By Justin Lee
Scarborough-bred duo Citizen Kane, comprised of J-Spade and Rob Blye, manage to combine deep-conscious lyrics while still maintaining their hard-edged delivery. After 10 years of hard work and dedication, CK have graduated from b-boys to being one of the most respected hip hop duos in Canada, receiving critical praise for their 1999 Juno-nominated debut, Deliverence.
Lyrically, Citizen Kane can be broken down into two complentaries: the spiritual philosphies of J-Spade, juxtaposed effectively alongside the poetic street mentality of Rob Blye. Together, the two play off each other masterfully, forcing listeners to wake up and listen.
"Balance is the key," J-Spade asserts. "If you want to come rough then come rough, but get some logic in there, don’t just bring nonsense [into your rhymes]."
They believe this balance separates them from other mc’s. Lyrically, Citizen Kane tells it like it is, envoking stories of the harsh realities of the street, while still managing to have an optimistic outlook on life. J-Spade and Blye’s own relationship with one another is probably the main reason why fans identify with their music so well.
"We try to be truthful with each other. So people just seem to notice it in our product," affirms Blye.
While some Canadian MCs try to emulate or even go as far as to bite the style and lyrical content of American MCs, Citizen Kane chooses to focus on issues Canadians can relate to.
"We were one of the first forefront groups to talk about Canadian subjects so we get a lot of respect for that and all kinds of groups have offered to work with us," mentions J-Spade.
In the past couple of years, Canadian mc’s have made their mark on a national level; artists like Saukrates, Red-Life, the Rascalz and Da Grassroots have all released albums in the past year. However, the duo can recall just a few years ago, when the Canadian hip hop scene was pretty much non-existent other than on an underground level. Since then, they have witnessed a substantial growth.
"It’s time for artists to come out and do their thing. Back then, there really weren’t shows and everything to promote your album so you’re getting a little more push with the way TV’s handling it right now," offers Blye.
However, despite this growth, Canadian hip-hop is far from achieving the status of other countries in the world.
"We"re still waiting for the point where the Canadian industry is able to bring the hip-hop community, the music, to its fullness," explains J-Spade. "Right now it’s kind of limited in what you get and what you hear and you only get certain artists. The whole business up here in Canada is still building. We’re kind of building along with it, but we’ve always been doing it."
Canadian hip-hop may still have a long way to go, but one thing is certain, Citizen Kane will continue representing Canada as one of the illest duos in the country.