In the Montreal neighbourhood of Verdun, a few elderly people have had it with gentrification. They decided to rap against rent increases and the lack of decent housing in their area. Think Raging Grannies, but more like Rapping Grandpappies.
Who are these bar-spitting seniors? It's the artistic collective of the Citizens’ Action Committee of Verdun, back for more with their new theatrical rap video, "Verdun j'y suis, j'y reste" (Verdun, I'm here and I'm staying), which is a follow-up to their viral video "On te dit logements sociaux" (We're telling you about social housing) released last year.
In both videos, these longtime residents respond to stereotypes about low-income tenants and demand their right to decent housing in their neighborhood despite their economic limitations. "The landlords have taken over the neighbourhood these days/ the underprivileged no longer have a place to stay," explains Jean-Claude Denogens in a new verse.
Each artist is hilarious in a unique way, but the issues explored are no joke. In the video, Suzanne Charest talks about how there are more and more condos being built in Verdun, which leaves fewer options for low-income renters and jacks up the average rent. She advocates for more social housing, since a measly 156 social housing units were built in Verdun between 2002 and 2013, compared to 2,495 condo units. Charest also calls for the creation of a lease registry, where tenants can hold landlords accountable if they try to increase the monthly rent of apartments at illegal rates.
Alfred Thorne takes on the role of a rapping real estate agent and landlord. As a housing rights association volunteer and board member, Thorne has created a character based on several anecdotes he heard about landlords who use unethical and illegal tactics in order to refuse to rent to welfare recipients. His character gets confronted by his neighbours in search of housing and dignity. It's all lighthearted fun, but the struggle is real.
Roger Lamothe uses the last verse to blast politicians for empowering a real estate market geared towards the well-to-do at the expense of Canadians living in poverty. His local crew decides to take justice in their own hands — you'll have to watch the video to find out how.
The artistic collective of the Citizens’ Action Committee of Verdun hopes to mobilize their hometown against gentrification, but they also want to spread their message across Canada and inspire other tenants' rights groups to tackle this complex problem using edutainment. Hey, who ever said that hip hop can't be for grandpops?
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