[Interview] JD Era tells us about No Handouts mixtape concept, Raekwon’s advice, shift in Toronto scene

In support of his latest mixtape No Handouts, JD era held a invite only listening session for members of the press and radio at the Ice H20 offices in Toronto on May 1st 2012. For the lucky few in attendance the night included Horderves, drinks and a sampling of music from Era”s latest mixtape No Handouts.

Since it was announced that Raekwon would be starting a label in Toronto with JD Era being the first act signed under the imprint, expectations have been high. Having the burden of proving that Canadian talent can be successful without crossing the border has been a tall order for many artists to prove. However, with quality music like the well crafted No Handouts, Era is well on his way to proving that it can be done. With solid production from 9th wonder, Lex Luger, Burd X Keyz and amazing features on standout tracks like Mount Olympus with Shi Wisdom and The Greatest featuring Raekwon, No Handouts sets the stage for Era to become a household name without having to leave the great white north.

We spoke with Era about the making of No Handouts, who his favourite Wu -Tang artist was growing up, and why he feels Canadian MC’s can compete with the best of them.

BigSke: What’s up JD Era congratulations on No Handouts it seems like its been a long time coming, you have been grinding in Toronto for a minute. How does it feel to finally release No Handouts? What type of statement did you want to make with this release?

JD Era: For me, the type of statement I wanted to make was that I’m standing on my own to do this shit. I called it No Handouts just to show people it really is like that in this game. If you want to make it in this industry and do this music thing that’s one of the biggest rules I learned. That statement stuck with me throughout making this project. I had to go out there and take it if I wanted to move it to the next level. People heard Thirt3en and loved what I was doing in terms of the bars, but I wanted to show that I can make a complete project with complete records something you can listen to from front to back that’s versatile.

BigSke: How important has Raekwon been during the recording of this project? What type of advice has he given you?

JD Era: Having Rae as a reference point is impeccable you can’t duplicate that. He’s the illest person to have. He pretty much A&R’d the whole project. He would tell me “I like this” I dont like this, change the verse on this, change the beat on this. With Rae, you have a classic ear to tell you this is right or wrong. Whether or not you like No Handouts me having Rae behind me I already know its quality. There is nothing anybody can tell me to try and cheapen what my project is; its been a blessing.

BigSke: No doubt I could only imagine what its like having the man who made Only Built From Cuban Linx in my corner giving me advice. Growing up was he your favourite Wu-Tang artist? What was your favourite Wu album?

JD Era: For me, (smiles) I think I told this to Rae but growing up my favourite Wu artist was Dirty (ODB) to keep it 100. I know Nigga Please from front to back. After Dirty its definitely Rae, Cuban Linx is most definitely my favourite Wu-tang album. C.R.E.A.M was like the first ever rap record I learned. I wrote it down word for word to learn that song.

BigSke: No Doubt I want to switch things up a bit. Toronto was once known as Screw Face Capital up until recent years. It has shed that image and has moved in a new direction; speak on the reception you have been receiving not only in Toronto but around the world touring with Raekwon.

JD Era: First and foremost the shift in Toronto has been crazy. The amount of people that have been showing love from the DJ’s to the people in radio have all been stepping up to the plate to show hip hop some love. I appreciate it, and I know it can go further. This is my first time touring and going across the country with my music spreading the word about JD Era. The response has been phenomenal we’ve been to BC, Winnipeg, Montreal and Saskatchewan and its been nothing but of love because they want to see one of their own win. People who didn’t have to show me love have been supporting because they understand that I’m trying to take it to the next level. It doesn’t go in vain and I am not taking it for granted. Everywhere I go I have been pushing the message that Canada has MC’s. I let em know (The U.S) Montreal got MC’s, Winnipeg got MC’s, Calgary got MC’s Saskatchewan got MC’s too. When I went to the states I did like 30 -35 dates and everywhere I went I was on some Canada shit. Everyone in the building knew I was from Toronto, Canada representing to the fullest. I got that shit inked on me to let nigga’s know its real. It’s just been a crazy journey I can’t wait to give the people more music.

BigSke: So what is the next level for JD Era when its all said and done. You obviously put on for the city and country, what do you think your legacy will be in Canadian Hip Hop music?

JD Era: Thats a crazy question……your legacy is one of those things you work towards and let it speak for itself. I look at guys like Maestro, Kardinal Offishall, Choclair, Saukrates and love what they have done for the city. All I can do is hope that one day people will include me in that conversation. Drake has obviously done some great things for the country as well. I just want people to know that I represented for Canada first and foremost. At the end of the day, I want people to know that my brand is on some classic Canadian shit that will never be altered. From Pontiac, Michigan to El Paso, to Nebraska its been the same message; I’m from Toronto, Canada you think you are nicer than me, you’re gonna have to body me to prove it.

BigSke: Thats dope. I think that were on the right path to put Toronto MC’s on the map as a whole. One thing I personally feel has slowed our progression has been the lack of an industry in Canada. What do you think needs to be done to build and develop talent here?

JD Era: We have a crazy industry here that is young and fresh that just needs to be cultivated a little bit. Having someone like Raekwon come in and say you guys got talent but your business model is not right has helped me and opened my eyes to what needs to be done. I want to show people we can take this to the next level. Don’t think because you haven’t been to the U.S or haven’t done this or that that you cant win. Follow my lead I’m kicking down doors for you to follow behind and get it done.

BigSke: Well thank you JD Era for taking some time to talk with The Come Up Show. We definitely appreciate it. Continued success homey!

JD Era: Shout out to The Come Up Show you guys have been supporting forever, I came to the anniversary party and I’m a make sure I come to the next one!

Make sure to download No Handouts now.

Interview By: BigSke