Left to right: Jeah (Savan Muth), Pimpton, Merv xx Gotti (Marvin Chan), and Nono Ryan.
Inexplicably, tucked between wheat fields, country music, and other reasons to take mind-bending drugs, there’s a quality Saskatchewan hip-hop scene thanks to people like Merv xx Gotti. Gotti, real name Marvin Chan, is a singer-songwriter akin to Pharrell: He is linked to everything cool and might be a 3000-year-old alien. The Regina artist runs with the DGS Samurai Champs crew, featuring Jeah (Savan Muth) and Nono Ryan (Nolan Janssen). One year after forming DGS in 2013, Gotti and crew started Trifecta Music Festival, which gives stage time to local artists and continues to expand. Gotti, proud of DGS’ gentle manner, calls the group a “hip-hop boy band.”
Recently, Gotti invited me to hang out on the set of his latest music video for “Crayons” off his Crayons EP, planned for release this summer. I arrived at downtown Regina’s Lot Club and knew I was in the right place because everyone was dressed like an American Apparel ad. I felt ugly and out of place as I mingled. ”I write for VICE sometimes,” I interrupted several conversations to assert. Pimpton, another local rapper doing big things, was also there so I hung around his space until he was forced to interact with me. I drank free beer under set lighting, amplifying the rap video production experience. Eventually, after being rejected from a bunch of beautiful actresses—what part of “I write for VICE sometimes” were they not impressed by?—I spoke to Merv xx Gotti about the “Crayons” video, Regina’s hip-hop scene, and Trifecta Music Festival. Watch the exclusive release Gotti and Jeah’s new video produced by Merlando Media, below.
NOISEY: Are you and the DGS Samurai Champs crew the Wu-Tang Clan of Regina?
Merv xx Gotti: Uh, no. Please, cut that out. I don’t wanna get killed tonight.
What is “Crayons” about? Why are there so many good looking people here tonight?
Jeah called it “Crayons” because not only does it represent a girl’s makeup but essentially their colour pallet—their hair colour, skin colour, background, ethnicity, their steaz, their style, the way they present themself.
So you’re more like the UN rather than Wu-Tang.
Yeah, that’s kinda how [I describe] the Trifecta thing. We’re like the model UN of the music scene in Regina.
Tell me about how Trifecta has grown.
I was not anticipating the growth [of Trifecta] at all. The first year we did the Trifecta Music Festival, it was supposed to be a stand-alone, one-day thing. After, it grew into a two-day thing, a concert series, promotion, media services, artist coaching, a pseudo-label—
Competitive gaming! What’s up with that?
[laughs] Competitive gaming, yeah. We do that too. Everyone here tonight is here because they want to participate with Trifecta. Everyone here played some part in Trifecta in either the first or second festival, from the artists, the extras, providing beer—like I said, the model UN. Yeah, but again, why are there so many good looking people here? How is this fair?
Am I too hideous a person to be here?
[laughs] Regina seems to have a bigger population of good looking people.
Are you throwing shade at Vancouver?
Uh, we’re pretty not bad.
You seem way too stable to be a Regina rapper.
Sucks for me, but I didn’t have any real hardships in my childhood. I grew up in a great family with great friends. I have a support system. I feel like that ties into our music. Hip-hop doesn’t always have to be about the life or the struggle. It’s a medium to express how you feel about certain things, political views, heartbreak, and things that everyone goes through.
Most of the Trifecta team are second-gen immigrant kids. We were always dissuaded from the arts and taught that it was almost a shameful thing. That the only things worth chasing were professional careers, so to us [Trifecta and the scene] means a lot, and we're so excited to even get a little acknowledgement that we can create work people actually dig. No shade, but it was our parent's responsibility to raise and educate us; it's also our responsibility to educate them in turn. They're from a different culture entirely, how could they know?
Insightful. You’re more like the Drake of Regina. Did you ever play any characters in after-school programming
Devin Pacholik loves his home province Saskatchewan and writes. Follow on Twitter.