by Matt SemanskyAlthough their name implies solidarity and they've released two previous full-length albums, Vancouver's Sweatshop Union only recently began to harness the power of their one-for-all mentality. According to MC and producer Mos Eisley, their latest release United We Fall represents the first time the seven-man crew have captured a cohesive vision on disc."We all really like this record, which I can't say about the first two," Eisley admits. "With the first two, we weren't sure what we were trying to do, but now it's more solidified and we're really happy to put it out there and have people see what we're about."
Sweatshop Union What Sweatshop Union are about is hip-hop in its old-school form, with intelligent lyrics delivered by multiple MCs over simple-yet-inventive beats. Eisley and his fellow Union members Metty The Dertmerchant, Kyprios, Mr. Marmalade, Dusty Melodica, Conscience (a.k.a. Treefrog) and DJ Itchy Ron debuted their no-nonsense style in 2002 with Local 604 and returned with last year's Natural Progression, but their third record shows off a newfound confidence.Eisley believes the breakthrough is partly the result of the Union's growing trust in one another. "Honesty, that's been the best medicine for this group," he says. "That was a big goal for me last year, just to say everything I honestly felt when I felt it, instead of letting it simmer and being on some resentful shit when we're out on tour. I think we all came to the same conclusion at the same time."United We Fall is an extended dose of honesty, with pointed criticisms of everything from the Iraq war to the state of current commercial hip-hop. Eisley is diplomatic in discussing the latter. "I don't wanna sit here and complain about it. What we decided to do was make a record that's true to what we believe in, what we believe hip-hop should sound like, instead of worrying what other people are doing." He even goes so far as to acknowledge that pop-rappers have their proper place. "Commercial hip-hop is really good if you're at the club and you wanna dance or whatever," he says. "It sounds really nice in the club. But once you get home and put it on your headphones, you're like 'What are you saying?'"Eisley says being located in Canada makes it easier to resist the temptation to chase more money by rapping about platinum watches and gunfights. "I think Canadians, as much as we think of ourselves as America's little cousin and we look up to them in a lot of ways, we're also very skeptical of what's going on right now. I think that's a natural Canadian thing as a culture and it comes through in our hip-hop. You could try to sound like an American but you'd be playing yourself. And I don't know anyone who's gonna sell doing that." Eisley says that's because Canada's perspective on the world is so fundamentally different from America's. "Canadians are a bit more level-headed, and we observe the world in a different way than Americans, who are right there in the eye of the storm."Far from feeling pressured to adopt a more radio-friendly sound, Eisley feels as though Sweatshop Union have more to gain by going against the grain. "The more it goes one way, the more people aren't feeling that and want something with a little more substance," he says. "The more synthetic hip-hop becomes in the mainstream, the more real music will stand out."If that leads to a rap revolution, you can bet Sweatshop Union will be standing on the front lines.