By Willow Grier
CALGARY — For artists with a resume of performing with hip-hop legends like Talib Kweli, De La Soul, Blackalicious, and Killer Mike, one might be surprised to find such a minimal recorded catalogue of music. But for Humble Giants (made up of Beni J, Halfcut, and DJ C-SIK), the approach has been one of organic reach and live performance artistry. “In this line-up, we have been together for three to four years doing shows off the strength of our material. Not stuff that’s been released but stuff we like to work on in front of a live audience,” describes Beni Johnson. “We are that live band that likes to cut our chops in front of a live audience. I guess the opposite way a lot of artists do things.”
For the Humble Giants, much of their history has been doing things their own way. When Marty Loughran and Beni Johnson met in high school in Fort McMurray, they began to learn together about digital sound recording, collaborating and learning to use the software as it was becoming available. “Beni was the first person I met who had starting recording his own songs. We used to just skip class and kick freestyles,” Loughran remembers. “Even though I didn’t have a microphone, I would turn headphones into a mic jack,” Johnson recalls. And this DIY approach served them all the way through their move to Calgary, where they went on to create an entire new scene.
In Calgary, Johnson began to turn his attention to the creation of 10 at 10, a monthly hip-hop event that would bring together like-minded individuals for the purpose of collaboration and to create a community. “It’s allowed a place for artists to come together, to be able to run into a producer or another artist to make music. When we first got here there was no place we could go to just run into people,” Johnson explains. “The scene gained a backbone; a foundation; a platform.”
From here growth came in several ways. Humble Giants recruited the skills of DJ C-SIK (a three-time DMC champion and National Red Bull Thre3style Champion) on a full-time basis after their 2013 show supporting Talib Kweli. The group’s energy reached an all-time high and their live performances were creating a new level of dynamism that would garner more opportunities for the group. Included were events such as Sled Island 2015 and this September’s high-profile One Love Festival featuring Nas, Raekwon, J. Cole, MGK and many more.
Considering that, last fall, 10 at 10 presented the Nas documentary Time Is Illmatic at the Calgary International Film Festival, it seems things are coming full circle for the hardworking group. “Marty’s and my approach is trying to give you music that has more authenticity to it. Music that is more true to who we are as people,” says Johnson. “Nas is the epicenter of hip hop. And to be not just sharing a stage, but to be billed very similar to Nas [at One Love Festival], it’s definitely a massive milestone that said we are able to represent our city, and even our country.”
To prepare for the nature of playing such an event, Humble Giants have turned their focus to putting together more releasable material, including their second music video, a new single, and hopefully an EP for release around the time of the festival. “We want to capitalize on the opportunities we’ve been given. We’ve got to put in as much work as possible so that people can have something to take home with them,” explains Loughran. Their forthcoming single “We On Now” is a testament to their hard work paying off and putting them in a position to be noticed, and for massive growth. “We’re on the right track,” says Loughran, and with the big things already happening and the amount of tireless drive Humble Giants seem to have, this writer would have to agree. Humble Giants can accomplish giant deeds.
Catch Humble Giants at Shaw Millennium Park on September 5th during the One Love Festival.AB, Alberta, Humble Giants, One Love Festival, Shaw Millennium Park