Sweatshop Union brings triple threat

Collective rocks Grizzly with tunes from three new albums

The Sweatshop Union crew has not one but three new records for your listening pleasure.

Well, it's actually various components of the hip-hop collective that have broken out to make three separate albums under three Sweatshop subgroups.

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There's Age Like Astronauts by Pigeon Hole, which is the duo of Marmalade and Dusty Melo, By Hook or By Crook by The Trillionaire$, made up of Metty the Dertmerchant and Evil Ebenezer, and Alive and Well by Dirty Circus, which is Metty and Mos Eisley.

If this all sounds confusing, not to worry -Sweatshop Union is still alive and well, and all three subgroups will be represented when the union returns to Squamish for a show at The Grizzly Pub Friday (July 23).

In addition to a headlining set by the entire seven-man Sweatshop crew, the subgroups will present a couple of the songs from the new albums during the show, said Marmalade.

Pigeon Hole is doing double duty, opening the show as a duo and then performing as part of Sweatshop.

Marmalade (born Lee Napthine), who is part of the original Sweatshop crew and one half of Pigeon Hole, said all three subgroups started working on their separate albums at the same time. Urbnet Records decided to release all three together on June 15 as a way to generate a bit of extra interest.

"I guess we've got a good healthy competition thing going on," Marmalade said with a chuckle.

Each of the three new albums has its "own vibe," he said. But each also comes with the Sweatshop Union name and the quality hip-hop the collective is known to deliver.

As for the Pigeon Hole offering, Marmalade said he thinks "it's the best thing I've ever been part of."

It was his first chance to be in control of every aspect of the album, making a record with a cohesive sound and every detail the way he wanted it, he said. With so much work, effort and thought going into the album, the finished product was a real accomplishment, he added.

Age Like Astronauts has a different sound than Sweatshop Union's music and is full of mid-tempo, boom bap hip-hop, Marmalade said. Though each song has a theme or a topic, the music doesn't really have a message the way Sweatshop's tends to.

Marmalade and Dusty first met in elementary school in Nanaimo and by the time they were in Grade 7 they had written their first rap song. They've been together for about 14 years as Pigeon Hole.

Aside from an album with Dirty Circus when Marmalade was 15, Age Like Astronauts is Pigeon Hole's debut album.

Vancouver-based Sweatshop Union got its start in 2002 when a collective of hip-hop artists pooled resources to release an album. They ended up starting a successful group known for its intelligent lyrics, musical beats and high-energy performances.

Marmalade said despite the three new albums by various components of the larger group, Sweatshop is "still going strong." The group plans to continue touring regularly, and a new Sweatshop album and DVD package is planned for release this winter.

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