Spirit of Hip Hop: Elements
David Strickland’s collaborative 2020 project, Spirit of Hip-Hop, was a landmark meeting of up-and-coming Indigenous MCs and the old-school rap stars that the Toronto producer/engineer has counted as clients over his decades-long career. On this equally epic and guest-heavy sequel, Strickland burrows deeper into the symbiotic relationship between hip-hop and the Indigenous experience by exploring the shared theme of “elements” in both cultures. On the one hand, Elements nurtures hip-hop’s eternal flame by giving veterans like Saukrates and Divine Brown the space to show the young’uns how it’s done. (“I’m the queen of the north,” the latter spits over the scratched-up, spine-cracking beats of “Beastmode,” and no one’s going to argue with that.) But it also shows how that outsider spirit has been embraced by new-school Indigenous rappers like Que Rock and Aspects, who roll up the smoking-themed metaphors of tracks like “Firekeepers” and “LVL Up,” respectively, into anthems of resistance and resilience. All of the album’s inter-connected threads culminate in the empowering posse cut “Stand Up,” a no-holds-barred account of the socioeconomic and environmental hardships faced by Indigenous people, but one that’s nonetheless brimming with hope for a brighter future.