Just over a year ago Wab Kinew was auditioning for the job of host of CBC Radio's powerhouse morning show, Q.
The CBC had fired the former host, Jian Ghomeshi, after he revealed a shocking penchant for unusual rough-sex practices, which, according to women who had dated him, included suddenly punching his partner in the head or choking her while making out.
Wab was a definite frontrunner. Non-white (a requisite), handsome, suave, extremely articulate, with a slightly dangerous air (that jiu jitsu training and street fighting past), and he could speak French (courtesy of French immersion schooling). The CBC must have swooned.
But Wab didn't get the job. Maybe it was his gall at starting his weeklong gig with an essay (a Ghomeshi trademark) on violence against women, ending with a jab at the former host himself. Who knows?
But we know that CBC dodged a bullet because if they had hired Wab we would now be writing about the mass-suicide on Front Street .
For, you see, Wab was sitting on a little secret of his own involving the treatment of women. Six years earlier the university-educated applicant had gone slumming as a hiphop rapper in Winnipeg. He put out a well-received CD in which he rapped songs about---well, bitches and ho's and their sex parts and what Wab wanted to do to them. Or, what's known in the rap world, the usual.
Imagine replacing Ghomeshi with a guy who raps songs that degrade women, songs that fuel the very attitude behind violence against women.
By the time of his Q audition, Kinew had decided to go into politics, starting with an exploratory sniff at running for Grand Chief of the national Assembly of First Nations. He passed.
But he knew he had to inoculate his new self from his old self if he was to succeed in the political arena... Step one was to show up at the 2014 Aboriginal Peoples Choice Music Awards where he publicly denounced misogynist lyrics in rap. Oh, yeah. He may have been for it but now he was against it.
Step two was a memoir, every politician has to have a memoir. Into his he shoehorned a couple of sentences almost as an afterthought: "I would also like to apologize for misogynistic rap lyrics I have written or performed in the past. At the time I thought it was funny or had shock value.”
And wouldn't you know it, during his first real political campaign, running as the NDP's star candidate in the Manitoba general election, the women's issue would come up. This week a Liberal candidate was attacked for some stupid tweets about women, and in defence the Liberals dredged up Wab's rap career.
The NDP was ready. Caucus spokeswoman Sharon Blady insisted there was a difference between the two cases.
"The one thing that's different there is that he's taken ownership of them," she said of Kinew. "I mean, he's published about it in a book. He's talked about his own personal growth and frankly, the regret. That's about a period of angry youth."
Angry youth? When Wab Kinew was rapping about ho's and bitches he was 27 years old. He had been out of university for six years. He had fathered two children. Just because he wore a baseball cap backwards didn't make him a yout'.
Nobody questioned Blady about her soft racism, calling a grown native man an irresponsible adolescent. But that's another issue.
Even Wab Kinew said in interviews that his "angry youth" was his university days. That's the time of his stints in jail; his street fights; his conviction for drunk driving; his arrests for assault, including the time he stiffed a cab driver. Unless he can't keep his story straight, he had long ago quit drinking and straightened out, especially after his second child was born.
No, Kinews entry into the hip hop scene was deliberate and thought out. And he's proud of it,.
His CD with those misogynistic lyrics is called Live By the Drum, and it won the Aboriginal Peoples Choice Music Award for best rap/hip hop album in 2009. And he can't stop promoting it.
Neither can the NDP. On their election website you'll read:
Your NDP Candidates | Manitoba NDP
Manitoba New Democratic Party
.Wab is also an award-winning recording artist. His 2009 album “Live By the Drum” won an Aboriginal People's Choice Music Award.
The University of Winnipeg, where Wab is the Associate Vice-President of Indiigenous Affairs, carries a bio that boasts:
Wab Kinew (pron: WOB ka-NOO) is a one-of-a-kind talent, named by Postmedia News as one of “9 Aboriginal movers and shakers you should know”. He is the Associate Vice-President of Indigenous Affairs at the University of Winnipeg. In 2012, he hosted the acclaimed CBC Television series “8th Fire” and in 2015 is hosting CBC's national program, Canada Reads. His hip-hop has won an Aboriginal Peoples Choice Music Award. His journalism has won an Adrienne Clarkson RTNDA Award, a Gabriel Award and been nominated for a Gemini Award. He has a BA in Economics and is a member of the Midewin.
Not a hint of shame there.
He's never returned his Aboriginal Peoples Choice Award.
Or amended his bio to read how he's changed his attitude on women compared to his song lyrics.
You might conclude that his sudden remorse is just another tactic by just another cheap politician.