Sweatshop Union is a Canadian hip hop collective formed in 2000 in Vancouver, when four politically minded rap acts--Dirty Circus, Pigeon Hole, Kyprios and Innocent Bystander --came together to produce their first album, which was published in 2001.
Known for an inventive and socially conscious sound, Sweatshop Union's music focuses on being "honest"--commenting on issues ranging from the war in Iraq, the plight of the poor and working-class, to the negativity and misogyny of mainstream hip-hop. Speaking for the group, Mos Eisley put it as:
To me, politics aren't a choice you make; they're just a way of life. ... In that sense, I am trying to be more positive than political, because I'm already political to begin with... I think that, at the same time as there's a lot of money being put into hip hop that could be deemed negative or misogynistic or self-destructive, by the same token there's a lot of guys who are coming up trying to be positive and rebel against that, and putting their careers on the line.
The band signed with Battleaxe Records in 2002 and their self-titled debut album was re-released as Local 604. The group also began touring North America with a number of other rap and hip-hop artists, including their label-mates Swollen Members.
Current members of the group include Metty the DertMerchant, Mos Eisley, DJ Itchy Ron, Mr. Marmalade, Conscience, and Dusty Melodica. Like other hip-hop collectives such as the Wu-Tang Clan, the members of Sweatshop Union continue to work, perform and produce separately in addition to their work with the band. Pigeon Hole, Dirty Circus and Metty's side project Trillionaire$ each released albums in 2010. As of 2011, Kyprios has left the group to pursue his solo career.
Their 2004 album Natural Progression led to a Juno Award nomination and three Western Canadian Music Award nominations. They have been called part of "Vancouver's hip-hop renaissance", and had their music featured in CBC Radio's Make Some Noise documentary. They have expanded their touring to the east coast, hoping to increase awareness about their music.
The band's fourth studio album, Water Street, was released in 2008. In early 2009, Sweatshop Union's "Oh My" won in the 8th Annual Independent Music Awards for Best Rap/Hip-Hop Song.
Sweatshop's The Bill Murray EP, was released March 1, 2011 on Urbnet Records. It features eight songs, and production from Pigeon Hole, Rob the Viking, and Preme Diesel and won the 2011 Western Canadian Music Awards' Hip Hop Album of the Year. This is the first album on which former group member Kyprios has not appeared.
Sweatshop released the The Leisure Gang EP on July 3, 2012 as a free download for their fans via their Facebook page.
On May 28, 2013 they released their fifth LP titled Infinite, which featured artists Mos Eisley, Mr. Marmalade, DJ Itchy Ron, Metty the Dert Merchant, Dusty Melodica and Conscience, with guest verses from Snak the Ripper, Def 3 and Claire Mortifee.