Reed Jones stands at the bar, nervously. He stuffs his mouth with cold fries, trying to kill the hour before the filming of his show. Jones seems unsure how to act in the meantime, until his producer, Steve Morrison, suggestively nudges a fork his way.
"You think I should use that?" says Jones, amused. "Nah, I'm The Pr!ck now. The Pr!ck would have ketchup all over his hands and wipe it on your shirt."
Jones has a few personalities: The Pr!ck, iZrEAL and then himself. Though it can make things confusing for the nappy-haired, 29-year-old, all his personas are stitched together by a common thread: anger.
Why is Jones angry? "Because there's racism in the world. There's war in the world. Because everybody I know is broke. I just don't see what there is to be happy about."
On this night, The Pr!ck stands on stage at Pogue Fado, filming a pilot for his show of the same name that's being streamed on haligonia.ca. Wearing an oversized plaid shirt and holding a beer, he rants uncensored about things that piss him off in the news: from the woman selling her virginity online to the couple who named their child Adolf Hitler Campbell.
iZrEAL's also angry, but when the spoken-word artist takes the stage his feelings are smartly packed into rhymes. He tells the story of a bulldozed Africville in "Dogwalk Park" and muses over the meaning of racial slurs in "99 Niggers."
Jones himself deals with his anger more proactively. Last year he was on CBC TV as part of a roundtable discussion on violence in Halifax, and ran for the African Nova Scotian seat on the municipal school board in the last municipal election, pissed off with the way black youth are treated in the system.
"I'm just a negative person," he says. "I thrive off negative energy and it fuels all my projects."
Jones grew up in Toronto, near a project called Alexander Park. There were lots of Jewish people in his neighbourhood, and it bordered Chinatown. When he was 10, Jones moved to a black neighbourhood in Hammonds Plains with his parents and didn't see white people the whole summer. Once he started grade five at Hammonds Plains Consolidated, Jones was one of the only black kids in his class. That's when he became aware of race, and started collecting a binder of notes from Black History Month each year.
Jones struggled in school, spending his time hanging out with his rap group, Mad Craz, drinking, rhyming and laughing. In his last semester, he went on an exchange to Gambia with 15 other African-Canadian teens. After seeing his race celebrated overseas, he became hyper-aware of Nova Scotia's racial divide, and inspired to prove he was more than a "stereotypical black thug."
He finished high school, and after a brief stint studying at Dalhousie, applied to film school at NSCC in 2004. Once again, he was the only black kid in class. This time, Jones was also the only student to have his film accepted to the 2005 Atlantic Film Festival, and the first person to land a job in the industry right after graduating. He just received $25,000 after making the first cut of AFCOOP's FILM 5 program.
"I've always stood out," says Jones. "When you leave the community you're the only black kid. I harnessed that negative energy and became my own mini-brand."
In 2001, he and Shauntay Grant co-founded the Halifax spoken word collective Word Iz Bond. The father of three performs spoken word to educate black youth about their culture. He does poetry workshops at schools, church and youth groups, conveying an alternative image of a black man, and pride for the African culture he saw in Gambia.
With all his accomplishments, Jones always stays firmly rooted in his community, sticking by his motto of "just do you."
"The Pr!ck is black," he says to the group of eight gathered at the Pogue. "All day, everyday, 24/7 and I make no apologies for that."
The Pr!ck, iZrEAL and Jones are happy staying angry until there's nothing left to fight for. "If everything was right and perfect I'd be chillin' on a beach somewhere, smoking a joint, editing some videos and writing poems for fun," he says. "But I gotta keep fighting the good fight until I can get the whole community with me."
The Pr!ck official launch, Wednesday, February 18 at Pogue Fado,1581 Barrington, 7pm, haligonia.ca. To see iZrEAL, check out SPEAK! open mic series, the last Thursday of every month.