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Full disclosure, I am a Kardinal Offishall fanboy, and have been since high school, so some hyperbole might infiltrate this introduction, but I feel like I can safely say without exaggeration that there wouldn’t be a Drake as we know him without Kardinal. While I’m at it, we might never have collectively adopted T.Dot as a nickname for Toronto, Sean Paul might not have blown up when he did and the world certainly wouldn’t know as much about the ‘Screwface Capital’ as they do.

Kardinal kicked down the door for hip hop in Canada, and did so with a unique blend of charisma, style, bravado, and humility that has yet to be duplicated. He personified the polite chip we have on our  collective shoulder as Canadians who are sick of explaining that we have a summer, don’t ice skate to school, and aren’t just Americans with funny accents. His track, ‘BaKardi Slang’ properly introduced the world of hip hop to Toronto and by the time his song ‘Dangerous’ made it all the way to the top of Billboard’s Hot 100, Kardinal had worked with everyone from the Wu-Tang Clan, to Pharrell, to Pusha T, to Busta Rhymes, to Timbaland.  He even appeared alongside Lady Gaga on the Red One Remix of ‘Just Dance’ from her limited edition Hitmixes album. Bradley Cooper, eat your heart out.

Along with Vince Carter he was part of the period in the early 2000s when people started paying attention to Toronto as a uniquely diverse hub of activity, and a burgeoning world power in terms of influencing global popular culture. Today he is the Senior Director of Urban A&R at Universal Music, and continues to perform, DJ, host and educate all while ensuring his family comes first. Kardinal came through HE HQ in downtown Toronto and sat down for an interview as well as modelling some pieces from our SS19 collection, Clam Dunk Surf Club, and our collab with fellow Toronto brand, Elsaesser x Get Fresh Company.

Kardinal wears Thank You Denim Jacket and Jeans

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.

So kind of building on that, like you said, when you were coming up, it wasn’t as connected. The internet was brand new or it wasn’t a thing, and rap, was based on different sounds. So it made sense to push Toronto to everybody, everywhere. There was East Coast Rap, West Coast, Atlanta, whatever.

We had a bit of an identity crisis at the time though, those of us who were super creative. Yeah, we had a predominantly East Coast sound, but even if you go back to my first independent album I tried everything. West Coast, East Coast, Southern shit, Jazz, Reggae, fucking Miami Bass, whatever. And it wasn’t because we didn’t know who we were. Saukrates was theoretically trained so he played violin, and we were just around a lot of super creative people. But you know, I specifically remember at the time, the only thing that all of us had in common was that we were all Caribbean for 90 % of the crew. We had people with lineage coming from Guyana, Jamaica, Grenada, you know a bunch of different places. It’s funny, because people talk about the Toronto sound or what-have-you, but I was the only one out of the crew who super-embraced it and did hip hop that was overtly a fusion, if you will.

I have a couple questions that sort of play in together here. Your sound having a distinct Caribbean influence, that is Toronto. There is a huge audience in Toronto who has the same cultural experience as that sound. It exemplifies the city, and the other regional sounds you mentioned are tied to a specific cultural experience too. But with the internet now Soundcloud Rappers are recording in their bedroom. They don’t ever really have to go play shows out in public, so the regional aspect is less of a thing. We have accents blending. It’s all merged together. On top of that, did you ever feel like your cultural experience, because you put that out there, that outside of Toronto some people didn’t really understand that. Were people ever like, so he’s Canadian, why does he sound like he’s Jamaican then?

Mostly only ever in America, but not really. So here’s the interesting thing about that. I remember I was in Vegas with Walshy Fire and some guys from Major Lazer and we were talking about how with the internet came the crumbling and burning of like geo-blocking and different things like that. For better and for worse it changed how we consume things. There used to be a time as a DJ or performer you’d go into different markets and they’d feel different; they’d sound different. They moved different. But now you go to a lot of different markets and it’s just the same shit because of the internet. It used to be a unique experience -  they’d have a night of Grime, or Jungle or Garage or Gar-age depending on how you pronounce it, but now you can get that depending on who you fuck with, in Texas, or Toronto or LA, or wherever and that’s due to the internet.

On the flip side, DJing and being a part of that whole community, there used to be specific records that would only work in certain regions, and there is still, you know some regional shit, but a lot of times now, you don’t know the difference between Vegas, a big club in Toronto, New York, Dubai. They’re pretty much playing the same sounds. So, the internet has broken that down a lot to where there is truly a global community, but now it’s interesting because it’s hard to know where the origins come from. I remember a couple years ago there was a big thing about slang. Certain people were like ‘that’s Toronto slang’, and others were like ‘nah, that’s London slang’, but if you understand- and that’s the one weird thing about this generation, they don’t do much research, it’s just surface level - because if you understand anywhere where there is a large settling of Jamaican or Caribbean immigrants you’re going to get similar slang.

That’s the exact reason why people in Toronto or London speak the same, because it doesn’t belong to either of them, it’s Caribbean slang infused with the Queen’s English. That’s where it comes from. What’s interesting you know, and the artist will remain nameless, but I remember there was an artist who came out and they were asked, ‘how do you feel Kardinal is going to do?’ Kardinal is blowing, or he blew up or whatever, and the artist was like ‘you know, I don’t know if people understand him or people will get it’, like you said they will be confused by the culture. But what’s interesting, is that for me, I didn’t even realize how Caribbean people literally occupy every place on the planet.

I remember when I came out with BaKardi slang, for whatever reason the mainstream liked it, because they just thought it was a dope song. So LA would play, it, New York, Miami, these cities were all early supporters, you know London, wherever. But touring, everywhere I go, literally sometimes myself and the person I’m talking to would be in tears because there would be Carribean people that came to a city that were not accepted. When I came out with BaKardi Slang that was literally a dictionary for Caribbean vernacular and the way that we do things. I remember people in Brooklyn that were like, ‘Yo, people think that’s always been accepted but I used to get chased home because of my Haitian accent or my Jamaican accent’ or whatever. They used to get beat up. But now, having it find it’s way into the music, and not just into underground shit. BaKardi Slang was played on MTV, and BET and all of a sudden people were starting to understand. People want to learn about dope shit. So it’s not about being confused. It’s the same way with Latin music, like I don’t speak Spanish, but when that shit is fire, I rock it with.

Like Despacito broke YouTube streaming records, for example.

It’s the same thing now that’s happening with Afro-Beats and that type of shit that’s taking over. I used to go on tour and hear all these different stories from all these different people. I tell people all the time, part of being a visionary is understanding that you’re going to be by yourself. Because, if you have a vision, right, you have this thing that exists within your brain. If everyone else thought the exact same way, you wouldn’t be a visionary, right? You’d just be a regular person. The point is you’ll be able to create things, see things, think about things differently, and eventually people will catch on. I think for me, it doesn’t matter if people are up on this yet, they’ll learn about it, and that’s the cool shit. Those are the artists that matter; that impact culture. Those people that see some different shit. Even if you think about Drake, at the time when he first came out, and he was kind of Emo and like leaning towards the girls. It was a very bravado time with in hip hop. So people at that time, were like, 'what is this?'

It was like the tail-end of like 50 Cent Gangster Rap.

Of course. Dude, it was a very male-dominated, full of bravado, ego type shit. So when here’s this guy that’s coming in and he’s kind of like crooning to the girls at the same time as rapping, initially it’s not like people off the top were on it. People have to learn how to consume. At the very least, the dudes, because the girls were like, ‘I like this shit. It speaks to me.’ Dudes were like, ‘I don’t know what the fuck this guy’s doing’, but eventually his genius caught up. I think it’s the same type of shit. And then in terms of embracing the Caribbean culture, it’s a fine line between embracing and appropriation coming from here. It’s the same way that I grew up with a lot of Greek people, you know going to Taste of the Danforth and this and that. You get to absorb a lot of different cultures living in Toronto in a lot of different ways. I think as long as people do things authentically and you can usually feel authenticity more than you can plan for it, on either side, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it and it is a very Toronto type thing. As long as you do thing tastefully, I don’t think there’s a problem with any artist infusing whatever it is: African sounds, Caribbean sounds, this, that and the next thing as long as they’re true to it. You can always tell. People will definitely shit on people and be like ‘yeah bro, you’re reaching, fam’. You know what I mean?

For sure. We kind of have to talk about the Raptors after everything that went down if you’re okay with it. I think there’s parallels with your journey and how you came up as an artist and the Toronto Raptors. When you first came on the scene and you were collaborating with the Wu-Tang Clan, Busta Rhymes, The Neptunes, Clipse, and had Billboard hits with BaKardi Slang, Vince Carter was winning the Slam Dunk Competition at the exact same time. I remember hearing the Wu-Tang, ‘Careful’ Remix back in the day, after knowing you through BaKardi Slang and seeing you on Canadian TV and when that happened it was mind-boggling. It was like ‘this is crazy, he’s Canadian’ and when Vince Carter was winning the dunk competition it was kind of the same thing. It became cool to wear a Toronto Raptors jersey. I remember I had the original jersey as a kid back in 95, and saw them play at the SkyDome and you almost felt weird wearing that jersey. And then when Vince Carter came out everyone wanted to be a part of it.

That was the start of it, for sure.

Definitely. Can you tell me about that time? Did it feel like there was a synergy between what you were doing and the Raptors rise?

There was! And listen, to be honest, like it was so cool, Vince and I, eventually we became cool and he would support me, and I didn’t even realize how crazy it was until way later. I remember I would have events, and Vince would be like, ‘I’m going to come through’, and it would be midnight, and I’d be like ‘oh I guess this guy’s not coming’, and then he would show up at like 1 am, and I’m just looking at it like, ‘Dope. This guy’s a good dude’. Sometimes you don’t even realize how important Vince was to our city being able to develop on a certain level because Vince being able to win that dunk contest and wearing the Raptors shit, and at the time embracing Toronto and the nightlife and the whole culture it was dope because, we were not a respected franchise. People thought it was a novelty thing that would last for a couple years and that’s it. So, seeing the Raptors organization become legitimized, kicking down the door, little by little, and of course having things like Vince Carter winning the dunk competition and just crushing it that whole year, similar things happened in Canadian hip hop. Or just hip hop that came from Canada. I don’t think we have like, when they say, Canadian Hip Hop, I don’t know what that is.

It’s not really a sound.

Right, so hip hop that originated in Canada. You know, the Dream Warriors, Maestro, Michie Mee era was like a long time before me, but seeing the things they were able to do, and then seeing my boys do cool shit. Like Choclair, doing shit with like, Dre and Snoop becoming big fans, and us interacting with them, and Saukrates doing shit with Xzibit and so forth. We were making all these little marks, and then I remember when I signed the MCA deal it was a big deal, but from that first album being able to work with Pharrell and the Neptunes and being able to work with Busta Rhymes, and you know Pharoahe Monch, and Timbaland, and going on tour with 50 Cent at the height. All those things were so necessary because I spent a lot of time educating America and the rest of the world. The rest of the world they got it. It wasn’t that big of a deal, but America was just like scratching their head like you’re Canadian, but you’re Jamaican.

Even when I signed the deal they didn’t even really know what to do with it because they literally were just not educated to how it worked. I had ‘Money Jane’ which was a number one song in Canada, and the president Jay Boberg was like, ‘yeah we passed on Sean Paul, I had the opportunity to sign him but I just don’t get it’. I remember it was that year that he came out with ‘Gimme The Light’ and blew the shit wide open. There were a lot of different things that I experienced in the music industry that definitely coincided with the Raptors and it felt familiar all of a sudden when the Raptors actually made it. It was the same thing when I first started to break the Billboard shit. It was a thing like, ‘wait a minute, what?’ The Hot 100, like not one of the specialty ones, but like ‘the one’. Like yeah I’m number 1, and not to discredit it, but not like the R’N’B chart, or the Hip Hop chart, no, you’re going head-to-head with, whomever at the time. I remember people were like ‘I don’t understand this’, and they didn’t even report about it until I was in the top 40. So I had broken the top 100, super fast within a couple weeks and people here didn’t even report about it. I was top 30 before I did my first interview where they were like, ‘what happened?’ And I was like, ‘while you guys were covering whatever Canadian rock artist I’m over here breaking’.

Kardinal wears Apple Core Denim Blazer and Jeans

While they were covering Tragically Hip for the 10th time.

Exactly and I think that’s one of the problems that we have, and I tell people this all the time; no disrespect to Blue Rodeo or these guys, but every year we’re honouring the same people, recycling the same shit, and we’re finding different ways to big up the same people who’ve been here forever. And you know, if it’s not me, then it should be somebody else, or somebody else. There are so many people that have done amazing things that have never gotten their credit or just desserts. But I think for here, that’s not going to change. I tell people that all the time, infrastructure’s not going to change. One of the reasons why I currently enjoy being an executive,  and hats off to everybody at Universal because they are putting their money where their mouth is.

They truly want to try to change the infrastructure, because you can’t do things the way it was 15 or 20 years ago and expect shit to be different. They’re really giving opportunities, and I think the same way for the Raptors even, that we’re willing to pay those massive dollars we’re really, really going for it. Like that move that Masai did to get Kawhi here people were up in arms, like ‘Masai’s a fucking idiot, Demar blah, blah, blah,’ and then you saw what the result was. It’s the same within the music industry, where now you have the major label system here that’s actually spending to try to keep the players here. The musical players. They’re not wanting for whomever to go to America to get their deal. They’re wanting for them to stay here so that we actually change and build what we have, and that’s the only way to really build legacy here whether it’s music or basketball. Just invest in what we have here.

That kind of brings me to my next question. When Drake blew and signed with Young Money, he kind of had to go to the States. And like you said previously, I was one of those dudes who was like ‘I don’t get it. It’s music for girls.’ I grew up on Wu-Tang Clan. I was a huge fan of you when you came up, because it has a little bit more aggression.

I’m still that way to this day, to be completely honest. For my hip hop, for the most part I still love aggressive shit.

For sure, like I’m a sensitive dude, but that’s just what I want to listen to. So when you look at that, and building infrastructure do you ever look at it, like the Raptors bandwagon now is massive. The Drake bandwagon is arguably even bigger.

Yes. For sure it is.

And when he came out, like you were on Comeback Season, so there was that link where you helped him out or at least acknowledged him on his journey, and when he first came out did people even know he was from Toronto? Now, yes, Drake and Toronto are hand-in-hand, but do you ever look at it like people on the bandwagon kind of have no idea, that there wasn’t a scene. It’s basically non-existent. It’s pay to pay, or it’s not a thing. It’s still like that. You have this massive star and then there’s nothing in between. You have the bottom and then there’s Drake. You have the bandwagon and then a huge gap between the actual diehard fans.

There’s a hollowed out middle class for sure. So here’s the thing, I remember when Glenn Lewis went gold and platinum in America, Nelly Furtado, a bunch of different people. It’s not everybody’s journey to be a super promoter of their place of origin. Like, The Weeknd. There’s nothing more Canadian or more Toronto than The Weeknd, but he’s not one of those people where that’s part of his story or makeup, or what he is. He just on some other shit. Not everybody that comes from New York, or Memphis or whatever has to wear it across their chest everyday.

This would be a question for Drake, but as somebody who knew him beforehand or whatever, like, the guy was a child TV star, for Degrassi. This is the reality. I don’t know what his transformation looked like or obstacles he had to face. From my understanding his father is American or his family was American, and he had Canadian family, and so for him that was his reality. The same way that my dad instilled in me my culture and my lineage and it was important for me to know that I am a Jamaican Canadian, maybe for him that was his reality? Maybe he used to go and spend summers in America and go hang with his cousins in whatever city and maybe that was his reality and his existence. And maybe he just looked at shit differently. And eventually, I don’t know if it’s influences around him, maybe it’s friends, maybe it’s research, maybe it’s just evolving as an artist, maybe that’s when the whole Toronto thing became important in his career. I don’t know why or when that became a thing for him, but that fact that it did - everybody needs to be given space to grow. Just like some people might rap about some bullshit, maybe one day they’ll come out with some real shit. Like when Jay-Z first came out he was just stunting on people, period. It was a money thing, it was drugs, it was the streets, whatever, and now he’s at a place where he’s doing records like 4:44, you know? So everybody - we gotta give them the opportunity to evolve and grow as a person, as a man or woman, and culturally sometimes that happens. We may wish for a person to rep us more, but for some people Toronto is kind of like it’s where I live but its’ not who I am. Like for me, it’s who I am. For some people it’s just where they live.

Fair enough. And it’s kind of like, you want to have balance. You want to rep your city, but you want to have mainstream success. Like, now, Drake is very much tied to Toronto, but when you were rapping about how people talk in Toronto they don’t necessarily care in Sacramento, but I guess, you did say if it’s dope shit, it’s dope shit and they’ll adopt it as their own.

That’s the thing. People will fuck with anything as long as you do it in a dope way. That’s really just the bottom line. It’s the same way that, there’s some shit that might happen in London or the Deep South in America or whatever, where it’s like, ‘I don’t relate to it, but something is so dope about the way they said that, or some shit’. It’s the same way when BaKardi Slang came out, and they don’t know how we speak. I remember going to Memphis and meeting dudes, and we would do a show and be on the highway back home, and they’d pull up beside you, like ‘ I know you, you’re the guy with the Hummer in the video, what’s your name, Catfish Erickson?’ and I’d be like ‘no it’s Kardinal Offishall’, and they’d be like, ‘that’s you, I was telling them about you.’

The thing is, it’s not even necessarily the content, but the visuals that connected with some people. You know what it is? As long as you present your shit and people have an appetite for it, they’re gonna eat it up. It’s just the same way with your clothes that I wore for the shoot today, like I always see these ball players in these short-ass pants and I’m like ‘is it just shorts that are too long, or pants that are too short?’ I have no idea, but like when I wore the shit I’m like, ‘Yo, this some dope shit.’ I think there’s always going to be an appetite for what you have if it’s some dope shit and you present it well.  Sometimes you have to kind of walk people through it.

Kardinal wears Thank You Denim Jacket and Jeans

Back to the Raptors again for a quick second, I know you’re a Raptors fan. With Kawhi leaving it kind of feels like we’re back to where we were before. You know, Vince left. We’ve won, but is there a way to retain stars, or do we have to focus on international players?

Here’s the thing. I want us to get away from this weird inferiority complex. If you look at New York, and we are not New York, but they’ve been shitting up the place for a long time. People leave the Knicks all the time. People leave LA. Just as long as we don’t become Cleveland. It was pathetic to see people begging for Lebron to stay like, that’s just wack to me. People were upset that Kawhi left, and because I’m a Toronto guy at the end of the day I’m like, ‘Fuck him, though.’ You know what I mean? It’s a thing to where, respect for what you did, and you’ve chosen yourself and to make yourself happy, and that’s cool, but in terms of the team that I love and the city that we represent, fuck him. Now you’re competition. That’s all there is to it. I just want us to get away from ‘now you guys are gone back to garbage’. No we’re not, not by far. The thing is we have been a competitive team without a mega star. Even before we got Kawhi we did dope. I was there. I went to Washington to watch the playoffs. We were rocking. I think, as long as Masai keeps moving the pieces around in an intelligent way, then whatever, we definitely have a chance to still be a competitive team and do well. So all this Kawhi stuff, cool, but we’re over it now and we’re going to keep pushing. And nobody can ever take away the fact that at the beginning of the season nobody said we were going to win it all.

Right, there were people who said it was a dumb move trading Demar, who loved the city.

As a matter of fact every single round that we played in the playoffs people kept doubting us. So it’s no different. To me it’s the same with music. If you go and Google Kardinal on Funkmaster Flex he was like, ‘there’s nobody else in Canada’, and I was like ‘nah bro, there actually is’, and he was like, ‘no there isn’t.’ There was a time in music where they thought there was only going to be Kardinal. Then they were like, ‘okay there’s Kardinal and Drake. Okay there’s Kardinal and Drake and Weeknd. There’s some guy named Bieber. There’s Torey, Alessia Cara. There’s Jessie Reyez, there’s Danieal Cesar, there’s DVSN’, the list goes on and on and on now, but at some point in time there was people doubting on us and shitting on us the way they do the Raptors. You know what I mean? It is what it is. Just as long as we remain confident and steadfast we’ll be fine.

And then authenticity, you’ve touched on it a few times, it’s kind of the key point. Whether it’s the Raptors identity, your identity as an artist, trying to represent your brand or whatever, as long as you’re being authentic and you’re doing dope shit, they’ll figure it out eventually. Your visionary point really spoke to me too.

That’s it. Masai was a visionary. People were like, ‘what are you doing?’ and he was sitting here like, ‘you’ll see.’ It’s the ultimate satisfaction. I can only imagine how he felt when he got that ring. That’s what it’s all about, bro. Just being able to have a vision and stick with it and just be confident and feel like people will catch on. Look at where we’re sitting here. I’ll be honest, like if I would have met you however many years ago and you were in some crazy bright shit with patterns all over it and you’re like, ‘I’m going to have a dope-ass store on Queen street.’  I might have been like, ‘hey, I fuck with it, but I don’t if the store’s going to work.’ But you, obviously having a plan, sticking with it and presenting it in a dope way, when I walked in here I was like ‘yo, what? How did I not know about this?’ It’s something like, now that I do know that’s the discovery part. Now that I do know that’s what really matters. Because once people become aware and you’ve got them hooked that’s where it’s most important. Sometimes it’s not just the discovery, because we discover shit, like garbage, all the time. It’s about how you’re going to create enthusiasm and excitement and have people want to consume but then keep it long term, and that’s what Masai did with the raptors. He could have made some bad long term decisions and we could  have been popping for like 2 years, like ‘HOLY SHIT this is amazing.’ Giving up all our picks until 2029, but then you’re screwed if those guys are like, ‘it was a cool two years’ and then they’re out. Then you’re fucked, as opposed to building out the team and doing shit the right way, and maybe having an actual legacy. I don’t think it’s going to be a one ring and done.

There’s a plan.

Absolutely.