Jam Space

by Alex de Boer

photo by Ryan Walter Wagner

Who: Vancouver 25-person rap gang, Too High Crew.

Where: A roof.

On a Fraser Street rooftop, above the Fray and across the road from a giant joint- shaped shrub, I chat with five members (Chris van der Laan, a.k.a. Chrissy; Highchair Shorty, a.k.a. Jenya Patrief; Cody Fennell, a.k.a Brodie Michaels; Ryan Wagner, a.k.a. RyRy; and Stephen Hardie, a.k.a. Pussy Pete) of Vancouver’s 25-piece rap ensemble, Too High Crew. The subject at hand is their jam space. The object in hand is weed.

Brodie moved into the apartment above RyRy, and discovered a hole in his closet, which led to an abandoned ladder, which led to their present practice spot. A short climb later, these guys were on the roof of their apartment building, and what is now their jam space. Spacious, free, and ideal for a band with no equipment, this crew only has to deal with soft spots in the wood.

Discorder: How long have you practiced on the roof?

Chrissy: Dunno about practiced…

Pussy Pete: We rapped.

RyRy: Two years on the roof.

Brodie Michaels: Two years.

What do you do when it rains?

RR: We still go up there. Snow, sleet. We’re like mailmen.

Highchair Shorty: We have friends that live up there sometimes.

BM: Sometimes we rap to make it rain.

PP: Yeah, we rap to make it rain.

How does the roof compare with other spaces you’ve jammed in?

RR: It smells the best.

HC: And you also get that deep fryer smell wafting.

RR: That’s true. It’s like the best of both worlds.

Have you done anything to personalize the roof?

C: No, not really.

HC: We did have the bleachers up there at one point.

RR: We pee up there a lot.

BM: Fraser Street is just perfect the way it is, you know. We just kind of embrace it and let it be.

C: We feel like a moon landing. We’ll leave our footprints there, our flag flying…

PP: One of those special flags.

illustration by Michael Shantz

So you guys don’t really care about the aesthetic of a jam space?

C: Well, at our Donkey Party [the studio space] we have the giant painting of Darth Vader. So we care a little bit.

HC: At our inside jam space.

RR: We only hang up stuff that Chris is paying for.

So you never looked for another space?

BM: I think just being rappers we have the luxury of not having to worry.

RR: Our jam space used to be on top of the Bloedel Conservatory.

HC: Until you fell through.

Everyone: (Laughs)

RR: Yeah, the floor kept breaking so we had to switch, but we like to rap on top of things. So after that fell through…

Everyone: (Laughs)

RR: Luckily Brody moved into that place up there and the plumber or electrician left a ladder behind.

BM: And that’s where we started meeting and where we really honed our craft.

C: That’s where we induct new members into the group. It only happens on the roof.

HC: And we throw the old ones off.

Can you each say your favourite thing about the roof?

PP: Gravel. The gravel.

RR: I think I like the skylights.

HC: I like the fans. The exhaust fans.

C: The floor lighting.

BM: Just being one with nature.

Everyone: (Laughs).

HC: And you get a good tan in the summer.

BM: Many red faces have come down from there.

Are there any rules on the roof?

RR: Watch where you step.

What are you watching out for?

RR: Falling through.

HC: Yeah, we learned that at the last jam space.

RR: Soft spots.

HC: And some skylights.

BM: And it’s just dangerous getting up and down that thing, and like 90 percent of accidents happen on ladders.

HC: And there’s usually drugs and alcohol involved.

90 percent of all accidents happen with ladders?

BM: Yeah, I read that.

HC: Look it up.