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Hip Club Groovin'



   The Daily News Worldwide
   
   Friday, July 12, 1996
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Bye, bye bubblegum

  After taking a knock for writing lightweight houseparty rap, Hip Club Groove
  comes back heavy with a new EP
    By ANDY PEDERSEN --The Daily News
                                      
   Hip Club Groove spits some serious venom on its second record, Land of
   the Lost (Fun Trip Records). Even the title is a thinly veiled attack
   on all things Haligonian.
   
   "We were all pretty angry when we were putting these cuts together,"
   says Derek MacKenzie, the hip hop trio's broad-shouldered lyrical
   swing man.
   
   "I deem this record reactionary," he says. "We were reacting to all
   the stuff that went down out here in terms of the way people treated
   us and the way we've been mis-used."
   
   "So it's in your face: this is who we are and we don't give a f---
   about who you are."
   
   MacKenzie, Cory Bowles and Brian Higgins (all 22) haven't had the
   easiest time since they busted out of their Truro trailerpark two
   years ago with Trailer Park Hip Hop (Murderecords).
   
   First, they drew critical barbs from the Halifax hip hop scene for
   being white, for being from Truro and for hitching their cart with
   Sloan's Murderecords. (Rappers can be a pretty close-knit group, and
   Hip Club Groove was criticized for breaking the hip hop ranks and
   associating itself with the city's rock crowd).
   
   "You know, I can even understand all that," says MacKenzie, who goes
   by the name Underground onstage. "We were really pretty new but we
   were getting lots of shows and then we got this record going.
   
   "So I can understand the bitterness, but I don't understand what they
   all wanted us to do about it," he says. "We were giving this community
   props all over the place - we took Jo Run tapes and Ruff Neck tapes to
   all the radio stations that had us in for interviews."
   
   Then the group took flak for the music itself. Trailer Park Hip Hop
   was a cheerily raucous six-song EP of party music that was a long way
   from the menacing diatribes of hardcore and gangsta rap dominating the
   hip hop charts at the time.
   
   "People got this real bubblegum image of us from Trailer Park,"
   MacKenzie says. "But we were so young when we put those songs together
   - like 16, 17. It was stuff we wrote for house parties - stuff people
   were supposed to dance to."
   
   Almost a year after Trailer Park Hip Hop came out, the trio's working
   relationship with Murderecords soured. The rift is a question of money
   - the label says it's owed some, the trio says it's not paying a cent
   until it sees some proof.
   
   "But none of us have anything personal against those guys - I don't
   think they're trying to screw us on purpose," MacKenzie says. "I saw
   Jay (Ferguson, Sloan guitarist) in Kensington Market last week and we
   got along fine.
   
   "It's just a business thing. Money's a vice, man - turns everything
   bad."
   
   So it was with lots of frustration that the Hip Clubsters hit the
   studio in January and it shows. The tracks on Land of the Lost are
   darker and crabbier than Trailer Park's, but they say that's exactly
   what they were looking for.
   
   "It's dope, man. I have no doubt that this is about 300 times better
   than the last one," says MacKenzie.
   
   "Yeah, it's a little more mature in the lyrics and in the beats," says
   Bowles, aka Checklove. "It feels like we're starting fresh, that's why
   we kept it as an EP (instead of doing a full-length record). We even
   had a couple of songs we decided to leave off."
   
   In perfect pop psychology form, the three say they feel a lot more
   positive about Halifax and their rocky couple of years after venting
   their frustrations musically.
   
   "Things are getting a lot better from that first scene - everything's
   a lot smoother," says Higgins, or D.J. Moves.
   
   With the ill-will exorcised, the Truro trio is mounting a veritable
   assault on Halifax stages this weekend. The group was onstage at the
   Birdland Cabaret last night (along with its side-project, Hot Butter,
   a nine-man funk ensemble.)
   
   Tonight the group plays an outdoor set on the Halifax Commons to help
   kick off The Atlantic Earth Festival, and then it cruises down to Cafe
   Ole for a few more all-ages sets. The trio performs again tomorrow
   afternoon at the Skateboard Festival across from Queen Elizabeth High
   School in Halifax.
   
   Within a couple of weeks, the three should be on the road for a
   cross-Canada tour. They're just booking the shows, but are hoping to
   get at least a dozen lined up.
   
   Still, the Hip Club Groove's future isn't altogether rosy. While
   there's no suggestion members of the trio are even thinking about
   going their separate ways, they are having to learn to live with a
   long distance relationship.
   
   MacKenzie moved to Toronto just after Christmas. With a job and a
   girlfriend there, he's settling in quite nicely.
   
   "There's lots going on up there, and I'm really starting to find my
   feet," he says. "But now that I'm settled I plan to come back this way
   every couple of months or so."
   
   They may accept his move, but it doesn't mean Bowles and Higgins are
   happy with it.
   
   "I know he's got to do what he's got to do, but I hate it," Bowles
   says. "It's hard 'cause we don't get to hang around and write songs
   together all the time or play lots of shows."
   
   Bowles says that even though the hip hop grass looks greener up in
   MacKenzie's new neighborhood, there's no chance the trio will move up
   there with him.
   
   "I don't like the whole idea of getting caught up in that Toronto
   scene. It's pretty cut-throat up there," he says. "I don't want to get
   caught up in all that one-up-manship and competitiveness - I think
   we'd start losing focus if we did that."
   
   Focus is what the group is after right now. The trio is planning
   another studio trip, probably in the fall, once the summer touring is
   finished.
   
   "We've got big plans to take another step towards the experimental
   stuff," Bowles says. "It's going to be a dope time."
   
   Hip Club Groove performs tonight at the Atlantic Earth Festival on the
   Halifax Citadel Garrison Grounds at about 7 p.m. (admission is free)
   and at Cafe Ole on Barrington Street at about 8 p.m. (Admission$5).
   Tomorrow, it plays through the afternoon at the Halifax Commons
   skateboard pit during the first Atlantic Skateboard Festival.
   
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