Canadian hip-hop collective comes to Steamboat |

Canadian hip-hop collective comes to Steamboat

Nicole Inglis

— Sweatshop Union's weeklong tour through Idaho, Montana and Colorado got off on the right foot Thursday night in the college town of Moscow, Idaho.

Technically, it was the wrong foot for Colin McCue, also known as Dusty, who was consumed by the excitement and energy of the live hip-hop show and jumped onto a speaker and rolled his ankle.

"I'm pretty much functioning on one foot for the rest of the tour," he said with a laugh Friday morning during an interview with Explore Steamboat.

Such are the risks when, like McCue, you're following your dream. The rapper said he wishes his 12-year-old, hip-hop-obsessed self could see him now.

"It's the best high when you get on stage," he said. "You have a physical power up there you didn't even know you had. I can jump and run around and sweat — I could never do that in just my day-to-day life."

Despite the injury, McCue said he and the six-person hip-hop collective from Vancouver are looking forward to returning to Colorado this weekend. He said Colorado reminds him of back home in Canada.

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"Because there's so many mountain towns, you get the same kind of folks you get back home," he said.

Sweatshop Union plays a show at The Tap House Sports Grill on Tuesday. The cover is $10 and the show starts at about 9 p.m. It also features Denver hip-hop act Prime Element and Canada's DEF3.

Sweatshop Union comprises Dusty; his childhood friend Lee Napthine, also known as Marmalade; DJ Itchy Ron; Metty; Mos Eisley; and Conscience.

About to record its sixth studio album, the group now spends about a third of the year on the road in addition to recording with various other groups and projects.

McCue's love of hip-hop began at a young age.

"I grew up listening to gangster rap and stuff like that. … You just idolize these rappers," he said. "I always wrote raps secretly. I eventually told my friend Marmalade, 'I don't know about you, but I write raps.' And he was like, 'So do I.'"

From recording songs in their rooms to playing shows on Vancouver Island, Dusty and Marmalade made their way into the thriving Vancouver hip-hop scene. Through mutual friends in the music world, a few separate pieces of hip-hop groups came together to form Sweatshop Union about 10 years ago.

McCue said they aimed to record music about their views and concerns about the world around them.

"It was about having no control in the world or no say in the world and seeing all these injustices," he said.

Today, McCue said a similar conscious attitude shines through in their music, but the group isn't focused on making politically motivated rhymes to affect change.

"I think it's an energy thing," McCue said about the impact of the group's music. "When you come through a place, even when you record a record, and you have this positive intent behind it, that energy, that feeling is contagious. When you show up to a place with good intentions, that just spreads."

To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or

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