In this episode of the Urban Pandit Podcast, I interviewed Chris Hamilton aka ILL Tone, an ace lyricist and Vancouver’s underground Hip Hop veteran. We dive deep into his rap beginnings, the current status of Vancouver’s hip hop scene, his experience with substance use and addiction (and more.)
Niel Scobie is a PhD Candidate and part-time instructor in Media Studies as well as a sessional instructor at the University of Guelph’s School of Fine Art and Music. He holds an MA from Carleton University in Music and Culture and a BA (Honours) from Vancouver Island University in Digital Media Studies.
Niel Scobie started Vancouver’s first all-rap radio show “In Effect” in 1989 at CITR 101.9 fm at UBC.
In this episode we dive deep into Vancouver’s Hip Hop origins, factors that influenced the Canadian west coast hip hop scene, Toronto vs. Vancouver hip hop history and etc.
Let me introduce myself. I am God. Yes, a God, whom all you humans revere and worship fanatically. You have given me so many names, but I prefer to be known by my birth name Sanjay. Pretty regular huh? That’s because I was born a human.
Let me tell you something about Gods. First of all there are 75 of us currently. We were all born human, and have moved a long way from the archaic rituals and practices you follow. Every human has the potential to become a God but they have to go through an ideological rite of passage. An application of sorts. Our job is pretty much administration. We audit every human’s life experience to weigh Good against Bad and accordingly assign a karmic retribution. We also govern the organizational structure of the human realm, and meet annually to see what changes we can make. Let me give you a relevant example: When we saw the human population rise beyond necessity, we initiated a worldwide pandemic.
So in short think of me like a Director of a company, but only it’s not a company – it’s the world. We had some of our tenured Gods retire and are opening up opportunities to train more humans to become Gods. As a result, I was asked to share my story on how I attained my Godship.
I will start by saying this, we ARE different from you. Don’t be fooled by my candidness. We don’t see the world the same way as you do. That’s why only a select few human beings can qualify for Godship.
The way we see the world is very pessimistic. To become us, you have to ingrain our code of conduct:
There is nothing such as “fulfillment” or “content”. What you have, another craves. There is no concept of Human Potential. What you are, another strives for. There is no “good” and there’s no “bad”. If being a millionaire is good for you, others see it from envious lens. There is no life and there is no death. There is no afterlife as well, there is only karmic rewards and punishments. Understand that the world is a two-dimensional structure only governed by ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. And ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ does not equate to ‘good’ and ‘bad’. Shoplifting a loaf of bread worth $2 might be a ‘bad’ thing in the eyes of Human Justice but it is justifiable from the Eyes of God. Understand this and you will be worthy of our way of life.
You see, since I was a human child, I always lived on the fringe of society. I was never preferred within my family nor in my peer groups. I wasn’t bullied but I wasn’t acknowledged as well. I was definitely hurt in the beginning but through the years I could understand why. Humans lived in a realm where they strive to achieve an ideal. An ideal in terms of beauty, culture, morality, sociability, wealth, health and psychology. An ideal that is not reflective of the direction society takes itself. Upon discovering this in my late 20’s, I made it my crusade to teach my peers what the truth is.
I initially started hosting sessions in my basement where I and a group of my students (who were the same age as me) would talk endlessly to uncover the depths of our psychology. We spoke about everything : childhood trauma, first experiences of intimacy, insecurities, passions etc. After years and years of just collective introspection, we reached a weird conclusion. We started viewing our own experiences from the vantage point of a third person. The third person that does not care one bit of what we went through. Once we started doing this, we realized that traumas, inflicted pain, hurt and disturbances did not hold much weight anymore. We realized that “pain” is a tool used to punish and “love” is a tool used to reward. Much of society is governed by pain and by love. We crave for love and try to avoid pain.
But after all pain and love are both constructs of nature, aren’t they? As humans we questioned why would God cause us pain, if he had the power to provide us with endless love. So we took a different turn, we tried to discover pain a little bit more. We approached pain with no sense of good and bad. We first started to physically throw punches at each other. Then it escalated to hitting each other in the shin with a baseball bat once a week. We kept doing this until our nerves grew numb. But the truth is that there is no pain greater than emotional pain.
We came to the concluding that emotional pain is a matter of trust being broken. That’s when we started to betray our loved one’s trust. It started with one of my students, Vikas being promiscuous in his marriage and breaking his wife’s trust in him. Then another student, D’Angelo, borrowed $100,000 from his father to “start his own business”, which he took to the casino to gamble it all off. Another person, Jishnu pawned his wife’s jewelry to treat himself with a watch.
Over the years, as we kept doing this with our near and dear ones, we had nobody with us anymore. Only each other. And the only thing left was to betray each other.
The ultimate punishment was “Isolation”. I, being the first person to realize this, achieved this level by poisoning each one of my students in their sleep. I had to face 15 years of jail time (to satisfy humans) but it did not bother me one bit. I was as isolated in jail as I was in society.
And then it was only me. No one knew me or cared about me. I did not know anyone nor did I care for them either. When I saw pain being inflicted on someone, it did not bother me anymore. When someone tried to love me, I did not feel good anymore.
Without the sense of “good” and “bad”, I had achieved tabula rasa. That was when I was recruited. The day I was released from prison, a stranger had come to receive me. He was bald and stocky man with a French beard. He did not look anything like a God. In fact he looked the opposite. He had freckles all over his face and had a dead eye. Anyways, he received me and said he will drive me to where I belong. Once I entered his car, I had lost the sense of time. He kept driving on for hours. Soon hours turned to days, and days turned to months. We never stopped once for food and drink. And he never spoke a word either. After 5 years, 2 months and 5 days of travelling we reached our destination.
He guided me into a nearby house where he showed me a book. A book that consisted of what is right and what is wrong. A book to teach me the philosophy of Gods. A book he had written himself. After a successful interview I was recruited. The only question he asked was, “Who do you selflessly and truly love?” . And my answer was nobody. He replied , “That’s rights. Gods love nobody.”
– Siddharth Bala
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Just the beginning of my new journey writing short stories.
Her phone kept ringing relentlessly. She only got four hours of sleep, after a long night of drinking with her friends. Nevertheless she struggled to find out who this selfish caller was. Squintingly, she saw Mom, Sis. “Aw shit, not again !” she thought to herself. She had been avoiding them for two weeks and now it seemed like they had unwillingly developed a dialling addiction.
She regretfully picked up the phone and mustered a broken and gruff, “Hhe-llo”. It seemed like the call had already begun, and everyone was in the middle of a heated conversation. Her mother was aggressively narrating how her grandmother was being completely selfish and stubborn.
She knew exactly how these calls went. Since she was 24, she had been perfecting her routine: Keep quiet, listen, keep quiet, listen. That was precisely what she was planning to do. She knew at some point, blame would shift towards her, and her mother would say, “this girl is utterly useless ! No matter how many times I tell her about the opportunity, she is stubborn and selfish. All my attempts are futile. Even she wants to go her own way.” All she could do at that point was to keep quiet and listen. She had learnt the hard way that sticking up for herself would not yield any good. In turn if she managed to shield herself in anyway, her mother would retaliate by throwing jabs at her insecurities with more fervour.
Eventually, her foresight would prove her right. Her mother indeed brought up her missed opportunity and made her the target of her vicious attack.
Her autistic twin sister, Ally was on the same call as well. She was the only person who could remotely understand her. She used to hate the fact that her character was assassinated in front of Ally. However with time she grew numb to it. They had an absent father growing up, and she took it upon himself to bring her sister up. She always expected Ally to miraculously support her during these infamous calls, but all she could be was a mere spectator. As she listened to the ghastly charges and accusations made against her, she contemplated for one last time, “Did I really have a choice and was it really an opportunity?”
The Relentless Rebel: These people appear to be exciting and adventurous as they operate against the grain. But a closer look will reveal an air of superiority. Their cause is always the right cause. If you oppose them, you will be the victim of their sarcastic jokes.
The Personalizer: They appear to be ‘sensitive’ and ‘good-natured’. But over time, you will notice that their sensitivity is only directed inwards. They often feel they are the victims of situations. Don’t engage with these types as they tend to remember everything and will come for revenge, if you rub them the wrong way.
The Drama magnet: They have a magnetic side to their character. Initially, they can appear exciting and fun, but once they got their hooks in, the drama begins. Their lives always seem to be filled with problems and dilemmas and they will drag you down with them. Disengage with them ASAP.
The Big Talker: Their ideas are innovative and they are extremely creative. A glimpse into their past will reveal no concrete accomplishment. They tend to have ideas but seldom act on them. They always point fingers at others when a project fails; It is never their fault. Show interest and amusement at their ideas but don’t invest any time or money.
The Sexualizer: These people have a lot of ‘unrepressed’ sexual energy. They tend to see every relationship as one that is potentially sexual; and often times mix work and pleasure. Sex for them is a measure of validation. They will use this trait to get what they want. If you notice this in someone, minimize contact.
The Pampered Prince/Princess: Their character has a sense of royalty to it. They present themselves as superior and have an unnatural confidence. You unconsciously start doing favours for them. If they don’t get what they want, they display child-like behaviours. They love to be pampered. Don’t feel guilty for not always helping them, prioritize yourself first.
The Pleaser: These people have learnt to use ‘niceness’ as a coping mechanism to avoid hostility. But in reality, they can be quite passive aggressive. You will notice this in subtle behaviours- where they don’t do completely what is expected. Be on your guard at all times. They will strike when you least expect.
The Savior: These people are proactive to help you out, but at a cost. They expect complete dependance from you. They gain satisfaction of helping others and the moment you show some independence, they will be passive aggressive. No matter what, be independent.
The Easy Moralizer: These types preach morality but there are chinks in the armour. You notice they don’t practice what they preach. They tend to see things in a binary way. In reality, they are attracted to what they are fighting against. Keep your distance from such types.
Law in Action
In 1905, after many hours of painful labor, Allene Stone Gano gave birth to a son, Howard Hughes Jr. Going through long labor nearly ended her life, and she decided to love this boy to the fullest.
Her husband, Howard Hughes Sr., was a business owner of a successful company, Sharp-Hughes Tool Company; and had made quite a fortune for the family. Being an entrepreneur meant that he had to travel for the most part, and subsequently, he ended up being an absent father and husband. This made Howard Jr. be his mother’s sole companion at home, and Allene focused all her attention on him.
Howard Jr. was a really sensitive child and could get nervous in most instances. His mother tried to protect him against unfamiliar instances and warded off any ‘dangers’ that came his way. Soon enough, with his mother’s protection, he grew up to be a polite boy of soft nature.
But tragedy struck the family when, in 1922, his mother passed away suddenly. To make things worse, his father died less than two years later. This resulted in 18-year-old Howard Jr., becoming completely independent with a large fortune. His relatives could not fathom what happened next. He started showing a completely different side of him. He would not listen to them and would completely act out as a rebel. He started to show deaf ears to any advice they would provide, and finally ended up buying all the shares of his father’s company, from them.
In 1927, after becoming completely free of his family, he settled in Los Angeles and pursued his interests of ‘aviation’ and ‘film-making’. After spending a ridiculous amount of $3.8 million, and after firing two directors in the process, he directed his first film, Hell’s Angels. The film was received well by the audience and critics alike and this only motivated Howard Jr. to plunge further into his dreams. [He regretted the movie; but still did it . The movie was successful because of the action sequences : Not because of him]
In the 30’s he started his own aircraft manufacturing company, Hughes Aircrafts, and by 1942, he had signed military contracts worth $61 million. He would be the biggest player in the game, just as America was placing its foot in World War 2.
But something began to happen. A rumor started to float around that Hughes Aircraft was not budgeting correctly. Then people started to say that there was colossal mismanagement of many projects. Soon there were many rumors associated with Hughes Aircrafts and its grandiose plans.
Finally, by 1944, people could finally see the house of cards crumble. His production had fallen behind schedule and in the end, there wasn’t a ‘single’ Hughes Aircraft jet that was used in the war. [He started micromanaging and letting all decisions pass thru him]
In 1948, he bought RKO pictures, with the dream of getting back into show biz, and planned on making a modern version of Hell’s Angels. He called it Jet Pilot and spent 3 years and $ 4 million making the movie. When it finally released, the audience’s tastes had changed and the movie turned out to be a failure.
With America now going to war with Vietnam, in the 60’s, Howard Jr. signed a contract to manufacture helicopters for the US military. But the same pattern repeated and the company started falling behind schedules. They kept cutting prices to win more auctions; promising the government they would create state-of-the-art military helicopters but they only overpromised and underdelivered. Finally, the company was hit with a $90 million loss.
The pattern only ended in 1976 when Howard Hughes Jr. passed away, ironically, in a flight from Acapulco to Houston from all pain pills and drugs he was addicted to over the years.
Insight and Resolution
When Howard Jr.’s mother realized she could not have anymore children, she started to smother him with not only love & attention, but also with all her anxieties. The father saw Howard to be an extension of himself and expected him to carry forward his legacy. What ended up happening in the process is that the parents took control of every aspect of his life: from selecting his clothes to selecting his friends. Hence, as a child Howard detested the control on him, but couldn’t do anything as he was dependant on his parents. When his parents passed, he felt liberated and could finally let his shadow personality out. And we know what happens next.
Greene offers a two step process for avoiding vicious patterns in our life, that are caused by character traits we have internalized.
Understand our own character
Learn to read other people’s character.
Understanding our Own Character
Our character is defined by four main layers:
Deepest layer: It comprises the biological and genetic factors of how our brains are wired. Eg. Some people, by ‘nature’ are more prone to be depressed.
Middle layer 1: These are traits that we internalize, early on in our childhood. They are primarily based on our relationships with our mothers.
Greene uses John Bowlby’s Attachment styles to offer a basic category of mother-child relationships:
Free-Autonomous: Caregivers who give the children freedom, are sensitive to their needs, but also protect them.
Dismissing: A distant caregiver, who at times is even hostile. In this relationship, the child has a need to be self reliant as s/he feels abandoned.
Emneshed-Ambivalent: The caregivers, here are inconsistent with the attention they provide. Sometimes they are overprotective, and at other times, distant. The result is that a role reversal takes place, and the child feels s/he has to look after the caregiver.
Disorganized: Here the caregiver themselves face inner emotional conflicts and feel that nothing their child does is right. The children soon themselves develop problems with managing their own emotions.
Middle layer 2: The character traits developed here are direct products of the first two layers. Depending on our relationship with our caregivers, as children, we develop certain strategies and behaviors to handle relationships and moments of stress.
Top Layer: These are traits we develop in our adolescence is response to character flaws we can identify in ourselves.
The advice that is provided here is that we have to analyze our character and try to go as deep as possible into the layers. We need to actively introspect and meditate upon childhood experiences to see our (negative) patterns and understand their source.
We can’t ‘fix’ our character, but by thorough analysis and active practice, we can mitigate the effects of our worst character traits.
Greene also provides key character ‘signs’ we can look for, as we gauge people’s true:
Patterns of Behaviour: Look at how people behaved in the past. ‘Patterns’ are a key indicator of character.
Handling of everyday affairs: If people are inconsistent and late with small assignments, they will also be late with larger projects.
How people treat colleagues and employees: Look at the difference between how people behave between peers and subordinates. If there is a discrepancy, and if they display more negative behavior towards those under them, their ‘true’ character is more negative as well. Especially keep an eye out when there is a stressful situation.
How people handle power & responsibility: To tie in the earlier point, see how people act as leaders. Are proactive and supporting; or are they more micro-managing and dictatorial.
People’s choice of partners/spouses: See how people selected their partner. Is it someone they can dominate or control? The selection of a partner/spouse is a direct result of the attachment schemas, defined earlier.
How people act when they aren’t working: Are people more aggressive than they portray, when they’re playing a sport. How do they handle losses?
Are people extroverts or introverts: Extroverts are governed by external criteria, whereas, introverts are more sensitive and are interested in their own opinions.
Greene also prescribes using ‘tests’ to gauge one’s character. To measure one’s trustworthiness, he suggests sharing a rumor in secrecy. Does the person keep it to themselves or does s/he spread it?
The essence of what is described in this chapter is that people can lie with words but the body can never lie.
“People tend to wear a mask that shows them off in the best possible light- humble, confident, diligent. They say the right things, smile, and seem interested in our ideas. They learn to conceal their insecurities and envy. If we take this appearance for reality, we never really know their true feelings, and on occasion, we are blindsided by their sudden resistance, hostility, and manipulative actions.”
Law in Action
Green uses the life story of American psychologist, Milton Erickson, as an example of how looking beyond appearances is key to understanding motives.
In 1919, during his adolescence, a teenage Milton Erickson was diagnosed with polio and soon his whole body became paralyzed, sparing his eyeballs. The inability to move and engage socially with people proved to be a boon to him rather than a curse. Like he got some sort of a superhuman strength, he maximized the use of his eyes and ears and noticed something that no one ever bothered to observe: Nonverbal behavior.
During the course of his bedrest, he analyzed conversations that occurred between his sisters and found it to be quite peculiar.
“In the course of the next day he counted sixteen different forms of no‘s he had heard, indicating varying degrees of hardness, all accompanied by different facial expressions. At one point he noticed one sister saying ‘yes’ to something while shaking her head ‘no’. It was very subtle but he saw it.”
Soon Erickson recovered, however, by continuing to observe and analyze every facet of non-verbal behaviour: physical movement, walking patterns, breathing patterns, intonation etc, he was able to decipher the deepest emotions in people.
First, we must understand that masking our emotions is a natural human tendency
“We learn how to conceal from our parents or siblings exactly what we are thinking or feeling to protect ourselves in vulnerable moments. We become good at flattering those whom it is important to win over”.
As primates, we relied on basic facial expressions and other kinds of nonverbal communication. This is something that is deep-rooted in us even though we later developed language systems to communicate. To understand people is to read between the lines. It is to look deeper than the mere words they use.
“To miss this information is to operate blindly, to invite misunderstanding, and to lose endless opportunities to influence people by not noticing what they really want or need”.
Move to more complex nonverbal cues, like intonation.
Mirror a person’s mood and behavior to loosen their guard.
Establish their baseline mood and expression: Their default mood/expression in a neutral situation. This makes gauging their behavior easier.
Notice their behavior in different settings. Observe the changes when they talk to a figure of authority (like a boss) vs. someone they are comfortable with (e.g. a spouse or a friend).
Pay attention to mixed signals.
Sit in a public space, like a cafe, and examine the varying dynamics between groups of people. Analyze the context (is it a group of friends or a meeting) and how their body language is.
Notice your own subconscious movements. Analyze how you react under pressure vs. pleasure.
Common Errors while observing:
There is a dictionary for words but not for nonverbal cues. If we fill in the gaps with our emotional biases, ‘observing’ isn’t of much help.
Othello’s Error: In Shakespeare’s Othello, the protagonist, Othello, assumes his wife is being promiscuous and questions her aggressively. Due to the angry tone in Othello’s voice, his wife answers nervously. In turn, the nervousness in her answer was seen as ‘guilt’ and it convinces Othello of her promiscuity, despite of it being unreal.
Be aware of display rules: People from different cultures would find different behaviors acceptable.
Decoding Nonverbal Cues
Greene breaks down nonverbal cues into 3 categories:
“People’s hostile or resistant actions never come out of the blue. There are always signs before they take any action. It is too much of a strain for them to suppress such strong emotion.”
The advice here is to trust intuition, focus on microexpressions and set up tests. Notice people’s reactions when they genuinely are experiencing a positive mood. Their facial muscles are less constricted and more relaxed. You can additionally set up tests by purposely instigating them in a subtle way, with a sarcastic remark or a playful joke at their expense. By doing this, they cannot overtly display any contempt but you can notice how their behavior changes as opposed to them actually experiencing something positive.
“We do not like talking about relative power positions, and we are generally uncomfortable when others talk about their superior rank. Instead, signs of weakness and dominance are more often expressed in nonverbal communications”
Greene distinguished various ways in which nonverbal communications differ between the dominant and the weak. Starting with ‘confidence’, the dominant has more confidence than the weak. This can be seen in their open body language and more relaxed behavior. It is also suggested that dominance shouldn’t be confused with leadership as there is the possibility of being a weak leader. Telltale signs of a weak (leader) include insecurity, anxiousness, loud voice amongst other nervous behaviors.
“With leaders who are riddled with insecurities that poke through nonverbally, you can play to their insecurities and get power through this, but often it is best to avoid attaching yourself too closely to such types, as they tend to do poorly over time and tend to drag you down with them.”
For those who are not leaders, it is advised to gauge their momentum. If they are rising stars, attach yourself to them, and if they are weak and petty, avoid them at all costs.
“We humans are by nature quite gullible. We want to believe in certain things – that we can get something for nothing; that we can easily regain or rejuvenate our health thanks to some new trick, perhaps even cheat death; that most people are essentially good and can be trusted.”
This gullible nature of people makes them prone to manipulation and trickery. When dealing with deceivers or liars, it is advised to just encourage them and to go with the flow. This will lower their resistance and they will end up showing more signs of tension.
Mastering Impression Management
Impression management stems from the idea that all people play certain roles and that they must play these roles to the best of their abilities
Greene provides us with six basic tips to become proficient at this:
Be a method actor: Learn how to put yourself in a certain mood by reimagining yourself in it. Also, train yourself to revert back to a neutral expression from an emotional mood in a fluid and seamless way.
Adapt to your audience: Know how to behave in different situations and learn to blend in. Executive Edge Consulting provides some awesome pointers on how you can blend in a team , on a corporate level; however, I feel the tips can be used in other situations as well.
Use dramatic effects: Master the art of presence/absence.
Project saintly qualities.
“The better you play your role, the more power you will accrue, and with power you will have the freedom to express more of your peculiarities. If you take this far enough, the persona you present will match many of your unique characteristics, but always heightened for effect.”
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