Most of my heroes

Lance Armstrong and the problem with hero worship, PLUS putting a Shine On local acts Markings and Black Glovez and running down the big events capping this week, including Hip Hop Karaoke and Igloofest.

You don’t have to be Lance Armstrong to find yourself with a major first-world problem on your hands. You just gotta be mad at him.

I’m wondering as much as you are what place the man who did for arm jewellery what Crocs did for footwear has in a hip hop culture column, but I just can’t shake this urge to say something.

I’d be speaking out that ass with any opinion on the use of performance enhancers in pro sports, with respect to the fact that it is worth debating elsewhere by people who care more. I definitely know cats who spit better lifted, but to date I haven’t seen anyone in the rap world try to make policy on that matter.

The Armstrong drama rings a chord with me now simply because he’s a hero to people. The amount of vitriolic, self-righteous name-calling and “lotta ball” jokes he’s been subject to since finding a questionable porte-parole in fuckin’ Oprah — all-too-eager to call him out when it suddenly leaked he’d come clean to her on his alleged doping — truly saddens me, and here’s why.

We all have our heroes. And anyone can be a hero to almost anyone, when you think about it. Literally billions upon billions of people throughout civilization have affected someone else in a way that touched, inspired or indeed saved.

This is the same civilization that has encouraged growth, evolution and oneness while at the same time espousing power, money and greed as the way toward self-worth. It’s the same civilization that is inherently flawed in so many respects, but that we still belong to and believe in and love.

Read that last paragraph again and replace the word “civilization” first with “culture” and then again with “person.” Remind you of anything or anyone?

The only thing I can really get mad at in this instance is a societal propensity toward placing our heroes on a pedestal, removing the human factor which should in fact be the tie that binds, and then losing our shit when that person lives up to being just that: a person.

Many of my own marquee-name heroes — living or dead, flesh or fictional — have avoided disgrace by being truthful about themselves by nature, and by dealing with unsolicited private revelations in a fashion so head-on you had to respect it. The people in my personal life I consider heroes could have skeletons in their closet for all I know, but they’ve inspired me in part precisely by being unashamed to wake up grumpy with bad breath like the rest of us.

Our heroes are real people, and when they disappoint, we have a choice to make: stick with them or move on. That choice is tough enough without smug, gloating assholes on the sidelines cheering because someone else’s failure makes them feel better about their own shortcomings. These types enable the worst kind of hypocrisy, breaking spirits along the way like a mad marching parade of Alfred E. New-men and women — misguided malcontents about to trample each other for a big-screen-facing corner table with a hot waitress come the “what, me worry?” puck-drop this weekend.

I bet you if Oprah blew the whistle half as loud on any number of folks she has the goods on, the whole world would stop, and in the words of my greatest inspirational motivator Matt Foley, it wouldn’t amount to jack squat — partly because we’d just ignore what really mattered, and then partly because dismissal is easier than discussion.

Ultimately I bring it up because it matters to me who brings us all up. It matters to me not only who we choose to admire but who we choose to decry, and why. “Most of my heroes don’t appear on no stamp,” but most of them have stamped themselves across the social consciousness in some form or another, the good, bad and ugly all at once. I can tell you one thing for certain: all of my heroes are people.

Markings. Photo by Kae Roc / A Thousand Armies.
Markings doesn’t have to hit the phone booth and switch into a flashy suit to be a hometown hero. These past couple of years, he’s been wearing many hats, but no masks, fostering an ever-expanding connection to the radius points of our city’s many hip hop circles. Curating Slang Rap Democracy, involving himself across many movements and just rappin’ and producing like a mah’fucka, Shmings has become an extremely visible and efficient contributor and connector across the local rap community. Spring thaw brings a second Markings full-length, Wayeb, to the rescue of the mid-winter frost, with a Kaytranada-produced, Narcy/Pesci-laced single, “Mine, Now,” breaking earth now on Bandcamp.
SHINE ON VISUAL: If hip hop itself is a personal hero to me, then this “Sure Thing” right here is why. People talk all day about “shit’s dead” and “back in the day” and all that noise, but if you need to see proof of hip hop’s living spirit, local rap prospers in the hands of Black Glovez. ElonSkee, TruthVybez and Generale Q. have been at it for a minute, young though they may be, and in their sound and image, one is reminded why it is something as youthful as rap already has legends.

Most of my heroes won’t appear at any of the following events — but you never know.

ThursdayHip Hop Karaoke V2.0 is back for round three at le Belmont and, with it, this month’s winner in a new Cult MTL feature that lets fans vote for their favourite performance out of our exclusive monthly video Top 5.

In a top-notch field of knock-off excellence, “Everything Remains Raw” for Villeray-residing, Busta Rhymes-busting beatboxer MicroSkillz (born Anselme Yapo-Norris, 27), who, unbelievably, rapped for the first time ever on stage last month, covering his rap hero, who, unbelievably, hadn’t ever been touched at HHK.

MicroSkillz attended November’s HHK and decided he had to get up. Not wanting to disturb the neighbours, he screamed and wailed into pillows ‘til the wee hours and “visualized the impact he wanted to make on the crowd.” Adding his own performance twist, he hit the flows and deep baritone of his rap idol and showed mega-skills, taking the floor like a rap legend and even going for a stage-dive at the end. He admits he may have inadvertently — perhaps even a little advertently — raised the HHK bar, but won’t come clean on his rap hero.

“It’s Busta or ODB!” MicroSkillz says. Is that a hint for tonight?

“Can I say maybe?”

Friday – I wish I could say there is only one spot to be in town, but it’s either a tough call or a double header tonight. At Tokyo, Tribe ambassador Ali Shaheed Muhammad takes the wheels as part of the club’s 15th anniversary DJ series. Get there early, pay five bucks and witness some history, but before you do, stay tuned to this site today to check out my interview with Shaheed.

You should still have plenty of time on either side of the clock to partake of Racoon Party at a’Shop, where graff/mic math’matical skills collective K6A drop their debut LP Kosséça!?! On sais jamais sauf quand on l’sais.

Also, all weekend long, Igloofest kicks off four cold, hard weekends on ice. Stay tuned to Cult MTL for feature coverage and photo galleries, and get ready for sub-zero feats and heroic b-stances. ■

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