After 100 Episodes of The Rebel Beat, We Select our Top 5

Rebel Beat 100

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.

Episode 8: M1, One Half of Dead Prez on Revolutionary Culture


M-1 of the legendary hip-hop group Dead Prez



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.


Episode 80: Lido Pimienta on motherhood, music & fending off the trolls


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.


Episode 20 – Original Rebel Dread Don Letts on Race, Riots, and Making Music Dangerous Again


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.

Episode 67: Oi Polloi


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 oiScottish 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.

Episode 71: Dave Zirin and the Music at the Edge of Sports

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!


-Aaron Lakoff

Gritty: The Anti-Fascist Hockey Hero – Changing On The Fly




Hey Rebel Beat listeners!

We interrupt our regular programming to bring you another episode of Changing On The Fly, Aaron’s other podcast, that we think you’re gonna love. Check it!

How did Gritty, the new mascot for the Philadelphia Flyers, become the new mascot for the American anti-fascist movement? Gritty is a huge, ugly, scary orange monster, who comes to us at a time when there is an equally huge, ugly, scary orange monster in the White House.

We’re joined on this episode by Mark Bray, history professor & the author of “Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook” to talk about Gritty, hockey, and what the antifa movement actually is. Since we’re talking about Pennsylvania and fascism, we also reflect on the recent tragic synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, and pay our respects to the victims. May their memories be for a blessing.

**Like this podcast? Then support us!

Changing On The Fly Episode 1: This Game We Love, On Stolen Land


Hey Rebel Beat listeners! We interrupt our regular programming to bring you something special – the very first episode of Changing On The Fly, Aaron’s new podcast on hockey and radical politics!

If you want to follow along with all future episodes, subscribe to Changing On The Fly now wherever you get your podcasts (Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Play, etc.)

If you enjoy Changing On The Fly, and want to support it, head over here to our Patreon page!


On this episode, we lace up the skates and hit the ice to talk about colonialism in hockey, and the Indigenous hockey experience. What does it mean to call hockey “Canada’s game” while Canada is a country built on stolen Native land? We’re gonna take a deep dive into hockey’s role in Canada’s residential schools, the presence of Native mascots in sports, and the changing role of Indigenous hockey players in the NHL today.

To help us pick apart these huge questions, we hear from:

-Braden Te Hiwi. Te Hiwi is an Indigenous Maori academic, originally from New Zealand, who now teaches as an assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, ON. He co-authored an incredible paper on the history of hockey at the Pelican Lake Residential School in northern Ontario:…jh.ach.52.1.04

-Justin Louis is from the Samson Cree Nation of Mascwacis, Alberta, and the co-founder of Section 35, an Indigenous clothing company. Louis and Section 35 have put out a line of clothing called “Kill Mascots”, which takes aim at racist Native mascotry in sports (particularly the Chicago Blackhawks):

-Jason Brennan is the producer and director of Hit the Ice, a show on the Aboriginal Peoples’ Television Nework (APTN) that follows the lives of young Indigenous hockey players. The show is now in its 6th season!

To read the Calls to Action on sports from the Truth And Reconciliation Report, visit:…Action_English2.pdf

For more information on Changing on the Fly, or to subscribe to the podcast:

Music in this episode is by The Kendallz, DJ Spooky, A Tribe Called Red, and Ilegot.


The Rebel Beat Se2 Ep9: Dave Zirin and the Music at the Edge of Sports



Welcome back to another monthly episode of The Rebel Beat, a Firebrand Records podcast, and your spot for class war on the dance floor.

Our special guest this month is none other than Dave Zirin, author and host of the Edge of Sports podcast. Dave’s work delves into the fascinating collisions between sports and politics, and his work is incredibly inspiring for activists, sports fans, and activist sports fans! But importantly, Dave is also a huge lover of music, and that love really comes across in the podcast. He was in Montreal last month for an event, and we sat down for an interview over bagels, lox, and plenty of coffee.

If you like The Rebel Beat, please support us! Visit our Patreon page, and get your hands on some tasty perks!

In Firebrand Records news, we bring you an exclusive premiere of the new Built for the Sea single, “The Falling kind”.

And finally, in our Turn It Up segment, we look at bands standing up to racism at the SXSW festival in Austin, TX.


The Hot 8 Brass Band – It’s real
Rude Mechanical Orchestra – Smash-a-bank polka
The Soul Rebels – Get lucky
Charles Mingus – Free Cell Block F, ‘tis Nazi USA
Built For The Sea – The falling kind
Cannonball Adderley – Walk tall
Downtown Boys – Wave of history


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The Rebel Beat Podcast 050 – Boots Riley of The Coup




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Welcome back to another weekly podcast of The Rebel Beat! Our apologies it’s been over a week since the last podcast came out, but we’ve got a few more ready to be released ASAP!

This week, we bring you an amazing interview with the bombastically radical MC of The Coup, Boots Riley, done by the equally bombastic Dave Zirin of Edge of Sports. The interview was recorded at the Politics and Prose bookshop in Washington, DC, and boots_cover_full_rnd17-frontdistributed by the ever-amazing Making Contact radio program. A fascinating and exciting listen. Do be sure to check out Boots’ recently-published book “Tell Homeland Security – We are the Bomb“.


Plus, as always, tons of great music here, spanning afrobeat, hip-hop, and punk rock, all with that class war edge.


Enjoy! Continue reading