Welcome to part two of our special Best of 2017 episode! We have some big names in this edition, such as Jidenna, The Internet, and Majid Jordan. There are many great artists talking about the negatives to signing with a label, battling depression, sharing their pain through music, and most of all, how Toronto artists are putting their city on the map.
Listen to the podcast to hear more! If you haven’t yet, make sure to listen to part one of this tribute to 2017. We have great things coming up for next season, so make sure to be on the lookout for our relaunch!
Jalen: The way I look at music and the way I look at most things I do, I don’t like to do things that are temporary. If this is what I’m going to do, then I’m going to make sure it’s done the right way. I want to make sure people hear me from a place I’m comfortable with starting at because I don’t look at this like something that’s going to end in like three, four, five, six months. This is what I’m choosing to do with my career, I could’ve chosen a different path but this is what I want to do so I’m going to make sure it’s done right. Doesn’t matter what it is, I’m going to do what I have to do.
You can’t have a negative attitude and expect things to go right, it doesn’t work that way. Sometimes you gotta wake up in the morning and switch your mindset up and have a different perspective on the way you move. That’s the only way things will really get accomplished… I wouldn’t even let my mom hear my music or see my music until I was on the big stage. So I had a studio in my house and my parents still never heard of my music. And I had this studio for years. I wasn’t sure if that was something they would’ve wanted me to do initially. So in my head, I was taking down a different path whether it be soccer, or school, or all of these different things, that wasn’t the go to. For me [music] was something that I was passionate about that I didn’t know how to get across. I was doing what I was doing, not really saying too much about it.
Chedo: The song Oh Mother was your response to what was happening in the United States. You were in Paris when you recorded that song. Can you tell me what you were thinking during that time?
Son Little: I was getting my news at a lag because of where I was. I was on a high giddy, because I was in France, and some of that pressure that you might feel as an African American male at that time is lifted when you’re in a different environment. It was sort of a rude awakening to hear about the things that were happening there, and the venom that was going back and forth between people. The idea of debating the value of different people’s lives, instead of reaching for the ideal… Everything that was going on back home was very divisive and painful for people.
Chedo: Your song was sampled on Drake’s “Jungle” tell us how that happened
Gabriel: We have a mutual friend, her name is Zoey, and she played him the record. He flipped out and a week later I was hearing Jungle.
Chedo: He must have been truly inspired. You said that your mental privacy was being invaded by Drake?
Gabriel: I heard him everywhere. When that mixtape came up, he was very ubiquitous culturally, and he was on the tip of everyone’s tongue. A lot of people were coming out of the woodwork just to congratulate me on that, which was really sweet. It was just exciting… I was just starting my shit and then all of the sudden there was contact with this real cultural presence in Drake.
Sean: I got my heart broken so much, I don’t set myself up for heartbreak. So I don’t music out and expect people to understand me. That’s ridiculous. I think it’s less crazy to meet somebody and marry them that day than it is to make a song and expect everybody to feel you. It’s not going to happen. There are people that are always going to dive in and look deeper. Then there are going to be people that don’t want to give you the credit or say you don’t have the capacity to even contribute something to society. They’re going to take it at its surface level and never dive deeper. It is what it is.
Chedo: But that’s based on their awareness, and where [the listener] is at.
Sean: Exactly, it’s completely external. It has nothing to do with who you are as a person. I’m seeing a lot of people who are curators, who are controlling what new hip-hop is being projected to the masses don’t actually give a f*ck about hip hop. They tolerate it. Especially this new sound and this new era of music, they don’t even acknowledge it. Like it’s not even a real thing. These are the gatekeepers that are controlling whether or not you’re on the front page of apple music long enough to get people to think you’re a big deal. Because it’s not about the quality of the work, it’s who you know. But if you can have a really great product and know somebody at the same time too, that’s when it explodes. Until then, it could go either way… Even if the game isn’t fair, I’m going to figure out a way to win.
M.I. Blue: For me, I’m a very private person. I think depression is part of life. People feel down and they doubt themselves, or they feel less than how they’re supposed to feel. That’s something that I was going through. I just had to sit down and isolate myself to think why I was having these thoughts. I battled it by questioning why I was thinking this way, and what caused it. I had to track back to when I was feeling the way that I did. Which is essentially what my EP is about. It’s about understanding yourself and understanding self-love. It’s such an important thing to appreciate yourself and to not question everything you do.
Chedo: How do you calm down these voices that are bringing you down?
M.I. Blue: I’m a positive person by nature. So when I hear these voices I don’t take them too seriously anymore. I think that films have helped me too.There are many films where the main character is going through depression and I’m thinking in my head what the character could’ve done to battle what they were feeling. At some point, I realized that I could do this for myself too. Why am I giving a fake character some advice when I need it?
Saudin: I don’t really understand why people feel like it’s necessary to say I look like somebody. How is that going to change my day? But if someone says I sound like [Drake] or make music like him, I’d take it as a compliment… It’s just inevitable that people are going to say that since we started at the same place, on the same show, so it’s inevitable.
Jidenna: I’ve been [to Toronto] a couple of times, but I want to stay here for a proper stay, like three months a year. Some of my homies say that this is one of their favorite cities in North America. It’s usually New York or Toronto… I’ve heard great things and it’s so beautiful here, I really love it. When we talk about homes, I really feel at home here. I definitely want to make a base here… I walked around it all last night. Sometimes I go around in my disguise so I can walk around and feel invisible again. I walked around and I felt it, and I’m just excited to see [Toronto].
Chedo: People say we’re going through a renaissance in Toronto right now.
Jidenna: I definitely would say that’s happening in Toronto and in Canada at large. In terms of entertainment and art, you guys have music, Hollywood, singers and rappers out there in the world producing high-quality content. That’s the corporate way of saying y’all are producing things that are moving humanity. People are moved by people who come from this city and this country. It’s important to, at the very least, take notice, if not study and learn from [them]. I say this very humbly as a patriot from the states, but it’s something we have to learn from other countries. It’s not enough to be American and know America, you have to know your neighbors at least! I think it’s a beautiful thing that’s happening in Toronto, I salute you all.
Chedo: How does it feel to be a Canadian musician? What does that mean to you?
Emanuel: I feel like people are ready to listen. It doesn’t take as much promotion to get the attraction. People are saying “Oh, The Weeknd is from Canada? Does Canada have more artists like this?” So yes, I think this is a great time for Canadian art. You’re a lot more optimistic and closer to the world community of music. But at the same time, the optimism is almost like a sham. The optimism is real now because of what’s going on in Canada and how many artists are that are getting real pushes, but at the end of the day, it has to come from the heart. It’s good for the economy since you’re putting money into music, and it helps to have a bigger culture. At the end of the day, I feel like real art needs to come from the heart.
Raz: It opens doors. That person you’re meeting with has his own circle, those people in that circle may be able to do things that people within your circle can’t do. Which might be able to benefit what you’re trying to do. It might be able to help put your music out to more people or put your music in a better place. It might even help you to get better at your music and help better your craft. So when you meet with people, you’re giving yourself the opportunity to be plugged into a different network, a different circle. That’s why it’s important to travel, but on a deeper level… we live and make decisions by ourselves, but to what degree? Because the actions you choose to make are affected by surroundings. For example, if I wake up and my dad’s the president, I can do different stuff. But if I wake up and my dad’s the garbage man, well then….We’re all born into an inherited network. So when you go through life the stuff that you want to do and the stuff you’re trying to do will be affected by that network. That’s just a principle of life. To add on to that, the network you are in, and the position you are in within that network, affects what you want to do. If you keep these kinds of things in mind when you’re out [traveling] you’ll realize that you want to be involved outside of that network. These are the kinds of things that can help you move and make your reality better.
Locksmith: People always say not to surround yourself with more yes-man, but no you need people around you that are going to motivate you and tell you your dope. My whole life, I feel like I’ve been around no-man, so it made me a no-man… Have people motivate you and inspire you to do that shit. That’s what my mentality is, just forget the negative and focus on the positive. Always think of the positive outcome and you will get the positive result.
City Fidelia: Well I was in the position that I really didn’t have money, but I knew I had a great song. So me and my homies we would Airbnb one of our houses and share a small room between the 5 of us. We were trying to make some money to go to L.A. for the Grammy’s and meet people. So we all rented out our condos, come to my house and sleep in this small ass room just to make money to promote this song, travel.
Chedo: Wow so your homies would rent out their place, come to your spot, and then use the money to support your music? Oh my gosh.
Clairmont: I wanted to try it out, I thought it would be cool. Especially with such a good album [“The Quest for Milk and Honey: Black Edition”]. I’m over it now, but it’s a good album that I thought could be bigger, and it barely went bigger. It didn’t do too much. I didn’t like the whole process of [the album] being signed to a label either. I just wasn’t a fan of it. I’m working on everything myself now. I control the dates, I control where this goes… I feel good.
Chedo: Did you have to give up some of the control when you got signed?
Clairmont: Luckily I had control over the art aspect. I had control over to videos, the music and all of that stuff. Which is great because no one gets that opportunity to sign the deal and keep the art the way they want it. When it comes to more technical stuff, I wasn’t cool with it personally…. If you feel a way about signing a deal in the first place, then don’t sign it. Once you sign it, now your sanity is placed in someone else’s hands. I personally didn’t want to sign when I came into the game, that was my original goal. That’s pretty much what Chance the Rapper is doing now, what Daniel Caesar is doing now, and that’s what I want. I want to own everything, and not have anyone put their name on it, and give credit where it’s not due. Me signing that deal was like going against what I’ve been preaching about. I can’t do that anymore, so everything is independent now.
Chedo: What advice would you give to other artists out there?
Clairmont: Go in 100%., because if it’s not 100%, then it’s not something you should do. Even when I was convinced, I was still not 100%. I was probably 85%, which is not enough. Especially in this game, this game is dangerous. This game is way too dangerous for you to not be 100% about something.
Matt: Our mission statement for The Internet is own your creative journey. We are all our own very creative beings. You can be a part of a group and be your own individual at the same time. That’s what we’re trying to convey as a band. I feel like as black artists, a lot of times bands and groups are broken up by the industry or by what people say. Throughout time black bands can never stay together even if they don’t make music for a period of time. As a black band we’re trying to change the perspective of that and show people everybody can be solo artists and be huge, but still, kill it as a band. You can still be an individual but also understand the importance of comradery.
Jordan: We’re in that age of arts where being apart of a lot of different things for a short amount of time makes it harder to stick to your message the whole way through. It makes it harder to deliver a concise direction and how you want to influence people.
Majid: You’re going to come across stages of adaptation, and that’s okay because when you adapt, you change. It’s okay if you’re into something at a certain age and to not be into it when you’re older. You discover something new that pushes [what you use to like] to the side. That’s an exciting moment. You should always look for those moments that inspire you differently and open your eyes.
Elaquent: It’s always hard to tell a story with beats since there are no words to go with it. Ultimately, just about every record or album I do comes from a personal place. So with “Worst Case Scenario” I had just turned 30, and I was just starting to feel my mortality. When I first started making beats I was 12-13 and eager to prove things to people. There’s always that little kid that wants to go on the basketball court with the older kids who are playing pick up and improve that you belong. That’s pretty much how I felt when I was first getting into doing music on this level. But I’ve put out albums and I’ve gone a lot of places, I’ve seen a lot of things. So with that record, the whole premise behind it is I’ve done X, Y, and Z, I don’t know what the future holds, but I’m old enough now to know that is the worst case scenario happens, I’m happy with my life and what I’ve achieved. It’s a general philosophy that I have. When you expect the worst, you can never be disappointed.
The worst case scenario is that I fail miserably in my musical career. So whether that means tomorrow I just get frustrated or I get sick of making music and I just say no more! I just settle with a regular 9-5 job and never make a single beat ever again. Now that’s not going to happen, but if it did, I put my heart and soul in everything that I’ve done. I’ve got to meet some of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met just throughout the world. I have albums, I have records, like final records that hopefully my grandchildren or great-grandchildren uncover. Or there’s somebody out there who was listening to some of my songs while going through a tough situation. So even if I don’t get that Grammy or I don’t land a placement on Kendrick Lamar’s album, but even if one person someone out there listened to my music and they were inspired to follow their dreams. That’s good enough for me.
11:11: When I was working my 1-9 job, not too long ago, I worked in the warehouse, where I would have to get up every day and do something I didn’t want to do. That was a big challenge for me. I didn’t want to go into the warehouse and lift boxes while my music was doing well. That’s what I wanted to do and I was putting so much effort into that, but I was in the warehouse working so hard and trying to keep that job. All this time I really didn’t want to be doing this, I just wanted to be in the studio. Getting up every day and doing that, it’s so hard in my life. I had to do it because I had a family that I had to feed. The income wasn’t coming from the music. So I had to go in and work really hard. I started to question why I was doing it.
2nd Son: If your meditative energy is looking to see what you will get out of music, you have precisely nothing to offer. I hear that through any set of speakers. I’ll hear that through a shitty pair of earbuds. I swear to god, the best musicians are the best people. People who have too much ego or are too self-centered, or who expect a lot without giving anything. You might be able to make some cool songs, but you’ll be exposed. No one is going to love you for that. The icons and the people I look up to were massive as people, as well as musicians. They were admirable on all levels of existential conditioning, they were just like beautiful entities. So all of these expectations on how much money you’re going to get is such a weird standpoint. I was in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for a month, and as soon as I go outside Toronto for a month, the idea of making money off of music is preposterous. You have people who can’t make money off of anything. So what a ridiculous standpoint to think that the world owes you some loot to live because you can make a beat.