Back home in Coast Salish Territory (aka Vancouver, BC) over Spring break, I went out to see my friend A-leigh (aka Platypus Toof) play. When I asked her why her set was so short, she told me that the male sound engineer decided to give her an impromptu 101 on her own equipment rather than listen to her sound set-up needs (she has been playing live for eight years and could no doubt teach him a thing or ten) and was feeling blah. Even though her set was amazing, the whole experience was covered in a rain cloud big even for Van City that made us both wilt. We cashed in her free drink tickets for playing and stood bitching when suddenly we were stopped by a beat. Under the florescent glow of the garage-turned-smoke-pit, five women free-styled, beat-boxed, harmonized their voices and clapped in a miraculous mash-up that ended with the chorus: “We are family, I got all my sisters with me.”
A-leigh said, “It’s the First Lady Crew!” Since I had never heard this amazing all-female hip hop crew from East Vancouver Coast Salish Territory, I thought my friends to the south might be similarly deprived. These First Nations women are taking back their stolen title from Canada’s colonizing British Queen (a reference to the Queen of England as well as a president’s wife) and returning the first ladyship where it belongs—with themselves.
First Lady Crew member, JB the First Lady is a: beat-boxer, emcee, performing artist, aboriginal youth educator, single mother, award-winning actor, and member of the Nuxalk and Cayuga Nations who is “using [her] words to go upwards/not backwards.” Check out her brand new video from a new track off her second full-length album The Other Half of the Story out last month and Get Ready, Get Steady for scenes of JB’s everyday life: pouring cheerios for her three-year-old son, rapping up the escalator, bouncing with her b-girl, and sharing down-to-earth images of her smiling friends and family.
“JB wants young indigenous women to feel proud, inspired, and to finally see someone on stage that looks like them since there are not too many Canadian indigenous women represented in mainstream media,” reads JB’s bio. With women-positive rhymes to her grandma, JB and the First Lady Crew are a rare and positive force in Canadian hip hop.