Vancity Raps: New documentary explores Vancouver's underground hip-hop scene
A new documentary spotlighting Vancouver’s underground hip-hop scene is winning acclaim and building a following around the world thanks to the hustle of its local producers.
Vancity Raps is a feature-length documentary that chronicles the rap careers of diverse artists found in Vancouver, BC, and across Canada.
Created by writer, director and producer Pale Christian Thomas, along with co-producer Travis Turner and associate producer Daniel Joseph, the film is already turning heads in the music and filmmaking community. The 90-second trailer for Vancity Raps has been watched over 100,000 times on YouTube since early February.
According to Thomas, the film is not only a love letter to Vancouver’s underground hip-hop scene, but it’s also a helpful life reminder.
“In a fragile society, we sometimes forget to laugh, create and just be us,” Thomas told Daily Hive. “In a world of inconsistency, what might happen if we just did everything backwards from what we’re told, and just became us? The raw real us with no egos, no pre-anticipated formulas or narratives to forge a specific outcome of who we are.”
Turner explained that the inspiration for the documentary was to provide “eyes and support” to Vancouver hip-hop artists.
“I think we have a ton to offer as a city, but many don’t know the scene exists,” said Turner, aka Little T. “We have all worked on music videos and live shows for the past 5-10 years or so, but this was the first time we could really put our heads together and present something we are really proud of.”
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Turner and Joseph are MCs in their own right, which helped them bring the Vancity Raps story to life on the screen.
“I love music and the verbal complexity of hip-hop. I started as a child rapper in 1990 and even auditioned for the TV show Star Search,” said Joseph, aka Dangerous. “I truly enjoy the infinite creativity that the songwriting process brings, that electric vibe of recording in the studio as well as the robust energy of performing live on stage.”
Vancity Raps features appearances by 22 Canadian hip-hop artists, including three-time JUNO Award winner Moka Only, rapper and beatboxer Emotionz, and singer-songwriter Ana Santos. The documentary also utilizes a unique narrative structure that consists of aliens visiting Vancouver and exploring the music scene.
“Some of the highlights during filming was designing the alien talking to me through the virtual screen as well as all the onscreen tech being musical waveforms. I wanted everything to be organic to the content I had,” explained Thomas.
One memorable moment during the film came from a very personal clip provided to the writer-director by artist Baby C.
“Baby C is a cancer survivor (thankfully fully recovered), and she had a clip in her video of going into an MRI machine,” added Thomas. “When I saw that clip of her going into the machine on a table, it looked space-age to me. So I green-screened an alien craft into the frame and used that clip as to how the aliens arrived on planet Earth.”
Critics have also appreciated the creativity on display in Vancity Raps. The film was recently announced as a semi-finalist for Best Documentary at both the Rotterdam Film Festival as well as New Filmmakers Austin.
Vancity Raps was also awarded “Best Canadian Documentary” at the Vancouver Independent Film Festival earlier this year.
“Winning at Vancouver International Independent Film Festival was a big honour and really a surprise. It has motivated us even further,” shared Turner. “When you’re working as indie filmmakers and it’s all out of pocket, an award like this is huge. We have an attitude of gratitude.”
A wider audience may soon get to enjoy Vancity Raps, as Joseph recently helped the documentary land a representation deal with Los Angeles-based media company Adler & Associates Entertainment.
“If we can show our talent to the world, that would be the best achievement,” said Turner. “I think we will want to do another film and feature more of our city and other Canadian cities. I would also like to find who our next BC star is. It’s these kinds of stories I would love to tell more of.”
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