Friday, January 6, 2012

Why I'm returning my Samsung Galaxy S2 and going back to Blackberry...

So, after 3.5 glorious years of using my Blackberry Bold 9000, it was time for a change... A new battery would only last 6-8 hours of light use; it would run out of application memory every 24 hours and need to be hard rebooted; and there wasn’t enough app memory to have much more than a dozen applications installed...

I decided to switch to Android, picking up a Samsung Galaxy S2 LTE with Rogers.  I really like the Google movement, and I already had my blackberry contacts & calendar synced with Google (and Outlook too).  I made the switch at the end of December 2011 and have 15 days to try out the new phone to decide if Android works for me... or whether I should stick with Blackberry.

It’s not the ideal time for the switch, as I’m recovering from a bad concussion, which makes learning new things more difficult and restricts my usage time.  Fortunately I had 3 good days of 2-4 hours use before my migraine kicked in, and then an hour or so in the following days.

Update:  I’ve decided to return the Galaxy S2 and trade in for a newer blackberry.  The Galaxy S2 is way better for surfing the web and viewing html emails; easier to navigate around the main areas; and the bigger display real estate is nice, but the big “first-week-of-use” advantages stop there.  It felt more like a toy than a tool to get things accomplished.  It’s main disadvantages are text editing (copy/cut/paste), streamlining of application interaction (each app seems to want to do its own thing and doesn’t always interact well with jumping back & forth with another app), and limitations of configuration/settings for certain core applications (e.g. contacts, email, etc).

Here are my thoughts:

*** Specifications (Pro) ***
The new Galaxy S2 specs are much better than my 3+ year older Blackberry Bold 9000, so this isn’t a fair comparison...

*** Surfing the web (Pro) ***
Super Pro: This is the Galaxy S2’s bread & butter.  100 times better than blackberry.  Much easier & faster to surf the web, especially with the larger display real estate.
Con:  I couldn’t figure out a quick way to copy the address of the current webpage you’re browsing... I must be missing something.
Con: The data compression is worse than Blackberry, requiring a bigger data plan.

*** Touch Screen (Neutral) ***
Pro: The touch screen saves clicks and makes zooming much easier, and the overall navigation more enjoyable.
Pro: The phone allows you to take a screenshot by holding down the Home Key and Power Key at the same time.  Very cool.
Pro: Navigating around the main display area and into applications, and is made much easier with the touchscreen.
Pro: Being able to unlock your screen with a pattern is really convenient & quick.
Pro: The slide down status/notification window that consolidates all notifications, and provides the ability to turn wifi/bluetooth/etc on & off is pretty amazing.
Pro: The sticky/sweaty finger effect causes problems for both phones.  I often have sweaty hands (embarrassing, I know).  On the blackberry, this causes the trackball to get gummed up every couple weeks resulting in worse performance, and eventually I have to clean it with rubbing alcohol (I’ve heard newer trackballs are better).  However, on the Galaxy S2, sweaty residue on the protective screen cover (gross, eh?) seems to interfere with the phone’s accuracy responding to the touch screen.
Neutral:  Occasionally the touch screen doesn’t respond the way you would expect, e.g. zooming doesn’t work properly. And you have to try a few times before the Galaxy S2 realizes what you’re trying to do.
Con: Text editing is more clunky and difficult at times, for reasons like...
Con: At times it is difficult to click the right place in the text where you want the cursor to appear
Con: The difference between single click (selecting a single point in the text) and short-hold click (selecting entire word) seems to be milliseconds, which is frustrating.
Con: Selecting the start & end cursors for highlighted text, is difficult.  It’s hard to get your finger to click on the cursor button, and sometimes it appears as if it can’t detect you pressing at all.

*** Notifications / Sound Profile (Neutral) ***
    Con: On BB, I had 3 notification profiles I frequently used: silent (taking a nap), vibrate (at doctor’s office) and full sound (in general use). On the Galaxy S2, the choices are silent or not silent. You can adjust what "silent" means, i.e. whether it vibrates or not, but that requires digging several layers deep into the settings, which is less convenient.
Pro: The slide down status/notification window that consolidates all notifications is pretty amazing.

*** Multitasking / Task Manager (Neutral) ***
Neutral: The Galaxy S2, allows you to jump back & forth between the last 5 apps that have been used, by holding down the home key (it brings up a task manager window).  This is similar to Blackberry’s task manager, however, blackberry will show all running apps, not just the last 5.
    Con: With blackberry, if you’re making changes in an app (e.g. editing a contact), you can jump to another app (e.g. Email), and when you come back to the original app (e.g. contacts), the original app is still waiting for you to complete your action.  With the Galaxy S2, when you jump from one app to another and back, you’ll sometimes lose your place/work in the original app, which is frustrating.
    Pro:  The built in Task Manager of the Galaxy S2 is great as it allows you to view & exit active apps, and clear memory.  The active apps isn’t a true reflection of what’s running, so on the advice of a friend, I downloaded “Advanced Task Killer”, which lets you kill all active applications. With the Blackberry, there was nothing built in, so I purchased “Memory Booster”, which provides a similar clear memory function, but I still don’t have a clear way to see which applications are active and to force-exit them.  Since my Blackberry Bold 9000 was limited to 120 MB of application memory, which left only 12 MB after a fresh reboot, I was constantly having to select “Close” for each app to keep memory use to a minimum.  I’m sure newer Bold’s must have much more app memory!

*** Network/Wifi ***
    On the Galaxy S2, I haven’t been able to figure out how to turn off the connection to my wireless network (Rogers), and use just wifi.  There must be a way to do it... On Blackberry, it’s under “Manage Connections”, right beside ‘wi-fi’ and ‘bluetooth’, so I would have expected this option to be on the slide down status/notification window.

*** Documents (Con) ***
    What do People use for editing documents? I've tried google docs and it's pretty flakey. is quick office the solution?  To give it a fair trial, I’ve written 1/3 of this summary in Google Docs on the Galaxy S2 phone, but it was taking way too long, so I switch to PC.
Update: Some friends have recommended alternatives of notational acceleration and Office Suite Pro 5, but unfortunately I didn’t have time to check them out. Also, the Google Docs reviews are pretty scathing and share my sentiments.

Frustrations with Google docs:
    Text editing. On my BB I had around 100 simple text memo pad entries that I edited multiple times per day. I converted them over to google docs to use on my Android phone. I've been finding the following to be more difficult (note that i'm using the Swype keyboard):
    cutting/copying/pasting is frustrating for several reasons.
    there doesn't seem to be a way to select multiple paragraphs? Am I missing a trick?
    It's difficult to get the start and end cursors where you want them. without a trackball you have to drag your finger to where you want the cursor to go, but sometimes your finger is covering the location where you want the cursor to go, making it impossible to see & select the correct location.
    Update: on Swype keyboard, swiping from Swype key to SYM key, brings up a navigation keyboard, which helps a lot, but sometimes it gets confused and won't let you move around within the paragraph. Also, it only works for current paragraph.

    there also doesn't appear to be an undo function for edits to google docs, whereas blackberry prompted you.
    getting into a document is slower than BB. Require multiple clicks and wait while loading.
    any interruption and you lose the spot where you're editing. Eg calendar pop up notification.
    Documents can’t be accessed without wifi or network connection, which is not convenient and seems to be one of the main complaints with the app.
    difference between touching screen to select word vs select a single spot seems to be milliseconds difference and difficult to get right. Is there a trick?
    the long press menu appears, but doesn't work very well.  It typically causes you to lose the spot where you're editing.

Pro:     much easier to scroll to bottom of document.
    Automatic sync with Google, so the docs can be seen/edited on a computer.

*** Keyboard / Typing (Neutral/Con) ***
Typing is slower. Note that I typed 1/3 of this on the Galaxy S2 to give it a fair chance (it ended up being too slow, so I switched to PC).  This could just require some time to adjust, but here are some initial thoughts.
    Con: with the Samsung keyboard, typing was seemed slower as it can be challenging to hit the right key, which might just require more time to adjust, but regardless...
    Pro: I switched to the Swype keyboard, which allows me to type words almost as fast as with my BB, sentences are still slower because...
    Con: with my BB, I didn't have to look at the keyboard to type (like with a real keyboard, my fingers had learned where the keys were without looking), so with my BB, my focus was fully on the display screen, so I could more quickly identify mistakes and fix them. With the Android keypad, i'm constantly having to look back and forth from keyboard to the text on the screen, which is slower and more mentally exhausting. Maybe with time I'll learn how to type without looking at the keyboard? Anyone out there mastered that? I expect so...
    Con: A slight grazing of the screen causes an unwanted character to appear, which requires backspacing or multiple clicks to fix up (a limitation of the touch screen).
    Con:  for the symbol keyboard, I can't figure out a way to lock the shift key. This would come in handy to type multiple special chars in a row. E.g. ***~»><  instead, I have to hit the shift key once per character.
    Con:  Sometimes the blue cursor doesn’t match where the editing bar is located, making it sometimes impossible to glide your finger to the place where you actually want the cursor to be, because it would require the cursor to be off the screen.
    Pro: The Swype keyboard is really neat, and fun, but only using 1 of finger to type (or in this case swype) isn’t as productive as using 2.
    Neutral: The voice to text function is also really neat, but I found I wasted too much time editing the mistakes to really make it worthwhile.  I’ve been meaning to try out Dragon, which I hear is more accurate.

*** Emails (Neutral/Con) ***
    Pro: HTML email are displayed much much better and are easier to view & navigate.
    Con:  The HTML emails are always zoomed in too far, and with every one, the first thing I have to do is zoom out.
Con: When deleting email, the Galaxy S2 doesn’t allow me to decide at deletion time whether to (1) Keep on server or (2) delete from server.  Instead, in the sync setting for my Pop email account, I have to make an overall decision there as to which action to take upon email deletion.  Making a change requires going into settings.  I liked that Blackberry’s would allow you to choose which of those 2 options to do every time you delete an email.  That way emails I want to keep around for historical reasons can stay on the server, but not clutter up the inbox on my phone.
    Con: if you're typing near the bottom of your email, the text you're typing sometimes gets covered over with either the cut/copy/paste menu or word suggestions. I find it frustrating trying to edit text when I can't see it. It also makes it impossible to cut/copy/paste.
    Con: Adding a new contact from an email is quite frustrating if you want to add anything more than an email address.  You can’t toggle back & forth from the contact to the email to copy/paste info from the email because (a) the contact has to be saved first and (b) …
    Con: Copy text from an email is extremely frustrating.  There doesn’t appear to be a consistent way to make the selection pane appear... just hit in different random place a bunch of times, and eventually it will highlight a word.  Then you can tap the highlighted word to make the selection pane appear, but getting the start & end points to move over the text that you are interested in is quite difficult.  Especially for copying info from someone’s signature.  Then sometimes when you get the text selected that you want to copy, the “Copy/Search/Share” pop up menu will refuse to appear.  Then you have to exit the email and come back, or wait a little while and select the text again... then the “copy/search/share” pop up menu will appear properly.
    Con: I can’t find a way to easily copy a person’s name or email address from the “To” field of a received email.  To do so, I have to tap the contact name and (1) “Add Contact” > “Add” > Go to email field > Bring up the Select Word menu > highlight the word > “Cut” name or email > Click “Cancel” button for contact > Navigate to place to paste > “Paste”  OR (2) “Send Email” > Tap Email address > “Edit” > Tap email > Bring up the Select Word menu > highlight the word > “Cut” name or email > Navigate to place to paste > “Paste”
    Con: For emails with large attachments, it appears that the email has to wait for the attachment to fully download before the email can be displayed, resulting in annoying lag and unnecessary bandwidth being used. Blackberry on the other hand doesn't automatically download attachments, and displays the txt immediately.   

*** Calendar (Neutral/Con) ***
    Pro:  I like the “List” option to easily view what’s on your agenda for the next few days.
Con: An accepted Facebook event doesn't get added to my calendar.
    Con: There doesn’t appear to be a setting for calendar events to automatically have a reminder by default.  If I want a reminder, I have to manually add it each time, which is annoying since I want a reminder for all my calendar events.
    Con: There also doesn’t appear to be a way to adjust the increments for the time of an event.  If it’s set to 1 pm and I want to change it to 12:30 pm, I have to click 30 times (or hold & wait for it to scroll through 30 numbers).  I like how Blackberry does 15 minute increments, making changes much quicker.
    Con: When I receive a pop up notification for an event, and I edit the time of the event to be in the future (e.g. phone Mom), the pop up notification takes 10-15 seconds to realize that it’s no longer relevant and to disappear.

*** Contacts (Con) ***
    Pro:  For a contact, I can store more than 2 of a particular type of contact field (e.g. 3 email addresses).  This can’t be done on blackberry, they limit you to 2, which is almost always enough.
    Con: When you have multiple entries for a particular field (e.g. 2 work phone numbers, 2 email addresses), there doesn’t appear to be a way to distinguish one as being primary and the other secondary.  On blackberry, one is labelled “Work” and the other “Work 2”.  Perhaps the top-most one is the primary?
    Con: There is no easy way to copy the info from a single field of a Contact.  Let’s say I want to copy a phone number from a contact to a calendar event.  In Blackberry, I highlight the text, right-click and select “copy”.  On the Galaxy S2, I have 2 options: (1) Right-click (More options button) > Edit the contact > Click field > Click field & hold down to bring up menu > Select Word > Move the start & end cursors over text > Select “Copy” from popup menu > Click “Cancel” button.  OR (2) Long-press on field > Send Contact Info > Click field > Select Word > Move the start & end cursors over text > Select “Copy” from popup menu > Click back button a couple times > Discard changes.
Con: When I selected “Add Contact” from somewhere (e.g. an email), it takes me to the Contacts App, but doesn’t automatically launch the “Add Contact” interface.  I have to click the “Add” button again, which at first is confusing.
Con: After saving a new contact, that contact isn’t display in the Contact App.  Instead, you have search for the contact to view it.

*** Facebook (Pro) ***
Facebook is easier to use.
I can post a status to my artist page as an artist (, but that’s all I can do.  I can’t edit the status, delete it, or change any details/setting/info for my artist page.
I cannot seem to get facebook events, that I accept, to be added to my Calendar, which is annoying.  Does anyone know how to do that?  Blackberry did that, which is nice.

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Hip-Hop & the ECMAs - Part 5 of 5

Hip-Hop & the ECMAs

Cape Breton in 2010 - Hip-Hop Suggestions

Part 5 of 5

By Brockway Biggs

It's easy to point fingers, but it's more difficult to uncover solutions. It's clear the ECMAs have areas for improvement.

The key is more mutual involvement and initiative from both the ECMA and the hip-hop community. It's a two way street.


An official ECMA "Hip-Hop" showcase is a wonderful suggestion provided by Halifax rapper Joe Buck. Unfortunately ECMA Artist Relations & Member Services Manager, Chanda Bissett, quickly points out that it's not financially possible.

"The ECMA produces a core group of "Official Showcases" and works with partner organizations (such as ANSMA) to create additional "partner" showcases for various genres. With the funding and resources we have, it is not possible for us to take on additional showcases for every genre without partner support."

Prior to 2009, a partner has typically stepped forward to organize a hip-hop showcase. Unfortunately, ECMA involvement has always been limited and they've failed to supply organizers with a list of artist who applied to perform on the hip-hop stage.

In 2007 and 2008, the organizers of the partnered hip-hop showcase were not aware ECMA applications had been submitted by artists to perform on their stage. As a result, the event often fails to showcase talents outside of the organizer's regional circle of connections.

The African Nova Scotia Music Association (ANSMA) does a great job of partnering with ECMA to produce its annual 'Black Vibes' stage. This stage does provide exposure for hip-hop artists, but unfortunately it is limited to Nova Scotia acts of African descent.


The 2007 ECMA festival in Halifax engaged the UMAC in preparing an urban seminar. The result was a packed room, and an encouraging step forward for ECMA involvement in hip-hop. But, Halifax is the biggest hip-hop town in Atlantic Canada, so it wasn't clear how such an initiative might be received in other cities.

Things went downhill in 2008 when UMAC was not involved. A lack of promotion surrounding the urban seminar in Fredericton resulted in poor attendance. In 2009, there was no such component. Ms Bissett agrees that "perhaps it is time to revive our UMAC Partnership for the conference and/or showcases."

Award Category - "Single" vs "Album"

In 2006, the ECMA award committee agreed to debut Rap/Hip-Hop as a 'Single Track' category to ensure the category could be filled with nominees. As a result, rap/hip-hop is one of only three awards categories (out of 32) that celebrate 'single track' instead of 'full album.' In each of the past four years the category has been filled to capacity, and 2010 might be a good time to convert the category from 'Single Track' to 'Full Album.'

Change to an ECMA category is always possible, but requires support from the genre's community. Chanda Bissett, ECMA Artist Relations & Member Services Manager, is keen on bringing forward suggestions to the awards and stages committees, but requires proper documentation. She provided the 'Loud' category, which debuted in 2009, as a great example.

"We heard from individuals in the ECMA community that we should recognize a 'Loud' category. They were required to provide a title and description for the category, and to compile a list of at least five artists willing to submit an eligible album for ECMA 2009" (released between June 1, 2008 and October 1, 2009).

"The ECMA office received this required documentation and it was forwarded to the awards committee. The awards committee approved the recommendation, and then forwarded it to the ECMA Board of Directors who provided the final approval."

In its first year, the 'Loud' category was a success. There were five albums nominated, and legendary Moncton band, Iron Giant, took home the inaugural award. So, while other categories like 'R&B/Soul,' 'World' and 'Instrumental' struggled in 2009, 'Rap/Hip-Hop' and 'Loud' were stronger than ever.

The good news is that ECMA Executive Director Steve Horne is receptive to new ideas and building on the hip-hop momentum. The review committees will be meeting in the coming months, so now is the best time to voice your opinion to ECMA Artist Relations & Member Services Manager, Chanda Bissett ( ecma at ).

"The best way to voice your thoughts is to put them on paper. This works well because we have to run these ideas by several individuals. In the coming weeks our committees will be getting together again to review what worked, what didn't and what we'd like to change, add or remove for next year."

Part 1 - An Introduction - Hip-Hop Side-Stepped in Corner Brook
Part 2 - Popularity of Hip-Hop in Atlantic Canada & Showcases for Hip-Hop artists at the 2009 ECMAs
Part 3 - The Corner Brook Hip-Hop Struggle
Part 4 - Why was Hip-Hop side-stepped in Corner Brook & Hip-Hop Approach of other Music Award Festivals

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Hip-Hop & the ECMAs - Part 4 of 5

Hip-Hop & the ECMAs

Why was Hip-Hop side-stepped in Corner Brook

Part 4 of 5

By Brockway Biggs

Hip-Hop is a hard sell in Corner Brook. A quick sweep of the city and surrounding areas uncovered no rap emcees within a three hour radius. DJ Slue's hometown of Gander is 3.5 hours away. Slue, of, attempted to organize a hip-hop event at the ECMAs, but had no luck booking a venue in the small town of Corner Brook.

Atlantic Canada is characterized by its traditional and Celtic music, and progressively more so for its rock. These styles of music provide a more long standing fan base and revenue stream, as outlined in publications such as 'Long Tail.' Hip-hop, on the other hand, has been documented to peak early and is subject to the stereotype of being all about image, big cars, and money.

These genre stereotypes might still be providing some of the road blocks. Fortunately artists like Classified continue to prosper and are now achieving "long tail" success. Industry heads in Atlantic Canada have started to turn, as they realize such pigeonholing has been over generalized.

But hip-hop isn't the only genre struggling to grab its share of the musical focus. Celtic music has also been feeling the backseat effect in recent years. The MacGillivrays (Troy, Kendra and Sabra) are known as one of the most talented families of Celtic performers in Atlantic Canada. Sabra MacGillivray, who was the featured Celtic dancer at the end of the 2009 gala show, has been noticing a change.

"Over the past few years, we've seen the musical focus of the ECMA gala show shift slightly away from Celtic, to progressively put more emphasis on rock. This year we were the only Celtic act on the show. We're flattered and thankful, but it's becoming more difficult for traditional music to get the exposure it once did."

Hip-Hop Approach of other Music Award Festivals

On the other side of our country, the Western Canadian Music Awards (WCMA) celebrate music from Manitoba to British Columbia. The event manager of WCMAs, Robyn Stewart, attended this year's ECMA festival in Corner Brook. The two events share many similarities, but also several differences.

"We recognize the power that hip-hop has with the youth of today and that the number of great Western Canadian hip-hop artists far exceeds that which we engage and celebrate. So, we've been working with people like Will Strickland from the Urban Music Association of Canada (UMAC)."

"In Edmonton and Moose Jaw, Will worked hard to get people out of their basements and involved. Consequently, hip-hop at the WCMA has been gaining momentum including the addition of a Rap/Hip-Hop award category, separate from the traditional Urban Recording award and the inclusion of urban specific industry professionals as conference speakers."

Part 5 - Cape Breton in 2010 - Hip-Hop Suggestions

Part 1 - An Introduction - Hip-Hop Side-Stepped in Corner Brook
Part 2 - Popularity of Hip-Hop in Atlantic Canada & Showcases for Hip-Hop artists at the 2009 ECMAs
Part 3 - The Corner Brook Hip-Hop Struggle

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Hip-Hop & the ECMAs - Part 3 of 5

Hip-Hop & the ECMAs

The Corner Brook Hip-Hop Struggle

Part 3 of 5

By Brockway Biggs

Chad Hatcher was nominated for a 2009 ECMA in the CBC Galaxie Rising Star category for his work with Classified on 'Tunnels & Pathways.' He made it to Corner Brook, but not without struggling to overcome the challenges.

"I'm a dad and I work a day job, so when it comes to attending these sorts of events, it takes some strategic planning especially when you're not making piles of cash from music yet."

"When I was nominated, I didn't know if I'd be able to make it to Corner Brook for the event, so I didn't book any other showcases. But I managed to make it, and I was shocked and thrilled when they asked me to perform at the pre-televised portion of the gala show."

Classified passed up the chance to showcase at this year's ECMA festival and feels other hardworking rap artists should be getting similar opportunities.

"They asked me to do one of the showcases, but I'm getting ready to go on a big tour (Europe with D12) and I wasn't nominated for anything, so I figured it was a good time to get in some family time since I just had a baby."

"I can't hate on the ECMAs though. They're definitely noticing us. I just think the artists that are working, touring and releasing good music should be getting more attention."

Of the nine artists nominated for a 2009 ECMA award in the Rap / Hip-Hop Single Track of the Year category, Halifax's Joe Buck was the only one who travelled to Corner Brook. The reason for the lack of hip-hop artists in attendance was laid out by Joe Buck.

"There just aren't many opportunities for hip-hop artists here. The director of the celtic festival from Glasgow isn't interested in my music. I even stood up at a seminar and asked if any of the panel members would consider working with a hip-hop artist. They were honest and said 'no.'"

Fortunately there were still opportunities. Thursday night, Buck took advantage of the open mic at The Backlot and earlier in the day he took part in the 'Export Readiness Training Pitching Workshop.' He was one of 3 artists at the session chosen to pitch to some of the top names in the industry.

"I met face-to-face with David Hayman of Vapor Music Group who has selected music for everyone from the Blue Jays to car & beer commercials."

In today's industry, Joe Buck's approach to the conference is the best possible for a hip-hop artist.

Part 4 - Why was Hip-Hop side-stepped in Corner Brook & Hip-Hop Approach of other Music Award Festivals
Part 5 - Cape Breton in 2010 - Hip-Hop Suggestions

Part 1 - An Introduction - Hip-Hop Side-Stepped in Corner Brook
Part 2 - Popularity of Hip-Hop in Atlantic Canada & Showcases for Hip-Hop artists at the 2009 ECMAs

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Hip-Hop & the ECMAs - Part 2 of 5

Hip-Hop & the ECMAs

Popularity of Hip-Hop in Atlantic Canada

Part 2 of 5

By Brockway Biggs

Hip-hop has been steadily gaining momentum this past decade and Atlantic Canada is no exception. The online voice sounded loud and strong as Classified won the inaugural 2009 ECMA Fans Choice Award.

Fredericton's Scotty & The Stars received a 2009 ECMA nomination in the Children's Recording of the Year category for their album 'Here We Go!' Band member, Andy Cotter, has been touring elementary schools in Atlantic Canada for the past month in support of the album and has seen directly the strength hip-hop has with youth.

"About half way through our show, I ask Scotty if he thinks anyone in the crowd has ever heard of hip-hop. The kids go nuts, and it has opened my eyes to how popular rap has grown. And we're working in some pretty rural schools."

Showcases for Hip-Hop artists at the 2009 ECMAs

The 2009 ECMA festival provided more than 200 showcase opportunities. Despite the popularity of rap, the genre only had one gala performer, zero official showcases and four partnered showcases.

The gala awards ceremony featured French Acadian rap group Radio Radio on the big screen. The fun vibe of this Moncton crew landed them performing at ADISQ (the French Junos) this past year.

Radio Radio are well known in Quebec, but their presence in Atlantic Canada still hasn't been established. In fact, one of the lead emcees is often mistaken in his NS hometown for a local folk singer. As a result, a lot of people were asking who those French guys were that rapped about Jacuzzis.

"We're not surprised people haven't heard of us, we perform mostly in Quebec."

The African Nova Scotia Music Association (ANSMA) included two rappers on the bill of their annual Black Vibes showcase: Hellafactz & Asia.

Halifax's Hellafactz is a self-proclaimed hip-hop activist with the goal of promoting positivity, while having recorded with the likes of KRS-One and Edo G. Fresh off winning the 2008 ANSMA Upcoming Youth Award, he started off slow, but progressively increased the vibe. 'No Qwestion' was a touching dedication to his daughter.

The man, the myth, the legend, R$ $mooth made the trek to Corner Brook to DJ the event and surprised the crowd by taking to the mic on the Hellafactz's reggae-laden 'All We Can Do'. Veteran Halifax rapper Asia showcased the amazing multi-talented abilities that have been gaining her praise for nearly a decade, especially with her group Nu Gruv.

Music New Brunswick (MNB) also included two rappers on their Saturday night bill: Nayles and Brockway Biggs.

It's been nearly a decade since Moncton's Nayles first broke onto the scene as part of the group Element Kontrol. He spit the gritty tooth and nails raps for which he's become renown.

Brockway Biggs (myself) always has fun and this was no exception. He had the ladies shaking their cabooses and the fellas throwing their thumbs up, much to the delight of several delegates in attendance.

Part 3 - The Corner Brook Hip-Hop Struggle
Part 4 - Why was Hip-Hop side-stepped in Corner Brook & Hip-Hop Approach of other Music Award Festivals
Part 5 - Cape Breton in 2010 - Hip-Hop Suggestions


Part 1 - An Introduction - Hip-Hop Side-Stepped in Corner Brook

Monday, March 16, 2009

Hip-Hop & the ECMAs - Part 1 of 5

Hip-Hop & the ECMAs

An Introduction - Hip-Hop Side-Stepped in Corner Brook

Part 1 of 5

By Brockway Biggs

Every February, Atlantic Canadians come together to celebrate their musical past, present and future at the East Coast Music Association (ECMA) festival. This year's host city was Corner Brook, Newfoundland who provided a party nearly without parallel.

So where does hip-hop fit into an Atlantic Canadian music festival in a Newfoundland town of 20,000, where Rogers doesn't even provide cell phone service? The answer: It doesn't. The handful of hip-hop artists who made the trek struggled to find a place and break down barriers, much like the first settlers of this area.

Not so long ago, in 2005, the call went out for the creation of a Rap/Hip-Hop ECMA award category. Artists like fiddler Ashley MacIsaac, R&B singer Dutch Robinson and jazz artist Harvey Miller had been dominating the generic "Urban" category. That year, CBC provided regional coverage, which captured the doubts of ECMA executive director Steve Horne.

Fortunately, the board listened to the Atlantic Canadian hip-hop collective and the "Rap/Hip-Hop Single Recording of the Year" category debuted in 2006. The response was overwhelming and squashed the doubts of the ECMA board. After being overlooked for years, Enfield, NS rapper Classified finally garnered his deserved shine, winning the award in its first three years.

In 2009, Moncton/St. John's beat maker Hotbox won the Rap/Hip-Hop ECMA award for "The Main Event" featuring emcee Spesh K & DJ Y-Rush. Unfortunately none of them were able to make the trip to accept the award. Hotbox was busy with his full time teaching job in Moncton, Spesh K found himself in Toronto and Y-Rush had a DJ'ing gig in Halifax. It's a telling sign that the winds of change soon need to take shape.

Part 2 - Popularity of Hip-Hop in Atlantic Canada & Showcases for Hip-Hop artists at the 2009 ECMAs
Part 3 - The Corner Brook Hip-Hop Struggle
Part 4 - Why was Hip-Hop side-stepped in Corner Brook & Hip-Hop Approach of other Music Award Festivals
Part 5 - Cape Breton in 2010 - Hip-Hop Suggestions

Monday, March 2, 2009

Day 4: DIY, telling fortunes, mackarel and Myles of awards

After a late Saturday night, including baking french fries at 5 am with the crew, I overslept and missed the Industry Awards ceremony. Boo, but with the busy day ahead, I was glad for the extra sleep.

My media accreditation this year has kept me much busier than usual, so I hadn't yet taken in any of the seminars geared at teaching artists about the industry. That all changed around 1 pm on Sunday as I checked out the DIY seminar. Someday, I hope they'll ask me to serve on one of these panels! :)

I also took in another seminar entitled 'Music Managers Forum' (MMF), which was quite informative. Panel members included:
* Louis Thomas of Sonic, who manages Great Big Sea and others.
* Brookes Diamond, who managed Rita MacNeil and others.
* Millie Millgate of Australasian Performing Right Association.
* Jordan Verzar of Top Shelf, based in Australia.

Afterwards, I chatted with Millie about Maya Jupiter leaving her post as host of Australia's most renown hip-hop radio show and moving to California to pursue her rap career. We also told me about the beef in the Australian scene between rappers who try to sound american instead of using their Australian accent.

I also chatted with Jordan Verzar about his interest in original sounds, particularly instrumental. When I mentioned Ryan Leblanc, Jordan agreed Ryan was the most impressive act he'd seen all weekend.

I'd worked up a good appetite, so I wandered West street, stopping at Jade Garden for my first real eat-out meal of the trip. The chinese food, particularly the rice after 4 days of potato, was refreshing. However, the fortunate cookie stated: "When in doubt, follow your heart." This struck a cord with me, as lately I've been struggling to figure out what my heart is saying. It feels as though my heart is pulling me in 3 separate and equally passionate directions: software developer / performing artist / marketer & promoter. But there aren't enough hours in each day to pursue all three to the degree of my drive. It can be very frustrating to have no choice but to pass up some amazing opportunities due to lack of time.

After the meal, I returned back to the pad. Clutch felt bad for eating the last of my hot dogs, so he offered to cook up some of the mackarel given to us by the owners of the Hillside Haven Housekeeping Suite. We had to google cooking instructions, but it turned out amazingly delicious!

As I finished the mackarel, I realized I was already late for the awards ceremony, so I made it up to the Pepsi Centre as quickly as possible.

As I walked into the media area, I ran into new acquaintance and all-round good guy Josh Hogan holding an ECMA award.

For the past two years Josh lobbied for the creation of the new "Loud Recording of the Year" category. So it was fitting he got to accept on behalf of the first ever winners, Moncton's Iron Giant.

Immediately afterward, another all-round good guy, Hotbox won the ECMA for Rap/Hip-Hop Single Track Recording of the Year. Unfortunately, as a full-time teacher, he couldn't make the ceremony. That marks 2 years in a row the rap winner hasn't been there to accept the award.

David Myles won folk recording of the year. Swift as ever, he made a funny joke after the presenter of the previous award for the "Konica Minolta Male Solo Recording of the Year" announced that "Konica Minolta" had won the award... haha. The actual winner was Matt Anderson.

I was surprised when Radio Radio took to stage on the televised portion of the gala awards show. This Moncton Acadian rap group spit their lively jacuzzi rap. Afterward I spoke with one of the members and mentioned how I'd heard their name, but that was the first time I had seen them perform. They weren't surprised, since they rarely perform outside of Quebec and France.

After the gala awards show, it took the convincing charm of Super Dude extraordinaire, Don Levandier, and his St. Andrews/Corner Brook friend Maria, to convince me to sacrifice more sleep and attend the Post awards party. Albeit brief, it was definitely worth it.

I had a great chat with Chad Hatcher about hip-hop, Classified and life. I finally met the 2009 Female Solo Recording Artist of the Year, Jill Barber for the first time, as we'd agreed to exchange CDs a few weeks back. As a side note, she graduated high school with my brother's fiance.

I talked with Murielle Savoie about the change in name of NB's arts funding program from NB Sound Initiatives (NBSI) to Music Industry Development (MID). I had another great chat with Ed Ward of the Milwaukee Irish Festival.

Oh, and I'm pretty sure I cut in line in front of Pink Thunder when I was going to buy fries. Whoever, the trio of young ladies were, I felt bad, so I let them go ahead of me.

Finally, I ran into David Myles explaining to Jian Ghomeshi of CBC Radio One's 'Q' how he caught a mackarel this big (see pic below) over the weekend in Corner Brook. No, not really. :)

Now all that's left is a little bit of sleep, and keeping up my hopes that tomorrow's freezing rain doesn't hinder my return trip to Ottawa.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Day 3: Music NB Stage - Cajons & Bones

Whelan's Gate played host to the Music New Brunswick Stage for the weekend. Saturday night's lineup was eclectic, ranging from folk to instrumental, rap to french and finished with a killer lineup from Forward Music Group

1. Andy Cotter. Backed by Scott Sampson on the drums, he sang and strummed with the style that's gained regional fame for his jam band Chillin Room and 2009 ECMA nominated children recording Scotty and the Stars.

2. Ryan Leblanc. This instrumentalist stood out as one of the top three most impressive performances of the weekend. This one-man wrecking crew showed off just how easy it can be to play harmonica, guitar and cajon (box drum) all at the same time. His talent earned him praise from Australian agent Jordan Verzar of Top Shelf, won him the 2009 ECMA award for World Recording, and landed him performing at the awards gala show.

3 & 4. I missed The Nuclear as I prepared for my set as Brockway Biggs, but most everyone in Atlantic Canada still knows me as Pimp Tea. As usual, I had a blast. Bones hooked me up with a candy ring, which added a nice new element. Girls were shaking their cabooses. The two fellas below had hype "yeows!" for 'Pinch Hitter' and good hand claps for 'Clap Your Hands'. And of course folks were throwing their thumbs up for 'Super Dude'. The few delegates who showed up all had positive things to say, which is always flattering.

Every year, I meet folks who've heard of me through my newsletters, but whom I've not yet met. One such person is Robyn of the Western Canada Music Awards (WCMA).

We had a great chat about the differences between the WCMAs and the ECMAs, in particular the perception that the WCMAs cover country music, which is incorrect. In fact, unlike the ECMAs, they've been working to improve their hip-hop content because they see the connection it currently has with younger crowds. The chat was interesting. As well, they've been moving to smaller cities as of late, such as Moose Jaw (2008), Brandon (2009), potentials for 2010 & 2011 include Kelowna and Whitehorse.

5. Nayles & Clutch (my roommates for the weekend) This NB veteran rapper first came on the scene as part of the group Element Kontrol. The set brought a tooth and nails rap performance.

6. Barley and the Durt. The artist comraderie amongst NB artists began to show as Barley called on Brock & Alex from The Divorcees, Mel Keith and Robin (who played bass for five bands over the weekend).

7. Kevin McIntyre. This french rocker was nominated for a 2009 ECMA in the 'Enregistrement francophone etoiles galaxie radio-canada de l'anne'. The NB comradie was again in full effect, as Music NB director, Jean Surette (of Les Paiens) took to the drums, while Robin again provided bass.

8. The Slate Pacific. Unfortunately I missed them as I was chatting with Robyn from WCMA and catching up with the ECMA hip-hop contingent in Corner Brook: Nayles, Clutch and Joe Buck. It's really too bad because my Fredericton friends Zach and Heather are part of the band.

9. Grand Theft Bus. Okay, I'm bleary eyed... no more band descriptions... enjoy the pictures.

10. The Motorleague. Punk rock amazingness, the way it should be done. They had everyone on stage with them including James Boyle, Share's Zach Atkinson, bassist Robin and Josh Hogan. The pictures explain why I heart the Motorleague.

11. The Sleepless Nights

12. Share

Bones finished off the night with some of his great indie pop selections. Everyone was grooving until past 4 am.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Day 3: Kids Music vs Rock meets Fiddling vs Vodka in ice

In the lobby of Greenwood Hotel, I ran into Fredericton family, Scott and Andy of the children's group Scotty and The Stars who also double as band members of my favourite jam band, Chillin Room. Another Fredericton friend was in the mix, as Courtney Steeves is currently calling Corner Brook home as she attends Grenfall college and working as assistant manager of The Blackthorn Stick Cafe

I quickly grabbed a shuttle with birthday boy Jamie Steel up to the Roots Stage. I unfortunately missed The Olympic Symphonium, but caught fiddling sensation Samantha Robichaud backed by Chris & Lynn of the Colepaugh Crew. There was something inspiring to see NB's best rock outfit connect with NB's best fiddler. The result was energetic, infectious and inventive.

Then I needed to get back to the pad to cook up some moose meat steaks, and prepare for a night of music at the NB stage. While waiting for the shuttle, I noticed a bottle of Vodka frozen in ice. Unfortunately, Tim Yerxa of The Playhouse confirmed it was empty.

Day 3: Myles & Myles of Bandyness

I was late getting to the third and final day of the "Export Buyers Showcase." Nayles gave me a quick drive and I was lucky to catch the last couple songs from Bruce Guthro.

In between performers, they took time out to celebrate birthdays for manager extraordinaire, Bruce Morel, and Jamie Steel of Periwinkle Productions.

1. Bruce Guthro. This folk storyteller knows how to woo a crowd. His songs covered topics from the Blue Jays championship to his website's URL. He's living proof that less is more, ensuring the focus is on the story without distraction.

2. Kendra MacGillivray & Troy MacGillivray. This musical family is known most prominently for Kendra's fiddling ability and Troy's piano playing, but they're always ready to switch up instruments. Kendra was clearly nervous on the mic, but none of that showed in her instrumentation. The highlight had both siblings playing fiddle in unison.

3. David Myles. It seems not so long ago, in 2005, David phoned me to ask for advice on promoting his debut album. Now, in 2009, David Myles is riding a wave of international acclaim. His show has improved immensely since 2005, helped by his move from strictly folk to a more sultry jazz blues sound aided by his backing band, along with some Bruce Springsteen inspired rock. His comfort on stage and crowd interaction brought in the largest crowd of the whole showcase, and with good reason - he provided one of the most impressive performances of the series.

4. MIR. Their light pop sound seemed somewhat generic, but their success is nearly unparalled by any other band of their sort in Atlantic Canada.

And with that, the "Export Buyers Showcase" wrapped up. David Myles and Ennis stood out as the most impressive surprises of the series.

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