Stephen Hero speaks on behalf of New Brunswick’s working class

Stephen Hero doesn’t quite delve into artifacts on his new EP gold collection, but these nostalgic bits are the next best thing. For lead single “40 Ft Limo,” he sampled a ubiquitous vintage transit jingle throughout the fledgling rapper and producer’s childhood in Saint John, New Brunswick. For the artwork for this single, he chose a sepia-toned photo of the downtown Saint John buses promoted in this jingle (whose lyrics attempted to refer to public transit as long stretch limos, which would be almost comical if it was not so unconscious). The EP’s cover, meanwhile, has vertical creases that will be familiar to anyone old enough to remember removing the folded labels from their favorite cassette cases. The black and white photo itself clearly captures the smog belching chimneys of a pulp and paper mill owned by the Irving familyNew Brunswick’s infamous business barons.

Image via Publicist

Hero’s exploration of local history is timely. After all, the provincial government recently controversially revoked funds to relocate the New Brunswick Museum. Despite its fame as Canada’s oldest permanent museum (open since 1842), the local institution has faced enough roof leaks at its current downtown and north end Saint John locations to forcing staff to not only pack a collection of 400,000 items that includes “preserved iridescent bats, butterflies and beetles,” according to a recent CBC history. In addition to mothballing these age-old rarities, these employees and the community at large questioned the overall future of the New Brunswick Museum.

“More condos and more tourism is no way to help the city of Saint John. As always, social programs should be the primary focus, while enabling development.

Such affronts to Saint John’s historic preservation have not deterred the city’s most prodigious MC. Instead, Hero crystallizes Port City characteristics in his choice of artwork for “40 Ft Limo,” such as weathered but rugged brick facades and the veil of fog draped by the Bay of Fundy. He tells Complex Canada that the work’s focus on the public transit system is suitable for a Stephen Hero outing because “it’s a focus on the daily lives of Saint John residents over time. We are constantly told the story of the colonial capitalists, when their story is only a story of violence. But the story of the community itself is one of a group of working-class people working hard to do things, support their families, and make art. And that truer story is harder to uncover, Hero says, because “the greediest people are the ones who end up controlling the narrative.”

In Hero’s account, the everyday courage of Saint John stands in contrast to how New Brunswick’s largest city is “presented to the world in this sanitized way to cajole tourists” passing by cruise ships that local elites are too quick to please. Comfortably embracing the local uproar, he hopes to evoke one of his favorite authors, James Joyce, who once said that the universal could be found in well-articulated detail. It’s a sentiment that Stephen Hero – who took his stage nickname from Joyce’s autobiographical novel – often thinks about “because regionalism in hip-hop is so important. And I think I’ve developed a very regional style, which didn’t exist before. It’s for Saint John, but it’s for any city that’s considered “nowhere”.

Along with the throwback artwork, “40 Ft Limo” is completed with Hero’s first verse lyrics about daily three-hour commutes on the city’s shoddy public transit system as a young employee. of the post office, as the percussion of the song echoes like a bus ride riddled with potholes. Back then, Hero almost carried his Walkman while listening to his favorite tapes on the bus ride to work. Now, all these years later, the rapper is sampling tapes for this EP, his very first completely self-produced project. Listeners, meanwhile, will want to press “rewind” and hear the tape squeal after not only the plentiful footage of the first verse “40 Ft Limo,” but also the following lines about passing and quitting. such arduous journeys at minimum wage. The twist: a judging tone from the song’s narrator who becomes a “hater” of the former bus protagonist who turned his back on his community. He hopes the lyrics will show how “capitalism keeps workers in this position where all they can do is aspire to leave their communities. This idea that some people can escape poverty somehow justifying poverty itself is rubbish. It makes much more sense that everyone can just live comfortably.

Hero adds that the rest of the EP also explores “that struggle between trying to be a success and working hard to achieve your goals, but also realizing that this hustle and bustle can destroy you and separate you from your community. Community is everything.

But that community spirit is lacking not only among successful new residents who leave, but also among many small-town leaders. Saint John’s case will be familiar to many cities with unbalanced budgets, according to Hero.

“I’m exhausted from all this conversation around city revitalization because it’s always done in a frustrating way. More condos and more tourism is no way to help the city of Saint John – as always, social programs should be the main focus, while allowing for development,” he says of the specific inequalities of the city ​​that of course sound universal. He adds that when it comes to like-minded Saint Johners who work at the museum, their facilities should “rather… be expanded. There’s no reason not to develop the waterfront, but how stupid is it to just throw the museum away while we do? »

“My concern, as always, is with the workers of Saint John who really make up the city, which means me and my family, but also a bunch of other interesting people from various backgrounds,” Hero says, adding that these residents “continue to be pushed aside to make way for cruise ships. This province is not just Irving and its employees,” he says, before insinuating that local elected officials seem to operate as if they were on the payroll of this New Brunswick behemoth corporation.

Rather than adhering to the ad campaigns that his city should strive to welcome wealthy visitors who literally walk in and out, Stephen Hero is instead “interested in setting up for this community in an authentic way, speaking from my experience of fight here”.

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