Last summer, after watching rapper Annakin Slayd's amazing Expos tribute video, I contacted him and asked whether he would consider doing something similar for the public school system. Read Mike Boone's column, see the Global TV interview and the actual video below:
Lending some street cred to stay-in-school message
BY MIKE BOONE, MONTREAL GAZETTE FEBRUARY 15, 2011 9:01 PM
Annakin Slayd, reluctant messenger, is bringing the message to LaurenHill Academy's junior campus tomorrow.
The hip-hop artist (among other things) - whose medicare card lists his name as Andrew Farrar and his age as 32 - is still trying to get his head around this spokesman thing. He and CJAD newsman Andrew Peplowski will be visiting the high school to promote the public education system, but salesmanship runs counter to hip-hop's street ethos.
"It was a really tricky thing," Farrar says of Go Publique, the video he recorded for the English Montreal School Board. "It could have come off as really hokey - me trying too hard to attach myself to a product. I asked them to assure me it wouldn't be some sort of pamphlet."
It isn't. Go Publique is a bilingual, colourful and very personal endorsement of the role education played in making Farrar who he is. And it's winning a new audience for Annakin Slayd.
"After the school board song," Farrar says. "I'm everybody's mom's favourite rapper."
He is a favourite of Mike Cohen, who handles communications for the EMSB. Like most sports fans, Cohen loved Farrar's hip-hop tributes to the Canadiens (Feels Like '93) and Expos (Remember), and he approached Farrar to do Go Publique.
Farrar was born in St. Léonard, but his family moved to Chomedey when he was 4. Farrar graduated from Dawson College's theatre program and went to New York to pursue an acting career.
As a 21-year-old rookie in the big leagues, he spent two years doing what young actors do: performing in off-Broadway productions, scrambling to pay the rent and hoping no one would notice his lack of a green card.
"Auditions were sparse and I wasn't making any money," he recalls.
"Then I saw a call for hip-hop auditions."
Farrar had grown up with that style of spoken-word music.
"I had friends in Montreal who were into funk," he says. "I'd get on the mike and drop a 16-beat verse, just for fun.
"I figured I was in New York, nobody knew me, I had nothing to lose, so why not take a shot at it?"
Farrar ended up cutting three tracks for "a label that wasn't really a label."
Then he ran out of money, returned to Montreal and began to record some hip-hop sides.
His stage name was inspired by the Wu-Tang Clan, members of which meshed comic book and film character names to create their aliases.
Farrar took his handle from Annakin Skywalker, a character in the Star Wars movies, and Slayd, from "a really obscure comic-book."
"I could have used nicknames like 'MC White-boy' but decided not to," Farrar says.
"I wanted something personal because the sides were reflecting my beliefs."
Eminem has established street cred for white rappers. They still can't pull off the gangsta thing without risking ridicule, but someone like Farrar has something to say. And hip-hop recording and performance (including a recent tour of Europe) are only two components of his multi-disciplinary career.
"My job is the arts," he says. Farrar has many creative irons in the fire, including TV and film writing, theatre and voice work on an animated TV series.
"This is one of the first years when I've made equal money being a writer, an actor and a hip-hop artist," Farrar says. He is quick to credit his girlfriend of seven years for making enough money, as a high-end hair stylist, to keep the household afloat through his lean periods.
The upside to being an Annakin of all trades is mastery of many forms.
"It's easier than it's ever been to dabble in things," Farrar said. "I just shot a movie using an iPhone. It's HD, so the footage is going to look as good as Spielberg's."
Schindler's Contact List? Farrar credits Jean-Michel Simard for shooting and editing the slick Annakin Slayd videos that you can watch on YouTube.
Farrar will tell LaurenHill students about his career and the potential of the online world.
"You can upload videos of things that are more interesting than your cat or your friend falling on the ice," he says. "Everyone can be a star, and we have the technology to further that dream."
ALSO, please see this interview with Annakin Slayd on Global TV