Sweatshop Union: Water Street

These are the words of the street, not those trying only to milk it for profit, and they will survive the collective's move from Vancouver to San Francisco.

Sweatshop Union

Water Street

Label: Look
UK Release Date: 2008-10-20
US Release Date: 2008-10-14

This album is miraculous for many reasons. For a start, Battle Axe Records -- through whom the Sweatshop Union collective released their first three albums -- dominated western Canadian hip-hop of the early naughties. The label was a spawn of Mad Child and Prevail (a.k.a. Swollen Members) who scored a handful of minor hits with the help of Moka Only. Sadly, time has charted the interest in the duo's chest beating bombast on a distinctly downward curve, while Battle Axe has tanked worse than the stock market, now running two years since its last release and counting. Sadly, by association, several decent acts have been dragged through the mud with it (Gawd help you, Character Traits). The mere fact that Sweatshop Union was able to come out the other side with another label willing to rep their rhymes from their new Bay Area home base is a miracle in itself, let alone their adamantly principled demeanor.

Named after a heritage heavy area in downtown Vancouver where free-ranting crackheads rub shoulders with Gucci clad trend slaves, Water Street boldly carries the brutal truth of its namesake. It's 23 tracks (no skits) that in true Sweatshop Union style preach basic human understanding and fairness in the face of society wide wealth worship. In a rap marketplace built on inequity, greed, and amazing stupidity, continuing to lyrically assault the shortcomings of such abusive social conditioning in continued semi-obscurity is rare form and evidence of some serious backbone. Lines like "I make money / money don't make me" are guaranteed to get you beat down at the next G-Unit stockholders meeting.

Multiply those lyrics by the fact the record's tasty boom-bap beats, mostly produced by union cardholders, could make KRS-One boogie down productively and you've got a true miracle in your hands. Sweatshop Union isn't getting bitter; they're getting better. Rob The Viking and Moka Only both continue to lend their support, as well as the underrated Mat The Alien, but this is no longer a BC thing. These are the words of the street, not those trying only to milk it for profit, and they will shine in the indie hip-hop Mecca. Water Street has landed in San Francisco.


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.