It Takes Big Balls to Last in Hip Hop: Vancouver MC Greg Beamish Tells All
Everything You Needed To Know About Weed, Drake, Chad Kroeger and your Career in Hip Hop. Greg Beamish has the answers...and the weed.
Vancity MC Greg Beamish was introduced to me by Vancouver music scene mainstay Christian Flores (one of my favorite Vancity DJs and hip hop specialists). Christian described Greg as “a hilarious and solid dude, easily one of the most consistent hip hop artists over the past few years in Vancouver.” With a recommendation like that, I was very interested to hear Greg’s latest release Disposable Income. (Although I must note that when I asked Christian for “a funny question I can ask Greg that will fuck with his head a bit,” Flores declined to comment.)
I get a lot of emails from local bands asking for interviews and sometimes it takes me a while to listen to a record and write some questions. Greg Beamish was not going to let things slide. I got many follow up emails and even some assertive but cheery phone call reminders to make sure this interview happened. I had to admire the man’s hustle. You get the feeling that Beamish is a funny guy to talk to outside a show while sharing some herb.
In between puffs, local MC Greg Beamish answers my questions.
Scott Wood: You've opened for a lot of big names including Action Bronson, Redman, Ghostface Killah (twice), Dogg Pound, Dirt Nasty (twice), Mickey Avalon, Black Moon, Digital Underground and T-Pain. Can you pick one of those guys and talk about what you love about them?Always have weed on you at work... just in case Chad Kroeger shows up. Don't blow it like I did.
Greg Beamish: Throughout my career so far I've been fortunate enough to get the opportunity to perform alongside some great artists. I've also opened for T-Pain. Redman has always been one of, if not, my favourite emcee. Period. I just like how he uses a lot of humour in his raps at the same time he flexes some skill and doesn't appear to take the music industry stuff too seriously. I think he was always sort of an underdog too, which is something I could always relate to. His live shows are amazing as well. I've actually got to open for him twice now. Both shows were crazy!
Scott Wood: Your track “Chad Kroeger Money” celebrates the Nickelback lead singer's financial dominance. Kroeger once bought my friend (and a complete stranger) a drink at Brandi's (Vancouver’s upscale peeler bar). If Kroeger did the same for you, what would you want to talk about?
Greg Beamish: He seems like the type of guy that would totally buy a drink for a complete stranger at a strip club! If he bought me a drink at Brandi's I'd ask him, "Hey Chad, who do you think is hotter, Avril [Lavigne, his wife] or that stripper over there?" Then, I'd ask him if he remembered that real handsome waiter in Yaletown last year that he said "smelled like weed but didn't have any" for him.This battle-hardened linguistic skill comes in handy all the time these days during arguments with friends and family and girlfriends...and girlfriend's families.
Chad Kroeger never bought me a drink before, but I did serve him a drink one time at a bar I used to work at! I saw him buying drinks for people and he seemed like a pretty dope guy at the time. So in my head I was like "Whoa, Chad Kroeger is fuckin' cool!" But then I guess my shirt smelled like weed or something because all of a sudden he said to me, "Hey, you smell like weed, dude."
I guess he was disappointed when I said, "I'm sorry I don't have any." Feeling quite sheepish, later on he put his hand on my shoulder and said it was "all good bro." But I could see it in his eyes that I had truly let him down. Lesson kids: Always have weed on you at work. Don't smoke it out back with the dishwasher, just in case Chad Kroeger shows up. Could be your big chance. Don't blow it like I did.
Scott Wood: I'm a fan, but some people feel that Toronto rap superstar Drake is contributing to the feminization of rap. What do you think?
Greg Beamish: Yeah I like Drake too. He's a good Canadian boy. I bought all the Drake albums on iTunes. I'm a real fan. They need to have one of those Canadian Heritage Moment things featuring him and the lint roller. But I'd agree he might be contributing to the feminization of rap. However I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. It's cool to have female fans. A lot of rap shows having nothing but dudes in attendance. I like having a lot of girls at the shows because then more people come out and everyone has a good time. I empathize with Drake in a way that together we walk a fine line between appeasing both the ladies and the serious hip hop heads.
I think Drake has the right idea. Get the girls down, and then all the guys buy tickets to the shows because all the chicks are into it. That's probably one of those things Drake picked up from me after creeping my Facebook page over the years. I think I influenced him a little there. He saw the way I gave away tickets to the hot girls, which brings all the brothers out the woodwork. He caught onto that. He's a smart guy. It's all love Drizzy, I'll let you have that one. Vancity to TO, bro.
Scott Wood: In your recent release Disposable Income, you name drop all sorts of famous local Vancouver British Columbia heroes. Chad Kroeger from Nickelback and cancer crusading hero Terry Fox, to name two. There are a few I can think of that you've missed... Pamela Anderson, Michael Bublé and Michael J. Fox. Which BC hero would you want to tribute next and why?If you frequent Vancouver hip hop shows, you'd know there's going to be a lot of people smoking weed in the audience. I'm used to it being all hazy on stage.
Greg Beamish: It's true; on Disposable Income, I gave a musical tribute to a selection of local heroes, some regional icons which I consider influential. You mentioned a few notables, all strong candidates. But on the upcoming album, instead of simply doing a tribute, I decided to go one step further. The next time around I'm actually going to bring in some of these individuals to record as featured artists on their own tribute song on my album.
For example, David Suzuki is actually going to rap on my next project. He's on a song we did with Treach called "The Naughty By Nature of Things." We're also in talks right now with Bryan Adams about shooting a feature film, coming of age comedy "Waking Up Tha Neighbours 2." That's going to be accompanied by the soundtrack. We've actually already laid down some vocals for what could be a lead single and I must say, I really like what I've been hearing so far. I've got The Man In Motion, himself Rick Hansen, rolling through to record some drops. He's keeping it moving, turning out some nice stuff. My Lilith Fair shorty, Sarah McLachlan she's got bars. Diana Krall is coming in dropping heaters. Who else? Jim Pattison expressed interest in funding the project and maybe spitting a sixteen on the album. He's a big endorsement. By the way, David Foster is signed on to produce the whole thing, he's a BC boy. There's a lot of BC love here, Scott. Also, recently I've been hanging around a lot with Ryan Reynolds. Ha hah heh.
Scott Wood: I've read you used to be local battle rapper, but have retired. Does this skill ever come in handy nowadays? When?
Greg Beamish: Yeah, I used to enter a lot of freestyle battles when I was getting started in hip hop. You heard I retired? When I do retire for real I plan on living half the year at a timeshare in Clearwater, Florida. I might enter another battle again someday though.
But yeah, that skill is handy nowadays with my live shows. Basically, with just being comfortable on stage—reacting to things that happen in the audience and incorporating that into the performance. Not to mention, this battle-hardened linguistic skill comes in handy all the time these days during arguments with friends and family and girlfriends...and girlfriend's families.
Scott Wood: Presumably when Greg Beamish battle raps, he shoots to kill. Vancouver's music scene can be small. Did some of your battle rap competitor's ever hold grudges? What's that like when you run into him/her at a show?If smoking weed is fucking you up to the point where you can't get your shit done, don't bother cutting back. Just switch to Sativa!
Greg Beamish: You're presumptions regarding my battle raps are spot-on, Scott. I shot, and will continue to, shoot to kill. Everything . You're also right about the music scene in Vancouver. It's pretty small. Especially the hip hop scene and even more-so, the battle rap scene. Everyone definitely knew their competitors pretty well for the most part back then. Granted when I was entering battles, this was 2006/2007 before Facebook had really caught on and you could dig up the serious dirt on your opponent. I remember saying some pretty wild stuff though!
I also remember my friend Aspire and this dude Manik always having crazy battles that made for some pretty entertaining drama. It was kind of like WWF. I was like [wrestler/manager/color commentator] Ted DiBiase. Not sure if I said anything that would make anyone hold a grudge though?
One guy actually told me that I beat him at the 604 Hip Hop Expo battle way back and that inspired him to pursue a career in rap or something? Which is crazy, because the dude turned out to be Matt Brevner—for those that don't know his name, the guy is killing it right now. So I took that as a compliment. On the other hand, not sure if it's a grudge or not, there's another notable Vancouver emcee I bested in a past battle who constantly mentions it every time we run into each other. So, basically I was every established Vancity rapper’s stepping-stone from battles into legitimate musical careers. You had to go through me to get to the top. Ha hah heh.
Scott Wood: As a music critic and fan, people should be supportive, as supportive as possible, because you know how HARD it is to make it as a musician/performer/rapper (especially in Canada), but too much support can make music writing bland. Let's not forget even a rapper anyone thinks is shitty is putting in a lot of work to get their music on front of the world's eyes. A lot of sacrifice. Hip hop has a particular history of "calling people out." A local hip hop blog, StirThePotVancouver, recently published a list of the top 15 worst Vancouver rap videos. What are your thoughts about this?
Greg Beamish: People should realize that early on in a career everyone's stuff is going to suck. Some will get better, but others will continue to suck. In either case, those that are involved in hip hop should expect some harsh criticism along the way. That's why I never put my stuff out there expecting everyone to like it. You gotta have a thick skin. It's not for everyone. Especially nowadays with all these disgruntled hip hop, internet-bullies out there.
What I'm saying is I don't think that someone who's learning guitar and playing guitar recitals is exposed to the same degree of online criticism compared to someone that is learning to rap. But, that's the breaks. And unfortunately not everyone notices or gives a shit about all the hard work and sacrifice that someone may have put in.
People can say whatever the hell they want about my music online. I don't care, I'm awesome! I'm Greg Beamish. If some punk behind a keyboard isn't feeling my stuff, they have the right to say whatever, but at the same time they can also eat shit! Ha hah heh. I'm out here putting my face and my real name on the internet for the world to critique, in a day and age where any jackass with too much free time and a Blogger account can come and try to slander everything I've worked for. I think that takes some serious balls to put yourself out there like that.
I realize this is a bit of a rant but I thought it was too funny not to say: Unlike some anonymous netthug with no credibility, that's obsessed with little rap boys and spends all his time making shitty blogs about amateur music videos that he thinks suck because he's jealous and he hates himself because he's obviously just a washed-up, piece of crap with some broken dreams. Ha hah heh.
Scott Wood: Back in November 2013, you performed shows in Tokyo and Osaka, Japan in support for Disposable Income. What was the biggest difference between Japanese audiences and Vancity crowds?
Greg Beamish: The biggest difference between Vancity and Japan is that there are a lot less Chinese people and a lot more Japanese people! Ha hah heh. Second biggest difference from Vancouver is that the Japanese audience isn't all completely stoned! If you frequent Vancouver hip hop shows, you'd know there's going to be a lot of people smoking weed in the audience. I'm used to it being all hazy on stage. Not the case in Japan—except for the fog machines. Weed is super illegal there, so it's not worth the risk for people to smoke it at concerts. So due to the lack of chronic, the crowd was a little more engaged. Or maybe it just seemed that way to me, because I, myself, wasn't stoned for once?
It's apparent that there also was some sort of language barrier there. Obviously, the fans, for the most part, didn't know what the hell I was saying, but they seemed cool with it either way. They were just getting into the vibe and flow of the music—not dissecting the lyrical content, which is good for me because my stuff's mostly filler anyways! Ha hah heh. Which reminds me, they love the word “motherfucker!” The people in Tokyo, Osaka and all over the country were amazing. I can't wait to tour Japan again. I love it there!
Shout out to the Harajuku Crew! Beamish is coming back!
Scott Wood: What's your biggest opportunity for growth as an emcee?
Greg Beamish: That's a good question, Scott. Glad you asked. As an emcee, I see an opportunity for growth in three areas: song writing, musical composition and live performances.
As far as song writing, I want to progress my lyrics into more personal topics about past experiences. I've had a lot of crazy stuff happen to me with my family. My mom passed away at young age. So far, I haven't translated that into my music as much as I'd like to, which to this point has been strictly reserved for party-rocking. I’ll always make party-friendly tracks; I just want to bring more options to the table for my listeners.Those that are involved in hip hop should expect some harsh criticism along the way. You gotta have a thick skin.
As far as the music goes, I want to push the recording quality as far as I can: using the best microphone I can get, the best pre-amp I can get, using more analog gear and incorporating more live studio musicians. My homey Stroker Deluca is an awesome engineer and he recorded some live guitar on the Disposable Income album. I want to continue to progress with more stuff like that.
In terms of live performances, I think's it's just about evolving. Utilizing whatever buzz I've obtained from my local shows and taking that and building on the road. Transitioning from bars and clubs into tours and festivals. I've already had a good start in touring Japan and that's really where I see a large opportunity for growth: marketing myself as an artist in Asia and places abroad.
Scott Wood: You talk a lot about your love of smoking pot in your lyrics. Starting a career in music can take a lot of work. What's a tip to being a huge pothead, but getting shit done?
Greg Beamish: Hey Scott, all this pot dialogue might make it harder for me to get into Asia to tour the next time around. Ha hah heh. You're right though, starting a music career can take a lot of hard work. But it can also take a lot of pot smoking. I've always been one of those people that have been able to smoke a ton of weed and still get my shit done.
I attribute it to growing up as an athlete. I had a real competitive spirit and was dedicated to whatever I was doing. Once I discovered smoking pot, I never let it keep me away from doing what I love, which was being an athlete that smokes pot. However, I did let it keep me away from what I didn't love, which was school. For some reason I never ended up becoming a professional athlete. I don't blame it on smoking weed though. I blame it on politics.
Anyways, what I'm saying is if you enjoy something enough you're not going to let your little habits interfere with it. Now that I'm involved in music I keep the same mentality. It's a labour of love. I don't let weed impede my progress. If it did I would probably stop smoking it. And simply start ingesting it!
Luckily, I'm pursuing a career where smoking pot doesn't interfere too much with my current endeavour as a pot-smoking rapper. My tip for the huge pothead trying to get shit done is this: Write everything down and drink a lot of coffee. Don't blame stupidity on weed. If smoking weed is fucking you up to the point where you can't get your shit done, don't bother cutting back. Just switch to Sativa!
Scott Wood: Thanks for answering my questions! Could you please introduce your favourite Greg Beamish video?
Greg Beamish: No sweat, Scott. It was a pleasure answering them! This is my favourite video of mine that's out right now. It was directed by Nick Van Berkel and features some hilarious scenes filmed on one of Vancouver's most famous streets. (I also have some more videos in the works that are yet to be released. Including one that was filmed in Tokyo, Japan by Santa Nakamura from VICE! So stay tuned for that.)
In the meantime, here's “Walking Down Robson!”
Find more about Greg Beamish online.
The Interview Show is everywhere.
www.cjsf.ca (Vancouver, BC, Mondays 4:30-5pm PST and Wednesdays 12:30am PST)
www.ckdu.ca (Halifax, NS, Saturdays 1:30-2:00am AST)
www.radiocfxu.ca (Campus Community Radio, Antigonish, NS, Fridays 11pm-12am AST)
www.cfru.ca (University of Guelph Radio, ON, Tuesdays 3pm EST)
www.umfm.com (Winnipeg’s Hit Free Radio, Fridays 6-6:30pm CST)
www.caperradio.com (Cape Breton University Radio, NS, Wednesdays 3-3:30pm AST)
www.localfm.ca (Campus Radio Saint John Inc., NB, Tuesdays 11:30am and Fridays 3:30pm AST)