Dangerously zone

Halifax hip-hopper Jesse Dangerously brings a crew along for the first time on his guest-laden EP Inter Alia. Jon Bruhm finds out why.

photo Jon Hutt

From his initial introduction to the world of hip-hop through Public Enemy and The Fresh Prince almost a decade ago, one-time indie jazz drummer Jesse McDonald has always been a big music fan.

Now known as rapper Jesse Dangerously, there’s been no looking back, who admits he’s come a long way since his humble beginnings.

Since the release of his solo debut, 1996’s Break, Dangerously has made his way up the Haltown ranks, from his early partnership with Ginzu3 to working with everyone from Bending Mouth to Josh Martinez and eventually teaming up with Johnny Hardcore and the Backburner collective.

On his new EP, Inter Alia, which will be released on November 12 at The Seahorse, Dangerously enlisted contributions from a slew of his local contemporaries, including Apt, Cal, Jay Bizzy, JoRun, Mr. Biz, Universe Arm and Wordburglar. And, for the first time on any of his own recordings, he left all of the beat-making up to producers Shaun “Uncle Fester” Ryan, and Ryan “Dexter Doolittle” MacKenzie.

Despite the abundance of guest spots on the album, collaboration is a relatively new ideology to Dangerously’s solo material. And thus, the notion was a contributing factor to the disc’s title—a Latin term meaning “among others.”

“Where I work, it’s a phrase that we use a lot when we’re writing up abstracts for lawyers,” he says. (His day job is at the Registry of Deeds). “At first, I just thought it was a neat phrase, but a concept built around it. My previous two albums are completely self-produced and only have one guest spot between the two of them. I’ve worked very much alone, and for this album, I’ve got two different people handling the music side.”

Although the disc is exclusively a Dangerously release, the rapper deemed it important to include his producers on the cover.

“It’s pretty traditional to put the rapper in the forefront—the ideas on the album are mine, and it’s my voice,” he says “But, a lot of the time, producers are just as involved as us and get very little credit; their names in the liner notes and that’s it, and I wanted to make it really clear that they put in just as much work as I did, arguably more. I just wanted to give the producers more shine than they usually get.”

“Shine” is a most appropriate way to describe Dangerously’s recent achievements. After taking over the reins of The Pavement, the evolved CKDU radio program which has been handed down from local legends Buck 65 and Skratch Bastid, he was voted runner-up for Best MC in The Coast’s 2005 Best of Music readers’ poll and was named Hip Hop Artist of the Year at the 2005 Music Industry of Nova Scotia Awards.

While he’s developed his rapping skills on his own, he says having an industry professional at his side has made a difference. He attributes much of his recent success to his manager/publicist Audra Williams, who not only handles the business aspect of his career, but has also opened new doors for him, including a guest lecturer spot in a gender studies course at Saint Mary’s University, on the topic of gender issues in rap music.

“I’m really good at rapping and I’m pretty good at making beats,” he says. “But, I’m not good at booking shows, promoting my releases or making phone calls. You need to do that stuff, but it’s not the same skill as being able to rhyme words and deliver them. I think a lot of really good artists in town, their visibility suffers because they only concentrate on that and they don’t have someone to pick up the business aspect of what they do. Once they get their CD out, all they can do is sell it out of their pockets and put it in local stores.

“I started realizing that I needed someone to take care this stuff for me, but I didn’t really know how to seek anyone out and it just wound up being a stroke of fortune that a year and a half later Audra came across me on the internet. I think she really saw something in my writing that she thought was worth showing people.”

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