Artist profile: Rebecca Dawn

Photo by Amber McLinden. 

Photo by Amber McLinden. 

Rebecca Dawn is bringing self described “positive vibes” to an arena that is often in short supply: rap, hip-hop, and freestyle.

She has a positive outlook on music and building community, and the newest endeavour on her long list of projects is Viben’ Out, a hip-hop crew that incorporates urban entertainment into the mix. The shows include rap battles that are focused on theatre sport and lyricism as opposed to disrespect or harmful language. It also features elements of  burlesque, open mic, and dance parties.

Dawn believes that it’s important to be positive in every aspect of her life, including her work in the music and urban arts community.

“I really feel like everyone has been designed for greatness on this earth and we’ve all come here with a purpose.” Dawn says. “I feel like when we write songs and sing and express ourselves through that chakra like that, if that’s our blessing then, we’re just raising up our frequency and just enhancing our own experience in life as humans and we’re also enhancing life for everyone around us.”

The multi-talented woman began her rhyming career in 2000, when she was living in Mexico for school. She was working on her master’s degree, researching the social drivers of deforestation while living in the tropical rainforest. Living in an area that was extremely poor and had almost none of the conveniences of modern living, Dawn turned to writing as a way of coping.

“I was listening to KRS One’s Spiritual Minded in my headphones the whole time I was out there to give me courage.” Dawn says.  “Then I started writing my own rhymes and writing my own stories to express how I felt about not only just the hardships that I was experiencing physically but frustrations with the system that makes it so that people are systemically poor and disadvantaged and systemically destroys the environment.”

Photo by Amber McLinden. 

Photo by Amber McLinden. 

When she came back to Calgary in 2010, Dawn knew she wanted to continue her career in hip-hop. After meeting her DJ and current husband Jayzen Chanthyvong, the pair eventually established their first hip-hop crew, Contraverse. The duo met at a music festival, and Chanthyvong said they “just clicked”.

“She has tons of motivation; she’s always hungry and looking for gigs and anything that could develop her artistry.” Chanthyvong says. “I’m just very fortunate to be with her and she definitely helps me with my DJ career, especially getting more gigs around the city.”

Dawn has made a name for herself in the Calgary music and arts scene, and it shows in all the projects that she’s dedicated herself to. Contraverse and Viben’ Out are two hip-hop crews that she’s in, but that isn’t all she’s doing. She also works with Global Fest and their urban arts program for youth, as well as Antyx Community Arts, which is youth arts activism in east Calgary.

Dawn recently participated in Femme Wave, a feminist music and arts festival that runs every year in Calgary showcasing women, transgender and non-binary artists. She performed and ran an introduction to hip-hop and song-writing workshop. The festival manager and chair of the board Kenna Burima was thrilled to have Dawn in the lineup.

“She brings something new in terms of the genre she creates in. Hip-hop and urban arts is a community and scene that Femme Wave wants to celebrate more,” Burima explains. “It’s a huge, diverse scene in Calgary and Rebecca’s work exemplifies that perfectly. Her plethora of experiences, education and insight make her a very interesting, different artist.”

Photo by Amber McLinden. 

Photo by Amber McLinden. 

It seems as though everybody around Dawn has something good to say about her, with both Burima and Chanthyvong explaining that her presence is nothing short of lighting up a room. Bringing positive energy to everything she does is important to Dawn and has helped her curb feelings of frustration.

“Just to genuinely be happy for others and to appreciate all the other artists in the community as a fan and just go to their shows and just appreciate them and just let go and have no, don’t compare myself to them don’t think I should be there or beat myself up because I’m not where they’re at but just like actually appreciating each other openly that removed a lot of frustration I was having.”