Modern day monks

By Lawrence Bailey

Once in a while, people cross our paths that make us feel more passionate about life than we ever dreamed possible. People with a different perspective, a different energy, a different take on the world. People that jolt you out of the mundane, pessimistic, repetitive existence of midterms, term papers and night shifts.

Local hip-hop crew Internal Affairs are this and so much more.

Talking to Concept (MC/poet), Homage (MC/poet) and Decline (DJ/producer) about their take on the state of affairs in the world, their perspectives on human nature and their approaches to improving the way we live is an experience to say the least. A union that began over a decade ago and has been evolving ever since, the crew’s dynamic now consists of Concept, Homage, Decline, a three-piece band and Femme-Shui (vocalist/poet).

“Jordan (Concept) and I met when we were about nine or ten years old in break-dancing class,” explains Homage, who got the ball rolling along with Concept. “He lived in North Calgary, I lived in the South–hey, there wasn’t a huge breaking community in the early ’90s–but we became friends.”

The two drifted apart but their lives ran parallel as both got into writing rhymes and both took an active interest in matters of social significance. After about four years on their own, they renewed acquaintances and teamed up with a classmate of Concept–Decline. From there the evolution continued, as did the expansion.

“I actually met Cara (Femme-Shui) at her church a few years ago,” Homage recalls, recounting the tale of the fourth member of Internal Affairs being added to the fold. “I used to bounce around a lot, check out a lot of different churches and stuff like that. I’ve checked out cathedrals, synagogues, all that, just seeing different organizations.”

While this nucleus was still in the process of forming, an album was recorded, Internal Affairs’ debut disc The Lost Scriptures. Released just last year, it has already sold 500 copies with another 500 en route.

The early success and driving need to expand their horizons has moved the crew in a whole new direction. Adding the three-piece band introduced the live element to their show and spawned their second album, the forthcoming Sweet Home Babylon.

As if all this wasn’t enough, music is apparently just the jumping off point, just the beginning. The latest step toward the global paradigm shift they’re pursuing is the recently formed non-profit organization the Freedom of Mind Movement. The movement goes well beyond the notions of “organization” or “group.” It’s a philosophy, a way of life.

“It’s about taking a different angle at solving problems,” begins Concept. “There’s a lot of organizations right now doing their thing, Greenpeace and Amnesty and all, but it seems like there’s a piece missing. They only seem to be scratching the surface, just keeping things balanced. One person takes away the food, they give it back, just keeping it at equilibrium.

“We need another organization working beneath the surface so, slowly but surely, people won’t do these things in the future. Instead of cleaning up people’s mistakes, we need to focus on keeping them from making the mistakes or wanting to do what they do. We need an organization like that, like the Freedom of Mind Movement, working behind the scenes.

Ambitious indeed, but Internal Affairs isn’t deluded when it comes to the process of making something of this magnitude a success.

“Each journey starts with someone taking the initiative, taking the first step,” muses Decline. “We’re as good as anyone.”

With that in mind, Internal Affairs are bringing it to the people with a show Sat., Feb. 22 at the Den. The show, also known as The Freedom of Mind Movement, is the launch of it all. It is raising the movement’s profile and injecting it with some funding to move forward with more events and initiatives.

“Every show is an experience for us and we want it to be an experience for our audience,” explains Concept. “It’s time for another big show, and the Den show will be sick. We’re putting everything into it. We open with bongo players and spoken word and have dramatic scenes acted out on stage while we play.”

“It’s funny,” adds Homage, “Internal Affairs is rapidly becoming just another part of the movement.”

The movement’s future plans include putting on an outdoor “Consciousness Festival,” ideally at Prince’s Island Park. Littering the line-up with hip-hop, spoken word and punk acts, raising awareness and inciting critical thought is the key.

“The structure of the movement is really loose, it’s more relational than anything else,” Homage explains. “We won’t have programs implementing policies and more programs or shit like that. It’s all about starting discussion and getting people thinking.”

“Also, because Internal Affairs is one of the more visible and active groups performing in Calgary and we’re coming with conscious hip-hop, it sets a bit of a standard,” says Concept. “It says that if your going to come out and say something, it better have substance to it. That’s what we hope hip-hop is.”

“There’s a ton of hip-hop records sold in Calgary, people don’t always realize that, unfortunately, there isn’t the local scene to go with it yet,” agrees Homage. “I mean we’re not Vancouver or Toronto, so it’s better to start our own thing now than to have someone else come in and start it for us.”

Taking the power of their music, the electricity of their personalities and the pure conviction and faith they’re entering this with into consideration, we may soon be hearing a lot more from these humble, modern day monks.

Internal Affairs plays Sat., Feb. 22 at the Den as well as making a cameo appearence at the Tri-Media Tuition Cabaret Sat., Feb. 15, 2003 at the Den.

More photos will be up in a few hours. Check back soon!

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