Rapper D.O. takes hip-hop back to the books

Underground artist sheds light on Canadian hip-hop scene

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Rapper D.O.

Unlike Kanye West, Duane Gibson, also known as underground Canadian rapper D.O, completed his university education.

The rapper, who has grown up across Canada, received his English degree at York University, graduating with an A-plus on his thesis. Not surprisingly, the topic of his thesis was hip-hop.

Entitled “The Evolution of African-American Linguistic Practices,” D.O. (short for Defy the Odds) paralleled the works of Frederick Douglas and Langston Hughes to hip-hop music.

“Using hip-hop, we’re able to empower ourselves,” D.O. says. “When you look at the start of hip-hop in the Bronx, kids who had nothing were able to gain great power by becoming MCs. Not only monetary power but, most importantly, power over self.”

With songs like Soulja Boy’s “Crank Dat” dominating the charts, hip-hop’s ability to empower has long since been replaced by cheap gimmicks. Still, D.O. remains positive.

“If you look at the charts, you’re going to see that it’s the hot thing now to come up with a dance to your song. But in some ways, I don’t think it’s too different from the early ‘90s when MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice dominated the charts.

“Because I was young at the time, I did listen to Hammer, but that also made me want to explore other things,” D.O explains. “That’s the hope that I have for cats who are coming up on stuff like Soulja Boy. Maybe this is how they get into hip-hop, but the next thing they get is a Kanye West record.”

D.O. first captured international recognition by setting the world record for the longest freestyle at a staggering eight hours and 45 minutes. The feat has stood for years, but recently, underground freestyle legend MC Supernatural took a stab at beating D.O.’s mark.

“I could have set the record and then two weeks later, the next man on the block goes for 15 hours. Supernatural is synonymous with freestyling greatness, so for him to be the one to do it, it’s a blessing,” D.O. says.

“I’m proud of getting that record because it’s tough for artists to get gold or platinum plaques. I got my Guinness plaque. That’s part of my life, but a record is not something you can hold onto. I don’t want that to define my legacy. I think that the success of the Northstar album and some of its singles are great because it shows people that I don’t just perform a freestyle set and I’m more than a freestyle artist.”

While promoting his new album, Northstar, D.O. sees an advantage in being a Canadian hip-hop artist.

“I think that the scene is great because it is continually emerging. I think the advantage over the United States is that we have a lot of different styles, we don’t have to compromise and just try for a commercial style to get radio play and compete out there,” D.O. adds.

“Currently, I’m on a tour with DL Incognito and Red 1 [of the Rascalz]. These are artists who have never had to water down their music to be successful. I was also on a tour with Classified this year, and he’s the same way.”

However, even with all the advantages, many see failed attempts at achieving world recognition " like Choclair and Swollen Members " as a sign Canadian hip-hop is a one-way street. D.O. looks at it differently.

“Especially in the game up north, you either adjust your game plan and you make it through, or you just give up. A lot of MCs have been in it for a long time, but haven’t seen those financial rewards or as many accolades as they expected. A lot of them ain’t built for this. For me though, I try to defy the odds.”

D.O. performed at the Embassy this past Friday.

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