Two young rappers making a difference

Kwantlen Polytechnic University students awarded Top 25 under 25 Awards

Even though Calvin Tiu and Rick Kumar of rap duo Big Love are no strangers to fame, they were still floored when they learned they had won spots on the Top 25 Under 25 Awards from the Surrey Board of Trade.

Tiu had just got out of class. He was looking forward to catching up on sleep when he learned he had won the big award.

“I felt like I had conquered the world,” says Tiu.

Kumar couldn’t believe it, nor did he expect it. The 22-year-old student was in the Guildford Town Centre Wal-Mart when he read the email.

“My first instinctual reaction standing in the produce section was to let out a really loud, ‘FREAKKING EHH!!!’,”says Kumar, who at age 17 had promised himself that he would eventually be on the Top 25 Under 25 list.


Tiu and Kumar are proud to be making a difference in people’s lives. The two best friends set up a bursary from the proceeds of one of their three CDs.

In the three CDs they have produced, they have not been afraid of rapping about topics that stray far from traditional hip-hop topics. For example, their Become the Teacher album focused on the hardships of teachers and students while The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of focused on children’s literature.

Aside from making music, Tiu and Kumar toured an interactive workshop about anti-bullying, mentorship, and building up community through creativity, “Frontier Poetics,” to 16 high schools in the Lower Mainland between November 2014 and February 2015.

Beginnings of a dynamic duo

Rick Kumar (left) and Calvin Tiu, recipients of Surrey’s Top 25 Under 25 Awards. | Photo courtesy of Calvin Tiu

Rick Kumar (left) and Calvin Tiu, recipients of Surrey’s Top 25 Under 25 Awards. | Photo courtesy of Calvin Tiu

Growing up with cerebral palsy, Tiu was often bullied by classmates. However, in Grade 7, he identified with rap artist Eminem’s struggles with being bullied. Tiu began journaling his experiences in rap.

In 2005, he adopted ‘Kalvonix’ as his official rap name. In 2010, he performed at the Vancouver Winter Olympics and also met with Grammy-winning producer Chin Inieti, who has worked with Drake, 50 Cent and Eminem.

When Kumar was looking for his voice in high school, he found it in writing poetry, which helped him deal with his social anxiety. Writing eventually broke free some of his social restraints.

The two met in Grade 11 at Johnston Heights Secondary.

“Because we saw rap as a form of poetry, when I reached out and invited him to get on a song with me he was more than willing. While his poetry was great, his rapping skills were terrible!” says Tiu.

The two quickly became best friends. Their friendship was strengthened when they studied at Kwantlen Polytechnic University.

Future plans

Tiu is studying to become a high school English teacher and a counselor.

“I truly believe that God has given me all of these blessings and I can only hope I will accomplish much more with the help of God and all the wonderful people I am constantly surrounded with,” says Tiu, who still has one year left in his university studies.

Kumar, who also plans to be a teacher, has been accepted into Simon Fraser University’s Professional Development Program.

“I don’t try and wish for much, but I do wish that I can give back to my students what my teachers gave to me.

My teachers and my mom have made me the man I am today, so I owe it to them to give back as much as I can,” says Kumar, who recently graduated from Kwantlen Polytechnic University with a Bachlelor’s in English and a Minor in Counselling.

When asked if there would be another album arriving in the near future, they wouldn’t say.

“Perhaps we will come together to make another rap album when we feel the time is right,” says Tiu.