An Ontario-based rapper will be at Abbotsford’s Clayburn Middle School on Thursday (May 2) as part of a 26-date B.C. school tour.
On top of rapping, Duane “D.O.” Gibson is a motivational speaker, who will put on a one-hour assembly, combining speaking and live performances to engage the students in attendance.
In the program, called In the Zone, Gibson talks about leadership, “surrounding yourself with the right friend group” and life skills, using hip hop as a medium.
“I think I’m saying the same thing that teachers and parents say to kids, but I think being a rapper (helps), and the fact that most kids grow up listening to hip hop,” Gibson said.
“Whether they do or not, they are influenced by hip-hop culture, and I think I’m telling them something in a way that they can understand it and that they want to listen to it. So I think hip hop’s a great medium for connecting with youth.”
For one, Gibson talks about finding positive influences in life, and often influence comes from culture more broadly – particularly in hip-hop culture.
“I would also look to some rappers, and I was fortunate enough that I came across rappers like Fresh Prince, Will Smith, and watching that show as a kid and seeing the life lessons that were passed toward me, and not even thinking of it – just enjoying the show – was a way for me to understand about things I could do to lead a successful life,” Gibson said.
That outlook is reflected in Gibson’s music as well, with a positive tone touching much of the prolific rapper’s music. Since 2007, Gibson has put out 11 full-length albums and 25 singles, a rate of nearly one full-length and two singles per year.
While it may be difficult to imagine putting out music at that rate, Gibson’s stamina is also how he made his name, after setting the world record for the longest freestyle rap, at eight hours 45 minutes.
“That was a cool way to break into the game, and what I noticed from that was I was getting more attention in the U.S. than I was in Canada, so I started spending more time in the U.S.,” Gibson said, adding that he thought at the time that success was something to be found south of the border.
“Then I realized that, from hanging out with rappers, my style and who I was was different from them, and so I came back to Canada and I worked on just telling my own story in my raps.”
Gibson initially cites Will Smith as a role model, but north of the border, he also notes Drake and Maestro Fresh-Wes, the latter of whom gets a particular mention in Gibson’s performances as a pioneer in Canadian hip hop.
“I told all my friends I want to be a rapper, and … they said, ‘You can’t be a rapper; you’re from Canada,’ ” Gibson said. “When I used to say that, everybody would laugh. Now, just the teachers laugh, but the kids nowadays say, ‘What do you mean? There are rappers in Canada.’ ”