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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Hot Docs: Alias

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In early 2012, Anthony Spencer, known as Tony Trapz on the Toronto rap scene, was shot and killed in a recording studio on Brimley. In October, another young rapper was charged with his murder.

Unless they’re praising Drake, headline news about Toronto rappers tends to be negative, usually linking the music scene to drugs and violence. Less frequently explored is the drive and rationale behind much of the culture.

Alias follows five Toronto singers working to balance their passion for music and their daily life. In some cases, daily life does mean selling, but just as often these struggles involve raising kids, studying for LSATs, or even finding work as a tradesman. And the logistics of the music business aren’t any easier: petty convictions keep an artist from expanding his touring. The cost of renting police officers for a show, as demanded by the venue, is more than can possibly be made from ticket sales.

The film, more a series of intensely personal vignettes than a narrative, shines a light on some of the options that music offers to young, economically marginalized Torontonians “Every kid has dreams…but then you get reality,” says rapper Alkatraz. “I want options.” Alias captures him shooting a music video for his song, Superstar Love.

From the anonymous clusters of towers that fill the inner suburbs, to Regent Park, to the Beaches, to Queen Streets, rappers and promoters move through the streets of Toronto (a Jays cap for every man!), performing, taking care of their children, filming, studying, practicing their flow, hustling. The men and women of Alias may have been hardened by their circumstances, but director Michelle Latimer has gotten up-close and personal, showing a very human side to a group of ambitious Toronto dreamers.

Alias is screening with My Black Box tomorrow tonight at 7 PM, Sunday, April 28 at 1 PM, and Saturday, May 4 at 8:45 PM. See show locations and buy tickets here