Features

Elements Megazine

dusting off the pages at their own pace

“This is gonna sound fucked up but do you remember the girl Rolando was with?” “Yeah, Timika?” “THAT’s Timika Laqué? Oh my god, it’s a real person…” “There’s a story that goes along with that.” Sitting on the pavement outside by 868 East Cordova, where a large mural by the AA Crew is housed, Jay Swing, Flipout and Dedos have an important detail of the first issue of Elements Magazine to flesh out; 25 years after its publication in May 1995. 

Elements — extending out of the CiTR station — ran until Winter 1996 and focused on encompassing all the elements, so to speak, of Hip Hop culture: MCing, DJing, B-boying and graffiti. DJs Jay Swing and “Flipout” (Phil Cabrita) had already established themselves at the station as hosts of “The Show” with Checkmate at CiTR every Saturday night from 6-8PM, before approaching station manager, Linda Scholten, with their idea for the magazine. The functioning core was made up of Flip and Jay — who handled everything from the editorial duties, the layouting, to the distribution — with AA Crew members, Dedos and Virus, who contributed the lettering and graffiti-style illustrations. Now, those behind Elements come together again to wrap things nicely into a book that collects all the little pieces to the magazine. 

The magazine boasts features with some prolific MCs in the industry — like Raekwon, KRS-One, OutKast and Ghostface Killah, and with DJs in their “Vinyl Conflict” columns such as Red Alert and Stretch Armstrong”. Each issue contained album reviews, a ‘mixtape’ of songs, and the “Masterpieces” column to spotlight worthy graff coordinated by the AA Crew, who were also running their own ‘graff-zine’ at the time called Xylene. Going through the eight issues the crew produced, you find little pockets that delve into the thoughts and lives of people within that community; in the editor’s notes, in Mr. Bill’s ruminations in his “Metaphysics” column on the state of the scene, or in Checkmate’s assertion of the language he uses in Issue 4 under “Y’knowwhati’msayin’.” It’s a brief look at this culture scarcely documented in Canada, at a time when content wasn’t as readily accessible and our duties not so streamlined. “We were still fucking printing them out and pasting them on boards at that point,” Flipout says of their process “it would take us so fucking long to do this shit, too.” In every mention of Elements that I have seen, there has always been reference to their difficulties with meeting publication deadlines. Flipout’s editor’s notes were often frank about their issues with getting to print on time, and Jay says “we ratted ourselves out. If we’d never said that, I bet people wouldn’t have even known that it was late.” Ultimately, the delay contributed to the end of their run, “The next issue started to get worked on,” Jay explains, speaking of the never published Issue 9, “I kept getting mad because we wouldn’t go out to make another one, […] too much time went past. We were always late, late, late and finally, it was obvious that it was just way too late.”

Not only were they coordinating every administrative aspect of the magazine, they were also writing a majority of the pieces themselves. Doing all of the work on their own became overwhelming, especially when this was something they were not profiting off of. “We were doing it for fun from the beginning, we kept doing it for fun, and then it became a lot of work for Jay and I.” A lot of the pieces from the first issue are penned by Flip and Jay, so much so that Rolando Espinoza — the editor on the first issue — decided it would be a good idea to list some under aliases. That’s where Timika Laqué comes in; as one of the ‘credited’ writers on that issue. “He chose his girlfriend’s name for one thing that I wrote, but I happened to diss K-OS in that. I said he sounded like that kid who thinks he’s Q-Tip, and then K-OS got pissed.” Jay recounts,  “And K-Os is my guy, but back then him and Ghetto Concept wanted to confront Tamika about the diss. When they found out that Timika Laqué was Jay the White Guy then they were really pissed and confronted me out in front of the York Theatre at the Hip-Hop Explosion Tour. They were like ‘You fucked up, bro. We are trying to build something here and you just put a crack in the foundation. Why would you do this and why would you change your name?’ I’m like ‘This sounds like an excuse, but it was the editor before we went to print! It was such a bad look. It was also a real uncomfortable situation.”

The issue of contributors persisted while the magazine was in publication. There was little interest coming in from other Discorder/CiTR volunteers in writing for Elements, and they still couldn’t get themselves paid through this work, no less, pay others who they wanted to write for them. “Rolando did say ‘try to get more diverse contributors.’ We tried, but then no one could be paid,” Flipout says, and Jay summarizes the sentiment stating “You couldn’t pay somebody to do the work — and it was a lot of work — so we just did it.” There was an interest in branching off from the station and its non-profit structure, but that proved difficult. Past a certain point, they couldn’t really justify the sleepless weeks that would go into putting out an issue they couldn’t get paid for either. The lack of contributors, the institutional strain and absence of pay, all contributed to the decision to fold — though the same could be said for the urban BIPOC youth whose self-expression breathed life into the scene, and into Elements pages. 

It was a funny time to be having this conversation with people who ran a magazine through CiTR before I was born — because it’s one we have been circling back to within Discorder — the defining line between work that is solicited, and that which is volunteered. Our position as an outlet which provides opportunities to volunteer; to learn, and to make, but further, to have work published — and what then, is considered fair under our particular structure. It’s been something I have had to reflect on, in thinking of what my role as an editor has traditionally been defined to consist of, and the ways in which I could (and should) reconceptualize the work I do to to better align with what it actually means to be equitable and accountable. 

In discussing the distribution of work, I wondered how much of that could have been avoided if others in the station had been more involved. Interestingly, Jay and Flip tell me that it’s hard to tell. Especially now, decades after the fact, how much of that was lack of interest and how much of it was them being unapproachable. “I think a little bit, too, maybe we were not that inclusive. We weren’t that open, you know?” Flip considers, “I went through all of my 20s with this weird chip on my shoulder about anything. I kinda didn’t wanna hang out with people, and was like ‘We’re doing this shit, you’re not a part of this.’ There might have been a little of that from my end.” In a way, it makes sense. Looking at it from the perspective of 20 year olds’ overprotective disposition towards something they’ve initiated, and that feeling of it being an extension of themselves. “If it was me now, I would be asking everyone ‘yo, do you wanna be a part of this?’, but back then we were like ‘We got this. We know what we’re doing […] You would’ve fucking hated us. It was peak… white guy in the 90s. I don’t think I was very cool then, at all.” Flipout also admitted that sometimes that sentiment was justified — recalling an old argument, “Fuck I feel so dumb. I was arguing with this girl, she was saying “hip hop is political” and I responded with “no it’s not, it’s just about youth expression”. I got very defensive — but we were actually saying a  thing, and, like, she was right, he says laughing.

Parts of Issue 9 will finally get a home nestled among all the other fragments, including an interview Flip did with Jay-Z in ‘96 before his first album came out which he claims to be a “Terrible interview. If you hear the audio, it’s cringe max,” with Jay coming to his support to say that it “reads a lot better.” Along with that, we can expect a big showcase of Dedos’ unreleased artwork. Speaking to this renewed interest in their work with Elements, Jay says “Whenever we’d post stuff, people would be really into it. It really sparked some nostalgia, and more importantly, fuck all that, it would spark something in people. People like you, who weren’t even there, who were like ‘What is this artefact — this time capsule?’” This an opportunity for them to bind those experiences into one substantial thing that cements what truly went down. This is where the magazine’s journey towards existing as its own entity culminates, years after that question of “what now, and how?” was first posed. The book is slated to come out around Christmas, if things go according to plan, but as Jay says, “we have no idea of timelines when it comes to publishing.” So, in true Elements fashion: the book will come out whenever it’s time for it to come out 🖕🏽😎🖕🏽

Adewolf & the 3ribe

on the sharpening of swords.

He howled through the microphone and its reverb shook the floor. 

Or maybe it was the leg work. 

Doshs’ relationship with sound begins in the loud and boisterous city of Lagos, Nigeria. Moving to Toronto as a twenty-something, and now in Vancouver, he never forgot his hometown. Where music is as common as air, it’s hard not to breathe in deep.

 

Milena: How has music played a part in your life?

Dosh: Music has been like a companion, like a friend in some ways. Mainly in my house it was kind of different. I grew up in Nigeria, so there was music around us but there were no devices. There’s no 24 hour electricity, we could have no electricity for like a month. We would make music ourselves. We would play around, [there was this] clapping game called Ten-te, played out on the street. So the environment was musical, but also just the noise of the city itself — because there’s no electricity, a lot of people had generators, and generators make a lot of noise. Imagine everyone on the whole block having a generator. It’s funny, there was this BBC documentary called ‘Sounds of Lagos’, and [it was about the] street vendors who, in order to attract customers, do these different musical things. For example, there are food vendors who would have these bowls on their head, filled with food, and forks that they’d tap to attract people. So, I’d say for me, in my household, there was music around, but my parents weren’t really musical.

M: In your music  — I noticed this with your freestyles — you’re always playing. Even if it’s just like a freestyle, or just a beat, you know, you’re still like humming. I don’t know if that makes sense.

Dosh: Yeah for sure, I like how you said it. You know, again, growing up in Lagos, it’s something that we always used to do — there’s a huge freestyle culture there. There’s this place we used to call “The Waterside”, and everyday after school everyone would go down there and rap. But again, the artform, the music itself, was about the voice as an instrument. I definitely appreciate artists, rappers, who know how to move with the music rather than being stiff with their art form. So yeah, it’s an interesting observation. 

M: So swords, I want to talk about swords. Why do you like swords? I saw that there was a picture that you have where you have a sword and you’re cutting a Macbook in half. 

Dosh: I think it’s maybe a metaphor for life, you know what I mean? I think that’s more so what I get from being “like a sword”. It’s like, when you have a skill, when you have a talent, it’s kind of like a blade. Because samurais have a discipline to the maintenance of their swords. They have to clean it. They have to sharpen it after a fight, or before a war. I think it’s like life — we’re like swords and if we don’t maintain ourselves, or sharpen our skills, then we can’t slice through the toughest of foes, or the toughest of things. I think I’ve been more cautious of  the sword thing lately, because [it can be a form of] cultural appropriation. But I’ve always been fascinated with them. I actually own a sword, but I think I lost it. 

M: How do you lose a sword?

Dosh: It’s my second sword. I’m just clumsy. I moved and I think I lost it somewhere. 

M: Well, hopefully it doesn’t land in the hands of the wrong person. 

Dosh: Yes, yes haha hopefully not.  

M: Um okay. So also talking about movement. I wanted to talk about dance because performance seems like it’s a really big part of your stage presence for you. I don’t know if you do it on purpose, but it’s very contagious. Like you said, your songs are playful and that energy is definitely conveyed through movement for you. I also saw you include choreography with Alyssa Marshi for the song Dangerous, and I think that’s something I wanted to talk about because not all artists take the time to make choreographies for their songs.

Adewolf: You know what? Every artist has their way to express a show, you know? Personally, I don’t play any instruments, I’m just a vocal artist. And maybe in some ways, you know, I kind of use dancing as a type of instrument. You feel the music, and what do you gotta do? You gotta dance! Yeah, I think dancing is just how you feel the music. Dance is just an essential form of human expression. Some people say they can’t dance and I honestly believe there’s no such thing as that. Maybe you don’t know how to do movements that other people are accustomed to, or you can’t move in a certain way. But there’s no such thing as not being able to dance. It’s just like cooking  — everybody can cook. Some people can cook better than others. It’s just like, you never saw it as a priority. But everybody can do it.

 

Dance for him is a response to music that asks us questions that are body answers. Similar to the rhythm that makes feet tap and hips sway, sometimes you need to feel it heavy in your spirit to be light on your toes.

 

 

M: So before I ask about your team, the 3ribe, I should ask if i’m pronouncing it right — is it Thribe? 

Dosh: Yes. But it’s honestly just Tribe. I think after I did it [replaced the T with 3], I realized  — people are curious. It’s just interesting that it walks into your memory when you are trying to figure out how to pronounce something. Makes it more memorable.

Constantly working on sharpening that blade, building crafts and finding grooves to fill within it. Writing rhymes with a heavy hand and entering the stage with a right hook. They say the pen is mightier than the sword, for Adewolf they’re not in competition. Writing rhymes with a heavy hand and entering the stage with a right hook. Through his music you’ll hear that risk and danger is a match he’s willing to fight for. 

 

M: It seems what you have is like a mentality of like…wanting to create statements, because you look up to people who are recognizable. Who have built an empire of themselves through their art. So would you say you have something that you’re building right now for yourself? 

Adewolf: I guess more like the Egyptians said — just immortality. They say, life is like a fruit, and it’s just like how much you squeeze, and I’m still squeezing. Seeing what juices come out. See, I’m just having fun with it. I think my legacy is just making sure you push yourself. Reach better versions. I think we have an obligation to. We consume a lot of music. I feel like it’s greedy to take all these amazing things: art, music, all these forms — we can’t make it one sided. You gotta give back something, I think we all have something to keep back. So maybe my form is this, In whatever capacity, big or small, it doesn’t really matter but so far, it’s making the world better, especially now.  A lot of people are not going as deep. They’re just going wider. They don’t want to go deep, there’s something deep this time of isolation has shown us, how the capitalist system is moving the pace for the world. That is just dangerous — we can’t let money decide how we should be moving.

M: So let’s talk about 3ribe.

Adewolf: I always had a dream of just having a just crew, a band, where we can make music together like a family. I initially just kind of set it up to perform for a release party and well, I think we just kind of chilled. Jammed. The whole crew. We have Chris Bede on the drums […] Max Gage playing the piano, and also the guitar, and is like, an awesome musician. He’s also a producer and an engineer. Same thing with Ron Nazal — he plays the piano, but many other instruments as well. Then, we have Omo Iruoje. Omo was actually the first guy I met that introduced me to everyone. Omo is, again, a creative person. He’s a graphic designer. Then we have Abby Agnes, who is a singer. Abby’s a newer Member. 

M: So genres — well, just tell me what are the genres that you feel, you play with 3ribe, describe the music to me.

Adewolf: I would say like, definitely aspects of hip hop, and aspects R&B. I think we definitely play around with some jazzy elements, definitely Afrobeats because I’d say that’s more my background. We throw in some reggae there too, and some dancehall. cause yeah, shit, I grew up on that. Bob Marley and all those tings. 

M: What do you feel is your message? What you want people to feel when they listen to your music? Although I understand how that could be different based on the song as well.

Adewolf: Uh huh. Yeah, I’ll say maybe that it’s more like it’s OK to be yourself. You know what I mean? To be like, kind of awkward and insecure sometimes. It definitely takes a bit of courage, you know, taking time to understand yourself. […] They say to get the gold, you have to dig deeper. You have to be fighting to get that gold — not be cliche — but I feel like I am doing that most of the time. I have songs like, new phone who be dis, which is definitely more of a party song. But even in that, I’m kind of also talking about how sometimes you need to let go, in the steps to becoming your better self. Letting go of old friends, and having a new group of people who have the same mindset, you know, that line, “don’t call me if it ‘ain’t about biz” — dont be calling me if it’s not about progress. The lyrics “We shine like a compact disk” — you’re with people who want to shine. Stuff like that.

 

 

Adewolf entered the game with an urge to be palatable — but now, his sound has ripened into something less sweet, but that, he can savour. Music that is so shiny, it can’t help but see its reflection on the stage floor — like a Michael Jackson glove. 

Growing into the letters that spell Adewolf has also meant anchoring himself in the 3ribe — a world made of trees that drip gold and a peacock-jeweled sound that hums the highlife of his hometown. Sounds enveloped in a persistently pink-toned percussion, with glittering accents. Vocals shine and improvisation is a dagger built of words that could split you open. 

 

M: You kind of talked about how, when you were growing up, felt like a different time. And right now, we’re living in very racially tense and urgent times. How do you think your upcoming projects or the music that you’re working on right now have been affected by this atmosphere? Adewolf: I grew up in Lagos Island. Lagos Island is right by the Atlantic sea, and was one main ports where slave ships used to take Africans to the West — it’s the main hub. It’s crazy how everything comes full circle. Now I’m doing a bit more research. I’m understanding the systematic oppression, the pain, and there’s definitely some responsibility to speak about these things. To be confident in your culture and have a stance. I feel like working on the inside is a big part of this future progress. And I think, maybe, that’s what my new project is talking about. What’s inside, and how you can use that to build yourself Handle anything that comes. Whether it’s like, systematic oppression, whether it’s like actual racism. Yeah, it’s definitely important to talk about. How it’s going to be reflected in this project is something I’m still trying to figure out. 

M: And how about the theme of love? How does that translate itself in music, or for your art? Is it a tone? Is it a rhythm?

Adewolf: I think more so it’s an action. Acting. You know, I love making music. I have to do more of the things I love. And I feel like if there was more love in the world, everywhere would just be a better place. I think for me, first is self-love, to be able to focus on my craft. I think love is also one of the most powerful things when you give it. It might not be tangible — but it’s creating something that moves. It moves people in a way that physical things can’t. That pretentious things can’t. It’s the most honest, pure, thing. That’s why sometimes some of it is helpful. Just some of it, not all of it.

You can keep up with Adewolf on all major streaming and social media platforms here:

IG: @adewolfy

FB: facebook.com/adewolfy

SC: https://soundcloud.com/adewolfj3