David Strickland has contributed a great deal the Hip Hop culture. He has worked with artist in the new wave like Drake, and with legends like EPMD and Keith Murray. I had a chance to interview David where we talked about his new music and upcoming album, His connection to the Indigenous community, we dug deep into the Hip Hop culture and more.
DJ Sub-T: How did you start in Hip Hop?
David Strickland: I started b-boying in grade 4 after really starting to buy vinyl. I was into music and buying records by age 10. B-Boying led me to DJing which led me to Engineering and Producing. I discovered Hip Hop through its evolution.
DJS: What was it like working with Def Squad? How did that relationship come about?
DS: Working with Def Squad is always magical. They are my family. I was travelling back and forth to NYC since the 80’s and over time I met more people and their circles. Saukrates connected me with Redman initially and naturally that led to meeting Keith Murray and Erick Sermon. We all had good energy together and they showed me a lot of love right from the beginning. We managed to do a lot songs and albums together and since then I’m proud to call them family.
“Working with Def Squad is always magical. They are my family. I was travelling back and forth to NYC since the 80’s and over time I met more people and their circles. Saukrates connected me with Redman initially and naturally that led to meeting Keith Murray and Erick Sermon.”
DJS: What was it like working with Drake? How did that relationship come about?
DS: Drake is a genius; I have nothing but great things to say about his work. I fortunately got to work with him through my long time friend Noah Shebib. I offered my help to Noah and let him know that I would be there if he needed me. If there was something to do, rain or shine, budget or no budget we’re family. I’m thankful for any role I got to play working with such amazing people whether in the background or assisting a mix. We came from the same family tree, having Gadget as teacher and mentor. 40 is a legend and I couldn’t be more proud of him and Drake
DJS: I saw the screening of the documentary “First Out Here: Indigenous Hip Hop In Canada” where you spoke about the connection between the Indigenous community and Hip Hop. Can you speak more about this?
DS: ther Ernie Paniccioli teaches us that hip hop is native culture within the 21st century technology. Using the 4 Elements of Hip Hop as an example; ”The DJ is the Drummers, The MC is the story teller, the B Boy is the Dancer and the Graffiti Artist is the Sandpainter”. This applies to the Indigenous cultures of Turtle Island, South America and Africa.
We represent the voice of the voiceless. Our stories haven’t been heard from our point of view, it’s always been told through Hollywood stereotypes. Hip Hop gives us a way to tell our stories and express our experiences from our perspective.
Hip Hop is in our DNA. I realized this when I noticed how much I enjoyed drum programming, drum sounds and making custom drum kits. It dawned on me how natural it is for me because of the role drums play in our culture. It’s deep rooted on many different levels.
”The DJ is the Drummers, The MC is the story teller, the B Boy is the Dancer and the Graffiti Artist is the Sandpainter. This applies to the Indigenous cultures of Turtle Island, South America and Africa.”
DJS: Can you speak on the similarities between Hip Hop and the Indigenous community and Hip Hop and the urban community?
DS: In many ways some of the conditions on the reservations are parallel to conditions in the projects and inner cities only worse in some cases because they live in remote locations with limited access to basic needs, employment or affordable food prices. The conditions are harsh and that makes people lose hope and faith in themselves. Many have broken spirits and find ways to escape through drugs or alcohol which lead to other problems like violence and gang culture. Native gangs are a problem although rarely covered in the media.
In Canada more Native men are in jail than any other race, similar to African Americans in America. The system has been designed and we have similar struggles making Hip Hop music a natural form of expression for us all. On the Rez or Inner Cities its real.. It’s in our blood.
DJS: Here at Hip Hop Authority we are big into representing the 4 Elements of Hip Hop: the MC, DJ, Dance and Art. How is the Indigenous community involved in these elements?
DS: As I mentioned before legendary Hip Hop photographer Ernie Paniccioli who’s had the pleasure of capturing Hip Hop from its infancy in the 1970’s teaches us that “The DJ is the Drummers, The MC is the story teller, the B Boy is the Dancer and the Graffiti Artist is the Sandpanter”. Many b-boy dance moves are taken from our traditional dances.
People who appear to possess nothing have an innate ability to create music that is revolutionary and self-empowering.
DJS: Can you tell me about the 2 singles you released “Rez Life” and “Window”? What do they mean to you and what message are you trying to convey?
DS: Rez Life has deep meaning for me. I tried to paint a picture of Reservation Life for our peoples. To give non indigenous people a glimpse of some of the struggles my people endure on a day to day basis. Like the lack of clean drinking water on some reservations or the high suicide rate among our youth due to the conditions on some reservations. I didn’t grow up on a reserve but I’ve travelled to many and have seen firsthand what’s going on. The general public doesn’t see us or go to these places so we are out of sight, out of mind. I wanted to show people what it’s like for us.
Window was more of a turning point song for me, shedding the past and moving forward. Not letting people or things hold you back. Drezus and Hakeem captured that essence perfectly and delivered what I was going thru and feeling in my heart at the time with struggles in my own life. Growing, moving on and doing my thing despite the obstacles and nay sayers; It’s something we all go through and can relate to.
DJS: Can you speak about your upcoming album “Spirit Of Hip Hop” and what fans can expect from the project?
DS: The Spirit of Hip Hop was an evolution. The Creator inspired me and all I had to do was show up and work. It was a test of my faith in myself. After working on other people’s records for 20+ years, I never did anything for myself. I wanted to showcase the talents of Indigenous MC’s that in many cases the mainstream doesn’t know about. So in essence even though it’s my album the album is about the community and our love for Hip Hop.
I combined some of the dopest Native MC’s (even though I don’t like to say that term because it shows division) with more well known MCs and let them shine together… showing that we can hold our own.
I put together different combinations of native and non native artists like Aspects, Hussein Fatal & Young Buck or Que Rock, Saukrates & King Reign or EPMD & Saukrates. Most people don’t know PMD is part Native and we connected on that level. Some songs I just let the Native Artist’s shine on their own; the Album flows like a story or a nice ride. You get on, go for a journey and when it’s over you hopefully learned something, had a good time or took something away from the experience. It’s not all positive and shiny. It’s real. Some of the Artists on the album are Winnipeg Boyz, Que Rock, Drezus, City Natives, EPMD, Saukrates, Leonard Sumner, Hussien Fatal (R.I.P.), Aspects, Young Buck, Drezus, Violent Ground, Redman, Keith Murray, Joey Stylez, Carsen Gray, and many more. I mixed in some traditional aspects of my culture and really made something special and one of a kind.
“I combined some of the dopest Native MC’s (even though I don’t like to say that term because it shows division) with more well known MCs and let them shine together… showing that we can hold our own.”
DJS: How do you see the Hip Hop culture moving forward in the future? What part do you see in it?
DS: I see Hip Hop evolving like it always has. All music evolves and grows; some stay classic to its roots, some branch off and evolve. I’m not one of those old school guys mad at the new wave. I tried to give a balance on the album. I make music period. I don’t have to stay one way because of an era. I love music and the creation is key. If things stay the same people get bored and the art will eventually die out. Hip Hop has changed the world. You can’t deny that. Now it s time to use it as a tool to help and heal the world.
David has released a new track “Armed & Dangerous” featuring EPMD and Saukrates.