“The worst thing in the world that you can hear as a rap artist is that the beats are great”.
It’s a Wednesday afternoon, and I’m sitting (read: drinking) at Mad Hatter’s on Crescent with Cannonhead, an up-and-coming local hiphop outfit. Not to piss them off, but the beats are great, ranging from mellow, almost ambient bass and drums to frenetic indie rock riffs (check out the album’s fourth track “Stars” for a dose of both). But never mind the beats… if there’s one thing I don’t want to do, it’s downplay the rhymes- the rap is all there.
In the age of Taylor Gang and Waka Flaka Flame, it means something when a group has it going for themselves- not just heavy bass-driven beats, not just a catchy lick or two, not even just a repetitive hook (no “SWAG SWAG SWAG” on this record), but genuine lyricism with a real full band sound to back it up. Cannonhead’s wordsmithery has a solid rap attitude- the lyrics are intelligent without trying to be too intellectual, retaining that hardcore underground feel without ending up sounding too “gangster.”
“FROM ST.HENRI TO NDG; LOOKING FOR A WOMAN TO SATISFY ME”
The band itself is comprised of laid back Montréal natives who are at ease with themselves and the music scene. There’s a casual relaxation about them, dressed like 80s punks straight out of the Bowery- they have a genuine, downplayed rock and roll feel.
The band described their influence as ranging from Rage Against the Machine to Jay-Z, protest-rock to hip-hop. The range in their style comes from an eclectic musical background- the MCs were raised sucking at the teat of classic hip-hop, while the drummer and bassist are green-blooded punk-rock fiends (with a side project by the name of the Bloody Cuntrags).
Anyway, to cut to the chase, Cannonhead is releasing a free album “we can be silent now.” The album bursts from the seams with real musicianship, and you can hear the finesse, the work put into the production. Every second of the album fits in perfectly with the rest; a self-described “stream of consciousness delivered on a spaceship.”
The record is all over the place, but in the best possible way- a perfect blend of the band’s influences from rap, punk rock, and the inevitable flavor of the Montreal indie scene. The album shifts back and forth between the more psychedelic-indie side of rap (Goodnight Merriah) to lo-fi punk attitude (Have love, will travel) with Freddie 5ive’s lyrical storytelling weaving the whole thing together.
Given that it’s a free download, you have no excuse to pass up on the offer- get it now, so that when Cannonhead is screaming down at you from the top of the world, you can turn to your friends and say, “I heard about these guys back when they were chugging brews at Hatter’s and jamming on weeknights at Crobar.” To sate your desire until then, here’s the music video for “Goodnight Merriah”.
PRO-TIP: Watch out for a special-guest appearance by local singer-songwriter Johnny Griffin on “Civilized”.
Photos: Philip Tabah & Daniel Freder