We just hit a huge milestone for The Rebel Beat podcast on May 1st when we dropped the 100th episode of this show. As you may know, I launched this show back in February 2015 as a live radio show on CKUT community radio in Montreal.
The Rebel Beat morphed out of a previous radio show I had been hosting for almost a decade prior, Roots Rock Rebel. Roots Rock Rebel was ska, punk, and reggae show. While it always had a political bent to it, I really wanted to change it up and build a show that centred radical politics in music. The powerful uprising and riots against police brutality in Ferguson in 2014 were really the catalyst for making this change, and hence The Rebel Beat was born.
Originally The Rebel Beat was a weekly show that aired every Wednesday from 10pm-12am on CKUT. As a weekly show, it was easy to churn out a ton of episodes, but it also involved an extreme amount of labour to research music on specific themes or topics, book interviews, research those interviews, haul crates of records down to the station every week…. you get the picture.
So in 2016 I made the hard decision to pull the show from the FM radio airwaves, and instead keep it up as a monthly podcast. Along the way, I joined forces with Firebrand Records, got to speak with some of my musical heroes, and kept producing a show that I really love and believe in.
So on this milestone of 100 episodes, I wanted to look back and select my 5 favourites. If you’re new to this podcast, these 5 are a great place to start.
So the funny story behind this episode is that M-1 was supposed to be our huge surprise guest for the big launch of episode 1 of the Rebel Beat, not episode 8. I had scheduled to do an interview with him in person in Montreal, just before his appearance at the Fro Fest for Black History Month. But the Canadian border guards had other plans for M-1. They denied his entry into Canada, which he attributed to racial profiling. No doubt the border guards knew that one thing about Dead Prez’s music is that when it hits you feel no pain, white folks say it controls your brain, but you know better than that, that’s game….
It turns out that one of the reasons M-1 was denied entry into Canada is because they asked him about his arrest record at the border. In my interview, he had this to say about it: “If you live as a colonial subject in the United States, you are bound to encounter the police, and may end up getting arrested”.
Anyways, M-1 ended up being able to join Fro Fest over Skype (kind of like what we’re all doing now under the Coronavirus pandemic anyways), and he was super gracious to set up an interview over the phone with me, so we still had him on the show. It was amazing to get to talk to this hip-hop legend as he was multi-tasking by feeding his daughter and reflecting on revolutionary culture.
Lido Pimienta is a firecracker. She’s one of the funniest and raddest people in the music biz, and I’m so proud we had her on this show. I got to interview her just after she won the Polaris Music Prize for best Canadian album of 2017 for “La Papessa”.
I love how she candidly discussed dealing with racist trolls, her takes on parenting, and her honest and sincere advice she offered for mothers and women in the music industry.
Don Letts is one of those unsung heroes in music. If you’re into punk rock or reggae, chances are you’ve heard of him. But if you’ve never heard his name, it’s because in some ways he’s never played a front-and-centre roll in music. Seriously though, this guy is a legend. As a DJ at London’s foundational punk club The Roxy, he famously brought reggae music to the punks, and was part of the inspiration behind Bob Marley’s tune “Punky reggae party”.
I caught up with Don on the phone from his home in London. He was also at the centre of political upheavals and riots in working class London in the 1970s, and it was fascinating to hear him compare those riots against police brutality to the more recent events in Ferguson, Missouri.
Did I mention that I love doing this podcast? I really fucking do. I get to talk with so many musical heroes of mine. Oi Polloi are another one of those. This loveable troupe of Scottish anarcho-punks have been doing their thing for so long, and they’re just brimming with sincerity, joie-de-vie, and no-nonsense anti-fascist energy.
For this episode, I got to meet up with them on a beautiful autumn day in Montreal, right before their gig at Revolution Fest. One of the topics of our in-depth conversation was their song “Let the boots do the talking”, about the Battle of Cable street, an anti-fascist riot in London in 1936. As we were speaking, it was in the lead-up to Trump’s victory in the 2016 US Presidential election, and so looking back on this powerful moment of resistance was the medicine we all needed.
This episode represents a coming together of all the things I love in this world: sports, music and radical politics. Dave Zirin is someone who can go on AT LENGTH about all three. This interview was a particular thrill to record because I had just organized and moderated a panel discussion with Dave in Montreal on the topic of resistance in sports in the age of Trump. I hosted Dave at my place during his time in Montreal, and we did this interview at my dining room table over a delicious brunch of bagels, lox and schmear. Yup, just a couple of Jews noshing and talking sports, music, and revolution.
Our conversation hit on so many cool notes, including the politics of Super Bowl half-time shows, Tribe Called Quest’s comeback, and why there may (sadly) never be a Colin Kaepernick of hockey.
Anyways, there you have it! My top 5 favourite episodes on our journey to 100. Many more are coming soon, so if you dig this podcast, please support it!