The Joy of Hip-hop 

Veteran DJ to host MC battle series at the Beagle

QUOTE: "Hip-hop in general kept a lot of people out of jail, a lot of people out of gangs and a lot of people from going bad. You had cats DJ-ing in the parks, you had cats DJ-ing in the projects. People came to listen to the music, see people breakdance, and that kept people away from violence."

What: The Hip-Hop Smash Rap Battle

Where: Savage Beagle

When: Tuesdays, Sept. 21 & 28

In the mid-1990s snow culture discovered hip-hop.

Up until then snowsports were represented by punk, metal, hardcore and good old rock ’n’ roll. The odd obscure beat-backed track showed up as a joke in the Creatures of Habit video series prank reels, but for the most part hip-hop was invisible.

But as hip-hop grooved its way into all areas of mainstream youth culture it also became an element on the soundtracks of first snowboarding, and then ski videos. A corps of urban hipster pros took streetwear on to the slopes, sporting headscarves, gold teeth and headphones in the halfpipe.

Whadaya know? The kids followed suit.

Whistler night clubs clued in and began hosting hip-hop nights. One of them, the Savage Beagle, did their part by bringing up Vancouver-based Sean Harris, a.k.a. DJ Sean-Ski, an established DJ and producer and creator of the online urban culture hub Tabloid Productions.

Fast-forward seven years. Hip-hop-specific nights have come and gone, ironically, becoming somewhat obsolete due to the popularity of the sound. Since hip-hop is Top 40 now, what makes a night a hip-hop night?

Sean-Ski can tell you. He’s still around. At seven years and counting his Tuesday at the Beagle is Whistler’s longest running hip-hop night.

But his authority on hip-hop dates back much further than Whistler and the snowboard-hip-hop explosion.

Ask the 31-year-old Harris about coming of age in the mid-1980s in New York City. Harris hails from the Bronx, the veritable birthplace of East Coast hip-hop culture. He grew up in the area around Yankee Stadium, born to a cop and a nurse who encouraged his affinity for music so long as he kept up in school.

As far back as he can remember Harris says his free time was spent scouring New York record stores for funk, breaks and beats, bringing them home to make mix tapes with his similarly-minded friends and then heading out to engage in some good old graffiti tagging.

"I was basically born into the whole culture," he says. "I was DJ-ing when I was maybe about 10 or 11 years old."

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