Rapper collaborates with mayor Nenshi and Jann Arden on newest single

By Andréa Rojas

Yes, that’s right. Daniel Bennett, better known by his stage moniker “Transit,” is looking to put our city of sub-zero winters, Stampede breakfasts and too many pick-up trucks on the list of major music metropolises.

“Calgary” is the first single off the rapper’s third album, 22, coming out this November.

The song is, in hip hop parlance, a “shout-out” to local music. The “Calgary” music video will include appearances from 18 local bands that Bennett considers influential in having developed the city’s music and arts scene.

The not-so-simple feat of gathering so many different local bands for one Calgary-made music video is reason enough to get stoked. But, as infomercial superstar Ronald M. Popeil once so eloquently put it: “But wait, there’s more!”

Acclaimed singer Jann Arden will be lending her vocal talents to the chorus of “Calgary.” After interviewing Bennett on her CBC Radio show in 2010, the two Calgary natives decided to collaborate on a track celebrating their hometown.

“It’s out of the ordinary,” says Bennett of his work with the Canadian star. “No one really expects me to work with Jann Arden, with hip hop to work with Jann Arden

. . . I think she’s really perfect for the song, the whole song being about the artistic side of Calgary, with her being one of the most famous people from here.”

Mayor Naheed Nenshi will also make a cameo in the music video. The involvement of the mayor, who happens to be a fan of Arden’s music, came about through correspondence exchanged with Bennett on Twitter.

But the song “Calgary,” much like the city that shares its name, is more than just a couple of high-profile cameos.

“I wanted to make a song about the scene in Calgary . . . and [in] doing that, I wanted to go against the stereotype of Calgary being a country town, so the chorus is like: ‘We are not all cowboys’ . . . I wanted to show a different side of the city,” explains Bennett.

Furthermore, Bennett refuses to pursue a more lucrative music career in locales with more well-developed hip-hop scenes, such as Toronto or Vancouver.

“I’m really interested in creating a movement here,” Bennett asserts. “I really want to create a hip-hop scene here, and not only that . . . [but] help build up the arts scene here, because there are so many cool places here that don’t really get showcased.”

Bennett reveals an even more unfortunate truth– Calgary artists are often passed over by local venue managers and promoters in favour of more well-known acts from Eastern Canada or America. Despite being able to sell out Calgary venues and recently touring with Juno winner Shad, Bennett was turned down after applying to play this June’s Sled Island music festival.

“With a festival like Sled Island . . . there are like five acts from Calgary on the bill, and the rest are from around the world. That’s fine, but if you go to Canadian Music Week in Toronto, there’s an Ontario act on every bill because they’re building up the scene and they’re supporting it. But here, we’re so limited,” says Bennett.

To him, this is especially disheartening, as he believes the Calgary music scene is flourishing today as it never has. This must be due, in at least some part, to the efforts of figures like Bennett, who is arguably the first Calgary persona to make it “okay” for middle-class hipsters to enjoy and attend hip-hop shows.

“It always takes some pioneers, [but] no matter how much I try and build it up here, without help from my hometown, I can’t do it.”

At the same time, Bennett believes this musical mission to be his calling.

“The whole thing is I just want unity, unity in the scene . . . Especially since hip hop in this city is usually so ostracized and labelled off to the side, for that to be front and foremost with all these other acts supporting it, it’s really cool.

“I feel like I’m an ambassador for hip hop,” says Bennett.

Bennett is taking on a challenge that will certainly take much more than eight hours with a MacBook. But if people like him don’t take the cause of the graffiti-painting and beat-making Calgary masses upon their shoulders, who will?

“They need someone to rise up and claim them.”

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