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Word Nerd 

Halifax rap star Wordburglar gets nerdy with his latest release, Rapplicable Skills

click to enlarge “I love my punchlines,” says Wordburglar. - JAMES WHITE/DAVE HOWLETT (ALBUM), COURTESY OF ARTIST (LIVE)
  • “I love my punchlines,” says Wordburglar.
  • james white/Dave HowletT (Album), courtesy of artist (live)

Wordburglar Album Release
Friday, August 14, 10pm
Gus' Pub and Grill, 2605 Agricola Street
$10


"Sometimes I'll just think of a line, or I'll hear a word and love it so I'll want to rhyme that word," says comic-book writer and nerdcore rapper Sean Jordan Volpe, also known as Wordburglar. "You never know when an idea is gonna hit you." 

The Toronto-living language artist has been repping his hometown of Halifax for over 10 years as a member of the Backburner Collective, a group of fellow comic book and '90s-era rap fiends that includes Ghettosocks, Uncle Fester, Beatmason and about a dozen more. As a posse, the collective produces intricate and creative tracks that reworks classic vinyl samples with allusions to the pulp-fiction superheroes of their childhoods. 

As a solo rapper, Wordburglar has released several award-winning studio records since 2003, and on Friday at Gus' Pub, the homeboy returns to unveil his newest project of his dictionary addiction, Rapplicable Skills, featuring the recently released single "Channel Halifax." 

The classic boombox jam is a love letter to Halifax landmarks and businesses, from Barrington Street and Casino Taxi to the Citadel's noon cannon and Tony's Pizza. He even raps about the time he was busted bringing coffee on the Metro Transit: "Why are we the only city in Canada that can't bring coffee on the bus? I don't get it. Change the coffee thing!" 

Although he lives in Toronto, Volpe is Halifax through and through. Tracks like "Word the Frig Up" and the vibe of his overall style is indebted to early Halifax word artists like Buck 65 and beat creators like JoRun. The new album reflects early 90s history and features some of Wordburglar's strongest verses to date.

"It's my newest favourite album I've ever made, I love my punchlines," he says. He gives props to the album's custom beats, the DJs and all the guest features. 

In Backburner fashion, Volpe's aim was to continue using beats made from obscure original '80s and '90s samples. 

"It's the art of digging through the crates, finding samples and then flipping them in a new way," he says. "Early hip-hop and rap was all about having fun in music, party-rocking and unity, and that's what appeals to me."

But Volpe also loves comics, and his Wordburglar moniker fits into both the hip-hop and comic traditions of code names and secret identities. "The best rap names sum up who a rapper really is, like Redman or Lord Finesse," he says, "So for me, Wordburglar is funny, it's nerdy, it rhymes. I like puns and double-entendres." This description defines his music catalogue as well. 

Beyond that, Volpe has taken his talents to the printed page. He's releasing the first issue of his Halifax-themed comic, The Last Paper Route, at the Dartmouth Comic Arts Festival on Sunday, drawn from his experiences as a paperboy. 

Illustrated by Dave Howlett and co-written with Alex Kennedy, the adventure-comedy-mystery is one more facet of Wordburglar's love for Halifax: "We both had paper routes and my route was downtown Halifax so I got to know it well. And I used that money to buy used rap CDs, comics and donairs."

Wordburglar knows there's no place like home.

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