The Wikipedia definition of ‘spoken word’ is “an oral art that focuses on the aesthetics of word play and intonation and voice inflection. It is a ‘catchall’ that includes any type of poetry recited aloud, including hip hop, jazz poetry, poetry slams, traditional poetry readings and can include comedy routines and ‘prose monologues’. The culture of the spoken word community is alive and pulsing in Kelowna.
‘The culture of the spoken word community is alive and pulsing in Kelowna.’
On September.2nd 2016, Where It’s At Entertainment and KleenGang Entertainment banded together to create the event ‘Where It’s At Party Cruise’, where a group of spoken word professionals put on a performance.
The boat I’m on is buzzing with excitement for the upcoming show. The boat had two floors, the bottom acted as a stage where the artists performed, using the platform to deliver their art to the people gathered in the area. The upper floor was where people went to get drinks and mingle. That’s where I had the opportunity to speak with Donald Cross, a talented artist that was showcasing his ‘spoken word’ during the show.
The lounge area on the boat can barely contain the energetic artist, who tries to settle in a chair, then bounds up to perch on its armrest, and at other times, greets other performers and people within the crowd with a big smile and well wishes.
(If you want to listen to the interview, instead of reading it, go to the bottom of the page.)
Kayla: Sooo, sorry for my ignorance but what’s the proper title of tonight’s performance?
Donald Cross: What do you mean by performance, though? Like my performance or the event?
Kayla: Uhh, both! What’s the event and what’s your performance?
Donald Cross: The event is a platform for all kinds of artists throughout the Okanagan to basically get their names out there. Like, a lot of artists like to do venue performances but when it comes to a boat cruise, how many rappers on the face of the planet get to say that they get to perform on a boat, right?! And when Chelsie Gorbines (owner of Where It’s At Entertainment), she started doing boat cruises a long time ago in Vancouver, and their yachts are like 400 plus people on their boats. The Okanagan, Kelowna specifically, have been doing boat cruises, parties and events for a long time. But as of this year, I started to want to get into that platform because there’s not a big enough market here, there’s not a big enough fan base for it but I want to change that. I want people to come out, be on a boat and enjoy the experience and the scenery we have. The mountains, the bridge, the lights, it’s beautiful out here! It’s the California of Canada!
‘ there’s not a big enough market here, there’s not a big enough fan base for it but I want to change that’
Kayla: It’s Kelownafornia!
Donald Cross: I love this place more than any place in the country. I’ve lived all over the place. Nothing compares to here, so why not build the scene in such a unique way. Who does boat cruises right? There’s so much talent from Vancouver to Vernon that is unnoticed. Nobody has seen it or heard it and I just want to be able to give that platform for them. So when I teamed up with Chelsea from Where It’s At Entertainment it was a no brainer. Like, she’s got the platform built and I’ve got the business, I think, and I know how to promote the shit out of anything I want. In the end, I think it’s worth it at the end of the day. It’s a major profitable business and it builds the platform. It’s what I want to do.
‘I love this place more than any place in the country.’
Kayla: Whats like the…Do you have like a rapper name?
Donald Cross: I do, it’s actually just Donald Cross. My last name is actually Leathwood but who want’s to rap by their legal name, you know what I mean?
Kayla: Haha exactly!
Donald Cross: My first rap name was actually Deuce. Which was the nickname I got from my father. My father’s name was Donald as well and as I grew up people called me Two and as I grew up it turned in to Deuce. Eventually, it wasn’t meeting its market. I actually got my name from Mercules who’s huge in Stomp Down Killa’s. He’s a huge rapper across Canada, and he’s building his market. He gave me the name Uneasy. I don’t like to take the easy route on anything. I go, I take the hard route on anything. It doesn’t matter what it is. It wasn’t a marketable name, you can’t market Uneasy. So I chose Donald Cross and it’s worked.
‘Which was the nickname I got from my father.’
Kayla: How long have you been performing?
Donald Cross: I’d say, I’ve been rapping for about four years, but I’ve only been performing for about three. I’ve done a lot of battle’s in the last two years. But I only started taking this music thing seriously about three years ago. I’ve been writing and loving music for a long, long time. I was writing in Saskatchewan too when I lived out there years and years ago but I didn’t have the means to record music or do shows, I was still a little kid. Like, when I moved to B.C. I was only 17 years old. So that period of time from when I was 13 until 17, all the time’s I was writing, it was just a hobby at that point until I moved here and had the opportunities that I have.
‘I’ve been writing and loving music for a long, long time.’
Kayla: What inspired your passion?
Donald Cross: It’s an outlet to speak about the stuff I don’t get to speak out on publicly. I can rap about what I’m going through. I’m not the rapper that raps about money, gun’s, car’s and women. I rap about shit that I’ve been through on a regular basis, struggle’s that I’ve gone through. And that’s where it comes into play. I’m passionate about getting my word out. It’s a way of people speaking about what they go through on a day to day basis.
‘It’s an outlet to speak about the stuff I don’t get to speak out on publicly.’
Kayla: Do you have any performers that influence you?
Donald Cross: In particular there’s actually 3 artist’s on this boat cruise that are very inspiring. One is Jaws, Red Kasey and Shalina. All unbelievable artists that have put in a lot of work in the last while. But when it comes to major artists I’d say, anything underground, Core Mega, Vinni Pazz, a lot of Canadian underground stuff. To be honest, the first group that actually inspired me to do what I wanted to do was Stomp Down Killa’s out of Surrey.
Kayla: What are your plans going forward?
Donald Cross: Success. That’s all I gotta say, success. I want to grow and build the scene so that everybody gets an outlet to be able to do what they love to do. I love doing this. The work is hard, putting on events, promoting it, selling tickets, getting the market out, posters, tickets, promo gear, getting the artists together, getting the gear. It’s all a rush to me. I love just working and getting things like this put together.
‘ I want to grow and build the scene so that everybody gets an outlet to be able to do what they love to do.’
Kayla: Do you have any albums or singles?
Donald Cross: I have a couple tracks on Youtube. I actually had a whole album finished last year, end of 2015 and I ended up scrapping the album.
Donald Cross: I wasn’t happy with the outcome, with the way the album was going, with some of the features on it. So I ended up scrapping it and redoing it. Now I’ve got some bigger features on it that I was hoping for before. I’ve just been basically working on my craft to get this album, to get it to the point where I want it to be. It’s nearly done, it should be dropping hopefully the end of 2016, if not the middle of 2017.
‘I’ve just been basically working on my craft to get this album, to get it to the point where I wan it to be.’
Kayla: What’s the best show you’ve been to?
Donald Cross: So the best show I’ve seen, this one’s actually kinda interesting because it wasn’t a hip-hop show. The best concert that I’ve actually witnessed was Paul McCartney. I went to Vancouver and saw Paul McCartney put on one of the fucking most unbelievable concerts I’ve ever seen. He had Jimmy Fallon come out and do a duet with him, it was unbelievable!
Best show I’ve ever done, that’s tough ‘cus I’ve done a lot of shows in the past two years. To be honest with you, I’d say the best show I ever did, feeling wise, would have to be the Bigger Than Hip Hop Fundraiser I did the beginning of last year. One of my closest friends, business partners, who I started a company with last year called Hipnotik. She got diagnosed with Lime Disease and we threw on a major fundraiser to help her raise money for her medical stuff. Everybody was hungry that night, everybody wanted to put on the best performance they could for her. So that was probably the most live show that I’ve done.
‘The best concert that I’ve actually witnessed was Paul McCartney.’
Kayla: When people want to find you and your music, where can they go?
Donald Cross: Donald Cross on Youtube. I have a lot of battles, I have a lot of songs on there, I have a couple music videos, a couple ciphers. Just search Donald Cross on Youtube and there ya go. My Instagram is tmk_cross, and my Facebook is Donald Cross.
Listen to the interview
Sound Cloud link to the interview: https://soundcloud.com/kayla_edie/donald-cross-interview-september216
Donald Cross Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/donald.crossHBG
Donald Cross Instagram: tmk_cross
Donald Cross Youtube example : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tYLRf_xGjB4