by Sean
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.


Suuns - "Music Won't Save You". Listening to "Music Won't Save You", I find myself fixating on its samples: the clips of a laughing audience, which flutter over the song like surf, or bird-trills. Where did this laughter come from? I wonder. Did Suuns secretly record a party? Did they plunder it from Everybody Loves Raymond or The Nanny? Was there an excursion to the Comedy Nest or the Montreal Improv Theatre, slipping in with a hidden mic? At first these questions seem tangential, but in a way they gesture to the heart of the song. Ben Shemie sneers about the wrongness of the scene around him, the failures of his (and others') music, and in a way he's asking where the laughter is coming from. Where does the failure happen? How does something right & certain break? How does beauty (listen to that guitar) so easily fall short? Is it there, or there, or there? An inadequacy or just original sin. [buy the beautifully recorded, churning Images du Futur]



My friend Chris, who loves boardgames and the Russian Futurists, introduced me to battle rap about two years ago. Turns out that Toronto - yes, Ontario - has one of the richest scenes in the whole world, anchored in a league called King of the Dot. Battle rap has a long history on Canada's east coast, particularly the Maritimes, but it's not just KOTD's contenders who have elevated its status: in the age of YouTube, where battle-rap is migrating from street-corners to MacBooks, KOTD has made its name with the best-shot and best-produced videos of any league. URL has more street-cred, but the Blue Jays fans of KOTD are now running a California league, Fresh Coast, and luminaries like Drake and Raekwon are showing up to their Toronto events.

Modern battle rap is rarely off the dome: freestylers have been overtaken by writers-&-memorisers who take months to prep for an event, honing shots and punchlines for each opponent. Battles are usually split into three rounds; every round, both battlers go for a couple of uninterrupted minutes. Some battles are judged, some are not. Sometimes there's freestyling thrown in, or improvised flips - ripostes based on whatever the other guy has said. The verbiage is often violent, misogynistic, homophobic or racist; but by the same token it can be breathtakingly precise, lyrical and vivacious. Punchlines trade with personals. Winning takes a combination of wit, words and charisma. It's as much about the way your eyes move as it is about the way your rhymes work. Unlike comedy battle-raps, like the series Dan participates in, there are real stakes. And because it's no-holds-barred, that explicit understanding that everything's on the table, the nastiest bigotry and sexism sometimes feels redemptive. Since we can lob a punchline about everything, at every kind of identity, calcified power structures seem weakened. One guy gets in a funny, terrible line about his opponent's Judaism; so the Jewish rival swings back with a funny rhyme about the first guy's antisemitism. The crowd laughs at both.

Anyway I bring all this up not to tell you about some of my favourite rappers, but to tell you that Chris and his buddy Matt have just started a new battle rap blog, T.O. Battle Blog. It's not just a great way to keep up with the scene - it's a great introduction to it. (I mean check out that terrific underrated battle rappers list - the ballsy jesus-y kid is amazing.) Time.

Posted by Sean at March 7, 2013 2:56 PM

"Music Won't Save You" is a great track. Awesome article! Thanks for a wonderful song.

Posted by Chance Llanes at March 7, 2013 3:23 PM

Post a comment

(Please be patient, it can be slow.)
about said the gramophone
This is a daily sampler of really good songs. All tracks are posted out of love. Please go out and buy the records.

To hear a song in your browser, click the and it will begin playing. All songs are also available to download: just right-click the link and choose 'Save as...'

All songs are removed within a few weeks of posting.

Said the Gramophone launched in March 2003, and added songs in November of that year. It was one of the world's first mp3blogs.

If you would like to say hello, find out our mailing addresses or invite us to shows, please get in touch:
Montreal, Canada: Sean
Toronto, Canada: Emma
Montreal, Canada: Jeff
Montreal, Canada: Mitz

Please don't send us emails with tons of huge attachments; if emailing a bunch of mp3s etc, send us a link to download them. We are not interested in streaming widgets like soundcloud: Said the Gramophone posts are always accompanied by MP3s.

If you are the copyright holder of any song posted here, please contact us if you would like the song taken down early. Please do not direct link to any of these tracks. Please love and wonder.

"And I shall watch the ferry-boats / and they'll get high on a bluer ocean / against tomorrow's sky / and I will never grow so old again."
about the authors
Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

Emma Healey writes poems and essays in Toronto. She joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. This is her website and email her here.

Jeff Miller is a Montreal-based writer and zinemaker. He is the author of Ghost Pine: All Stories True and a bunch of other stories. He joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. Say hello on Twitter or email.

Mitz Takahashi is originally from Osaka, Japan who now lives and works as a furniture designer/maker in Montreal. English is not his first language so please forgive his glamour grammar mistakes. He is trying. He joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. Reach him by email here.

Site design and header typography by Neale McDavitt-Van Fleet. The header graphic is randomized: this one is by Neale McDavitt-Van Fleet.
Dan Beirne wrote regularly for Said the Gramophone from August 2004 to December 2014. He is an actor and writer living in Toronto. Any claim he makes about his life on here is probably untrue. Click here to browse his posts. Email him here.

Jordan Himelfarb wrote for Said the Gramophone from November 2004 to March 2012. He lives in Toronto. He is an opinion editor at the Toronto Star. Click here to browse his posts. Email him here.
our patrons
Said the Gramophone does not take advertising. We are supported by the incredible generosity of our readers. These were our donors in 2013.
watch StG's wonderful video contest winners

our favourite blogs
(◊ means they write about music)

Back to the World
La Blogothèque
Weird Canada
Destination: Out
Endless Banquet
A Grammar (Nitsuh Abebe)
Ill Doctrine
A London Salmagundi
Words and Music
Petites planétes
Gorilla vs Bear
Silent Shout
Clouds of Evil
The Dolby Apposition
Awesome Tapes from Africa
Matana Roberts
Pitchfork Reviews Reviews
i like you [podcast]
Nicola Meighan
radiolab [podcast]
CKUT Music
plethoric pundrigrions
Wattled Smoky Honeyeater
The Clear-Minded Creative
Torture Garden
Passion of the Weiss
Juan and Only
Horses Think
White Hotel
Then Play Long (Marcello Carlin)
Uno Moralez
Coming Up For Air (Matt Forsythe)
my love for you is a stampede of horses
It's Nice That
Song, by Toad
In Focus
WTF [podcast]
The Rest is Noise (Alex Ross)
My Daguerreotype Boyfriend
The Hood Internet

things we like in Montreal
st-viateur bagel
café olimpico
Euro-Deli Batory
le pick up
kem coba
le couteau
au pied de cochon
mamie clafoutis
tourtière australienne
chez boris
alati caserta
vices & versa
+ paltoquet, cocoa locale, idée fixe, patati patata, the sparrow, pho tay ho, qin hua dumplings, caffé italia, hung phat banh mi, caffé san simeon, meu-meu, pho lien, romodos, patisserie guillaume, patisserie rhubarbe, kazu, lallouz, maison du nord, cuisine szechuan &c

drawn + quarterly
+ bottines &c

casa + sala + the hotel
blue skies turn black
montreal improv theatre
passovah productions
le cagibi
cinema du parc
pop pmontreal
yoga teacher Thea Metcalfe

Cult Montreal
The Believer
The Morning News
The Skinny