September 17, 2018
Released On November 6, 2012
Released By Droppin’ Science
Despite the issues with international trade at the moment, I want to give you a gift this autumn season. It comes from Canada and it’s one of our finest exports. You see, like most large countries, Canada has a lot of regional and cultural differences as you move from the west to the east coast. The country is sparsely populated in some of the more harsh topographies and tends to condense dramatically around urban centers. Unlike our neighbours to the south, it takes a really long time to get between urban centers and that has an inevitable effect on our culture. We pull together, alienated from the core of other distant provinces. The so-called “international” cities like Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal are known to everyone but out on the east coast, there is a bit of a mote in even the interprovincial eye.
One thing all Canadian cities share is the fundamental influence of the pop culture of the United States. Like everywhere else on the globe, we’ve been inspired as much by what’s happening with our American friends as we are by our own achievements. Our hip hop culture was born of US artists and for a long time only existed in small pockets which barely, if ever, seemed to break into radio play. Back in the late ’80s and early ’90s, however, that began to change. Something magical began to happen and the global rise of hip hop opened roads which gave Canada an uncanny sense of pride in its own offerings and artists. Toronto and Vancouver artists were making a huge impact. Maestro Fresh-Wes, Rascalz, Kardinal Offishal, Moka Only among others were making names and careers. What’s more important is that they were doing it with a slowly differentiating identity. While things may have kicked off trying to sound like American hip hop, it wasn’t long before confidence and the support of our own public began to give rise to unique Canadian sounds, issues, and trends — even in the east.
A telling lyric from the track “Northern Touch” calls out “All the away from the T-dot [Toronto] to the Van City [Vancouver, British Columbia]”. Interestingly, there are five provinces between Toronto and what is, geographically and nationally, the actual East Coast. Though Torontonians often refer to themselves as “The East,” anyone from the Actual East Coast will be quick to remind you that’s not the case and has never been. Each of the real East Coast provinces has a capital city which, despite being significantly smaller than anything further to the west, have nation-sized levels of talent. Halifax, once called “the Seattle of the North,” has had a thriving multi-genre music scene for decades. A lot of major international acts don’t bother to come this far east because of the relatively low population, but those that do find an uncanny level of unsung talent and an often ridiculously self-defeating level of humility. It’s not uncommon for East Coast artists to move to Toronto in much the same way a small-town American might move to New York — to “make it.” Darren Pyper is among those who chose to make his home in a a more understated city. Though he works all across the country and tours internationally, the artist known as Ghettosocks stayed put because he loves his city. He’s managed to be one of Canada’s most prolific hip hop artists and his career to date has seen him quietly drop singles with a broad range of styles and collaborations. True to form, he’s worked with some of the country’s most stayed and influential artists. He’s been on the top of the Canadian hip hop charts, and even made a track with UK producer Herbalizer. But despite all of this, his mixtape from 2015, We’re Going To Drink A lot Of Wine This Year, Boys, is the one that keeps me coming back for repeat listens.
The mixtape in general is a fundamental aspect of modern hip-hop. I am not sure I ever really understood the difference between a full length LP and a mixtape except to say that they seem generally more informal, less polished, and rich with tracks that one might not hear otherwise. The work of Ghettosocks and Ottawa’s DJ Jon Deck stands out as a particularly polished and well-crafted record. Cut together with memorable samples from the movie Sideways and Dr. Steve Brule’s “Sweetberry Wine” sketch, among others, the tracks follow a consistent path to an almost lounge-like aesthetic. Smooth, jazzy, and constantly deep in the pocket of a groove, the entire experience goes down, as the name would suggest, like a thick bottle of red.
The record kicks of with “High Key,” a jazzy piano sample reminds you there’s an element of whimsy to the whole thing while Ghettosocks rolls the credits of the tracks you’re about to hear. “I’m Loaded” falls somewhere in between nostalgia for department store AM radio and ’80s-era hip hip beats. The whole thing works so well because of Ghettosocks’ unstoppable style and attention to detail. His cadence as a rapper shines even on collaborative efforts with other artists on and off this record. “Value Village” was Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” before there was a Macklemore. “Zanzibar” is a beautiful and relaxing melody winding its way around a boom-bap rhythm carried by both Ghettosocks and another heavy-hitter, Timbuktu.
End to end, the record is a scrapbook of some of the biggest players in the scene across the country today. Long-time collaborators Timbuktu, Chokeules, and Muneshine all make appearances along with Apt and locals Wordburglar and Jesse Dangerously. Each bring a unique style to their verse, but Ghettosocks acts as the touchstone to tie it all together.
It’s an odd thing to behold and rare to hear a hip hop artist make a song, let alone an entire record, inspired by the love of wine and the deliberate and simultaneously sophisticated and unsophisticated nature of those who drink it. They often appear on a spectrum between the dignity of a glass and the intoxicated silliness of reaching the bottle’s bottom. This record translates each of those points on the spectrum in hip hop form.
There are nights when I am sitting in downtown San Francisco, driving down to Boston for a weekender, or visiting Canada’s wine country in the Okanagan Valley when I can drop in We’re Going To Drink A lot Of Wine This Year, Boys and listen to it end to end without skipping a single beat. It’s a great hip hop record that knows no national boundaries. Still, it’s nice to hear someone repping the smallest, most unsung region of Canada for a change. Ghettosocks is an artist that I’ve always thought more people should know about. Certain vintages of Canadian hip hop are an acquired taste. Ghettosocks remains one of the ones I am most proud to boast about. Those with whom I’ve shared his records have often asked why they’d never heard of him before. I tell them they’re looking too far west or even south for their hip hop. But regardless of where you are, I invite you to sit back in a warm, dimly lit room and let me pour you a glass of Cabernet while we nod our heads to the groove and let the season slip away.
Nerdcore royalty, Canadian pillar, wine enthusiast, & MC extraordinaire
After a couple of (virtual) spins of this excellent mixtape by Ghettosocks, I wondered how many other great Canadian emcees I was missing out on. His bio on Bandcamp led me to the CBC’s list of the 25 greatest Canadian rappers (from 2013) and the answer was “many.” In addition to Ghettosocks (#24), Rich Kidd (#16), K’naan (#11 — of Wavin’ Flag fame and originally from Somalia), Drake (#4), and Kardinal Offishall (#3), all the rest were unfamiliar to me. That even included the #1, Maestro, widely credited as the “Godfather of Canadian Hip Hop.” This is also a five-year-old list so who knows who has shouldered their way onto the list since then! Is there a podcast, blog, Spotify account or something I can follow so I don’t live in a current state of Canuck rap FOMO?!? All suggestions welcome, but let me make one of my own: get to Ghettosocks ASAP. His flow is smooth and varied, sometimes funny, sometimes introspective (with none of Drake’s loathsome self-pity), and sometimes tough. His secret weapon on this collection is producer Jon Deck, who matches every mood with perfect samples and beats. Even the interludes are fun, drawing from some unexpected sources, like one that hilariously snips out that Merlot scene from Sideways. Ghettosocks obviously has a wide range of interests, leading to songs that reference cultural landmarks from Austrian genius Gustav Klimt (“leaving prints on your girl’s walls, Gustav Klimt”) to the semi-classic cult horror flick C.H.U.D., where he gives guest rapper Swamp Thing a verse: “It’s the cannibal, underneath the manhole, comin’ out the sewer grates…” Fun stuff. A lot of the songs are short, a little sketchy in the way of mixtapes, but some are fully developed cuts. “I’m Loaded” is a standout, with a beautiful chorus and some creative word play, like the ill opening line: “Born out the baby duck, Lawrence of the labia,” or check this alliteration from the third verse: “Servant won’t serve me ’cause I’m surfin’ on the furniture.” Like the rest of the collection, nothing deep but it should get your synapses firing and your head nodding, which can be said for the whole of We’re Gonna Drink A Lot Of Wine This Year, Boys. Pop that cork.
First off, let me just say how pleased I am to see someone else pick a hip hop album for OYR. I’ve often thought “am I the only person on the roster that regularly listens to hip hop?” Apparently not. I have to admit that I did not have high expectations heading into the record. With a name like Ghettosocks, and a project centered around wine, I admittedly thought the album would be super nerdy, if not corny. It’s the opposite. Ghettosocks and DJ Jon Deck give us an extremely well executed concept album that plays more like a movie. This album is a perfect extension of the lineage of left-field concept albums put forth by greats like Prince Paul, MF Doom, and Kool Keith. The production is top notch, featuring many classic samples flipped in original ways. I was also really impressed by Ghettosocks’ precise flow and cadences. He’s everything you want in an emcee: great voice, skilled with the pen, a confident presence and delivery, but doesn’t take himself too seriously (it takes a sense of humor to make a rap song about getting fly in the thrift store). One thing that I’ve always disliked about hip hop is that most of the artists are so worried about “keeping it real” that they forget to have fun. It’s projects like this one that make me remember that it’s always ok to enjoy hip hop with a smile instead of a scowl.
I have four kids, and one of my favourite things about being a parent is introducing them to the things I love, in the hopes that they will also love them. I am by far the most successful with the oldest and the youngest, though I have to take differing approaches with each. With my 18 year old, I can just hand him something or play something for him, and say “here, you’ll like this,” and he pretty much always does. I have to take a sneakier approach with the 8 year old, and just play things around her while waiting for her to ask about it. My youngest son, though, is currently 11 and is exceptionally contrary. He rolls his eyes at me when I try to share things with him, and even when he actually digs them, the acceptance is grudging at best. For some reason, he has it in his head that all hip hop is the same and is unilaterally terrible. It doesn’t matter what I tell him, or what his brothers or his dad say, he thinks he’s right and he’s 11 so he knows these things, y’know? I decided to put on We’re Gonna Drink A Lot Of Wine this Year, Boys while I was making dinner to see how he’d react. He complained at first, but quieted down when I told him he had to deal. I was honestly expecting him to gripe at me the entire time, and was prepared to have to tell him to get over it multiple times, but I didn’t. I actually saw his head bobbing along a few times, most noticeably during “C.H.U.D. I Am” and “Keep It G.” Not only that, but he actually chuckled and said “okay, that was a good one” more than once during “Eight Ways” (probably my favourite track on the whole album), and we both got a big kick out of the interstitials from Sideways. Is he wholly converted now? Obviously not — he’s too stubborn to let one album change his mind completely. But it cracked open a door and I’ll take it.
50 Foot Pop Queenie
I’m not into wine. My step-family, however, is — especially my stepfather, who’s been a subscriber of Wine Spectator for decades (!). If I’m with them for a family gathering, though, I will have one glass to be social. I appreciate the skill in its creation and I get the social norms that accompany it. It’s just not my thing, that’s all. I’d just rather have water. I’m not into the skits on albums or mixtapes, either. Rarely are they funny or worth hearing more than once. To me, they’re largely an unnecessary use of space on a CD or a hard drive, and are more likely to break up momentum than add any real value. (The advent of mp3s and iTunes, thankfully, allowed me to cut them out and make “my own” version of an overstuffed album.) We’re Going To Drink A Lot Of Wine This Year, Boys managed to pique my interest in both. Ghettosocks’ affinity for the libation is what sells it, even when it may be the reason he’d say something like declaring he’s “Lawrence of the labia” (which, I have to admit, I did scoff/laugh at). A reference to Californication and an audio clip of Sideways only deepen the appeal of both GS as a wine lover and the mixtape itself as a singular work. And it’s a funny one, at that. Even a throwaway punchline like a friend drinking way too much which results in him barely able to “eat his burger like Hasselhoff” is laugh-out-loud funny. But the funniest bits are — shocker! — skits. The advertisement parody about a glass that holds an entire bottle of wine is a brilliant touch, as is the Check It Out! With Steve Brule clip. Their inclusion acts as a microcosm of the high-class/low-class dynamic throughout the tape. I may not care for wine all that much, but I might have to try listening to We’re Going To Drink with a (full) glass and see what happens.
Don’t let the wine distract you — Ghettosocks sits atop the thriving Canadian hip-hop scene with an impeccable flow.
The universally agreed-upon “golden age” of hip hop starts in the late ’80s and runs through the mid-’90s. I was listening to a lot of hip hop then, but I had a second period of immersion, a sort of personal “silver age,” in the early ’00s. It wasn’t the stuff in the mainstream of the genre that was catching my ear at that time; it was stuff happening a little below the surface, from the Def Jux label’s peak period (Cannibal Ox, Aesop Rock) to the Rhymesayers renaissance (Atmosphere, Eyedea & Abilities, Brother Ali) to the dense, sample-heavy work of a variety of disparate acts that all featured acclaimed DJ/producers behind the decks (Little Brother, Jurassic 5, Dilated Peoples, Blackalicious, and of course anything involving MF Doom). All of this stuff had in common a thick production sound based around funk and jazz samples over which rappers with dense, erudite flow constructed complicated rhyme schemes and laid down intricate acts of wordplay. Ghettosocks’ We’re Gonna Drink A Lot Of Wine This Year, Boys comes from about a decade after that personal era of walking around suburban neighborhoods listening to hip hop mixtapes on my Walkman (with no idea of the impending paradigm shift that would make me sound a million years old when I talk about this era), but Ghettosocks had been making records for a decade by the time he released it, and his work would have sounded perfect in my headphones back then, if I’d only known who he was. Blame Canada — the music of Ghettosocks’ home country is artificially inflated in importance within its borders due to the “CanCon” laws, but most of it never makes it south of the 49th parallel. Hearing this album today, I find myself missing that era of hip hop; songs like “Keep It G” and “Keep Goin’” remind me of my favorite moments on those early Dilated Peoples and Madvillain records, while “I’m Loaded“‘s smooth piano samples and George Michael-soundalike hook switching off with thudding low-end verses makes me feel like I’m listening to some long-lost Aesop Rock outtake. People call Ghettosocks nerdcore, and I guess I get it based on his personal appearance, but if anything, Del The Funky Homosapien had a nerdier presence in his early career — this dude is for real. I don’t play too much that sounds like this anymore, but Ghettosocks has me wanting to change that. Maybe I’ll start by checking out his other records. God knows I dug this one.
This album sounds like the lifelong achievement of that eccentric hipster you shared a dorm with in freshman year. Remember him? You know the guy, nice enough but he would make you wait around while he rolled his own cigarettes and he seemed to always pop up in group photos doing something a little strange, like drinking wine out of a Disney Princess cup or pretending to use your girlfriend’s cactus as a bong. Whether you loved him or found him irksome, I strongly feel that Ghettosocks is the epitome of this off-beat character and his 2012 release, We’re Gonna Drink A Lot Of Wine This Year, Boys being dedicated solely to the consumption of wine is my proof. I don’t know about you, but when I think of rap, I generally think of tough guys overcoming unjust circumstances in the face of adversity and this album couldn’t be any further away from that idea. But for me, that makes it so much more relatable. Let’s face it, most of us aren’t out there hustling every day and even if we were, the last thing you want to hear after a hard day out in the world is an album full of songs that reflect that harsh reality. I think Ghettosocks gets that. Ghettosocks just wants to crack open a bottle of sweet berry wine and inject some much-needed humor into the day to day grind. His humor is insightful and playful while his tone is relaxed and his careful words flow effortlessly over smooth easy-listening style instrumentals. Honestly, what more could you want?
Erin Calvert (@erinpcalvert)
Elder Goth In The Making
Rolling slowly down a deserted highway in a red, drop-top ’67 Camaro, his frosted tips dance in the wind, sun glinting off the rings and bracelets adorning his arms. Flames flicker across his shirt, complementing the light and dark of his goatee. Guiding us on a one-way ticket to Flavortown, Guy Fieri proclaims dish after dish across the nation as “killer,” solidifying his good-natured, if laughable, persona. Love him or hate him, the bro has his brand game on point; fans have known for years how to spot him in the sea of Food Network stars. It’s what we are supposed to strive for in our professional lives, that elevator version of ourselves, but there’s something delicious in the breaking of stereotypes that burns a personal brand across brains in a more fun, lasting way. Picking up this rap album enthusiastically titled We’re Gonna Drink A Lot Of Wine This Year, Boys gave an indication of that break in expectation, and the next 47 minutes don’t disappoint. A light-hearted riff reminiscent of 1960s sitcoms quickly breaks into a scratched record, bouncing hip hop beat over … wine pouring? a bong hit? before settling down into a fizzy beat, Ghettosocks’s raised lip vocals tripping over with ease. Mixed into lyrics that flow all over the place is a healthy amount of discussion about wine, with tongue in cheek, downright funny references featuring Dr. Steve Brule, no less. Ghettosocks’s heavy, persistent flow making rhymes with any reference available hangs over the kind of head-bobbing beats reminding one of late ’90s Deep South rap, his half sung, half rapped lyrics carrying the album throughout. Writing this with my customary glass of pinot noir in hand, let us raise a glass to an album unabashedly humorous, serious, and all business.
Laura Burroughs (@_thetwors)
Jestful Musical Erudite
With DJ Jon Deck behind the booth, Ghettosocks words and flows reach viral levels of enjoyment.
It almost feels like a disservice to refer to the many sound samples on this long-titled record as just that because, their presence isn’t just a typical sonic garnish but a thematic enhancement glazed over the slew of 20+ tracks. Ghettosocks’ raps take on a new dimension of narrative character with sounds that go beyond the classic vintage vinyl scratches and move to the chugging sounds of pouring wine, which feed into the actionable description of the album title. On the other hand, even though the thought of massive wine consumption is literally written on the cover art, the recurring mention of drunkenness, hangovers, and alcohol in general seems like an underuse of the esteemed rapper’s creative potential — especially when it’s in track presentation. A track like “Hurtin’,” for example, started out with a recording quality and content of speech that makes it sound like the listener is in for a candid, off-the-record style bit of conversational B-roll. And while that’s true to a point, this “point” only lasts a handful of seconds, before the tracks dives head first into a traditional rap delivery and talks of beers and the regret of hangover symptoms (“Yo, keep it down Cho, this headache I got’s splittin’ / And why you even up here? / Cause my stomach’s upset / If I don’t get some food in it, I’ll be better off dead”). Many of the other instrumental hallmarks of a classic hip-hop record remain; layered strings, electronic drum sounds, studio piano, and phase reversal are abound and the plethora of guest artists makes for a vocally interesting and multi-textured listening experience, as opposed to hearing one person’s manner of rapping and speaking over this many tracks, in one sitting. If nothing else, I might just say it’s frustrating to frequently see densely packed works likes this that seem to have so much they want to say and show but then leave no trace of things like liner notes and lyrics for a little listener support when diving in for the first time. If words are the lifeblood of rap and rap is a staple of hip-hop, why not illuminate them? And on a completely separate note, if I could ask Ghettosocks one question that’s derived from listening to this album, I’d want to know which of Gustav Klimt’s artworks is his favorite. Klimt isn’t all that well known to the average art consumer and his name popping up as a track title definitely served as one of my more intrigued moments.
In his song “Comfy In Nautica,” which kicks off the masterful Person Pitch album, Animal Collective’s Panda Bear sings that “Coolness is having courage / Courage to do what’s right.” If only I’d had access to that advice in middle school. Sigh. In all seriousness, there’s an important message there, and I think about those lyrics at least a few times a week. Legitimacy really does come from a place that’s grounded and truthful. I don’t know if Darren Pyper is a Panda Bear fan, but I’m certain they’re on the same page when it comes to cred. Throughout, the We’re Gonna Drink A Lot Of Wine This Year, Boys mixtape illustrates how central honesty is to the Ghettosocks narrative voice. You hear self-deprecation in several spots, like in “Grapez,” when he says, “While they idolize Tony Montana / I’m trying to formulate a plan to conquer mañana,” and in “Gustav Klimt,” when he confesses, “True story living poorly off of coupon clips.” Elsewhere in “Gustav Klimt,” Pyper addresses truth directly: “Not hating just laughing / Your tune’s off-pitch / It’s up to you to choose / We the truth y’all missed.” I hadn’t heard the term “nerdcore” before this week, but this 2014 interview with Noisey makes clear he’s not uncomfortable with being linked to the subgenre. When asked about how nerdcore defies hip-hop conventions, the bespectacled rapper referenced the abundance of clichés in the mainstream, and how “it’s a good thing to have music out there that zigs, while the other zags.” I couldn’t agree more, because I have tremendous respect for the directness and openness of We’re Gonna Drink A Lot Of Wine This Year, Boys. It feels effortlessly right, which, judging by The Panda Bear Doctrine, makes Ghettosocks pretty damn cool in my book, irrespective of spectacles.
I listened to this mixtape once through. And I was left without words. So I hit play again. And that was when I started to get a handle on all of the connections being made here. I understand sampling. I understand interpolation of hooks. I understand putting clips from TV and movies to set a mood. But Ghettosocks and DJ Jon Deck somehow take all of these elements, close their fists around them, and then pull them from behind my ear as if they’d been there the whole time. There are sections from a Paul Giamatti movie and Adult Swim sketch show, Wu-Tang and Motown samples and interpolations. It’s all very impressive, but perhaps the most impressive thing is that the verses don’t suffer from all of that going into production. These two elements are strong individually, but their synergy on this mixtape is undeniable. It’s a fascinating listen and I can personally attest that it improves upon re-listening. So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go dive back in.
I think people get too hung up on being able to relate to a piece of art. Music, film, paintings — it doesn’t matter what. We might appreciate the technical skill, and be wowed by it, but we hold back some of our acclaim because its theme or message falls outside our own sphere of influence. We can appreciate it for what it is, but nothing more it seems. I can see exactly why this happens too. Many of my all-time favorite records fall into my own sphere of influence, overflowing with songs that helped guide me in life, put into words and notes feelings I never could have expressed otherwise, or helped open my eyes to new experiences and perspectives. But if I’m looking at my list of favorite records, there’s some in there that fall completely out of that purview. There are some record that are enjoyable for no discernible reason, exhilarating just for the foreign aspect. A unique approach that burrows its way into my mind not of escapism, but more of sonic sensation. And that sensation doesn’t just illicit the mundane “wow” that you would give when seeing someone impressively shred on a guitar or hitting notes with their voice beyond your wildest imagination. It’s such a “wow” that it resonates and excites in the same exact way that a profound thought wrapped around a picture-perfect melody would. Case in point is this week’s record — a Canadian hip-hop mixtape that talks about drinking wine copiously, all things that don’t apply to me. I don’t drink wine. I don’t drink alcohol copiously anymore really. Despite knowing the difference between a mixtape and album, I still don’t understand a mixtape’s role in the modern music world. I’m not even Canadian, though clearly that doesn’t really matter except to fulfil my literary thought. But Ghettosocks’ mixtape is so enjoyable that it transcends all of the things I don’t have in common with it and makes me find stuff to relate to in it. The witty banter, the excellent beats, the absurd flow, the admirable dedication, and the execution which feels haphazard at times, but has to be meticulous by the way it all unfolds. If it feels like I’m being to clinical or analytical about a frivolous rap record, well… good. Why can’t we embrace the silliness of life in an artsy way? Why is it we can find a million brilliant things to write about a Christopher Nolan or Sofia Coppola film, but can only write down some version of “funny” and “charming” when discussing Nora Ephron or Ivan Reitman? I’m not trying to say comparing Ghettorocks to Nolan or Coppola is absurd, but more so that he’s clearly a talented rapper capable of performing at high level in the world of a Nolan or Coppola, merely for the fact that he so gloriously performs in the worlds of Ephron and Reitman. And trust me — this performance is every bit of the definition of “glorious,” whether you want to raise a glass of wine in support or just hit play again once it hits the end.
Highway To Hangovers by Bourbon Crow
Chosen By Steve Lampiris