2017 was a wild year for The Come Up Show. We had so many amazing guests with inspiring stories, great advice, and different perspectives grace our show. From The Internet, Majid Jordan, Jidenna, to inspiring legends like Wyclef Jean, Greg Phillinganes, and Talib Kweli. There’s so much great content that we had to split this episode into two parts! Here is the first part of our very special Best of 2017 episode. We have excerpts of each artist featured in this episode below. Listen to the full podcast to hear more!
Wyclef: There’s a feud between old school hip-hop and new school. What people have to understand is a lot of these kids respect the era of the 90s, but we have to understand what they do too. Magical words Quincy Jones taught me is that your pulse must always think like a child. The day you no longer can think like a child, then you can no longer be.
I think that [new school artists] do have talent. Because it’s all about how to galvanize a generation. Every generation was galvanized by something, for example, the 80s was galvanized by Boom Bap. These kids are galvanized by the speed of 140/150 the trap is the sound. What you see now is that the sound is getting better, Trap music is becoming more than just trap, it’s starting to convert to actual songs and actual music. what I would tell the old heads is to remember what people were saying about our music back then. At the end of the day [the millennials] are doing what they’re doing but they’ll look to you to take them to the level you’re at.
Greg Phillinganes: Humility is crucial
Greg: Humility is drastically important, it’s crucial in your life. There’s a great teacher that goes by the name of Nadia Boulanger and she taught Quincy Jones, and one thing she told him that he says to this day is “You’ll never be more of a musician than you are as a human being,” and that’s crucial. Count Basie also told Quincy to pay attention to the valleys as well as the peaks, because when you’re in the valley, that’s when you know what you’re truly made of. You better have something that spiritually grounds you for the valleys. You have to know that God will bring you out of those valleys just like He will bring you to the peak. Even now I’m suffering financially since there’s been a huge slow down at work. It’s affected me in all types of ways with my current family, and my ex-wife… It’s a challenge, but I know that God will bring me through.
Chedo: What did you learn from moving around a lot?
Khalid: A lot of the relationships that we surround ourselves with aren’t infinite. A lot of the relationships that we put ourselves through are very temporary. Instead of looking at that as a bad thing, it really allowed me accept that as a good thing, because people come into your life for a reason. And you tell those reasons to other people, to help them out. So with all of the moving around, and losing a lot of friends along the way, I realized that those core friendships are going to stay around for as long as they want to. You can’t force anyone to stay in your life because it’s impossible.
Clifton: In terms of managing producers, no, we didn’t see where Toronto was heading. For the most part, Toronto was an unknown city. [Americans] don’t think black people live here, they think we’re all in igloos, they have all of these wild perceptions of Toronto. We as a city wasn’t really proud of that. No one was wearing a Toronto hat in 2005. The city didn’t feel comfortable in its own skin. We were copying other producers like Dr. Dre and RZA, and trying to mold our style after them, that set the foundation for DJ production. So we didn’t have our own voice, our own sound, we didn’t have a clear direction in where this was going. So signing people at the time didn’t make sense financially, like yeah we could’ve done it and see them make a bunch of noise in Toronto, but then what? We didn’t see the bigger picture in that. It made it a lot easier for someone to come after and capitalize on that. Because they didn’t have to do that grunt work but they can just jump in and sign in the hottest producers from BBM out of Toronto, now that the stage is set.
Chedo: Can you share a moment with me where you thought of giving up music?
Talib: Where they do that? Quitting? Hanging up? I don’t even know what that is. Frustration? To the point where I wanted to quit? Life is frustrating, whether you’re a garbage man or whether you’re a rapper. It’s frustrating and everything is relative. While I’m privileged enough to recognize the perks of life, what I do is hard. It’s very hard to be your own man and entrepreneur. I would venture to say it’s harder to be an independent artist, than it is to work for somebody. To work for somebody you have to take direction, and instructions. It’s harder to say no and just be out here… and God bless artists and entrepreneurs, who take the chance. Most people choose to work for a corporation, because it’s easier to do. It’s easier to be a drone. It’s easier to take instruction than to be who you are and just be free.
Chedo: Was there ever a point you wanted to move on from music?
Luu: There was a point… I got a job with roofing and I was working there for 6 months. I worked for a whole summer and I thought I would stick with it. I was making great money, even though I hated what I was doing, the money was great. And I was telling my girl all of this at the time, and she reminded me that I didn’t want to do this. She said I was supposed to use this for the real goal that I wanted to achieve. And it didn’t really hit me till the winter came, and they’re trying to get you to work out there in negative 15 degrees… you can miss me with all of that. I was like Nah man this isn’t for me, and the toll it takes on your body… by the end of the day, you don’t want to do anything. All you want to do is go home, eat, sleep because you have to get ready for the next day of work. I was like this can’t be life. You don’t even get a chance to enjoy it… if you’re putting all of your time into working and not into nurturing the relationships around you… One last thing that made me realize I needed to go back to music was when my engineer Sunny Diamonds posted something saying “the new year’s here, are you going to complain about the job that you have or are you going to do something about achieving what you really want in life…. Literally, a post on Instagram changed my life. Because I stopped [roofing] and put my mind toward something else, put my mind back to the music, started making money another way, and it’s been going beautifully ever since… I’m in a good place right now I can’t complain.
Sylvan LaCue: The idea of being a rap star, in my opinion, is completely fleeting. It’s more about being yourself and showing your artistry or sharing what you stand for as an artist. There’s a lane for anything now. So you don’t have to necessarily have to encompass the world. The game use to be about the two avenues to get to music: radio and television. So labels were always like how do I get as many people as possible through these two variables. You get music and capture music in so many different facets now. So you don’t have to necessarily try and gain the world. You just gain the people who really fuck with you. So that just gives you, even more, initiative to be your fucking self, because there’s going to be somebody out there that’s going to gravitate toward you and hear what you have to say.
Saba: The internet is great, but it’s also not great. I feel like for all of the reasons why it is great, are all of the same reasons why it can potentially not be great. But if you’re using it to find something you feel positively about then that’s really important. Friends aren’t there to shut you down, they’re there to build you up and I think that’s one of the most important things that I’m blessed to have… It’s really crazy to think about because you might say something to somebody in passing and it could affect them in a positive or negative way but trying to keep positivity around you will change your life.
Teddy: When I’m on drugs, I’m not doing it to run away from a darkness. I’m doing it for an experimental purpose. I’m trying to discover something else or time travel and sh*t… it’s not a numbing agent, and it could be, but I don’t feen for it like that. I think when it becomes a numbing agent, then that’s when the problems arise, because your problems won’t be solved, you’ll just be constantly doing drugs trying to run from whatever’s happening but if that doesn’t change then your drug habit isn’t going to change. But for me, I dabble, I do it for the experience… I feel like generationally there’s like an artist that’s a safety net for those [who promote using drugs in their music]. In the 90s there was Kurt Cobain who openly talked about drugs and his experience and delivered it in a way that was almost informative for the audience. He wasn’t glorifying it, but more like showing the consequences. Then there’s Kid Cudi, with Day N’ Night and his mixtapes… he was very much that character for the culture. He was talking about all of this stuff when it wasn’t really glorifying it, it was almost like a sad story that you can turn up to. I feel like now in this generation, there might not be so many of those kinds of artists, I think that Future might be the closest of the drug fuel, where the artist is explaining the past.
Mannie: He still, to me, is that kid genius. His work ethic, and how he attacked it… This was a kid who was three grades above where he was supposed to be. When I met him he told me he just sees things differently, and that it’s not really hard for him. But rap was the balance to his life. Wayne said he didn’t fit in with his peers because everyone thought he was smarter than them. But it just came easy to him and it put him in an uncomfortable place [to be ahead of his time]. He was looking for a balance and trying to figure out how to fit in with society. For him, it was hip-hop, and he wanted to show off his wordplay because it came easy to him and it was a filter for him to go nuts. He was always the first one at the studio and the last one to leave, and if you didn’t have your lyrics together, Wayne always had something. Or if you left the studio and he felt like your rap was better than his, then he would want to do it over. And he’ll wait around quietly for them to leave, and he’ll come up to me and say, “Fresh, can I go do my rhyme over… they killed me on that.” He was very competitive, and it was constant every day. What was super genius of him, for a long time, was that Wayne did not curse. How can you fit in with the streets and the hood, which was what we represented, when you can’t say one raunchy curse word? But the genius of his verses, he didn’t need to curse. This was a cool lesson in hip-hop, that you can come across as super cool without cursing.
Drew: If you can think of the kid in your school that was bullied the most that would’ve been me x10. It got to the point where I fell into a depression, it was really bad. I tried to mask it so much my parents didn’t get a grasp of how bad it really was. So they thought everything was fine. So all throughout middle school and high school I was ostracized and tormented for a long time, and I never really knew why. It made me struggle with self-acceptance and it made we want to change who I was. Because no matter what I was doing, nobody was liking me, and I didn’t know why, like why me? But that’s one of the things music really clarified for me. It helped me figure out who I was. It helped me find my light, that’s why I hold it so dear to my heart, and when people are out there clowning themselves it really bothers me because music is [supposed to be used] when you really have something to say. You can really speak your mind as far as what you’re going through in your life to maybe inspire somebody else who might be going through the exact same thing… We have the power to influence somebody who might want to give up on themselves, to really change their minds. So that’s why it’s so powerful for me, because if it wasn’t for music then who knows…. It really helped me find who I was and gave me a second boost of belief in myself, and that’s what Nü Religion is all about. Religion at its core is something that you believe in, right? And the Nü Religion is to believe in yourself.
Adam: My whole thing is legacy over currency. I could care less about being a multimillionaire. I could care even less about the awards. If I ever have kids to leave money behind, that’s a beautiful thing, but I’ll always do what I can to support mine. I could care less about any of that. All I want to do is leave some interesting music behind, so someone can say nobody did it like this guy did it. If that ends up being only the people in my neighborhood, or the people that listen to this podcast, I’m still happy with that. I’m at a point in my life where I’m satisfied no matter what happens.
Khalil: Growing up in a foster family means that there’s no one around me I’ve known since I was a baby. People just kind of come in and out, so I had to find the people in life that I wanted to build and make my own family, so to speak. When you see people just coming in and out of your life, and you see that no one is consistent, you want to start building that consistency. And the music industry is not consistent, so when you come from that it becomes really easy to adapt but also so hard. It’s just a weird place to be in.
McCallaman: [Reads caption from his post on Instagram] “without lyrics it’s still possible to hear where a musician is coming from, we all understand the concept of vibes. It’s possible to know if they’ve pulled inspiration from darkness or light. It’s possible to hear if they’re selling you darkness or light. This goes for any art form….” Music is just a medium to express or reflect what the person is doing; it’s a mirror. If you’re doing any artform right whether it’s painting, dancing, music… it’s a mirror of yourself. It’s a reflection of yourself. Whatever you have going on within you, positive, negative, in between, that will be on the canvas. Now music is a mode of expression and messaging and programming. So you can send messages to people based on what you’re saying and what you’re doing. That’s why I think music is a sacred thing, I think art, in general, is sacred because it has the power to control. A lot of people may not admit to that, but if you look back in your life, and the situations you’ve been in your life where music has had a strong hold on you, you’ll know that music can make you do things. Music can make you think things that you would’ve not thought about otherwise. So if you’re a 13 or 14-year-old and you hear about xanys and you hear these songs about xanys, you’re gonna do your research and find out what they are. Now you’ve heard your favorite rapper talk about poppin xanys, you’re gonna get curious. Then when the opportunity comes for you to get some, like you’re at a party and they’re bumping that xanny music and the xanys come around, you might take some so that you can be as cool as that person you look up to, that musician, that singer… So musicians and artists have a responsibility I think, to the people.
Dynesti: I was working at this restaurant at Jane and Finch, and at this time in life I had just dropped out of the University of Windsor and decided to pursue music. My family had just ended up back in the shelter again back in Scarborough because that was the only location that had space for us. So we were living in Scarborough, and I was traveling this long distance to get to work every day and while I was there, twice in one week the subway wasn’t working in the East end… and I ended up being over an hour late twice in one week so they fired me. I ended up going back to the shelter with my family and I remember standing outside of the shelter and I had just lost my bus pass. So I’m looking for my metro pass and freaking out because I just lost my job, I just lost my metro pass, we’re in a shelter, and I was the only one providing for the family, what the hell am I going to do. Why the hell did I think that I could just go and pursue music and think that was going to be okay. And I was just sitting on the street corner, crying. People came up to me a couple of times to see if I was okay and I was just like “don’t touch me” and I sat down outside for a while and I cried until I felt like all of the weakness of that situation had left me. Once you cry you realize a lot of stuff and you can continue on and it actually allows you to be stronger. At that moment, I cried until I couldn’t cry anymore. Then I tried to get my act together, went back to the shelter and figure out how I’m going to get another job. At that point though, I had been through a bunch of different things in my life that I have to make this music stuff work for me or this all would’ve been in vain.
Burd: I was in my house looking at old videos and balling my eyes out, doing drugs, drinking, just doing a whole bunch of destructive things and just rolling around. I remember a convo we had like way before I quit, and I told him that if anything ever happened to me that I’d want him to put out my project and Keyz said he’d want me to do the same if anything happened to him. We’d always talk about these fantasy project of reuniting people from Toronto or Canada, with artists that wouldn’t normally collaborate. Which was the goal of Keyz of Life. As soon as he passed, the light bulb went off and I realized that this is what I got to do to give me a little bit of closure. I started on it that summer, reached out to Sean Getty, and we clicked instantly. We filmed the video before we even had the song ready! I just wanted to be productive and we had the beat so I was just like let’s go ahead and do it. If I wasn’t doing something I probably would’ve stayed inside and cried all day or something, I wasn’t even making beats it was like I forgot how to make beats.