Album review: The Big Picture

Courtney Dickson, Arts & Entertainment Editor Ω

Cale Sampson - The Big Picture

Album cover courtesy of Cale Sampson

Four years after his first album, Canadian rapper Cale Sampson released his latest effort on Sept. 3. Unlike other hip-hop artists, Sampson uses his talent to simplify social injustices and issues for his listeners, as he believes these issues will have a prominent effect on generations to come.

“A lot of today’s hip hop is disconnected,” Sampson told The Omega, in regards to rap and hip-hop music heard on popular radio. “Nothing to Prove,” the second track from his new album, contains the lyrics “Everyone’s sick of the crap that’s on the radio, we don’t want to listen to that.” While others (though Sampson notes, not all) are concerned with creating the next big single and making money, Sampson uses his music for a greater good.

Not only are his lyrics more serious than those in popular hip hop, the music itself is without fancy bells and whistles: no electronic music or auto-tuned vocals, displaying a sense of sobriety throughout the album. Though the content is important, he doesn’t sacrifice hip hop’s notable rhyme schemes and catchy beats.

“Reach Up,” the single off The Big Picture, touches on a number of environmental, economic and political issues. The music video for the single was created by Sampson, director Jay Fox (also known as Le Nouveau-Pauvre) and Sampson’s wife Jamie Doyle (the Jamie named in the album’s only love song “Jamie’s Song”). It was completely self-funded.

The seventh track, “Evolve,” has an intense beat and current yet unique-sounding music. The music is hidden though, by lyrics encouraging listeners to act as leaders if not for others, then certainly for themselves. Though Sampson is really excited about “Reach Up,” the track “Evolve” may soon become a fan-favourite if it finds a mainstream audience.

Photo courtesy Jamie Doyle

Cale Sampson wears a message of his music on his chest. Photo by Jamie Doyle

Compared to the U.K.’s Lowkey and Peruvian-American artist Immortal Technique by critics for his use of language and hip hop for cultivation of minds, Sampson coined the term “info-rap” to describe the lyrics of his original songs. He treats each song like an essay. He researches and fact-checks, as he wants to make sure he has some weight behind his words. The final track on The Big Picture, “The Money Song,” took him more than a year to research. He reads books, watches documentaries and spends countless hours gathering as much information as he can in order to write lyrics that are correct and comprehensive. In fact, it took him three years to write The Big Picture.

Born and raised in Toronto, Sampson discovered the hip hop culture at the young age of nine, thanks to the young men who hung around outside the apartment building Sampson lived in with his mother. After learning to freestyle, he realized he had a natural talent for communicating with others through music and took inspiration from well-known artists KRS-One (or Teacha) and N.W.A. to use music as an educational tool.

“If you are a person who cares what’s going on and are concerned with the direction humanity is going, I would encourage you to stand up and speak out and use whatever medium you can to create change,” he said.