Sinzere’s self-education; Calgary artist uses hip-hop as an avenue for change, self-discovery and education


The first track of Sinzere’s debut, Tabula Rasa, begins with a dramatic spoken introduction.

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Appropriately named The Mission, it begins somewhat cryptically. With her voice full of purpose, Sinzere discusses the meaning of the number 13 before referencing American abolitionist Harriet Tubman and outlining the historical, spiritual and personal ambitions of her first full-length album.

“Come in and enjoy the ride… Tabula Rasa,” he says before the song transforms into a sublime rap with Tom Waits-ian piano and lyrics that go back centuries as he addresses the oppression of the African diaspora.

It’s a suitably epic opening for an artist who’s become known for her epic leanings over the years. But Sinzere says that she sees this album, which comes out on August 5, as a new chapter.

“It started with me on this journey in search of myself that ultimately led me to this diaspora journey,” she says in an interview with Postmedia from her home in Calgary. “I had to unlearn a lot of the things that I learned through the education that we received here in Canada or just in the western part of the world. I started to learn about these things about African prosperity and I started to learn a lot about the atrocities and a lot about the plots and the schemes and the conspiracies against the diaspora to take them out of who we really are.”

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On Tricky, a bold centerpiece of the album, Sinzere manages to cover black-on-black violence and self-hatred, Rasta spirituality, the plundering of Africa’s resources, slavery, lynchings, and church bombings. in the American South and institutional racism in a lively burst of rhyme that lasts less than three minutes.

It was all the result of Sinzere’s self-education, a deep immersion in Africa’s rich history that led her to delve into everything from the work of scholars like Marcus Garvey and the controversial historian Yosef Ben-Jochannan to investigating the prosperity and often overlooked contributions made by the Mali Empire and the Ashanti Empire to world trade.

“There was so much I didn’t know about my story, which was ultimately why I didn’t know myself,” says Sinzere, who will play in Broken City on August 6.

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Tabula Rasa is Latin for clean slate, based on the theory that human beings are not born with any innate knowledge and it must be built through experience, insight and education. While Sinzere has been a prolific artist for 15 years and has never shied away from ambitious projects and proclamations, her 2019 EP Ghetto Gabby was a semi-autobiographical “hip-hopera” concept album and Tabula Rasa’s press release describes her as “Canada’s female response to Kendrick Lamar,” says she has spent the last few years reinventing herself and her music.

“I had to erase any preconceived notions of myself, just clear the canvas so I could start over, so I could start over and renew my spirit,” she says. “On this journey of renewal, I had to rediscover myself as a woman, as a black woman, and I also had to rediscover my story through this, which woke me up to so many things about myself that I didn’t know.”

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Sincere’s mother grew up in Jamaica and her father is from Barbados. She ran away from a somewhat unstable home in Calgary by discovering poetry, which led her to DJing and eventually hip-hop. Her profile has steadily increased in recent years. She followed up well-received energetic ensembles at Femme Wave and Sled Island making her debut at the Calgary Folk Music Festival a few weeks ago. In 2021, she landed sync licensing deals that brought her music to CBC’s The Block. and Diggstown and a Sport Chek commercial.

Recorded at the National Music Center with American artist Epik the Dawn producing remotely, Tabula Rasa contains various styles, from the soulful R&B of the piano ballad Uninspired, to the hard-boiled reggae vibe of Generation Degenerate and the soulful intro. soft to Change.

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But while the album may represent a slate-cleaning journey of self-discovery for Sinzere, he says it’s also meant to resonate on a larger scale through educating people about their history and the long-term ramifications of oppression and the racism.

“When hip-hop was born, it was an outlet for people from the poorest communities; the only means for them to send the message to the world of what was happening to them,” says Sinzere. “It was also the only outlet for the young artists of the time, the golden age of hip-hop, who were self-taught and self-taught, The Five Percenters, who knew their stories and were able to take their messages and report back. their community through hip-hop. So, being such a fan of hip-hop and an advocate of hip-hop… ultimately, it was natural for me in my evolution to say these truths. I am a speaker of truth. In many older catalogues, you can see my evolution learning more about myself and then using hip-hop as a medium to connect with young people and tell them these stories.”

Spotlight: Sincere will play Broken City on August 6 at 8pm

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