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'Message Up Front' from Threat From Outer Space.

By Rebecca Keillor, 9 Nov 2006,

Threat From Outer Space

Tameem Barakat, Ryan Cranston, Dennis Chan, Matt Creed. Photo by Freddy Harder.

A hip-hop group not concerned with having an aggressive, tough stage presence sounds like both a contradiction and a bad performance strategy. But a couple of months ago, I came across six guys with this philosophy, called Threat From Outer Space, at a MAWO (Mobilization Against War and Occupation) protest festival, on Vancouver’s East Side.

Their act was slick, and without stylish outfits or forced confidence. Possibly because MC Tameem Barakat, the group’s frontman, had just received news that non-profit music foundation FACTOR (Foundation to Assist Canadian Talent on Recordings) was loaning them $20,000 to produce their own album. The equivalent of winning the Canadian indie music lottery.

In a refreshing kind of no-strings-attached story, they get complete independent control in doing it (self-signing their own label, Concepticon Records), and need only repay the loan if the album sells successfully.

The tracks on their latest EP, Stay Fluid, suggests they might have to write that cheque. They’re a message-driven band, and Barakat’s lyrics are smart, fast and political. He raps a forceful social commentary (drugs, war, etc), and the importance of staying "fluid" and "dynamic." "Victory w Josh Martinez," for example, calls Bush the Teflon don, because nothing sticks to him, and talks about the young Canadian soldiers who are disillusioned about having to go to Afghanistan.

Their music avoids being all too serious, however, thanks to jazz, funk and blues influences, and its dancability. The lyrics are still clear and audible, layered on top of a heavy brass section (trumpet and saxophone), rhythm (drums, bass) and keys. "We want the bodies to move, but the heads to think," says Barakat.


"Message up Front," from Stay Fluid

"Victory w Josh Martinez," from their working album Slowly Bleeding the Dying Elephant, to be released in 2007.  [Tyee]

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