Carry on tradition. From its roots in the South Bronx, hip hop is a movement driven by community, passed down from generation to generation. Our intent is no different. Started in the fall of 2006, The Remix Project is a program designed to help youth develop their careers in the hip hop / urban culture industry. We draw on the support of Toronto’s own cultural industries and institutions, to provide them with all of the knowledge they need to be successful.
Jeff Chang says that history goes in cycles. In breaking down the history of the project one has to look back to the year 2000, when a small youth program was started in South Etobicoke, Inner City Visions. Gavin Sheppard, a teenager at the time, started the project with the help of the local community health centre, the Lakeshore Area Multi-Service Project, or LAMP. Offering after school programming in their space, local kids would come out for freestyle sessions, dj workshops, b-boy/b-girl battles, and for those learning the ropes, and trying to get into the game, weekly roundtable discussions with industry professionals.
As time went on, recording artist Drex came aboard and helped expand the programming to include a recording studio, open three evenings a week in the basement of an office building. As any emerging recording artist knows, having access to free or low-cost studio time can be a blessing. Youth started coming in from across the Greater Toronto Area, regardless of distance, just to get their music recorded, sometimes for the first time. As the project began to grow and receive greater profile (won civic award for excellence in youth programming in 2001, featured in American urban mag XXL), Gavin and Drex worked tirelessly to continue the project, with both spending a lot of their personal time to help artists they saw promise in as well.
By 2004, IC Visions had helped in founding the Grassroots Youth Collaborative, a network of youth-led programs and organizations in Toronto, trying to support each other and find ways to leverage more funding as a unit. There they connected with Kehinde Bah, a recovering activist working for the Laidlaw Foundation and volunteering with Mayor David Miller’s Community Safety Panel. Kehinde had been looking to get the Mayors office to embrace hip hop as a positive expression of the city’s youth, and to build something that might serve as a meeting place for people from the isolated parts of the city, otherwise known as the suburbs. IC Visions was a start, but what about going beyond making the music, to helping youth market, distribute, manage shows, etc.?
Eventually Kehinde and Gavin came together and starting working on what would become the Remix Project. With the blessing of the Safety Panel, partners and Funders gradually came on board to support their efforts.
The Remix Project officially launched in September 2006, after many meetings, emails, hours and weekends pouring over documents and proposals. As it continues to grow, We hope to have a cultural, economic, and social impact on the city and beyond, as a model of successful youth and adult partnership, and take the discussion of how to engage “at-risk” youth to how to give youth the tools and experiences they need to change their own direction.
As many sectors and groups begin to increasingly look to hip-hop as an engagement tool, we hope to set a new standard in displaying what this culture (that has given us a collective voice) can do to empower the next generation. We look forward to helping that next generation carry on that tradition.