krs one

Who Shot Ya?

A one on one interview with legendary hip hop chronicler, Ernie Paniccioli

By: James Di Fiore
















He may not be a household name, but Ernie Paniccioli may be the most prolific figure in hip hop history. In a scene wrought with complexities, simplicities and an ongoing battle of Real Vs Fake, there are very few true ambassadors who have been there since the genesis of hip hop. There are even fewer who are essentially front-proof, meaning they have been able to remain relevant despite both the pitfalls and advancements within the schizophrenic hubris of hip hop lifestyles. Old School vs New School – Playa vs Hater, Gangsta vs Emo…and the list goes on. But Ernie is beyond those superficial battles and has earned his spot as the night watchman of hip hop, capturing the history and the nuances through the lens of his camera.

Before we met in person, Ernie and I actually got into a heated exchange online regarding race and religion. I will spare you the details except to say that when the dust settled we were able to put those differences aside and come together through mutual respect and a common held passion – hip hop culture. Below is the result of what happens when two men from completely different walks of life recognize the importance of communication.  If you are a hip hop historian of sorts you will be both impressed and envious at Ernie’s life experience, and if you are a youngster still sifting through the crates please take heed and pay close attention…you just might learn something.

Ultimate MC Battle Epic Failure

Cattle-call audition gimmick and amateur judging kills competition


First off, congratulations to Quantum and Charron. It ain’t your fault most of the emcees were garbage…and big ups to White Fang for putting on the best performance. And now to the real story….

Most real hip hoppers knew it from the get go – that The Ultimate MC Battle was just another yawn-fest in a long line of boring competitions the city has seen over the past decade. Not only did the end result seem fixed, or at least judged by meth-heads who didn’t seem to be watching the last round, but the initial line-up was suspect and proves that the open audition format will never yield a good show.


Perhaps most telling in this latest of failed battles were the participants. Other than Bishop Brigante, Canada’s most heralded battler, the entire Ultimate MC team is a who’s who of who cares in Canada’s urban scene. Don’t let the youtube hits fool you, King of the Dot is garbage. Not only does it shine a spotlight on a weak format (they mostly battle in acapella because most of their emcees aren’t skilled enough to stay on beat AND freestyle), but the rappers are unskilled, prototypical rookies that would get eaten alive against a typical, seasoned battle emcee. Brigante, if he isn’t embarrassed, should be wondering how he went from a respected emcee killer to the host of a wack enterprise destined to keep Toronto’s rep as ‘mediocre’ in the hip hop world.


Things were not always this bad. Back in the day Toronto had a communications pipeline that led straight to the 5 boroughs of New York. Artists from T-dot worked with local promoters who brought in some of hip hop’s most legendary emcees during the Golden Era of the music. The list of artists who graced the stage of the Concert Hall reads like a manifest of hip hop history: KRS ONE, Big Daddy Kane, The Roots, Kid Capri, just to name a few. A mutual respect for realness and talent led to collaborations with local artists like Maestro Fresh Wes, Michie Mee and a slew of up and comers still trying to get heard. Today it is the up and comers that can’t hold their weight. King of the Dot exemplifies this ineptness through their habit of showcasing emcees who don’t deserve the spotlight, and Ultimate MC ultimately followed suit.


That’s not to say Toronto doesn’t have emcees with the necessary skills to put on a good show, it’s that the self-proclaimed representatives of the scene don’t know where the talent lives. They seem to only have a pipeline on rappers who can’t rhyme to beats, can’t battle without spitting rhymes that are obviously written and simply don’t have the kind of swagger that creates memorable battle moments. In short, Toronto is currently being grossly misrepresented in hip hop, especially in the battle scene.


Usually, when a genre is being pimped by watered down artists, there is a backlash in the underground. We see it in rock music, electronic music and jazz where a collective frustration towards the mainstream results in a buffet of budding artists and new sounds. But it isn’t every day when the underground hip hop heads would rather listen to the latest Drake album instead of scouring for new, local emcees. The tragedy is nobody thinks there are any local cats anymore, and those that do believe the Toronto underground is alive and well are swallowing the shit fed to them by KOTD, Ultimate MC and rappers who simply can’t spit. Until a scene veteran steps up and calls these fraudsters out we may be stuck with the mediocre moniker for years to come.