Black History Month

Black History Month is an opportunity for us to celebrate the contributions that people of African descent have made to our society. This is a chance for us to reflect on their achievements, and for all of us to continue learning about Black history in Canada and around the world.

In this spirit, the Roundhouse Youth Council created a display for the Roundhouse foyer, particularly highlighting Black artists. If you don’t have a chance to visit the Roundhouse to view it in person, read below to see who the youth chose to shine a spotlight on. Thank you to the Youth Council for curating this thoughtful exhibition.

Oscar Peterson, Canadian Jazz Pianist

Oscar Peterson, born in Montreal in 1925, was one of Canada’s most renowned musicians and regarded as one of the greatest jazz pianists of all time. He was known for his ornate improvisation, brilliant virtuosity, and remarkable dexterity while playing. Recording multiple albums a year, from 1950 until his death, he was featured in more than 200 albums by jazz legends such as Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, and Louis Armstrong. A prolific music educator and advocate for racial equality, Peterson was the recipient of the first Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement, as well as seven Grammy Awards.

“If you have something to say of any worth, then people will listen to you.”

Grandmaster Flash, Barbadian DJ

It’s near impossible to spotlight just one single figure who revolutionised hip hop music. DJs, rappers and producers like Dr Dre, The Notorious B.I.G., Tupac Shakur, Afrika Bambaataa and Rakim all deserve their dues for helping shape the genre into what it is today, but for the purposes of this list of the most influential Black musicians, we’re highlighting Joseph Saddler, more commonly known as Grandmaster Flash. His pioneering work in the 70s and 80s – which included inventing the scratching technique – helped lay the groundwork for all the hip hop artists who followed. Featuring seven minutes of incredible rapping over a funk-infused beat, the 1982 cut “The Message”, released by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, remains one of the greatest hip hop tracks of all time. And it had a message, too, pushing hip hop into realms of social commentary. In 2007, the group became the first hip hop collective to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

“Conquer your neighbourhood, conquer your city, conquer your country, and then go after the rest of the world. That’s my mantra.”

Bob Marley, Jamaican Singer/Songwriter

Marley was born in 1945, growing up in extreme poverty, living in the ghettos of Jamaica. He found his escape from the violence in music, and eventually rose to superstardom, in his music, and his teachings in peace. He possessed a musical skill and because of his childhood had a mindset to make a change in Jamaica and the world.

Bob Marley took the world by storm in the 60s and 70s. As leader of The Wailers, his music was not just passionate, groove-filled and catchy to listen to, it also carried real-world messages. Such songs as “Get Up”, “Stand Up” and “Redemption Song” helped spread a message of unity and peace in divided times, as Marley taught the world about the Rastafarian movement. Continuing to inspire generation after generation, they remain as relevant now as they did upon first release.

“Life is one big road with lots of signs. So when you riding through the ruts, don’t complicate your mind. Flee from hate, mischief and jealousy. Don’t bury your thoughts, put your vision to reality. Wake up and live!”

Aretha Franklin, American Singer/Songwriter

When Aretha Franklin passed away, in 2018, the world lost a true legend of soul music. Hits such as “Respect”, “(You Make Me Feel Like) a Natural Woman” and “I Say a Little Prayer”, and albums such as I Never Loved a Man the Way I Loved You and Lady Soul, helped make her name as one of the best 60s female singers. But, they only scratch the surface of an incredible discography that earns Franklin her place among the world’s most influential Black musicians. There was a strong connection to gospel music throughout her work, as her musical journey saw her start off singing in her father’s church and touring as part of his “gospel caravan”. In her long and illustrious career, Franklin took her gospel roots and interpolated them into other genres, among them jazz, R&B, blues and even rock’n’roll. Her influence is clear to see not only in modern-day acts like Ariana Grande, who performed at the late soul icon’s funeral, but also in other genres like country music.

“Music does a lot of things for a lot of people. It’s transporting, for sure. It can take you right back, years back, to the very moment certain things happened in your life. It’s uplifting, it’s encouraging, it’s strengthening”

Ed Smith, American Video Game Pioneer

Ed Smith is one of the first African-American programmers in the video game industry. He was part of APF Electronics, Inc. in the 70s, and played a huge role in designing the core element of the companies electric business. They released The Imagination Machine, a hybrid video game console and personal computer designed to make a player’s first experience with computing as painless and inexpensive as possible. Though none of their productions ever rivalled Apple or Atari, APF Electronics, Inc continues to remain historically important because of Ed Smith’s participation.

Ed Smith has been married for over 40 years, and his children are grown up with their own families. He wrote a book on his experiences from childhood, working as part of the engineer team, and how to become one. Benji Edwards, who wrote the preface of the book (Imagine It!) and Ed Smith met up again in 2018. The two played games together and Smith showed Edwards one of a handful of Imagination Machine IIs still in existence.

“Video game interaction has no color, no language barrier, no judgement.”

Taylor K. Shaw, American Animator, CEO, Activist

Taylor K. Shaw is the founder and CEO of the studio Black Women Animate. She got the idea of creating her own creation company when she was in the middle of producing her own animated series about black women. To complete this project, Shaw was in need of more Black women animators for their skills and their experiences as Black women. However, it was not easy to find and recruit these people. During that time, it was harder to get in contact with people with no formal network. This is when she thought of making her own studio.

Creating a production company specifically for Black women animators meant giving them more opportunities and to get their support for her upcoming projects. All the members of the studio gave their all for their art, and on October 20, 2018, Cartoon Network partnered and hosted the Black Women Animate’s first Boot Camp Training Day. With the thorough training the members went through, it helped improve their skills and gave them more strength to face the ever-growing industry of animation.

“There would be maybe one Black girl in a series, and the way she was represented, the way she spoke, the way that she was — it meant something to me. It really mattered.”

Benny Bing, Canadian Visual Artist

Benny Bing is a contemporary Canadian artist of Nigerian descent. His vibrant hues embrace the complexities of race while highlighting the uniqueness amongst us all. As a self-taught artist, he takes pride in shaping the way we view ethnicity and identity, while emphasizing a positive representation of Black women in his work. The CBC named Benny an “influential Black Canadian who is expanding and redefining black representation”. He has shown in several major solo shows and group exhibitions and has produced commissions for Dave Chappelle, The Weeknd and Milos Raonic. He serves as a Board director for Toronto Artscape, Inc., a not-for-profit organization which represents communities of artists and arts organizations on issues that affect their ability to live, create and earn a sustainable living.

“The act of painting is a conversation between the work and me. My creative output is constantly evolving. Each piece pushes me against limitations and boundaries I’ve given myself, consciously or unconsciously, inspiring and forcing growth and a break from comfort, allowing exploration of self-discovery and boundless vision.”

Sidney Poitier, American Actor

Sidney Poitier’s prolific acting career in the 1950s and 60s was instrumental in blazing new trails for African Americans in the field. As a young actor, he was pitted against the harsh, discriminatory conditions of Hollywood at the time, struggling to find prominent roles dominated by mostly white actors. However, through his dedication and advocacy, he landed himself in several lead roles and became the first black man to win Best Actor at the Oscars (Lilies of the Field, 1963). Going on to work as a director and producer from the 70s until his recent death this year, he broke down societal barriers, inspiring and creating opportunities for a whole new generation of actors.

“I am the me I choose to be.”

Stevie Wonder, American Musician

Stevie Wonder is a one-of-a-kind musician. Despite losing his eyesight at a young age, by 13 he would become the youngest artist to top the Billboard charts, and he’s still creating brilliant music. Wonder was always on the cusp of the latest trends and music technology. Performing almost as a one-man band, he was also one of the first musicians to experiment with sampling, synthesisers and vocoders. He has a talent for blending R&B, electronica, pop, soul, funk and jazz, and he even influenced hip hop. Throughout his career, he’s used his platform to support various important causes: he was one of the leading campaigners to make Martin Luther King, Jr,’s birthday a national holiday in the US, and in 2020 he released two politically charged singles in support of another wave of Black Lives Matter protests.

“When you’re moving in the positive, your destination is the brightest star.”

Amanda Parris, Canadian Writer, Reporter

Amanda Parris is a Canadian broadcaster and writer. An arts reporter and producer for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, she hosts the CBC Television series Exhibitionists, The Filmmakers and From the Vaults, and the CBC Music radio series Marvin’s Room. She was cohost with Tom Power of the 2016 Polaris Music Prize ceremony, and she writes the weekly column “Black Light” for CBC Arts.

Her debut as a theatrical playwright was staged by Toronto’s Obsidian Theatre and Cahoots Theatre in 2017. After it was published in book form, it won the Governor General’s Award for English-language drama at the 2019 Governor General’s Awards. She later released The Death News, a short, filmed, stage monodrama set in the near-future where premature Black death is an inevitability. The Death News responds to the question, “What is the future of Blackness?” Parris was inspired by TV and radio broadcasts in Grenada, where hosts provide information on who has died and funeral details. Parris imagined her work as a tool of resistance to mainstream media and its failure to tell nuanced stories of Black people.

“What if your pillow could collect your dreams, and when you wake up you plug it in to your computer and watch them all over again.”

Luther Brown, Canadian Choreographer

Luther Brown channeled his creative energy and innovative vision and transformed the formerly unknown Toronto urban dance community into the thriving industry it is today. Of Jamaican descent, Luther grew up in a household where music and the arts were a part of daily living. As a child, he quickly adapted an ear for music through assisting his father on the Toronto based radio show, The Caribbean Crucible on CHRY 105.5. His love for the arts continued to develop throughout high school as he formed and ran numerous dance and step teams, while at the same time expressing himself creatively through pen and pad as a songwriter. His exceptional work speaks for itself, and, as a result, has allowed him to work with world-renowned artists such as Nicki Minaj, Diddy, Janet Jackson, Alicia Keys, Brandy, Shawn Desman, Keshia Chante, Jully Black and many more. His natural ability to create a warm, friendly working environment has gained him the utmost respect from artists, fellow choreographers and dancers throughout the world.

“You can’t get full time results from part time efforts.”

Desmond Cole, Canadian Author, Activist

Desmond Cole, a Canadian journalist, activist, author, and broadcaster, was born in Red Deer, Alberta. At 22, he moved to Toronto and began working with at-risk youths. In 2006, Cole competed in Toronto’s City Idol competition and won for Toronto-East York. The winners of the competition were assisted in running for city council in the fall of 2006, and Cole placed third in Ward 20 Trinity-Spadina in the 2006 Toronto municipal election, at age 24.

Cole hosts a weekly radio program on Newstalk 1010. He was previously a columnist for The Toronto Star and has written for The Walrus, NOW Magazine, Torontoist, The Tyee, Ethnic Aisle, Toronto Life and BuzzFeed. Cole’s activism has received national attention, specifically on the issues of police carding, racial discrimination, and dismantling systemic racism. Cole was the subject of a 2017 CBC Television documentary, The Skin We’re In. His debut book, The Skin We’re In: A Year of Black Resistance and Power, was released in January, 2020.

“We need to cultivate listening, partnership, and solidarity to carve out a better collective future.”

Ella Fitzgerald, American Jazz Singer

Ella Fitzgerald had a storied, multi-decade career as the First Lady of Jazz with 13 Grammy Awards to her name. She was the first African-American singer to win one. Raised by her single mother in Yonkers, NY, she suffered from stage fright, but persevered to become one of the most famous jazz singers in the world. She was known for her pure tone and dynamic phrasing, and is arguably one of the best scat singers. Fitzgerald was showered with many awards including the US National Medal of Honor. In a never-aired US radio interview she recorded after returning from a successful tour in Europe, she lamented that she couldn’t play in the South because of racism. After the interview, she said, “Instead of singing for a change, I got a chance to get a few things off my chest. I’m just a human being.” She was also a quiet philanthropist, particularly interested in supporting disadvantaged youth.

“It isn’t where you came from; it’s where you’re going that counts.”

Maya Angelou, American Poet, Activist

Maya Angelou, born Marguerite Annie Johnson (April 4, 1928 – May 28, 2014) was an American poet, memoirist, and civil rights activist. She published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, several books of poetry, and is credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning over 50 years. She received dozens of awards and more than 50 honorary degrees and is best known for her series of seven autobiographies, which focus on her childhood and early adult experiences. The first, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), tells of her life up to the age of 17 and brought her international recognition and acclaim.

She became a poet and writer after a string of odd jobs during her young adulthood. These included fry cook, nightclub performer, Porgy and Bess cast member, Southern Christian Leadership Conference coordinator, and correspondent in Egypt and Ghana during the decolonization of Africa. She was also an actress, writer, director, and producer of plays, movies, and public television programs. She was active in the Civil Rights Movement and worked with Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. She was respected as a spokesperson for Black people and women, and her works have been considered a defense of Black culture.

“Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future, and renders the present inaccessible.”

Vanessa Richards, Canadian Singer, Performing Artist, Facilitator

Vanessa Richards, born in Vancouver, works as an artist and facilitator. Her practice encourages the personal and civic minded towards positive social change and sustainability. She has been delivering arts-based engagement, education and programming through collaboration with community programs, universities, unions, cultural organizations, health care providers, and projects that serve the imaginations of young people and elders.

As a community choir leader, she brings collective singing to conferences and gatherings to connect ideas, emotions and people. Her poetry and critical works are anthologized in the UK, Holland, United States and Canada. She has been nominated for a Jesse Richardson Theatre Award.

She is on the advisory committee for the RADIUS Fellowship at Beedie School of Business SFU, and is a producer/facilitator for the Social Venture Institute with Hollyhock Leadership Institute. For many years, Richards served as a volunteer on the City of Vancouver Black History Month Advisory Committee as well as the Hogan’s Alley Working Group and Society. She is currently a volunteer mentor for two youth co-operatives, Ethọ́s Lab and Solid State. For her work in community-engagement, Richards was the recipient of the 2018 City of Vancouver’s Mayor’s Achievement Award.

“My name is Vanessa Richards, and I believe in the power of people and creativity.”

Paul Maxi Theophile Talbot, Canadian Musician

Paul Maxi Theophile Talbot is a talented singer songwriter based in Vancouver, BC. Born in Haiti, Paul moved to Vancouver at a very young age, and has been playing and creating unique, fresh music ever since. He has staged and performed shows all around town, playing at venues such as the Railway Club, Backstage Lounge, Wired Monk, Trees Organic Coffee house, and many other stages. He’s performed at events such as Make Music Vancouver, Car Free Days, and looks to add to his resume. As a Solo artist he has the ability to write songs that capture people’s emotions, and creates music that is raw and real. He is currently working with his band Maxi Theophile and the Here and Now on a hip hop collab project with Keven frost AKA The Black Wall .

“Stay tuned, kids”

Curtis Talwst Santiago, Canadian Postwar & Contemporary artist

Curtis Talwst Santiago is a Postwar & Contemporary artist who was born in 1979. He is best known for his miniature dioramas that recreate stories pulled from the headlines and shed light on underrepresented histories. His work addresses the absence of certain narratives from the dominant culture, such as people’s diasporic experiences. His relationship to his motherland of Trinidad informs his practice across painting, drawing, sculpture, video and performance. He apprenticed under Indigenous artist Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun.

Born and raised in Canada, Santiago has developed a multimedia practice framed by the diasporic experience. For his ongoing “Infinity Series” (2008–present), he transforms reclaimed jewelry boxes into small-scale scenes that feature creative retellings of oft-catastrophic events, like the Syrian refugee crisis and the killing of Michael Brown Jr. by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. These diminutive but powerful tableaus serve as both memorials and calls for social change.

“Intuition is the most important part of my practice – it has led me into crazy, crazy spaces”

Jean-Michel Basquiat, American Visual Artist, Graffiti Artist

Jean-Michel Basquiat was an American artist who rose to success during the 1980s as part of the Neo-expressionism movement.

Basquiat first achieved fame as part of the graffiti duo SAMO, alongside Al Diaz, writing enigmatic epigrams in the cultural hotbed of Manhattan’s Lower East Side during the late 1970s, where rap, punk, and street art coalesced into early hip hop  music culture. By the early 1980s, his paintings were being exhibited in galleries and museums internationally. At 21, Basquiat became the youngest artist to ever take part in documenta in Kassel and exhibit at the Whitney Biennial in New York.

Basquiat’s art focused on dichotomies such as wealth versus poverty, integration versus segregation, and inner versus outer experience. He appropriated poetry, drawing, and painting, and married text and image, abstraction, figuration, and historical information mixed with contemporary critique. He used social commentary in his paintings as a tool for introspection and for identifying with his experiences in the Black community of his time, as well as attacks on power structures and systems of racism. His visual poetics were acutely political and direct in their criticism of colonialism and support for class struggle.

“I’m not a real person. I’m a legend.”

Kara Walker, American Painter, Silhouettist, Filmmaker

New York-based artist Kara Walker is best known for her candid investigation of race, gender, sexuality, and violence through silhouetted figures that have appeared in numerous exhibitions worldwide.

Born in Stockton, California in 1969, Walker was raised in Atlanta, Georgia from the age of 13. She studied at the Atlanta College of Art (BFA, 1991) and the Rhode Island School of Design (MFA, 1994). She is the recipient of many awards, notably the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Achievement Award in 1997 and the United States Artists, Eileen Harris Norton Fellowship in 2008. In 2012, Walker became a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Walker’s major survey exhibition, Kara Walker: My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love, was organized by The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis where it premiered in February 2007 before traveling to ARC/ Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris; The Whitney Museum of American Art in New York; The Hammer Museum in Los Angeles; and the Museum of Modern Art in Fort Worth. Recent solo exhibitions have been presented at the Art Institute of Chicago; Camden Arts Centre in London; and Metropolitan Arts Center (MAC) in Belfast.

“I have no interest in making a work that doesn’t elicit a feeling.”

Tonye Aganaba, Canadian Musician

Tonye Aganaba is a multidisciplinary artist, musician, and arts facilitator residing on the unceded territories of the Squamish, Musqueam & Tsleil-Waututh First Nations. Born in London England to an a Nigerian father and a Zimbabwean mother and moved to Canada in her teens and started a career in music at 17. Her style can be described as Soul/ Neo-Folk/ Hiphop. She has been likened to folks like Lauryn Hill, Ani Difranco and Sia. She is a Much More Music Video Award recipient, social justice advocate and the kind of singer/performer that turns heads wherever she plays.

In 2015 her trajectory was interrupted by a Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis. Tonye has been working on healing and finding herself again. A new Phoenix-like person is emerging from the proverbial ashes. She now calls MS the best thing that ever happened to her. It was a wake up call. It has offered a new lease on life and more importantly, a new perspective.

Their new album ‘Something Comfortable’ is an intentional and devotional endeavour inspired by their battle with Multiple Sclerosis. The album serves as the score to ‘AfroScience’ an immersive performance and workshop series fusing live music, dance, visual art/digital media and storytelling to stimulate conversation and action around identity, addiction, healing, and expression. Tonye’s shows, workshops, and classes are connected and intimate experiences, and evoke a kind of vulnerability that we all hunger for.

“paint the valleys of my spine mountainside / climb ridge to crest and find breath”

Bell Hooks, American Author

Bell Hooks, pseudonym of Gloria Jean Watkins, (born September 25, 1952, Hopkinsville, Kentucky, U.S.—died December 15, 2021, Berea, Kentucky), American scholar and activist whose work examined the connections between race, gender, and class. She often explored the varied perceptions of Black women and Black women writers and the development of feminist identities.

Watkins grew up in a segregated community of the American South. At age 19 she began writing what would become her first full-length book, Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism, which was published in 1981. She studied English literature at Stanford University (B.A., 1973), the University of Wisconsin (M.A., 1976), and the University of California, Santa Cruz (Ph.D., 1983).

Hooks assumed her pseudonym, the name of her great-grandmother, to honour female legacies; she preferred to spell it in all lowercase letters to focus attention on her message rather than herself. She taught English and ethnic studies at the University of Southern California from the mid-1970s, African and Afro-American studies at Yale University during the ’80s, women’s studies at Oberlin College and English at the City College of New York during the 1990s and early 2000s. In 2004 she became a professor in residence at Berea College in Berea, Kentucky. The bell hooks Institute was founded at the college in 2014.

In the 1980s hooks established a support group for Black women called the Sisters of the Yam, which she later used as the title of a book, published in 1993, celebrating Black sisterhood.

“Love is an action, never simply a feeling.”

James Baldwin, American Writer, Activist

James Arthur Baldwin was an American writer and activist. As a writer, he garnered acclaim across various mediums, including essays, novels, plays, and poems. His first novel, Go Tell It On The Mountain, was published in 1953; decades later, Time Magazine included the novel on its list of the 100 best English-language novels released.

Baldwin’s work fictionalizes fundamental personal questions and dilemmas amid complex social and psychological pressures. Themes of masculinity, sexuality, race, and class intertwine to create intricate narratives that run parallel with some of the major political movements toward social change in mid-twentieth century America, such as the civil rights movement and the gay liberation movement. Baldwin’s protagonists are often but not exclusively African American, and gay and bisexual men frequently feature prominently in his literature. These characters often face internal and external obstacles in their search for social and self-acceptance.

His reputation has endured since his death and his work has been adapted for the screen to great acclaim. In addition to writing, Baldwin was also a well-known, and controversial, public figure and orator, especially during the civil rights movement in the United States.

“All art is a kind of confession, more or less oblique. All artists, if they are to survive, are forced, at last, to tell the whole story; to vomit the anguish up.”

Krystal Paraboo, Artist Curator, Philanthropist

Krystal Paraboo is an all-encompassing creative living, working, creating art & building community on the unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and Sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. An art historian, curator, writer, and community builder, Krystal places tremendous value on artistic expression and cultural development based on the foundation of fostering authentic human connection and inclusive practices. She is currently working as project manager and lead curator for the Black Strathcona Resurgence Project with Vancouver Mural Festival and is fund lead for Sector Equity Against Racism in the Arts (SEARA).

She curated a record-breaking number of murals by local Black Artists, and has curated numerous additional local art exhibitions including “The Great Big Vancouver Paradox” in 2018 for Capture Photography Festival. Krystal has written reviews for various local publications, and volunteers regularly with Hogan’s Alley Society.

Her work has spanned within both public and private art institutions over the years, including the Vancouver Art Gallery and Rennie Museum, working directly with both established and emerging artists. Krystal specializes in: curatorial projects, public programming, art education, research, policy, events, communications, community building, art consulting, non-profit management, and Diversity & Inclusion training.

“Viewers are now eager to hear and support more diverse stories through art, and this is something I’ve been trying to provide visibility to for years”

Tafui McLean, Canadian Artist, Designer

Tafui is an independent Artist and Designer, originally from Xaymaca / Kingston, Jamaica. Her work spans various media which includes fine art, surface pattern design, illustration, spatial design, communication and product design. She is mainly known for her bold black and white abstract, repeating patterns, that embellish many of her products.

Tafui moved from Xaymaca / Jamaica to Tiohtià:ke / Montreal where she studied studio arts at Dawson College. She then pursued her studies in Design Art at Concordia University. With over ten years as an Art Director in the advertising industry, she has also lectured and co-wrote post-secondary level courses in branding & design.

She currently produces environmentally responsible home products and licenses her work to clients. Her work is inspired by her love for indigenous cultures, modern design and traditional textile techniques, that adds a unique aesthetic to the modern retail experience. Her diverse body of work includes art prints, wallpapers, textile, tableware, and stationery.

She works between Algonquin territories / Ottawa and Musqueam/Squamish/Tsleil-Waututh territories / Vancouver Canada.

“I remember being five years old on my first day of a new school I cried so hard my teacher gave me a paint set and a sketch pad. Every day we began our day that way. By the time I was ten, art had become my primary focus, and every set I made was art-related.”

Kevin Frost, American Emcee

If you ask Kevin Frost, better known as Emcee K Ski, how would he classify the three-volume project he’s currently working on titled Beats, Blues & Bars, he would say contemporary negro spirituals. The project is a fusion of hip hop, blues and funk. To capture this vibe, he collaborated with with friend and musician Maxi Theophile Talbot. With over 35 years perfecting and mastering his craft of writing rhymes, Emcee K Ski found his voice, using his music to share lessons acquired along the journey called life.

Growing up in Trenton New Jersey, Emcee K Ski fell in love with the hip hop artform of writing rhymes and emceeing. By 1987, at the age of 17, a local independent record label sought to sign him. However, this dream would be put on hold once he enlisted in the US military. Being in the US Navy for 12 years didn’t stop Emcee K Ski from recording and performing, from Tokyo to Honolulu. Once out of the military, he settled in Seattle, his new home. There he recorded and performed throughout the Northwest including Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, BC.

Eventually going by the name Mista Ock, Seattle indy record label, Madd Passion Entertainment, signed him. He would go on to release the Coldest Winter, a project that earned him Seattle’s 2003 Kube 93 Hip Hop Artist of Year. After taking a break, Kevin began once again recording in 2016 under his old high school moniker Emcee K Ski. What started out as a creative outlet morphed into a series of mixtape projects. In 2021, Emcee K Ski established his Vancouver based K2 Media Group commercially releasing several singles. In 2022, Emcee K Ski plans to share more of his story on Beats, Blues and Bars with the first volume releasing February 22, 2022.

“The human condition expressed through beats & rhymes.”




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