Legendary Local Hip-Hop, Wax Philosophic

Story by Matt Tyska, Photos by Damien Gilbert

This holiday season, emcees Reach and D-Cyphur, along with DJ Jenero, are back to celebrate 20 years of Thunder Bay tradition—it’s the Wax Philosophic’s Waxmas Throwdown, and everyone’s invited.

Describing themselves as “conscious, eclectic, high-energy hip-hop through the lens of growing up in Northwestern Ontario,” Jarret Schilke (Reach), Derek DeSa (D-Cyphur), and Bryan Johnston (DJ/producer) formed Wax Philosophic in late 2000, all while living in different cities. Since then, they’ve toured Canada, they’ve released multiple albums, singles, and music videos, and they’ve also created the Wax Philharmonic—a nine-piece hip-hop orchestra that amplifies their energetic stage show even further. Plus, they have opened for acts such as Shawn Desman, Blackalicious, and LMFAO.

When reflecting on the history of the event, DeSa says, “Our first show was at the Apollo in December of 2000. Although we play shows throughout the year, the Christmas show has always been the one constant we have.” He says that organizing this show has been the least difficult, as the group always gravitates back to Thunder Bay for the holiday season. “The show has always acted as a conduit for a central gathering space for our fan base along with our local and out-of-town friends throughout the years.” Expanding on this, he jokes, “It’s also somewhat of an annual gathering place for decades of friends to get together and remind ourselves that we’re not twenty years old anymore, especially the day after the show.”

Without trying to give away too much about what’s happening for their 20th Waxmas, they plan to celebrate by bringing back artists that they have shared the stage and collaborated with, and members of the Wax Philharmonic. Opening the evening will be Jamie Smith (Auditor General), DJ Wurlwind, and other special guests. Even more intriguing, DeSa states, “Any local hip-hop artists that we have played with are welcome to join us for a throwback freestyle cipher at the end of the night.”

Wax Philosophic’s 20th Anniversary Waxmas Throwdown hits Crocks at NV Music Hall on December 21. Doors are at 9 pm and cover is $10 with proceeds going to local charity. Non-perishable food items will also be collected for the Thunder Bay Food Bank.