Mike Carpenter sees hip hop as an honest way to make a living.
“I don’t rap about anything that’s not true,” the 20-year-old Glooscap First Nation resident said in an interview.
“I always try to leave a message.”
These days, the messages Carpenter intertwines in his rhymes often tell the tale of an aspiring hip hop artist trying to gain recognition in a competitive industry during an era of economic unrest.
An unabashed fan of Big Dog Family (BDFAM), a hip hop group he formed with lifelong friends Josh Spencer and Joe Matthews, Carpenter is confident the trio from Hantsport has what it takes to turn rhymes into dimes by rapping about what they know — struggle.
“We’re trying to get out there, trying to be heard, trying to make something of ourselves,” said Carpenter.
“We figure it’s easier to try to make it [in the music industry] than get a job in this economy,” Matthews, 21, added with a laugh.
All three of the men are treating BDFAM as a full-time job while they are without work. They devote most of their time to writing songs, matching lyrics with beats in Carpenter’s basement and promoting their music through such social media networks as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.
“What we’re trying to do is show that we can go over any style. We have some club beats, Dirty South beats and we have more mainstream stuff that you would hear on the radio,” explains Matthews, who goes by the rap alias of Nova Joe.
The crew, named in honour of an uncle Carpenter lost in a car accident in 2010, is in the process of producing a mixed tape that is scheduled to drop within the next month.
“We always wrote and we always had fun rapping; we always joked around with it and stuff but we never really took it seriously until the past year,” Carpenter says.
“Talent is great, but you’ve got to have the drive; you’ve got to want it.”
Following the release of their mixed tape, BDFAM plans to release a single featuring the talents of the Dartmouth-based up and comer Mac Malicious, a Nova Scotian artist that inspired Carpenter to make something of his music by proving that locals can get noticed.
The song, Break Free, details the challenges a perceived underdog faces as he tries to deny a mundane reality sculpted by tough economic circumstances, and pursue his passion, Matthews said.
Dubbed the group’s lyrical genius, Matthews, the younger brother of Fed Pennies bassist John Matthews, says he has shared BDFAM’s work with Los Angeles-based, Nova Scotia-born producer Chris Noxx via Twitter and received positive feedback. Noxx, a Yamassee Native American, has worked with the likes of Dr. Dre, Timbaland, Sean Kingston, Flo Rida and Eminem.
“Everyone always tells me I have really good flow and I’ve got a good voice for it,” says Matthews, noting that he intends to collaborate with Noxx when he is able to afford his services.
For BDFAM, confidence in their craft motivates them to keep chasing the spotlight.
“I personally feel like we’re at the level now that if we write something and record it, we’re confident that it can be released,” Matthews says.
Spencer, 21, agrees.
“When we first started we would write a song just to release it so people would hear us; now we’re writing music that people want to hear.”
BDFAM is starting to build a fan base, and network with potential collaborators embedded in the Halifax hip hop scene. The goal is to use the powers of social media to promote their product and make meaningful connections that will create opportunities.
“Nova Scotia has a lot of unknown talent. It’s great to be able to find these people to work with them,” Matthews says.
With greater exposure, Carpenter admits there is a chance that they will receive some negative feedback. But, he says, the boys in BDFAM won’t be deterred by a little criticism.
“Everyone’s got their own point of view on what music sounds like and what it should sound like,” Carpenter says.
“I do my music for me; I appreciate everyone who likes it, but if they don’t, that don’t bother me.”Carpenter, who raps by the name of Zigzag, is waiting to hear if he has been accepted into a recording arts program at the NSCC Waterfront Campus in Dartmouth, and Spencer, aka White Booda, is applying for a music business course at the same college.