Click here to find out more!

Today's Weather

-4 °C | A few clouds

The open-source MC

Courtesy of
In the world of hip-hop, sometimes the price tag on a pimped-out Escalade or a pair of custom Skytops is as important as a clever internal rhyme or a chorus hook. And in a genre where bling reigns supreme, the most unlikely rapper would be one that’s doing it for free. But that’s precisely how Proteus (a.k.a. Aaron Campbell) is making his mark: as the self-proclaimed world’s first open-source MC.

Of course, Campbell is working on the outer edges of hip-hop — far from the temptations of slick production and Auto-Tune trendiness. His raps are intended for sub-subgenres like underground IDM and modern breakcore. But despite working some relatively obscure genres, there appears to be a wealth of artists eager to take him up on his open-source offer. In the three years he’s been making his stuff available, he’s accumulated over 300 songs worth of collaborations.

After Campbell ended his successful stint as the DJ behind local dance night Altered Beats, he wanted to start making the kind of music he was spinning. With the help of a team of cyber-junkies — most of whom started coming to his shows to find out just who was this Proteus character playing their flavour of glitchy dance tunes — the Altered Beats website was assembled for Campbell to begin uploading raps that he recorded. Basically, he just posts .ftp files of vocal tracks to be downloaded by anyone interested in pairing them with their own productions. In return for using his voice, he asks only that people send him a copy of the finished product so he can post them on the site as well.

As a method of collaboration, this open-source approach is essentially the polar opposite of hip-hop’s high-profile duets, which often demand the diplomatic talents of publicists, managers and lawyers more than any actual musical ability. And when it comes to intellectual property rights and illegal downloading paranoia, Proteus is sort of like the anti-Metallica. Plus, I can think of at least one post-modern musical entity who would do well to get acquainted with Campbell’s licence-free output.

For any budding MCs concerned with sloughing off their prime material without monetary compensation, keep in mind that his sharing service has landed Proteus on tracks created by artists throughout the world. Some of his notable online collaborators even include Rotterdam’s FFF, Skerror from Oregon, Berlin’s LFO Demon and Montreal’s Blackjwell.

When I asked Campbell if anyone was using his work in any kind of commercial venture, like in commercials, he said he wasn’t aware of any. “I would be surprised,” he added, saying that he considers the music to be too weird to be the soundtrack for any kind of money-making enterprise. After all, it’s not like Campbell is rushing to turn the collaborations into a product for his own profit. For now, the project remains the kind of venture that would make Milo Hoffman proud.


User Comments

Be the first to comment

Toronto Notes

Toronto news and views, updated every day.

Recent Posts
December 16, 2008  12:00 AM  
December 16, 2008  12:00 AM  
December 16, 2008  12:00 AM  
December 16, 2008  12:00 AM  
December 15, 2008  12:00 AM  
December 15, 2008  12:00 AM  
Activism, Advertising, Art, Books, Celebrities, City Hall, City life, Comics, Crime, Cycling, EYE WEEKLY, Education, Environment, Fashion Week, Federal Politics, Film, Food, History, Immigration, Jim Flaherty's War With Reality, LCBO, Mayor Miller, Media, Music, Politics, Religion, Science, Sex, Shopping, Sports, Style, TIFF, TTC, Television, Theatre, Toronto bloggers, Tourism, US Politics, Video, Wellness,
Post Stats
19 Hits
Recent Comments
checkone said Toronto Needs ...
on Slumlord SWAT Team
December 15, 2008  1:00 PM

nodifferencepartyworker said NDP = No Difference ...
on A tale of two rallies
December 12, 2008  3:10 PM

shawny said Thanks
on Blame Canada
December 10, 2008  2:30 PM

badconcept said MC Flipside live at ...
on Concerts Announced
December 10, 2008  9:00 AM

laa said RIP Adrian
on Adrian Bromley, 1971-2008
December 09, 2008  1:57 PM

thewaymouth said Thanks for slipping ...
on Samantha Ronson holds Court
December 07, 2008  4:30 PM

Copyright 1991 - 2007 EYE WEEKLY Newspapers Limited. All Rights Reserved. Distribution transmission,
Republication of any materials is strictly prohibited without the prior written consent of EYE WEEKLY.
EYE WEEKLY is a division of Toronto Star Newspapers Limited.
Register User