All photos by Brianne Roye
Toronto electro-hip hop veterans Above Top Secret (formerly Abstract Random) have returned after an almost two-year hiatus with the politically charged up single, “BANG.” Off their forthcoming self-titled album on DAP Records, the song begins with a sample of Nancy Sinatra’s timeless song “Bang, Bang” but quickly moves to a much more serious tone that discusses missing and murdered indigenous women, along with police brutality and organ harvesting. The song sounds purposefully eerie, as though what we’re hearing are the ghostly laments of the women we’ve let down in Canada and worldwide. By featuring South American artist Lido Pimienta, the song forces us to recognize that, while this is a systemic issue in Canada, it is certainly something the global community should be far more aware of. Listen to the track below and read our interview with the band and Pimienta below.
NOISEY: This song references missing and murdered Indigenous women—women specifically. Was there a catalyst to you writing this song? Or was it exhaustion simply because we haven’t properly addressed this epidemic in a substantial enough way?
SunSun: Our songs are always connected to our lives and our experiences with what is happening daily in our city. We wrote this song as a cry for resolve and accountability in this ongoing crisis in Canada and the world. These issues must be addressed at all costs—the problems are not solved. This is an emergency.
Ayo Leilani: This song mostly focuses on missing and murdered Indigenous women, but also touches on police brutality, and the awful truth behind incarceration and organ harvesting. These are real issues that are happening at an accelerated rate, yet are ignored by mainstream media. As a mother of a black and Indigenous teenager, these issues and stories directly affect me and my family and in turn my writing. We write these songs and tell these stories in hopes that we can provide a platform for real conversation and change.
Lido Pimenta: As a guest on the song, I channeled their message, which is a shared one. Both in our practices and musical efforts that tie to activism and women's rights, we know it is important as beneficiaries of colonialism in Canada to question government and their slow and painful take of action. There is no catalyst per se, it is life.
What led you to choose Nancy Sinatra’s “Bang Bang” for this song? The opening words of “Bang bang he shot you down” are incredibly powerful when looking at it through the lens of persecuted people.
Leilani: It's a hook that has always stood out in my mind, and with the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement it's something I feel really connects to the times. I remixed the end of it by singing "....bang bang, the cop he shot you down" to shine light on the rampant police brutality that has claimed the lives of too many black men, women, and children. I chose it as the opener to the song so that there is no mistaking what you are about to listen to. It's meant to hit hard and make you feel uncomfortable. It's meant to make you think.
What prompted you to have Lido Pimienta appear on this track? Was this an effort to discuss indigenous women on a larger scale that included the Americas?
Leilani: Lido is a dear friend, an amazing musician, and vocalist. We wanted her to be a part of the song because we are not only big fans, but we thought it was important to have an Indigenous woman's voice involved. We wanted Lido on the song because this issue isn't just a north American problem. It's worldwide.
SunSun: I produced the beat first and let Leilani listen to it. We started writing right away and within a few hours we had the song complete. The words came out so freely and easily. We knew right away that this song was a very important and powerful one. Once finished, we performed it in front of Lido (we have band practice at her house—our drummer, Mas Aya is her partner) and asked her if she would like to jump on the track. She said yes and we extended the beat to fit her in.
Pimentia: I came along for the ride with an open heart. The process was easy, like anything when you are in safe hands. We sat down together and wrote down words. I had an idea of what to say because before the recording we had performed it live a few times, so it was natural to lay done the official words to at least my contribution. I did it in English too, which I don't do too often, I am excited to see where the song takes us next.
What can we anticipate hearing on your new album? Does this song lend itself to a theme running through the record?
SunSun: The album is a mix of personal and political songs. 'BANG' being the heaviest in terms of politics and world issues.
Leilani: Expect bumping beats—SunSun is a beast on the production so yay for female producers! Expect tracks to smoke a blunt to. Expect tracks to blast while deleting fake ass people from your social media. Expect tracks that might possibly trigger an existential crisis.
Sarah MacDonald is a staff writer for Noisey Canada. Follow her on Twitter.