The great Muhammad Ali’s famous rebel yell: “I’m black and I’m beautiful!” rings true over and over again through the eleven tracks that fill this compilation of music from the artists of Jane & Finch. You better believe it… This recording – the aptly [and innocuously, but tellingly] titled Parallel Intersections, volume 2 from the Wheel It Studios shepherded by – among others – the highly committed activist and Juno-nominated Rubén “Beny” Esguerra. The Colombian-born champion of the New Tradition, Esguerra has, for decades, worked with all hands on deck and made music with artists from the inner city neighbourhood of Jane & Finch, a place peopled by extraordinarily resilient black and other radicalized communities. Over the years – and often facing tremendous odds [some of which have been documented in the feature Jane & Finch: A Musical Story of Triumph over Disenfranchisement] – Esguerra has sought out, nurtured and helped many artists find their own singular expression, and also helped them get their mixtapes to market.
To have produced this music in the middle of the pandemic is a towering achievement. Through the New Tradition Music Mobile Recording Studio programme, Esguerra got together with artists such as Nathan Baya and a slew of new, relatively unknown and ferociously gifted artists, and helped them graduate through a 16-week programme covering such aspects of music-making as beat-making, music theory, percussion, mixing, mastering and other aspects of artistry and production. The programme operates principally out of the Jane-Finch Boys and Girls Club [30A Driftwood Court and 308B Grandvine Drive on T.O] and the music on this album is a result of the “graduating class” of 2019. The music is accomplished on so many levels.
First of all the music is not just “original”, but sounds unlike anything you might have heard by other rap and hip-hop artists. It is visceral, lyrical, as well as melodically, harmonically and rhythmically sophisticated. The poetry is powerful and eschews trite rhymes that you might find in commercial music of this kind. The freestyling is sophisticated too. Best of all the music comes so patently from “lived-experience” and is brutally honest in the ugly-beauty of surroundings in which it is born.
Some of the revelations are truly special – “Went to Ghana” which features a probable superstar, Zakisha Brown, for instance. The heart ache of others are beautiful and reach out beyond the neighbourhood, to show solidarity with others who live in peril, in a kind of disenfranchisement that the artists of “Gosford Fire” know all too well by Justice “Lyrical Flips” Tweneboah, Jonathan “Jonny Vibes” Rivero, Lesisha Williams Palmer and Tracey Kayy. Nathan Baya‘s work here is outstanding too. I would be remiss if I did not say that while a few tracks have been singled out, the entire repertoire throughout album is superb. Performances are taut and dramatic and the powerful impact of the artists’ experiences is enhanced by the excellent acoustic of the recording.
Track list – 1: Went to Ghana; 2: Home; 3: Money; 4: Stop Beefin’; 5: Loves Me; 6: Gosford Fire; 7: Tell Me; 8: Driftwood Freestyle; 9: Enemies; 10: Dangerous Weapon; 11: Blind
Personnel – [writers/performers] – Zakisha Brown [1, 3]; Justice “Lyrical Flips” Tweneboah [2, 6, 8]; Jonathan “Jonny Vibes” Rivero [2, 7, 8]; Lesisha Williams Palmer [2, 4, 9]; Joel “Crvnchy” Kamalando ; Anton “Txnic” Lewis, Jahmeika “Meika” Reid ; Alexis Clarke, Blessing Amponsah ; Maya Albash, Lawrence Manu [5, 8]; Luqman Handule, Jason Usifoh, Raequan Kerr, Adrian Ellis John ; Tracey Kayy [2, 6]; Nathan Baya [2, 3, 8, 11]; Millie “Leon@” Carrazana 
Released – 2020
Label – Wheel It Studio
Runtime – 31:05