Still going strong 

Vancouver-based hip hop collective returns to Whistler with material from new album, Water Street

click to enlarge MC Collective The Sweatshop Union crew is set to perform at Garfinkel's this weekend
  • MC Collective The Sweatshop Union crew is set to perform at Garfinkel's this weekend

Who: Sweatshop Union w/Emotionz

When: Sunday, July 13, 10 p.m.

Where: Garfinkel’s

Tickets: $12 presale

The members of Sweatshop Union aren’t your run-of-the-mill, amateur hip hop performers. Kyprios, Marmalade, Itchy Ron, Metty, Mos Eisley, Dusty Melo and Conscience are seasoned MCs with some serious substance to their music.

The union came together in 2000, out of the groups Dirty Circus, Creative Minds (now known as Pigeonhole), and Innocent Bystanders. Kyprios was the lone solo MC. The artists decided to form a collective mainly for practical reasons — aside from the fact that they were a group of MCs who liked the same music and happened to be friends, they needed to pool their resources to put out a compilation album.

“It was a little bit more expensive and more difficult to put out records than it is today, with the advent of everybody having a home studio,” Kyprios explained. “…It was just a more sound and solid way of ensuring you at least got a record out and it didn’t take forever.”

The group’s self-titled debut album reached Mad Child, one of the members of Swollen Members, and he ended up releasing it on his own label, Underworld. Soon after, Sweatshop was signed with Battle Axe Records, who re-released their debut album and followed up with their next three full-length efforts.

Their lyrics are heavier than your average mainstream hip hop group, with music touching on everything from racism and poverty to the war in Iraq.

But Kyprios stresses that they aren’t trying to push a personal agenda.

“It’s kind of a blues mentality with hip hop beats — it’s like the shit we don’t have and the things that we’d like to see different,” he said.

Rather, they’re simply trying to encourage listeners to think critically, rather than the same old “hip hop hypocrisy.”

“It’s called Sweatshop Union and its basically at a time when everyone was rocking Nikes and dunks and at the same time trying to be socially and politically conscious, and its like, ‘well, dude, where did your shoes get made?’” Kyprios explained.

You would think putting seven strong musical personalities together in the same room could end badly. But almost eight years later, the collective is still going strong. They’re touring regularly, and they’re just getting ready to drop their fourth CD, Water Street , in early August.


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