On Oct. 26, UVic’s campus pub, Felicita’s, was the site of an epic battle. Winnipeg’s mighty hip-hop champions, the Lytics, faced off against the mayhem of Halloween weekend. DJ Lonnie “Ce” Compayre recalls the beginning of the fight: “When we rolled in there, the place was shoulder-to-shoulder packed — so many people. We’re all excited. We’re doing sound check, and then [the organizer] gets on the mic: ‘The party buses are here!’ ” Ce recalls. “Aw, man.” Much of the crowd left for the buses.
Luckily, the Lytics’ home base is one overflowing with friendliness. MC/Producer B-Flat explains the mark their city has left on them. “Winnipeg is a small, friendly place, so I think if we take anything from Winnipeg wherever we go, it’s trying to engage a crowd on a smaller level.”
At times the Lytics, composed of four MCs and a DJ, outnumbered the people on the dance floor. They battled the indifference of a small pocket of people having an ongoing conversation and a seemingly endless game of pool.
But for the Lytics, adversity is often followed by triumph. “I think it’s fun to kind of win over a crowd. We’ve had times when there’s no one in front of us and there’s people dancing near the end. That’s probably one of the best feelings,” says Andrew “A-Nice” Sannie.
Though the crowd was small at Felicita’s, those who were there were treated to a clinic in energy and perseverance as the Lytics rocked the stage like the place was packed. It was a fitting performance of much of the group’s recently released second album, They Told Me, a triumphant album born out of setback after setback.
A-Nice breathes a sigh of relief at the thought of They Told Me finally being completed. “This record was really hard to make,” he says. “Lots and lots of bad things happened to us. So it was . . . a process to get it out. Finally being over this is like, ‘God, this is so good.’ It was hellish, man.”
B-Flat elaborates on the challenges that brought the album into existence. “It’s a win. I say the word ‘win’ because it felt like we were losing all the time. Hard drives getting wiped and files getting lost, basement studios — three basement studios — flooding, managers quitting, managers plural, losing jobs, going into personal debt. Just a lot of stress on the family.”
One of the best Canadian hip-hop records in a long while, the album is lush and full, alive with the group’s common need to create in the face of adversity that has made many others turn back. “I feel when I listen to that record — even if I’m not remembering all that crap that went down — I can hear how important it was that it got done,” says B-Flat.
A-Nice concludes, “It would take a lot to kill us at this point.”
B-Flat uses the analogy of a miraculous boxing victory to describe the Lytics’ against-all-odds victory in getting the album out. “Imagine a boxing match where one dude got his ass kicked for 12 rounds. And with three seconds left, he seizured and somehow his hands went up and popped the man and knocked him out.”
A-Nice points out the obvious comparison, “Ali/Foreman.”
Overcoming adversity will teach valuable life lessons to anyone who achieves it, and the Lytics are no different. “Do it yourself. Don’t give up. Wear clean ginch. Just be ready. Always, always, always be ready,” advises B-Flat.
The two quietest members of the Lytics, Anthony “Ashy” Sannie and Mungala “Munga” Londe, both perk up as we wrap up our time in the bowels of the Student Union Building, talking about life lessons. Munga offers his small token: “At the end of the day, it’s your responsibility. If it’s what you want, you just have to accept that [is what you want] and go forth with that.”
Ashy sums up the band’s struggle and steely resolve. “It comes to that point in whatever you do in life where you just can’t afford to miss that foul shot in the fourth quarter. We’re just at the point where we don’t miss those foul shots.”