Building on the foundations of provincial hip hop

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St. John's-born Shiest talks rap, roots and recognition

Performing since he was "12 or 13," Shiest (AKA Noel Callahan) first stepped off the streets of St. John's and into a recording studio in 1998. He then became part of a collection of performers who have slowly, but surely, pushed the development of the hip hop scene on Canada's East Coast.

In terms of his own work, he has been able to remain in the mix without abandoning New-foundland and Labrador roots.

A still frame taken from hip-hop performer Shiests latest video, for the song Church. The video highlights the Basilica in St. Johns. Submitted image

Performing since he was "12 or 13," Shiest (AKA Noel Callahan) first stepped off the streets of St. John's and into a recording studio in 1998. He then became part of a collection of performers who have slowly, but surely, pushed the development of the hip hop scene on Canada's East Coast.

In terms of his own work, he has been able to remain in the mix without abandoning New-foundland and Labrador roots.

Although he now splits time between this province and Alberta, Shiest reflects his hometown in his work. For example, two recent videos made with St. John's-based ODC Productions ("Nuttin' New" and, his latest, "Church"), highlight the downtown area of St. John's.

The videos have earned him new attention, welcomed as his latest 16-track album "Firewater" is expected to be released in September.

A video for the first single, "Work to Do," will be seen within the next few months, he told The Telegram.

The timing is also good, as the larger East Coast scene has caught even more ears through radio hits like "Anybody Listenin'" from Nova Scotia's Classified, who will attend the upcoming Juno Awards events with multiple nominations in hand.

How Shiest became Shiest

Things have changed since Shiest's first recordings were laid down, he said.

"Back then we were only a few groups or artists doing their thing and now there seems to be a new rapper popping up every week," he said. "I feel some of it. Some of it's not good.

"I mean you've got the comical stuff like Donnie Dunphy and Gazebow Unit, then there's the cats that have been doing' it forever and that I work with on a regular basis like Lee Fitz, DJ Crafty, Hardcore, Hotbox and Large Live N' Direct - who have really been comin' up and are an exceptionally talented group," he said.

"(But) there's a whole bunch of younger dudes making music, too, that I'm not totally familiar with, so if anything the scene's definitely growing."

While the scene appears to be growing and Shiest is over 10 years into helping build that scene, for now he continues to receive laughter at times, when introduced as a hip-hop artist from Newfoundland and Labrador.

"I definitely feel it's more difficult to be respected as a hip-hop artist from Newfoundland," he said, noting that the scene in Halifax, at least, is well recognized.

But here?

"It is a little harder to be taken seriously and some narrow-minded people automatically dismiss the idea of you being a good MC.

"In the same breath, it's also a blessing because people expect you to be horrible and when they hear you it's the shock and awe sort of routine and they are fascinated that there's actually good hip-hop coming out of that part of the world," he said.

Shiest will be in town tonight, to open for hip-hop stars Slaughter-house & Pharoahe Monch at Club One. You can also catch him April 13 with LMFAO at the St. John's Convention Centre.

Shiest said he will also be around during Juno Week, performing a couple of, as-yet-unannounced, dates.

afitzpatrick@thetelegram.com

Organizations: The Telegram, St. John's Convention Centre

Geographic location: St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, East Coast Canada Alberta Nova Scotia Halifax

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  • Tom
    July 02, 2010 - 13:34

    It is a big joke. Thats why Republic of Doyle made fun of it a few shows back, and they did a perfect parody of it. Nothing but a huge joke. Wiggs Dinner might want to throw down with you. Lol.

  • Tom
    July 01, 2010 - 20:23

    It is a big joke. Thats why Republic of Doyle made fun of it a few shows back, and they did a perfect parody of it. Nothing but a huge joke. Wiggs Dinner might want to throw down with you. Lol.