Cheryl Thompson


The Authentication of a Hybrid Identity through Music: We don’t say ‘you know what I’m sayin’/T dot says ‘yuh dun know’


While hip-hop is a global phenomenon, in Canada, scholarly research has largely ignored how, through the cultural process of transculturation (Lull, 2000), artists have produced a culturally hybridized music. This paper, through textual analysis of songs from Kardinal Offishall’s album, Quest for Fire: Firestarter, Volume 1, explains how the juxtaposition of West Indian idioms with American slang authenticates his hybrid identity as Canadian. Although Offishall does not overtly state that America is the binary subject, this meaning can be inferred. For instance, unlike American hip-hop where social-location issues over the community with which a hip-hop artist and fan identifies himself or herself (McLeod, 1999) circulate, that is, one’s sense of ‘not forgetting where you come from’ is based largely on socio-economic terms (i.e. the streets versus the suburbs), the narrative of Offishall’s songs suggests that social-cultural issues, based on ethnic-cultural terms (i.e. Canada versus the West Indies) inform the mores of his music. Additionally, in “BaKardi Slang,” when Offishall says, “You think we all Jamaican, when nuff man are Trini's/Bajans, Grenadians and a hole heap of Haitians,” he is also defining the boundaries of citizenship, and asking the question, who owns Canadian hip-hop?


Cheryl Thompson, Ryerson University, is a MA candidate in Ryerson University’s Communication and Culture program. Her thesis entitled, “Situating Hybridity and Searching for Authenticity in Canadian Hip-Hop: How do we ‘keep it real?’” will be completed in September, 2006. Cheryl has spent several years as a freelance music writer, most recently with Chart Magazine and, where she conducts interviews with hip-hop artists, like Kardinal Offishall, and writes reviews on music films, DVDs, and books. She currently resides in Toronto, Ontario.