So firstly, you have a new single called ‘Run’. What can you tell me about how you’re pushing that out?
Gently. I’m at a point in my career where, I’ve been super blessed, and right now I have various streams of income. It’s not just about income, but various different things that I’m involved in, and I think as a musician if you are able to figure out the balance it comes in handy 1000%. It can be super stressful sometimes when it’s like, shit, if this song doesn’t work or the album doesn’t work or whatever then ultimately, pardon my expression, but you’re fucked if you have nothing else. But you know, about 10 years ago I made a decision to choose to prioritize family. You know when you have a controlling percentage of a company it’s always 51%? The controlling percentage of my life is always going to be family first, and everything else is a blessing if I’m able to do it. A lot of people that I know, they might have made a gang of money, live wherever, do whatever they do, but their lives are empty. They don’t have any kids, they don’t have a wife, and there’s not a lot of normalcy. For me, I chose a sense of it. I still don’t live a normal life but it’s like I said, the majority of what I choose to dedicate my time to, or make sure that it always has a controlling percentage is my family.
I haven’t put out music in like 3 years or something, but a few years ago I said I didn’t want to do anything I wasn’t passionate about. So the music for this project, for the single Run and every one that follows, this album is called Pick Your Poison, this is going to be shit that I love. You know? Shit that I would play in my whip. People will be saying aren’t you supposed to do that with all your music? But it depends, because sometimes people just want to put out some hot shit that’ll get them popping in the streets and whatever. But that shit that will get you popping isn’t always the shit that resonates most with your spirit. I think that’s why Run has been connecting with people the way that it has. I’m 90% sure that for the visuals, and that’s why I’ve been saying I’ve been doing it gently, I want to do the right stuff, but I think I’m going to be doing it in a collaboration with Majah Hype for the video. So you know, I think it’s going to be pretty dope.
That’s sweet. The controlling percentage concept that you mentioned is an interesting point. And it’s important too.
I had to learn it though, bro. You know what I mean? It’s just one of those things. That’s the dope part about graduating to the OG perspective. You get to balance out your life a bit more and see what’s really important.
For sure. There is a common narrative with artists, musicians, designers, athletes, pretty much everybody in Canada that there’s almost a stigma to being successful solely in Canada. There’s an idea that you haven’t truly made it unless you’re known stateside. We see that as a brand. In a lot of ways Canada is the Minor Leagues and America is ‘The Show’, you know? What are your experiences with that narrative. You’ve had massive success in Canada but you’ve also worked with literally every top American musician, and international artists, with Caribbean artists and the like. You’ve had Billboard success. You’ve kind of done it all. What’s your take on that?
It’s interesting man. It’s not relegated to just music or fashion. It’s kind of, you know, it’s kind of what you make it? If some people buy into it, then that IS their reality. For me, and you know I tell this to a lot of the new artists that I work with all the time; we never looked at it like we had to break in America, like we had to conquer America. Like, never. Because, from when we were kids in high school when we started doing our music and started playing it all around the world, at a time when vinyl was the thing. If London wanted 20,000 units of our shit, we were like ‘ship that shit to London’. At the time in my crew it was me, Saukrates, Choclair, whatever, whatever, and I remember they’d be like ‘Yo, Japan wants 25,000 copies of this’ so that’s where we’d be focusing.
So we’ve always had like a global mindset, but then also, we looked at things differently. The thing is, for us, in our genre, in our city, people don’t understand, and I try to explain, like it was not a reality for people to have a global, international career being a hip hop artist from Canada. It just wasn’t even a thing. You understand what I’m saying? Like when Maestro did a song with Showbiz, we were like ‘HOLY SHIT!’ this was the craziest thing we’ve ever seen. Even when Dream Warriors came out, because they had an alternative spin, and they had a lot of success overseas, we were like okay, maybe if you want to do something a little bit to the left then you could get some notoriety. But, it wasn’t a thing to the point where it is now.
I know people outside Toronto will read this, but imagine there was a time in Toronto, when north of Steeles Ave, there wasn’t shit except farm land. So your reality was if you wanted to get to any place north of Steeles back in the day, there was no roads, you know what I mean? You literally went there and had to figure it out. They were like, ‘well it looks like farm land, so there ain’t shit up there’, and nobody new that there were all these little communities that existed. I think it’s the same way we dealt with it where we didn’t know anything outside of Toronto or even Canada at a certain point, you know? So discovery for us was a totally different phenomenon. Like now, you can literally be born into a time where, there was a black president, there was artists who had global success within hip hop that came from Canada. It’s a totally different mindset. For us back then, we wanted for hip hop to know that there was some shit going on in Toronto.
So you know, when we had the opportunity to be on Friday Night Flavors in LA, going to be on Sway and King Tech Show, going to Stretch and Bobbito, going to whoever it was at the time, you know BBC back in the day, in London. Anywhere we went our main mission was to let people know that there was some shit in Toronto. Anything else was just bonus. Saukrates was the first one to get a deal, so when he got his deal, for us, that was life-changing because he was still in high school in 95’ or whatever year it was. We were just like,’ HOLY SHIT’, and then Choclair got the deal with Virgin, but then went on and did a partnership, a joint venture with Priority Records, and then I got my deal with MCA. This was all uncharted territory.
We never looked at it like we have to break in Canada. Break how? There was no infrastructure. There was no support. I literally took my own money and went across the country, and barely made it back. I mean barely, like the tank was on ‘E’. We’re in Northern Ontario and were like, ‘fuck how are we gonna get home?’ I’ve literally done that. I’ve driven a passenger van from Toronto to Victoria on Vancouver Island and back. There was no infrastructure. There’s still not really an infrastructure for hip hop. You know, I would love to be able to blow up in my country and stay in my country. There are Australian artists that are wealthy, that are famous, that are touring that we’ve probably never heard of.
I’ve been able to do a collaboration with people that I’ve met globally that I was super unaware of. I remember in like 2003 or something, I did this collaboration with this pop group named Texas that came from Scotland and the UK. Overseas they’d sold like 25 million albums, and I’d never heard of them. I remember I was on their single and it was the first time I was ever on private jets and staying in 5 star hotels and shit like that, going on Top of The Pops, and they were just like killing shit over there, you know? I would love for us to be able to, as Canadians to blow in Canada and be super successful and not have to go anywhere, but for whatever reason the gatekeepers that are still in control of what moves, how it moves, and how far it moves, unfortunately, they’re still the blue hairs. Eventually like dinosaurs, they’ll be extinct and we’ll be able to change things slowly but surely.