up his third mixtape, Topic of Discussion. He chose the title, "because I'm literally wondering what's next."

While Canadian rappers like Kardinal and k-os have shied away from the guns-and-bling sound that permeates American radio, Breeze has instead followed in the street rap tradition created by the likes of Ice Cube, Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur. Although some would classify the genre as gangsta rap, it's a term Breeze rejects. "I like to say that I'm a real person," he says. "You don't have to be a gangsta to be real. It's a matter of how you live and certain things that you live by."

And one of those codes that Breeze lives by is that of hard work, which is starting to pay off. Rumours have linked the independent Breeze with Ludacris' acclaimed label, Disturbing Tha Peace.

Although his Rolodex is filling up, Breeze had a few guest spots to fill on Topic of Discussion, so he asked fellow Torontonian Richie Sosa and other members of his Champagne Gang crew to help. "I like working with guys who are as hungry as I am," he says. "I feel like I can make a song as good as the next artist, and I'm not going to throw money at big artists just for a verse."

Link to copy of story in UR here.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

News Story: Fake Prom VI

Published in National Post [Toronto magazine, Aug. 23, 2008]

A do-over for wallflowers
Thwarted valedictorians vindicated by Fake Prom

Palais Royale was transformed into a futuristic high school dance for the sixth edition of Fake Prom on Aug. 15. The theme of the night was "Out of This World," and most of the 800 attendees came adorned in their best formal wear with futuristic touches. Others, particularly the person dressed as Astro Boy, fully embraced the theme.

"To research for Fake Prom themes, I actually researched real proms and I stumbled on a prom with a similar theme," explained Dylan Reibling, Fake Prom's superintendant. "It's the perfect mix of nerdiness and costume dress-up."

With flashy getups, numerous slow jams and a glowing full moon (which was real), Fake Prom provided people such as Katie Sawatsky, an opportunity to experience prom night the way that they wanted to be.

"My original prom sucked," said Sawatsky, who has attended three Fake Proms. "I was a valedictorian and I felt like a loser. This event is more sociable, especially since everyone is more comfortable with their lives compared to when they were 18."

Attracting attendees predominantly in their twenties and thirties, the night didn't bring back bad high school memories for everybody. "Most people had a bad prom experience but I actually had a good experience," said Val Heimpel, "so I'm trying to relive it."

Like a traditional prom, Fake Prom held an election for Fake Prom King and Queen, which was won by Adam Jackson and Naomi Yasui. The couple had their big dance as the night ended with a shortened version of G'N'R's "November Rain."

"We had no idea that we would," said Jackson. "But we're both super hot and we have a lot of friends that know we are super hot."

Although there can only be one Fake Prom King and Queen, Reibling sees the event as being free of the angst that often comes with real proms. "We always seem to get people with good vibes," he said.

Link to story in National Post here.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

News story: The Doug Wright Awards

Published in National Post [Toronto magazine, Aug. 16, 2008]

Cartooning world tips its hat

Lynn Johnston inducted into Hall of Fame

Canadian cartooning was feted last week at the fourth annual Doug Wright Awards. Held at the Metro Toronto Reference Library, the ceremony included the induction of For Better or For Worse cartoonist Lynn Johnston into the Canadian Cartooning Hall of Fame and a new award celebrating unorthodox work with an unorthodox prize - a bowler hat.

"In a way, I ripped it off," admitted awards co-founder, cartoonist Seth. "Years ago, I was at an awards ceremony in Finland and they had a very funny hat they gave to someone."

In this case, the hat has a direct connection with Canadian cartooning history - it was the staple accessory of Jim Frise's unflappable Pigskin Peters. That type of attention to detail impressed Anne-Marie Fleming, who won the best book award for The Amazing Life of Long Tack Sam, a biography of her grandfather.

"So much thought, love and care went into the show, which is exactly like comics," Fleming said. "So much love and care goes into every frame."

Named after Doug Wright whose Doug Wright's Family was syndicated in newspapers throughout the world from the 1940s to the 1980s, the ceremony included an appearance from Wright's widow and two of his sons. "We're very grateful [that] Dad's name [is being kept] alive," said Jim Wright. "We tend to forget talented people when they're not in the limelight."

Although Johnston remains in the limelight, during a 30-minute question-and-answer period, she gamely answered questions that touched on her 35-year career.

"This is the beginning of something that's going to grow," she said as she signed books following the ceremony. "The Reuben Awards [the premier American cartooning awards] started with this group of guys in New York who wanted to get together, socialize - and then they said, 'Let's give ourselves a few awards.' Now it's really international."

Link to story in National Post here.

News Story: One Inch Punch button art/swap show

Published in National Post. [Toronto magazine, Aug. 16, 2008],

Pushing their buttons
The art world was all about getting pinned

The art world met the trading world at Lennox Contemporary Gallery on Aug. 8 at the third annual One Inch Punch show. With 50 original one-inch button designs, ranging from a portrait of Abraham Lincoln to Stephen Harper shooting lasers from his eyes, the show provided attendees with the opportunity to buy a random set of five original buttons and then trade their favourite buttons with each other.

"It makes art accessible for everyone because you can spend $5 for art on a button," said Christine Mullen, one of the 50 artists in the show. "And with these buttons you have an excuse to talk. You get to meet people in the art world, which is really hard to do otherwise."

Curated by the four-person Les Robots collective, the show was inspired by a similar event that happens annually in Vancouver. Initially skeptical about the show's potential for success in Toronto, this year, Les Robots received between 175 and 200 original button design submissions from places as far away as Australia and Dubai. Having whittle down the submission to 50, the group made 4o copies of each button available for sale.

"Last year, we sold out by 11," said Stephanie Dacosta of Les Robots. "So we bumped it up a little bit this year."

With DJ Coco Bryce supplying the tunes, attendees and artists were unable to resist trading fever. For Daniela Syrovy, who had her Sesame Street-inspired button design accepted, the show provided instant gratification for her work.

"Every artist starts with five, but my button happens to be really hot," she said. "Everyone wants the Bert and Ernie, so I traded it up instantly. People were offering me two or three buttons for one; it was fierce."

Although there were more than a few attendees who were unable to make a trade for their favourite buttons, it was impossible to escape the jocular atmosphere of the show. As Syrovy said, "It's so much fun. It brings you back to being a kid trading stickers or marbles. It's a great icebreaker."

Link to story in National Post here.