The Fine Print: The Rise & Fall of Rap Crews

hyperadmin | The Fine Print | Tuesday, January 11th, 2011


By: Jonathon “Bizz” Brown

“There’s always somebody or some team that runs the airways,” said Angie Martinez in a discussion with Drake on HOT97. “There was a time when it was nothing but Bad Boy. And there was a time it was nothing but Roca-fella. And now there’s a time where you’re on every two songs. Either you or Nicki.”

Most of us have witnessed one crew or another dominate popular sensibilities over the years. When the crew’s brand is hot, it seems like everything they touch is becomes popular. The radio flurries listeners with their singles, club DJs lean on their hits to incite crowds and their reign seems like it will last forever. But history shows us, it rarely does. And The Fine Print shows there is a pattern with every rap crew’s rise and fall. (more…)

The Fine Print: Why Skillz' "Rap Up" Series Is Hip Hop At It's Best

hyperadmin | The Fine Print | Thursday, January 6th, 2011


By: Jonathon “Bizz” Brown

Skillz – 2010 Rap Up

Chuck D notoriously once said hip hop is “the black CNN.” He was alluding to rap’s ability to broadcast the lifestyles of African Americans, which popular media couldn’t or wouldn’t authentically project. If Chuck D worked within “the black CNN,” then maybe it’s fair to say Skillz, with his annual “Rap Up” series works at Entertainment Tonight.

If you’re in the dark on this, the series gives a lyrical synopsis of popular culture and hip hop over the previous twelve months. Starting in 2002, Skillz wrote the first “Rap Up” record on a whim. About to release a mixtape full of dubs, his manager suggested he write something to Common’s hit record featuring Mary J. Blige entitled “Come Close.” Stumped by the light mood of the record, Skillz decided he’d rap about all that’d happened in 2002. Time was on his side, since Thanksgiving (US) had just passed and the mixtape would be released near the end of the calendar year. Written hastily according to Skillz, the year in review cited trends like Burberry and throwback jerseys, songs like “Grindin” (Clipse) and “Dirty” (Christina Aguilera), scandals like R. Kelly’s sex tapes and world news items like Michael Jackson hanging his child out the window. Without knowing what he’d created, Skillz made it the last song on his mixtape and would soon be surprised as radio shows picked it up. It seemed he’d struck a chord. Hip hop’s ability to act as a time capsule excited listeners who reveled in reminiscing over 2002’s best and worst.

Skillz has since covered every year in similar fashion and provided a lyrical scrap book of sorts. (more…)

The Fine Print: Battle Of The Beatmakers – An Artist's Dream

hyperadmin | The Fine Print | Saturday, August 28th, 2010


By Jonathon “Bizz” Brown

The much anticipated, much heralded, much talked about annual Battle of the Beatmakers is at Opera House tonight. The home to one-on-one beat battles from some of Canada’s best producers is officially a staple in the urban arts community and has been for some time now. This year, they took the opportunity to use the most successful participant in BBM’s history, Boi 1da, as the face of the competition. Pre-Best I Ever Had, Boi 1da was on the radar of everyone who attended these events dating back more than half a decade. He won, he won again, and I think he even won again. He even lost to the talented Arthur McArthur of Northern Profit, but nevertheless remains one of the pillars of this competition’s history. This year, he acts as a guest-judge (even though he’s the closest thing there is to a regular, faculty judge) and will hear beats from a new flock of producers ready to test themselves and each other. And while you might not consider a beat battle to be a particularly important or monumental opportunity, in reality it is an artist’s dream.

I’ve said this before, the production coming out of the north has consistently achieved more industry recognition and penetration than the artists themselves for years now. Realize it or not, this is a hotbed for hot producers. We’ve seen the fruits of this talent pool in major placements from the aforementioned 1da Boi, Tone Mason, Northern Profit, Rich Kidd, T-Nyce and many others. So if I’m an artist, looking to connect with talented producers in a region making a name for its talented producers, it would be logical to attend an event built to test the talent of producers. No?

I’m not a rapper. I don’t hit high notes. I sometimes play the spoons at the camp site, but I’m no artist. But I’d say if you are one, The Fine Print of this competition is that Battle of the Beatmakers should be your dream. A Mecca of beats, a concentrated environment full of musical minds, a comparative display of production value – Battle of the Beatmakers is valuable to more than just the producers.

That’s The Fine Print.

Tour Life Pt 4: DJ Dames Nellas

hyperadmin | The Fine Print | Friday, August 6th, 2010


By Jonathon “Bizz” Brown

“Winnipeg I want you to put your hands in the air,” says DJ Dames Nellas while opening for Busta Rhymes in August 2009. “If you got five fingers, close the index, close the ring, close the pinky, keep the thumb and the motherfuckin’ middle finger in the air. Throw that shit around like this and raise that shit as high as you fuckin’ can. And when I say ‘fuck you,’ I want you to say ‘fuck you’ right back. Alright? Yo Winnipeg, FUCK YOU. (Crowd) FUCK YOU. Yo Winnipeg, FUCK YOU. (Crowd) FUCK YOU. Yo Winnipeg, FUCK YOUUU,” yells DJ Dames Nellas before sliding into Pharaohe Monch’s 2007 banger “Fuck You.”

It’s a rumbling start to the Busta tour and my first real glimpse of Nellas’ crowd control and creativity. In a weird way, such a bold, to the point chant mirrors the young DJs recent moves and overall demeanour. He’s from Toronto, but its not that he’s a hater. He just speaks when he means to with assertive, defiantly confident tones.

Coming out of relative obscurity in 2008, Nellas now anchors Off Da Tracks Radio Monday nights on 88.1 in Toornto, has released three mixtapes, toured Canada three times and become Peter Jackson’s show DJ. With a rising profile, “The Official DJ” kicked off the Slaugtherhouse/Pharoahe Monch tour only a month after he was inside an SUV that flipped five times on icy roads while on tour with Tech N9ne.

“I look at [the glass] half full more times to be like ‘ya we crashed but you know what? Straight up everybody’s ok,’” says Nellas. “I’m not going to be like ‘oh my god we all nearly died!’ Because real talk, I didn’t think I was going to die in that situation. But that’s just me though. I’m pretty sure Duxx and PJ (Peter Jackson) thought they were going to die ‘cause they were in the front seat… I was just more or less shocked. Everybody realized what happened, I was just shocked like ‘damn the tour is over! And we in the middle of fuckin’ nowhere and its snowing right now!’ I didn’t have no jacket, I had a sweater on and that’s it.”

But this tour, Nellas didn’t have to worry about anything but spinning because he accompanied Slaughterhouse and Pharoahe Monch on the tour bus. While he had the luxuries of the bus, this particular tour tested his will, covering twice as many dates as both previous tours. He points out the first time he was on the road, last August, he was overwhelmed by the experience and didn’t want to miss a moment no matter how tired he was. The second time, just as the dog days of the tour began, the car flipped and the tour ended for the crew. But now he was travelling with over a dozen people who he just met, in a tight tour bus.

“It’ll just take its toll and have people acting different,” says Nellas of life on the road. “If you can deal with that, then you can live and be on the road. I personally can deal with that. Obviously you stress out about certain things but at the end of the day you realize ‘I’m on the road, ain’t too much I can do about it.’ So you just gotta remember why you’re on the road every single day. I’m not on the road trying to be a celebrity and front. I’m trying to make connections, I’m trying to work, trying to get people to take my CDs. So if you can deal with certain things in that aspect, if you know how to balance your stress out the road can be a place for anybody.”


Tour Life Pt 3: Pharoahe Monch

hyperadmin | The Fine Print | Monday, July 19th, 2010

Lead Pic

By Jonathon “Bizz” Brown

If you’re going to talk to Pharoahe Monch, you better be ready to just slow down, take a breath and listen. Anything but your typical hot shot, fast talkin New York rapper, Pharoahe speaks on his own time. If you jump in, he doesn’t talk over you. When he tells stories, he does it in slow, thought out phrases reflecting intense focus. Yet answering a question provokes an almost distracted look as he sifts through the ideas in his head before deciding what to say next. It’s an interesting demeanor for a man legendary for brash, in your face songs like “Simon Says” and “Fuck You.”

“He always got jewels though,” explains Joell Ortiz. “If you sit down and kick it with Pharoahe, he always got something to tell us. He always got a little insight. He’s very unselfish with that too. He’s always willing to give himself and his words of wisdom to a younger class of MCs in his eyes. You know sometimes we’ll be sitting there cracking jokes and Pharoahe will say something and everybody will turn and listen because he usually got some good shit to say.”

So I asked Pharoahe if he’d ever dissed another rapper and not released the song. After nearly a five second pause, he told me he was never into dissing people for the entertainment and “so if I dissed someone I would have to really have hate for them. And (pausing again and putting his forehead in his palm) I try not to let myself go there, because I have a dark side.” He delivers it with authentic uncertainty, as if he’s fully aware of the conflicting parts of his personality.


Tour Life Pt 2: Peter Jackson

hyperadmin | The Fine Print | Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

Part 2/5
By: Jonathon “Bizz” Brown

“I just want this so bad,” says Peter Jackson. It’s almost 4 a.m. in Whistler, British Columbia as he sits on the hotel balcony, trying to wind down. It’s been a turbulent tour for the young rapper. Riding on the tour bus with Slaughterhouse and Pharoahe Monch means he’s been isolated from the rest of the crew. He found out mid-way through the tour that one of his close friends was arrested for a violent crime. And earlier that night he was shaken by a heated argument with Concrete Guerilla Clothing owner Duxx. His will has definitely been tested. And interestingly enough, that is exactly what he prides himself on.

“I might not be the best lyricist, but I swear I want it more than anyone doing it,” he says with vulnerable passion in his voice. He looks out towards the mountains and then down at the floor, deep in thought with his hands on his head. He’s struggling to make sense of things. And with so much going on – an album on the way, several videos in production, a distribution deal with Fontana, a new boutique label (Richmond Street Records) and his first tour since a near fatal car crash ended his time on with Tech N9ne in March – who can blame him for showing his emotions.

Peter Jackson started his run back in Durham, Ontario years ago. I met him during my days at Crack House Radio when he’d drop in to promote his latest show at The Big Sexy in Oshawa. Joe Budden, Wu Tang, KRS One and the list goes on – Peter Jackson is the face of hip hop events east of Toronto.

He’d often purchase the Durham date of any given tour, sell tickets and make himself and his crew 90Nickel the opening acts. With so much invested into each show, it was a risky method of getting attention, but it worked. Since then, he’s toured the country five times with Naughty By Nature, Tech N9ne, D12, Busta Rhymes and Akon. It’s been in large part due to his growing relationship with booking agent Chris McKee, who met Jackson after he won a contest that promised a contract with the McKee Agency.

“I get a phone call from this artist in Oshawa saying ‘Ya I won this contest. When are we going on tour?” says Mckee. “I just liked how they were hungry. I was like ‘well I’m not going to put you on tour, but send me your music and lets keep in contact and I’ll see where we can do some stuff together.”

Jackson started buying the aforementioned shows on McKee Agency tours. By November 2008, Mckee placed Jackson on the Never Say Never Tour with Royce Da 5’9, Joe Budden, D12 & Classified.

“I got nothing but good reviews from club owners that they were good people, the [club owners] loved the show, they didn’t give them a hard time,” says Mckee.As the relationship grew, Jackson would later invite McKee to be his manager as well.

Fast forward to 2010, a make or break year for Jackson. His debut album “In My Life” is slated for summer and his new single “Ma Ma” featuring Die Mannequin is weeks away from release at the time of tour.

Previous: Tour Life Pt 1: The Salesmen

Previous: Tour Life: A Five Part Series By Jonathon “Bizz” Brown


Tour Life Pt 1: The Salesmen

hyperadmin | The Fine Print | Wednesday, June 30th, 2010
Pic 1

Driving across Canada

The tour begins in our home town of Toronto and will end two weeks and over 4400km later in Vancouver. There’s myself, Duxx and Nikos of Concrete Guerilla Clothing in the car, with DJ Dames Nellas & Peter Jackson riding on the tour bus with Slaughterhouse & Pharoahe Monch. We hit the road on a Sunday evening on route to Thunder Bay. I immediately realize two things: Duxx smokes a lot of weed (he’s a dread I should’ve figured) and Nikos is “The Transporter.” He drives twelve hours straight from 6pm to 6am!

“I’m a people person,” says Duxx when talking about our sales tactics in Thunder Bay. “My thing is I walk around the room and talk to everybody, make everybody my friend. Of course they’re ready to talk to the big white dread dude right? Then I tell them we have shirts over there and I’ll hook them up. I work the room. Watch on this tour…”


Tour Life: A Five Part Series By Jonathon "Bizz" Brown

hyperadmin | The Fine Print | Monday, June 28th, 2010

bizz TOUR LIFE PIC w scott jackson

They say you don’t really know someone until you’ve travelled with them. I say, you don’t really know someone until you’ve driven across the world’s second largest country with them, stopping in nine cities over 14 days, living off Tim Hortons and 7/11. I say you don’t really know someone until you’ve spent, on average, seven hours a day in a car with them talking your life away. I say you don’t really know someone until you’ve walked into a club full of strangers beside them and walked out everybody’s new friend from Toronto. I say you don’t really know someone till you’ve toured with them. Make no mistake, this is tour life. The highs are euphoric, the lows are isolating but the experience is the treasure.

Welcome to the introduction to my five part series called Tour Life, where I’ll tell stories and give commentary of my time on tour alongside Slaughterhouse, Pharoahe Monch, Peter Jackson, DJ Dames Nellas & Concrete Guerilla Clothing. For the record, I’m not a rapper. I’m a journalist and entrepreneur who’s accompanied Canadian rapper Peter Jackson now on two tours. My mandate is to expand brand awareness of my line of t-shirts reading “Hip Hop Ain’t Dead It Lives In The North,” as well as chronicle my time on the road.

With the formalities out of the way, please join me tomorrow and every Wednesday for the next five weeks to hear my stories, interviews and insights. Pharoahe Monch drops knowledge. Slaughterhouse talks Shady deal. Peter Jackson shows me his passion and his humility. DJ Dames Nellas continues his rise. Niko drives across the country. Duxx of Concrete Guerilla Clothing proves he’s a people person. And my hustle is humbled by the canvas it covers. All coming up in Tour Life.

Tour Life will continue Wednesday June 30th and be published each Wednesday thereafter.

The Fine Print: Tour Life

hyperadmin | The Fine Print | Sunday, April 18th, 2010


By Jonathon “Bizz” Brown

Incase you’re not up to date, I’m Jonathon “Bizz” Brown and I’ve been on the Slaughterhouse/Pharoahe Monch/Peter Jackson tour for about a week now selling t-shirts. I’ve had little internet access, but we reached B.C. yesterday and I was inspired to write – just not in usual FINE PRINT format. So here it is…

Walking uphill – both ways – is tour life.
Cash, socks, Timmys and jimmys and we’re off to see the wizard.
Bold in our journey, wondering what’s next.
Never been there. Matter-of-fact, wherrrrrre?…are we today…?!
What day is it again?????
All I know is the beginning and the end.

The days are dominated by distant scenery and delusional silly fits of laughter.
An endless cycle of commentary, sharing ambitions, opinions and war stories.
The unit becomes acquainted then educated when relegated to the road.
Rest stops are adventures. Locals are charismatic. Everyday is groundhog day.

The nights are the risk and the reward.
New faces in foreign places.
Some special bonds are forged.
We play hide and go seek with the spiritual energy of success.

Talking up a storm, we’re the guys you just know are from somewhere….else…
Our cadence seems tested. Our sales tactics prove relentless.
We work the room and groom prospects, potential sales and local hospitality.
We’ve got a story to tell – from the big city by way of Petro-Canada, Sunoco and Shell.
Product in hand, we’re headstrong into this new land.
(“And wouldn’t you like to be a part of it…hungry young hip hop fan?”)

Movement is the only time marker. Re-organization is perpetual. Tempers are tested. Lifestyles merge and luxuries are shelved.
I balance between comfort from well wishes, well deserved from those back home, with homesickness they unintentionally provoke.
The games in my head see-saw my visions of success. Blurred before refocused and ran with, my confidence battles breathlessness.
I miss my bed, so I sleep on the bed of new money I’ve made.
I miss my family, so I talk to God.
I miss my life but couldn’t miss the boat – so I float from Toronto to the coast.

Living in a bubble, my hustle is humbled by the canvas it covers.
I’m living an adventure on tour beside hip hop…

You can purchase your t-shirt at ITLIVESINTHENORTH.COM

The Fine Print: Another Cross Canada Tour

hyperadmin | The Fine Print | Thursday, April 8th, 2010


If you don’t know who I am – I’m Jonathon “Bizz” Brown; writer, entrepreneur & cultural commentator. I write The Fine Print column on this website, co-own the line of clothing reading “Hip Hop Ain’t Dead It Lives In The North” and am Central Region Editor for Last summer I took my t-shirts across Canada along with Peter Jackson on the Back On My BS Tour headlined by Busta Rhymes. It was an incredible experience which I blogged about on this very site. After the success of that tour, I was invited to join the Slaughterhouse tour this April.

Beginning tonight in Toronto at The Opera House, I’ll be embarking on a two week tour that will bring me as far east as Montreal and as far west as Whistler. Not only is this the longest tour I’ve been apart of, it also marks a moment in history as my company has joined forces with Concrete Guerilla Clothing to create a limited edition, 2010 collaborative t-shirt.

I plan to document the pieces of tour life most casual fans never get to hear about. So stay tuned to where I’ll show you how life is on the road.

Order your t-shirt now online @

For the press release


Next Page » Powered by WordPress | Theme edited by Karla "hustleGRL" Moy | Contact us: