Sure, we all loved last winter’s “I Get On (The TTC)” viral video hit. Syrus Watson and Randal Medford’s urban-flavoured ode to Toronto transit (or at least the non-homophobic version) was all the rage with just about everyone—adults, children, grandmothers, national newspaper outlets, and even the TTC itself. But all the while, one disillusioned soul was peering from the shadows, perturbed that they weren’t keeping it real enough. And so, he’s taken matters into his own hands.
“TT See” by Toronto-based indie rapper Explisit is a less flattering (and, well, less fun) portrayal of the TTC, eschewing “I Get On (The TTC’s)” humour, Auto-Tune, and Young Jeezy-isms for a somber, low-budget lament on the not-so-better way. After a couple choice opening sound bites—including one of Mayor David Miller praising the city’s transit system—Explisit proceeds to take the TTC down a couple notches, comparing its convenience level to that of (gasp!) Mississauga Transit (“Incompetent service, you slower than the 905/Giambrone don’t care, he the type to drive/ You got three 96’s and one 65/Get better when? When I turn 65?”) and accusing it of employing Big Brother–like tactics with its video surveillance network (“What do I see on the TTC? I see you, I see me, they be watching we”).
Certainly not the type of jingle that will earn the dude a free Metropass (or, say, a Polaris Prize). Still, Explisit (who’s been patiently waiting to blow since 2001) thought it might at least get him a media nod. He recently attempted to get the track featured in Metro and 24 Hours, but no blunt. Newspapers, according to him, simply can’t handle his incisive critical theorist’s take on public transit. “I wanna’ speak my mind,” he declares over the phone. “I like [‘I Get On (The TTC)’], but I just expected the song to talk about some of the things I was talking about. In a way I’m kinda happy that they didn’t…I’m pretty much raising issues where nobody else is really doing this.”
One such issue—which, actually, was raised by Privacy International two years ago and more or less laid to rest—is the intrusiveness of the twelve thousand–plus surveillance cameras currently lodged in the city’s buses, subways, streetcars, and stations. “I don’t really like the fact that it feels like you’re being watched,” he says. “Maybe I’m just paranoid, but they could be watching the cameras for different reasons….Who’s watching the person watching the cameras?” Of course, the TTC’s CCTVs are nowhere near as prying as those in London or New York (where video feeds are consistently monitored by live operators), but Explisit thinks they’ll eventually get to that point or (*cue dramatic horns*) beyond. “Where does this end? There’s cameras everywhere. So somebody might say ‘well, you’ve gotta get used to the way 2009 is.’ But by 2015 we’re gonna be surrounded like The Truman Show.”
Explisit greets you courteously from his humble abode.
Okay, so you may be snickering to yourselves right now, and maybe even making snide remarks like “Lay off the reefer, homie!” or “Do you see dead people everywhere too?” But give the man a break! He’s suffered enough hardships on his daily commute. A former regular on the 165 Weston Road North bus, he licks shots at his oppressive driver in the song (“I paid for my pass/ Why you gotta harass?”) for constantly accusing him of using fraudulent Metropasses. “You can tell it’s a personal thing; they use the pass as an excuse,” he alleges. “They’ll accuse somebody [of using a fake pass] based on their race or the fact that they may look dangerous, but they didn’t do anything. They paid for their passes, so why aren’t they treated like everybody else?”
Fifteen minutes of fame or not, Explisit plans to keep fighting the noble fight against the dark overlords of the TTC regime. His next GTA mission? To recruit disgruntled transit riders willing to sound off on camera as part of “a little ghetto video” he’s filming for his track. (The dissenters taking part in this Friday’s riders’ strike should be chomping at the bit.)
And as for his thoughts on the TTC’s latest moves? Well, allow Explisit to spit it succinctly: “You can agree or disagree, but most know it ain’t fair. By the time you hear this, they’re gonna raise up the fare.”