Hockey and hip-hop are cold bedfellows. You'll never see the Canucks skating out to "99 Problems." Instead, we get "Sandstorm" and Gary Glitter.
"When you listen to the hockey soundtrack, there's never anything for the hip-hop lover to listen to," says Vancouver rapper Kyprios.
So, the Canuck-fanatic that he is, he penned his own hip-hop hockey tribute just in time for his hometown heroes to storm through the playoff. "How the West Was Won," released in April, is a spaghetti-Western infused tribute to the Canucks featuring Swollen Members DJ Rob the Viking. It's a name-dropping rap through history detailing how and why he thinks Vancouver will take the 2011 Stanley Cup.
His highest ambition for the track was to have it played on the sports radio talk show TEAM 1040. Instead, he was invited to perform the song at RogersArena before Game 1 of the finals in front of an 18,000-person audience - not to mention the roughly eight million television viewers - atop a giant crane inside the stadium.
"It doesn't get any bigger than that," he says.
The song is yet another milestone in an already exceptional year and a half for Kyprios, a.k.a David Coles. He's been hard at work on his third album, the follow-up to 2009's 12:12 , and last year he won the 2010 Peak Performance Project, beating out rising indie-rockers Said the Whale for a $100,500 grand prize.
"I learned more in that (competition) than in the nine years prior," he says. More than anything, it taught him how to navigate through a music industry that relies more than ever on self-promotion via social media and less on the record deals and managers he'd been relying on for the past decade.
"The social media thing was something I wasn't attracted to at all and now it's such a relevant and necessary evil," he says.
The Peak competition's prize money - a mother load for anybody, never mind an up-and-coming rapper in Vancouver - has afforded him the time and breathing room to complete the new album. He says he hopes to have it done by fall, but that it should have been done a long time ago.
" It's been a gruelling and difficult process to get it done right," he says. "Politics have somewhat conspired to slowing me up but I'm getting to the point where I need to get the sense of being a perfectionist out of my system and just release it."
It's this perfectionism that has earned him a loyal fan base, both as a solo artist and as a member of the Vancity Hip Hop collective Sweatshop Union. It's something he may have picked up as an MC during an extended stay in New York, twelve years ago.
It was the year 2000, when Hip Hop was ruling the charts.
"I went out with a tape and because I had that tape I thought I was going to get a record deal. Everyone had a record, everyone had an amazing record. Mine was shit compared to everybody else's," he says.
The work ethic and hustle of the artists in New York was far more aggressive than Kyprios had seen and he applied that approach upon his return to Vancouver. Soon after, he co-founded Sweatshop, then split for Toronto. While he was there, he landed a record deal with Sony.
Since then he's been nominated for two Juno awards, both as a solo artist and as part of Sweatshop. He's performed across North America alongside Black Eyed Peas, Busta Rhymes and the Roots.
Contrary to popular, Wikipedia-propelled belief, he says he has not split from Sweatshop Union. Some of the confusion may stem from his exclusion from Sweatshop's latest release, the striking Bill Murray EP , which he declined to participate on because he wouldn't be touring with them.
And in a year's worth of highlights, herein lies one of the greatest bummers of his career: "They give me the breather and end up making the best Sweatshop Union record to date. It goes to show it takes 10 years to take me off it and they make a classic record."
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