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The Winnipeg Weather Report: Sunny Attitudes

November 27, 2009

Above photo by Cheyenne Rae

Well it’s been more than a minute since our last Winnipeg Weather Report, but I’m glad to say that during that time the snow has yet to befall our fair city. We have however had a string of knifings, which is apparently the new Winnipeg handshake. Since I’m not here to talk crime, let’s not dwell on the negative and instead turn to some real positivity coming out of Winnipeg.

It’s been twenty years since De La Soul released the seminal 3 Feet High & Rising and the daisy age was in full bloom, but a handful of Winnipeg rap-horticulturalists known as The Lytics are trying to sow seeds of positivity and pick up where the Native Tongues left off. Curiously, this youthful group includes someone who wasn’t even alive in ’89. In fact, Ashy – one of four MCs – just graduated from high school this past year, but he and the rest of the crew (A-Nice, Munga, DJ Action Rick and B-flat) all pay obeisance to the past masters of positive rap.

“I decided to start writing because of Reflection Eternal by Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek,” Munga noted when I sat down with the group. Beatsmith/producer B-flat notes that prior joining the group “they were the Analytics and that got shortened to the Lytics,” and stresses the intellectual approach to writing and rhyming that the MCs all bring to their self-titled debut.

Which is not to say that the album is an entirely serious backpack-rap record – far from it, with party tunes including “Checkin’ On My Pumas” and “Big City Sound Girl” in the mix. The Lytics realize that even Black Star was known to turn a party out. It’s just that their approach avoids the “b*tches and h*’s” that have marred hip-hop for many a year and made the genre a poster-child for misogyny.

The group have blown up big locally since the album’s release and more recently they’ve been showing up on campus station hip-hop Top Ten’s. The quintet have ‘next big thing’ written all over them, but taking the title of one of the album’s finest cuts as a cue, they “Stay Humble.” Taking a cue from their father, they’re constantly challenging themselves to get better – as songwriters, as MCs, as performers – and not rest on their laurels.

You read that right back there. It did say “their father” as three of the Lytics are brothers (B-flat, Ashy and A-Nice), and a fourth (Munga) is a cousin who lives with them. But the genesis of the Lytics wasn’t as straightforward as you might expect when four-fifths of the group are related. As elder brother B-flat tells it, it took some subterfuge on the part of his siblings and cousin before The Lytics (the group and the album) came to be: “I had been making beats on my own for awhile and I left the basement one time too many and I come back and these guys have basically an album put together.”

A-Nice related that he, Munga and Ashy had “started on old Dilla instrumentals, Pete Rock, Premier, stuff like that and for me I just got tired of jacking other beats. The thing is we always wanted his beats but I guess we had to prove ourselves first so we got to the point we basically did it renegade style and went in there and recorded when we could.”

Earning B-flat’s approval and respect was the turning point as the group began to work more collaboratively and the results speak for themselves. The remastered album released earlier this fall is available via the interweb so check out the Lytics pages for more details. In the meantime, “Stay Humble.”

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