When Skiing Met DL

Freeskiing’s ‘all love’ affair with underground rapper DL Incognito

Please quit with the glancin, he's been doin' this since Helly Hansen…PHOTO: COURTESY DL INCOGNITO

Oliver Nestor earned his place in the past decade's greatest ski movie moments. Dave Crichton's comeback in Forward, Sammy Carlson's triple cork in Seven Sunny Days, Corey Vanular's Keystone throw down in Long Story Short, Level 1's coming out party in Strike Three—Nestor played a part in all of them.

But the Ottowa native wasn't spinning off-axis. Instead, the 35-year-old, better known as hip-hop's DL Incognito, was spitting rhymes for some of the most iconic film segments of the terrain park generation, becoming the cult artist on every skier's playlist and a beneficiary of the unlikely partnership between skiing and hip-hop.

"I think [ski movies] opened up my music to a completely different demographic and let people that might not listen to my music otherwise…hear it through something else they love," says DL. "It's a two for one deal—you get to see a crazy segment with a crazy trick pulled off for the first time, and the bass line for it is this really dope music from an artist you've never heard of."

While DL may no longer be that 'artist you've never heard of,' he was when pro skier Scott Hibbert first heard him delivering his rhymes on the low in the summer of 2002. In an email interview, Hibbert says he received a mixtape from a friend that worked with DL and his twin brother, Nick Nestor, at Canada Post (Canada's equivalent to USPS). He liked what he heard, and after convincing DL that skiing had progressed beyond spread eagles and double daffies, Hibbert contacted Level 1 founder Josh Berman.

Berman was also impressed—so much so that he used four of DL's tracks in that year's Level 1 production, Strike Three.

And, after Level 1 introduced the young emcee with tracks like "Audio Coke" and "Street Caviar," the freeski world was hooked. "Once you're part of a certain subculture, other people in that subculture expose your music to everyone else and it kind of goes viral," explains DL. "That's what happened to me [with freeskiing]."

The acclaim he gained in the ski and action sports community translated to success in Canadian hip-hop circles as well, helping him and producer DJ TechTwelve earn 2005 and 2007 nominations for the Juno Award for Best Rap Recording (he eventually lost out to other ski movie favorite Swollen Members). But despite the mainstream hype, he never lost his appeal in skiing.

"He keeps appearing around the ski world. He's always in edits on Newschoolers and what not," says Berman. "It's cool to see that, with that little connection we had back in the day, he was able to parlay it into stoke and exposure in the ski community."

A ski community that includes Poor Boyz and Stept Productions regular Matt Walker, who, in a 2010 interview, listed DL's "Audio Coke" as the song that most reminded him of skiing. Sammy Carlson has included DL songs in three of his movie segments (Ski Porn, Revolver, and Seven Sunny Days) in addition to his winning 2008 Jon Olson Super Sessions entry.

"I actually talked to him when I wanted to use his song 'Hard to Do' for my JOSS edit," says Carlson, the 2011 X Games slopestyle gold medalist. "He was really down with skiing, something that really motivated me to keep using him in other segments."

While the rapper admits that the freeski community isn't, "what you'd consider a typical audience for underground hip hop," he has embraced his role in ski movie lore. In 2005, DL even performed at the Level 1 world premiere of Shanghai Six in Boulder, Colorado, in what Berman remembers as, "one of my favorite world premieres ever."

With his fifth studio album, Someday Is Less Than A Second Away, scheduled for release in early 2013, we'll have to wait and see if there's a new chapter on tap for DL's freeski legacy.

"I feel like it all comes from the same place," says DL. "It's just about being progressive in your art, progressive in your craft, and if I can provide a bass line for that, then it's all good."