Crabstyle – Bucket Soup (2019)

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When completing my own project on the development of hip-hop in Canada, two of the people I reached out too individually for interviews were LOGS and Peter Lo (Both originally from Unsatisfied Poets but now rocking the name Crabstyle). These guys are a Saskatoon outfit and just released one of my favourite projects of 2019 so far.

I understand the blog is more dedicated toward historical documentation of Canadian rap, but when the opportunity arose to shine some light on one of my favourite new projects, I took it. Shout outs to Aron (Peter Lo) for taking the time out to organize the group together to get these questions answered.

Enjoy the read, and check out the new Crabstyle album when you get a chance!

Crabstyle consists of:

Anthony Law (MPC1000)

Peter Lo (DJ/Studio Wiz)

LOGS (MC) Ibonic (MC)

Marry Max (MC)

Eli (MPC500)

RR: First off, congratulations on the new album Bucket Soup! Honestly one of my favourite things right now. Just been going through it since I got my hands on the project. When did you guys start working on the project?

Anthony Law: Thanks, glad you’re enjoying it. The project had been in the works for a few years. A couple line-up changes and an addition [of additional MC, Marry Max] were made before the album started to take shape but it all came together.

Peter Lo: Thanks! I think we started to work on Bucket Soup in the latter half of 2017, with most of the recording being done early-mid 2018. I spent the last few months of 2018 mixing and mastering the album. We recorded everything in my living room, which has become our impromptu recording studio for crab sessions.

LOGS: Thank you! I had a few of the tracks conceptualized early 2017 (Heist, Rock Under Bridges, Limblifters) but the project entered full swing in the second half of the year. I would say when we started recording it in 2018 was when the title and most of the tracks were solidly established.

Marry: Man, that’s great to hear! I wrote that Heist verse on that beat way back in 2017 while working/living in Ottawa. Eli had been sending me beats here and there and I would send back rough recordings. Had no idea I would later move back to Saskatoon to rock with and make an album with CS. What a dream. This was around the same time I heard LOGS do Ninja Steez on a different Eli beat. Blew my wig back instantly. Fuck, those boys are talented.

Ibonic: Feels like we’ve been working on it since the first EP came out. Took us a while to actually have the full squad in Saskatoon, and I feel like once I moved back from Vancouver, the project really started coming together. After doing a few shows with all 6 of us, we were inspired and grinding. It’s been a joy witnessing it all come together.

Eli: I made most of those beats in 2016/17. Living in City Park. Mary Max would rap to them on Facetime from Ottawa. LOGS and Ibonics were in town here eating beats up. When Mary came back to town in 2017 or 18, he joined the squad and we started building. These years tend to blur together.

RR: The album release party at Amigos, how did that go over?

Anthony Law: The album release was outstanding, we had brought Virtual Flannel back for this one, he was there for our EP release in 2015. We also had former CS member King Ramses join us for the evening and we were happy to have Filth The Enabler and Trill Munroe join us as well. I was pretty happy with the way the night went, everyone was great on stage and the crowd had amazing energy.

Peter Lo: We had pretty much a whole different show planned but we had to change the date at the last moment, so it was a bit stressful securing new opening acts on such short notice. With that being said, once everything was in place, the show went better than we could’ve ever imagined! The crowd was hype and the openers were all straight up amazing! Amigos is a staple of the Saskatoon music scene and it’s always a pleasure to play there!

LOGS: The release show was dope AF! After a bit of rescheduling, it all worked out very well. All the openers killed it, especially our homie King Ramses who was my personal favorite. 🔥🔥🔥

Marry: Pretty rough for me. Smackdab in my workweek. Got great feedback though. Had to nap in my car before our set. Logs called/woke me up early like “Hey man…It would be really really great if you could come to the show”. Caught some of Filth The Enabler. Fuck that boy is talented.

Ibonic: I felt like the release was a real success, for us and everyone we rocked with. It just made me really happy to see a hip-hop audience getting hype for hours in S’toon. There’s some wicked talent in this city, and it’s rewarding to play for an audience that embraces that.

Eli – The release was fun. A lot better than our first release. I always love playing Amigos, and the openers did not disappoint. It was a solid team effort and paid off in the end.

The only feature on the album is JBM on Shootin’ Down a Bird. Easily one of my favourite tracks. Where the rest of the album is dusty and jazzy with energy, this is just energetic fun shit. Who is JBM, and what was the idea behind that song specifically?

Anthony Law: Basically, the song was originally a spooky breakbeat I was working on to give to my buddy Jordan to make a breakdancing video with. He’s a super ill b-boy. Anyways, once I had finished it up all I could think of were crazy double-time raps so I emailed it to the crew and Ibonic came back with a fire verse real quick. It all just came together after that and we got JBM to hop on it because it just suited his style really well. Conceptually, you’d have to ask Ibonic about the idea behind the song. I just make beats and let the boys run with it in whatever direction they want for the most part but I specifically asked for double-time madness on that one.

Peter Lo: JBM is an old friend of ours… Anthony Law, LOGS and I used to be in a group called Unsatisfied Poets and JBM was also in the crew. I’ve known the dude for over 15 years. We wanted to have a few features on the album but this is the only one that really panned out. I remember Anthony Law had this faster-paced beat that we were all kind of into. I think we did a version with just the 3 CRABSTYLE rappers but it didn’t sound finished or something. We instantly thought to get JBM on the track. He always gravitated towards fast beats and he was good at rapping on them! It would’ve been nice to feature a few more of our friends on the album, but I’m glad this one worked out! As far as what the track is actually about, you’d have to ask Ibonic.

If anyone is interested to check out more of JBM’s music, here’s an album he and I made together in 2009: https://unsatisfiedpoets2099.bandcamp.com/album/sounds-good-feels-good

LOGS: Props to Anthony Law on that dope ass beat! Jason Beam aka J Beam aka JBM is our homie from Unsatisfied Poets aka U.P. era. I met him in 2012 after being inducted into that crew. I feel we all knew we wanted to do a CRABSTYLE song with him and I’m psyched with the outcome. He usually likes faster tempo production so it was easy to hear him on this one.

Marry: OMG Jason Beam. Fuck that boy is talented… Met him back in the Unsatisfied Poets days 10+ years ago. That’s his sound. Fast and articulate with extremely clever wordplay. Deeply poetic and extremely rhythmic. We all thought of him. He was down. Shooting down a bird starving out a bee. Basically, in both cases, you are killing something, so I just tried to kill it on that track. Ibon later explained that he was referring to environmental and wildlife devastation when he wrote that hook. This is why we named the album Bucket Soup. It’s like a rap mosaic. We all threw in a little something.

Ibonic: when Kris sent this out and was like “I want some nasty double time,” I guess I just kinda sunk my teeth in. Had no idea what concept I was running with at the time, but as I got deeper into writing the verse, it felt like it spoke to living violently without regard for the consequences. So like deadly and ill, but ominous. So instead of the birds and bees, you got the anti-fertility of shooting them down and starving ‘em out. We seem to be living in that kind of world.

Eli – Jason Beam is in the house. Beam is my hero in real life, and the imaginary.

RR: The first project you guys put out; that self titled (2017) cassette… You’re selling it for 1,000 dollars on Bandcamp limited edition of 50. I imagine not, but has anyone pulled the trigger on that? And why price it as such?

Anthony Law: It’s just a gag because we are out of tapes and someone was being a funny guy. I dig it though, I like to laugh.

Peter Lo: Haha! We’ve had a couple inquiries about the $1000 cassette tape but no takers yet 😉 Originally, the tape was like $10 and we made 50 or 100 of them, I can’t remember how many. Either way, they sold out super fast. We thought about doing a repress but by then Marry Max was rapping in the group too and we weren’t sure if there would be enough interest in the old stuff to justify making more copies of the first tape. The price tag is just a joke. We don’t actually have any of those tapes left. We just kind of figured if someone wants to pay $1000 then we’ll make more copies.

LOGS: Putting it up for a G instead of sold out is funny af to us haha. I think we would repress if there was interest in the future, but as of now, it’s on the backburner.

Marry: We might make more with some edits done. That tape is sick. Backyard Party bangs. Crabstylistics is my favorite.

Eli – One day

RR: What do you guys all have coming up? Are you guys working on solo material outside of Crabstyle at all?

Anthony Law: My MPC is pretty rugged and in need of a tune-up so I haven’t been doing anything other than a minuscule amount of sample digging. Have some things I want to do once it’s fixed up. I also play in another band as well to keep me busy musically.

Peter Lo: I’ve been working with LOGS trying to help him produce his debut solo EP. We’ve got a few songs in the works. Look out for that one later this year. I also play in a few other bands and produce my own music, so that takes up most of my time. Occasionally I’ll record my friends’ bands or take on mastering jobs or DJ gigs for extra dough. I’m always doing music.

LOGS: Peter Lo and I have been working on my solo release: LOGS – Fall In The Forest EP. The concept is a psychedelic hike in the woods but the rest is pretty much top secret haha. I’m scripting a couple videos right now as well as writing the songs and Pete Lo is my production Sensei 🙌

Marry: Ive got a battle thing in PA [Prince Alberta, Saskatchewan] coming up. Really looking to start making some dark drum’n’bass. Need to save cash for gear. Peter Lo is gonna show me some shit. Fuck that boy is talented.

Ibonic: I’m always writing with various projects on the go, but the more CRABSTYLE music the better.

Eli – I gave up solo material for now. Winters bare a different story. We will see when the time comes.

RR: Do you have any additional stories regarding either the recording of the project or the release of it?

Anthony Law: I just make beats, send ‘em off to the crab clan and wait for the other guys to bless ‘em with ill verses. Some were made when we were all together getting ready for shows. Limblifters was thrown together randomly at a jam. Just had an ambient sound and started messing around and out came the Limblifters beat. The emcees caught the wave and started writing to it instantly. Organic situations like that are my absolute favorite.

Peter Lo: I was too drunk and stoned to remember much of anything, haha… Although I do remember that it was pleasant spending nice afternoons drinking and smoking in my living room, recording these dope rappers, catching the vibe.

LOGS: Hmm pretty routine process as far as my experience goes.. link up with the squad, keep the blunts lit and record boiii.

Marry: It’s been an amazing experience. Being pulled into this blazin’ crew. Getting back up on stage/mic after so long and getting to rock with some of SK’s most talented. I’ve just been trying to keep up. Watching the creative process happen in a six-person hip hop group. Riding the highs and fighting the lows. Observing and being a part of this team dynamic in such a dynamic little scene. Making this album with CRABSTYLE was seriously like one of the best things ever. Being a part of this is rocking my world.

Ibonic – I think the coolest thing for me is that I’ve been writing raps for about two decades now. Could never quite find a fit for what I was doing in the earlier days, so I pursued a career as a spoken word artist, which has been a huge source of growth and experience for me. To have the pendulum swing back to making hip hop with 5 other guys that I love as brothers and admire as artists, that just keeps me grateful and driven.

Eli: I like the fact that Unagi’s first verse (LOGS) was recorded in 2016 in a basement kitchen (used at the time only for blade hoots and recording rap songs) to be turned into a fully developed song years later, recorded onto the original kitchen sesh.

Peter Lo: Haha, that old kitchen recording gave me so many headaches when I was mixing that song!

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Moore & Exit Only – The Trickle Down Effect (2011)

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In the past couple week’s we’ve covered a fair amount of records coming out of London Ontario, but they just keep coming. The city has went through various eras, but into the 2000s a regular hip-hop night titled Dirty Thursday’s had become the center-stage for the hip-hop community in the city. The event was ran by emcee Brandon Moore alongside DJ Over and became the longest running rap night in London. I’d like to go over Moore’s output in a bit more depth, starting with his album Trickle Down Effect with Exit Only. Exit Only is a producer whom has worked with Moore extensively over the years, dating back to the early 2000s. For this post, I’ve reached out to both individually, to speak on their experience with the record, and some broader history that the two share.

Enjoy the read!

RR to Brandon Moore:  How did you two meet? Was it through Dirty Thursdays? Or? Was there any Moore & Exit Only material done prior to this? What about as a solo artist? I know you were very active in the scene dating back to the early 2000s but this is really the first release that has much of an online presence.

Brandon Moore: Well we met in high school. We went to different schools that were close by and had mutual friends going back to public school. Because of this our graffiti cru’s had an unwritten truce, and it was all love. We did exchange CD’s in late high school downtown, but I moved to BC shortly after. I moved home, we both joined a band called The People, while both focusing on our solo material. It was Peter Meads from Bayfield that got us performing together aside from the band material. He liked both of our styles, and we were both only performing maybe ten minute sets each, so he’d put us together to open for bigger acts.

This kinda just naturally led to us remixing songs together and then just focusing on an album. We both were getting into digging records and we just hung out a lot and made the album in like three weeks I think. We had both done lots of solo material and two band records, but this was our first project with videos and a Canadian radio send out. One of our videos the guy had a 16mm film camera powered by a car battery in his backpack.

RR to Exit Only: What was your relationship with Peter Meades?

Exit Only: Peter was one of the main keys to everything for us. Before Pete, Moore and myself were in a group called “the People” it was a rap group with a live band. We put out two records as the people. Did a bunch of shows, And a small tour. But when Pete started booking us for shows he started just booking Moore and myself. This is when he first started top billin entertainment. And that’s how I got to know Pete. He was one of our first connections to a lot of really dope cats that were also involved in top billin. (Tool Shed, Fresh Kils, fritz the cat. ect.) he was also one of the first people to actually pay us decent money for performing. Once Moore and I were being booked for shows together we needed some more songs together. That’s when I kicked the girl out I was living with at the time, and Moore moved in to write and record the trickle down effect..

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Radio Send Out for Trickle Down Effect.

RR to Brandon Moore: For The Trickle Down Effect, I know it was pressed on CD, how many copies did you press and were you able to get rid of them all?

Brandon Moore: We pressed 1000 copies. Maybe 100 remain. it was the days of Dirty Thursday and constantly gigging, so we had a great market.

RR to Brandon Moore: Considering we have the album release party flyer, what do you remember of that night?

Brandon Moore: Our homie who ran an art gallery covered the walls with local canvases, and painted a 12×12 ft backdrop of the album cover for the stage. The crowd was amazing. Also Exit’s brother, opened the night with his first set. I still can’t believe how cheap the door was lol.

RR to Exit Only: Your brother opened up for you guys at the release party for Trickle Down Effect, does your brother still rap?

Exit Only: He still raps. He is more of a visual artist though. Prob the best visual artist I know and I don’t just say that because he’s my brother. He did the art for a couple of my albums including it’s about time. Witch is a double album with lots of art that does not appear on the internet. As well as Moore’s last album cover. But he’s dropped a ton of music. We working on a secret brotherly album right now.

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RR: Do you have any stories associated with recording this release? Or promoting it shortly afterwards? Was there a tour period?

Brandon Moore: I remember we wrote it in about three weeks, and some of the production together, but Exit was really started to find his groove as a producer. Then we went and recorded it with Fresh Kils. Exit was like a sponge there, and bought an MPC 1000 shortly after our first session. We did bring a lot of stems to Kils and recorded off vinyl to cool edit though.

Exit Only: First thing that comes to mind is kicking my girl out to move Moore in to start the writing and demo recording. Lol. Something not a lot of people know is I was growing a couple dope plants in the studio where we made the record. Made it kinda cool. Another cool story would be maybe a year before we finished the record we helped organize a big festival where there was a big graffiti jam at this bar where we painted the inside, outside, and patio of the bar. We brought down Abstract Rude for the show and it was a crazy success. He had such a good time that when the record was done we hit him up for a shout-out and he gave us a really dope one for the record. I think it’s at the end of get high. Also the back cover of the trickle down effect is what I painted that day at the bar. Says “the people” with all the band names underneath.

RR To Exit Only: Brandon had brought up that you and him went to Kils and you soaked up the production techniques like a sponge, and it got you to go out and buy an MPC shortly after. What was it about Kils recording process that stood out to you so much?

Exit Only: Trickle was my baby. It was the first record I had ever fully produced myself. The whole thing was made on my computer witch is how I had always produced up to that point. The record was finished and we went to record with Kils. During one of our sessions the hard drive crashed and we were unable to work on the record. That’s when Kils said pick any record and I’ll make y’all a beat.. watching him work the MPC was an eye opener for me. What he was doing in front of me and only taking seconds to do, was what I’d been attempting to do on my computer for years and would spend hours trying to get the sound I wanted. He was doing it effortlessly and in the blink of an eye.. It was a game changer for me. Ordered the MPC as soon as we got back. And was able to produce two tracks on it that made it on to trickle down effect. (Cry wolf, and Get High) Also. That was the day that I realized I’d been mixing vocals wrong my whole life.. I don’t think kils knows how much information I absorbed working with him. Up to that point we had to figure everything out on our own.

Kwest tha Madd Lad on Label Experiences with American, NEW EP, Chopped Herring, and Eminem [Interview]

SPITRIt’s not very often that you get the opportunity to speak to a New York legend like Kwest tha Madd Lad, even more so as a Canadian hip-hop historian… But the opportunity arose, and I felt it would be foolish not to accept it and seek it out. Signed to Rick Rubin’s American’ in the early to mid 1990s, Kwest finally saw his first album released in 1996 creatively titled “This Is My First Album”.

Since then, he’s participated in battles, rhymed alongside Eminem, and has recently linked up with Monsta Island Czars emcee / producer King Cesar to release a new EP titled S.P.T.R. In addition to a digital / CD release through Bandcamp, Kwest has partnered up with Chopped Herring Records to release the EP on wax, along with a b-side of unreleased joints previously released on CD through No Sleep Recordings.

A lot of gems were covered throughout the interview, so for my fellow hip-hop heads and history buffs. Grab a cup of coffee, and enjoy the read!

[Transcribed from an Audio-Conversation, Wednesday, April 24 2019]

RR: Your project titles… “This Is My First Album” “This Is My First EP.” “This Is My Second Album: Sophomore Slump”, “These Are My Unreleased Recordings”. You were dedicated to following this theme it seems like EPMD was “Business”. What was the idea here?

[laughs] being totally honest, it was just being literal. It was my first album, it was my first EP. Not that I couldn’t think of any title, but just literally. “This Is My First Album”, “This Is My First Album”. It deviated a little bit when I did the new EP “S.P.I.T.R.” (Smartest Person in the Room), but the next album after that, and I’m getting ready to start recording for the new album, will have the same theme. Probably “This is My Fourth Album” or “This is My Album in 2020”, something crazy.

RR: Debut album has production from Poor Righteous Teachers Tony D (RIP). What was your experience like working with Tony D? And if that was set up through American? Or?

Tony DIt was set up through American if I remember right. I think Dan Charnas knew him, well I know Dan Charnas knew him as he worked for Profile which had Poor Righteous Teachers as an artist at the time. He [Tony D] did a lot of work with Poor Righteous Teachers on their first album. We were scouting around, looking for producers… and I like Tony D. You know; I’d heard his production on their album, on another couple songs. You know I wanted him to rhyme on the album actually, but he didn’t want too. We went to his house in Jersey, he played me some beats. I came up with the two songs we did on the spot; “Herman’s Head” and “Check It”. I know we got out there early that afternoon, and we didn’t leave till later on that evening, we left with two full songs recorded.

RR: Firehouse Recording Studios, was that in California? Pasadena? If so, did you record most of your debut on the west coast? Is that because American was based out of LA?

Nah, that was in New York. A lot of famous producers used [the studio]. The RZA, from Wu-Tang at the time, when they first dropped; that was their first studio.

RR: Did you run into a lot of those guys?

Funny thing is, there’s a story… I’ve only told it a few times. I was in the studio recording, I think it was “Skincare” at the time and one of the studio engineers came in and was like “Somebody’s outside”.

I’m like “who?”

He said “RZA”.

I was like “Oh shit, I wonder what this dude wants to speak to me about.” You know, they had just dropped the 36’ Chambers album, and the album was big everywhere. […] He said; I heard your record Lubrication and I think that’s some funny shit, keep doing your thing.” That was dope, that was one of the highlights.

Carlos Bess, who was the producer for Ghostface’s “Cherchez La Ghost” record, he was the engineer for the majority of my sessions. He was the engineer for most of RZA and the Wu-Tang’s sessions when they were recording there as well.

RR: In an interview I read you had stated that you felt American didn’t give you the freedom to make your record the way you wanted to make it the way that they had done for The Nonce, or Chino XL. Why do you think they treated you differently?

It’s not so much that they wouldn’t give me the freedom, they let me have total control over everything on my album. It was more the fact that when it came time to put it out, they lingered and they sat on it for basically two years. I recorded the majority of the album late 93’, early 94. It was supposed to come out Fall of 94’, it didn’t come out till Fall of 96.

I don’t know, maybe they thought they saw better opportunities in other artists that they had signed. I know I was told I didn’t have enough single material, that I had to go back and record more songs that were more radio friendly, and more radio worthy that I wasn’t trying to do. Cause I know there were at least 4 or 5 songs on the album that were at least radio ready.

RR: So the final project then, when it was finally released in 96’, that had more of a radio appeal than you originally anticipated and wanted for the album then?

Nope, that was the exact same album that I submitted in 94. Nothing changed on it. The records you heard on “These Are My Unreleased Recordings”, some of those songs  (not all of them) were supposed to be swapped out. There were songs that I felt that were supposed to be on “This is My First Album” that I thought would beat it. Flow wise, subject wise, the majority of the record, there was a lot of sex on it. Everyone who’s heard the album knows, there was a lot of sex on it. In the two years from the time I had recorded the album, to the time that it came out, I had grown as an emcee. Leaps and bounds. I wasn’t even rhyming the same anymore, different topics, newer material, I had gotten better with storytelling. So I wanted at least 5-6 of the songs that were on the original album swapped out for newer songs that I had. I think it would have made it a more well-rounded 96’ sounding album. They let me record maybe 6-7 new songs, but when the time the album dropped, I was told some of the songs were going to be swapped out, but it never came about. When the album dropped in 96’, they put the exact same album out that I gave to them in 94’, so I had felt that I had recorded all those songs for nothing.

[…] If songs on the album that I didn’t like were taken out for the newer songs I had did, I probably would have stayed on American and had a second album. As I would have been happier on the finished product. […]

RR: American at one point had both Rhyme Cartel and Wild West (Morris Taft’s label), along with a few artists directly signed to American, which included yourself, Art Official, Blaque Spurm and 5-One-Six. How tight of a family was the label, and I’d love to know what happened to some of those cats. Do you know the status of artists like Blaque Spurm and 5-one-Six.

I was cool with 5one6. Erik Romero from 5one6, we just recently got back in touch together. We were talking about doing new songs. He still rhymes, he’s still nice, and he’s still dope with his production. I was cool with them, most of the other people; being that I lived out here [NY], as opposed to living in LA, and was always being thrown out there to record and do business stuff, I wasn’t in the office a lot. So I didn’t get to meet a lot of the other artists. I never met Milk, I didn’t know Blaque Spurm, I never met Sir Mix A Lot, I knew Chino, cause Chino’s from out here, and when him and Dan were first doing songs I met him with Dan Charnas when we were out here. So I knew him, but there wasn’t any super-interaction with me and a lot of the artists.

Really, every artist at American, they gave people the freedom to do what they did. I know The Nonce did what they did at a home studio, and they just came in to clean it up. But I’m not sure, a lot of the artists, we didn’t really interact with a lot of them. A few times when I was in the office, we’d see each other walking around, but nobody really went out of the way to speak. I only met Rick Rubin once, and he’s the head of the label. He’s the one who signed the check for my album and I only met him once.

RR: What’s your relationship with the M.I.C. Monsta Island Czars? And what’s still happening with that collective? I see the poster for their debut hanging up in one of your latest music videos, and there seems to be a connection now.

I know a few of them. I don’t know the whole click, like I never met DOOM. Shout out to DOOM, I’d love to meet him and do a song with him. I’m tighter with King Cesar, AKA X-Ray. He did a lot of the production and rhymed on the majority of the Monsta Island Czars records. He reached out to me, and he’s the reason I’m back in this, truth be told. I hadn’t rhymed in years, I stopped rhyming I think in 2000-2001.

[…] I was still a fan, always a fan first and foremost, but I was done with hip-hop. But X-Ray reached out to me on Facebook, he told me he was a fan and always wanted to do something with me. He had a studio in Queens, a dope home studio, that’s where you see the posters at in the video. The video your talking about is for “World Premier”, and that’s on the EP I just put out; S.P.T.R.. He reached out, and we started doing songs together. His clique of producers is Organik Poisons, and he has a label “Mindbenda Recordings”. I was on one of the songs on the Chemical Monkey Wrench album [by Organik Poisons], go pick that album up, that album is dope. And we just started working from then.

RR: So you hooked up with Bob recently at Chopped Herring to put out that Old and New. A lot of that Old stuff came from your 2007 Unreleased Project through No Sleep. Did you have to go back to Dan Charnas and James at No Sleep in order to get approval for Bob to green-light the project?

Old and New CoverNo, not at all. James and Bob have a decent relationship. I thought there was going to be a conflict of interest as well being that James put it out on his label back then; “No Sleep”, but he gave the green light. We haven’t spoken in a while, but I’m always going to have love for that dude. He said it’s fine. We picked the best five songs, they say hindsight is 20/20, but I didn’t realize a couple of the songs we put out were actually on wax already. But those were the songs Bob wanted. I sent him over 5-6 songs, but he’s the guy writing the checks, he can have what he wants. As long as we’re putting the new EP on one side, and he wants to put the older material on the other, I think it’s a dope idea.

I don’t think the songs generated enough revenue that there would have been a conflict of interest, but like I said, James gave the green-light. […] Shout out to Bob and shout out to Chopped Herring too, thank you!

RR: What was your experience like working with Bob?

I was just really like; he wants to put out the EP? Okay, let’s hear what his ideas are. X-Ray really dealt with him more on the business aspect of it though. He reached out to me, he told me the idea before I ran it past X, and said it was cool. I thought it was just going to be the EP, and then he came up with the idea and said “You know what? Let’s put the EP on one side, and I already spoke to James, let’s see if we can put 5-6 songs from the Unreleased LP on the other side, and let me get a complete project.” He already had the green-light from James, and I was like “Okay cool.” He was real cool.

I didn’t see the artwork until it actually dropped. As I was on a little clause where I couldn’t say anything about the wax until the day it came out, and I guess he wanted me to be surprised with the artwork. Once I seen the finished product and then I found out the wax was green and purple, I thought that was so dope! I’m pleased with the project, I have nothing but good things to say about it. And Bob, if he wants to do something in the future, I’m more than willing to work with him again, cause he seems like he’s a really cool dude, and I never hear anybody saying anything bad about him, so he’s cool in my book.

RR: Last question; Eminem just posted on Instagram and Twitter that he’s doing a merch release of artwork done up by Skam and posted a photo of the Five Star Generals along with it and an interview with Skam himself. What was your reaction to this post when you first saw it?

D42i-NCWsAYYFnG[I saw that!] You know what’s crazy? That picture has been floating around for the longest. Because I posted that picture a while ago, and A.L. [also] posted that picture. We all knew it, and I’m not sure if any of them interact with Eminem, I haven’t spoken to him in years, since the Rap Olympic battles. But being that he posted it up yesterday, dude, it’s gotten such a good response. And such a good wave of feedback. No lie, within the last 24 hours, I’ve gotten like 100-150 friend requests on Instagram, more friend requests on Facebook, etc.

All that came together from Shabam Shadheeq. Shout out to Shabam. He asked all of us to be on his record when he was signed to Rawkus. He asked us to be on the B-Side to his record on Sound Clash, and said “Hey let’s do a posse cut.” He had approached me and I said I’m definitely down. He had approached Em, we all came together. That was at DJ Spinna’s house where that picture was taken. There were so many dope emcees in the room that night, and then Spinna through the beat on and it was like “Holy shit. That beat is bangin!”. I don’t think we knew what order we were gonna go in, but it came together beautifully. That record is classic. That record came out to be a classic.

You can pick up Kwest’s new album on Bandcamp below, or Chopped Herring at the following link: Chopped Herring Store: Kwest

M-Phasis & Factor – The 3 Days EP (Early 2000s)

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The early 2000s were an amazing time for the Saskatoon hip-hop scene. Factor and Muneshine had departed the storefront to focus more heavily on music, and Soso’s Clothes Horse was beginning to establish itself more firmly.

M-Phasis existed in the 90s era of the city as a member of the Beat Comber Crew alongside Chaps, DJ Innate, Soso and Epic. In the 2000s however, he began to work on projects for Factor’s new record label “Off Beat Productions” (later renamed into Side Road). He recorded a handful of projects during this time period, three of them as apart of a “3 Day” series. All three projects are incredibly rare, but they did exist.

We sat down with M-Phasis to talk about one of these; The 3 Days EP, which he recorded with Factor (Chandelier). Enjoy the read, it’s some good prairie rap history!

RR: I know of “3 Days Later” and “Another 3 Days” that you recorded with Factor for Off Beat, however I was told that there was another project preluding 3 Days Later which was a “3 Days EP”. Are you able to verify the existence of this EP? And what happened with it? Was it pressed on CD? CD-R’s? How many? Etc.?

M-Phasis: Funny how you should ask that, the intentions for the “3 days series” was originally to contain 3 projects but it never did happen. Each of these projects had about 50 copies that went out mostly on a cross Canada tour and close friends so anyone who does have a copy it’d be rare. 300657_10151610220603936_1676770866_n

A bit later there were a few singles recorded on offbeat that were non related to the series that landed on various  projects. Well there was a hidden EP that was produced by So-So in 1997 that did eventually end up on the “North end journals” CD-R release that had approx 30 copies that included other tracks produced by Factor and myself in 2001.

RR: You were quite a bit older than Factor and at this point Factor didn’t exactly have a name for himself (at least not like we know him now) what made you work with him in the first place? Especially to this extent? How did he even get in touch with the Beat Combers Crew?

M-Phasis: Chaps and myself were good friends in high school and I had been graduated for a bit, Beatcombers was in its early stages but I remember Chaps was telling me about this guy in grade 10 at our old school who was popping out sick beats on the regular. Currently they were working together on the CF crew album with Forgetful Jones (Patty C) and Chaps was like “you gotta do a do a feature on it “. We had a great chemistry in the studio and I’ve worked with him ever since transitioning to Sideroad Records…This was around the time So-So and myself were working and preforming on our project . I’d definitely say that Chaps was the neutral friend among all of us that had introduced Factor with everyone in the Beatcomber crew.

RR: Was this CD also recorded in three days?

M-Phasis: Yes each of the “3 days” projects were produced, written, recorded mix and mastered in 3 days.

RR: Could we ever expect to see these albums resurface online digitally? I know Factor isn’t too impressed by his mic skills lately, but it’s an important piece of history!

M-Phasis: Well a few singles from both EP’s could very well resurface digitally in the future, But we have actually have talked loosely nothing serious about possibly re-opening the “3 days” series last summer but nothing is set in stone.

RR: Do you have any stories associated with this release?

M-Phasis: Looking back working on those “3 days” projects were some of the most tiring but musically satisfying days of my Hip Hip journey. Between my job at that time and sacrificing all that sleep for these experimental projects, I remember being a complete zombie the following mornings catching the bus falling asleep on the way to work missing my stops listening to those cuts on replay.

 

Psybo – Wherewithal (2007/2018)

 

a2780277009_10Last year one third of London’s Toolshed; Psybo, released his long-awaited solo debut album titled “Wherewithal” through Thomas Quinlan’s Hand’solo Records. The project was recorded from 2003-2006, and finalized in 2007. However, as with many creative endeavours in the hip-hop sphere, Wherewithal never got released, despite a proper cover, a mixing and a release ready to go. That is until Quinlan’ stepped up to the plate.

We sat down with Psybo to go over the story of this record, and to chat about the prospect of future work. Hopefully you enjoy the read, and it encourages you to peep the record, as well as Toolshed’s back-catalog. (Oh and Backburner too, cause that’s a thing!).

RR: I guess the obvious question to get it out of the way, is what took so long to get this out in the public?  When did you actually begin working on it?

Psybo: I wrote the rap for ‘Above the Water’, the first track off of the album, back in 2003 while I was on a trip to the west, where I would eventually make my future home.
Vanessa, who is now my wife but girlfriend at the time, was attending film school in T.O. Kils had just moved back to Toronto from the east coast and lived just down the road from her place at that time. So while I would be staying with her by night, as she attended school by day I would head over to Kils and kick it. That would’ve been circa 2004 or 2005. It was in these sessions that Wherewithal began to truly take shape.

If i had to put a date on it i would say that the majority of the album was written in 2005, and ironed out and edited down in 2006/2007. It was around this time that we were starting to yearn for something more out of life, and not just Vanessa and I, but Toolshed as well on a whole. We were all 27+/- years of age, and needed a stick in the spokes to thrust us forth. For us that took the form of uprooting from our homie hub of a house in London Ont, and catapulting ourselves into an uncertain and new perspective on life. A fresh take. We stood at the edge of comfort looking over the precipice of the unknown and we jumped. So departs the rollercoaster of my M.I.A. on the scene.

Todd Gronsdahl - Rap Portraits - Toolshed
Toolshed, illustration by Todd Gronsdahl, circa 2009~.

From there we quickly set roots in our new home out in B.C. and within our first year here we were lucky enough to find ourselves expecting our first child. We didn’t waste time. By 2013 we had 4 children. A four year old, a two year old, and two zeros. We grew exponentially as a family and it was all encompassing as we did so. From the time the twins were born in 2013, I was so removed from writing and recording and with a daunting workload that I had set on my plate in front of me, that not only was I unable to tantalize the likes of such ideas as dropping the record, I also found my self unable to make time to put pen to page for the first in my adult life. It was both beautiful and weird. I was more elated than I had ever known, but as well more overwhelmed than ever before. I learned a lot. Mainly, that you have to get the crazy out of your head, and art in whatever form helps tremendously.

That sums up the distance of time from start to the near present, but how the album came to see the light of day is because of the homies. It goes something like this. Early spring 2018 Backburner page forms. Someone posts about old posse cuts. Crew reminisces about a cut we tried to do for my album back in the day. Homies start talking among themselves and pondering the existence of the album that I was working on, and sharing their love of what little of it they remembered hearing. [Thomas] Quinlan was a part of the conversation, and almost immediately after we concluded that thread hit me up. Asked in what shape or form the album was in, and when I told him it was mixed, mastered, and with cover art already completed, he asked if he could put it out on Handsolo. I told him i would be honoured to have him do so. Once Quinlan took the wheel it was only a few short months before the record was awarded what it deserves, and found the light of day.

RR: How much of this record was cut and/or altered? It’s pretty short and I imagine considering how long it took to put together there must have been more material written. I understand the world just got this album but could we ever see a B-Sides tape?

Psybo: There was a bunch of raps, ideas, partial tracks, and unfleshed out attempts that were possibilities that ended up on the cutting room floor. For good reason, as we were evolving as a crew and everyone was stepping up their game. Most of those fell by the wayside and eventual obscurity.  The likes of which I doubt exist, and if so not in my possession, so their seeing the light of day in the form of a b-sides release is next to nonexistent.

a4207700723_10RR: I know you’ve recorded some new material for future Backburner projects, have you been working on solo joints again since putting this one out?

Psybo: After the twins were born in 2013, as aforementioned I maybe scrawled a handful of raps over the next four years. In 2017 a good homie of mine who records and goes by Gisto hit me up. He was writing his album at the time, and shared with me an admiration for my syllable work, and asked me if I wouldn’t mind helping him wrap his head around a couple of his flows. It was in these sessions that I was afforded the opportunity to write without the weight of some self perpetrated desire to pen a magnum opus. Once I got the pen back on the page the momentum came in quick succession.

Which brings me to the present where I am damn near back to penning at least a sixteen a day. 98% essentially overconfident journal entries, but when you play the odds it just so happens you might turn out 2% dope. I believe I am doing just this. I am excited to take on the day that lies ahead, and equally amped the fuck up on the raps that are flowing out of me. Fingers crossed it wont take another decade to share them with those that wish to listen.

RR: Do you have any stories associated with recording this project?

Psybo: The only stories from the process that need further elaboration are not stories at all but sentiments. Timbuktu is dope. Kils is dope. The Backburner crew is family. Quinlan is so incredibly important to the proliferation of underground rap in Canada and indeed the culture that goes along with it.

GSG – God Told Me Not To Battle (1998)

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London Ontario’s hip-hop history is shrouded with lyrical excellence, hip-hop has been alive and strong in the city for decades, yet it’s still a place mostly overlooked on the map. And although some may know of cats like Shad, OK-Cobra, and Thesis Sahib, London has a lot more to speak of than the few shared above.

Today I spoke with Mat Labatt, an emcee who fits into this category of rappers and producers who largely went under the radar, but he’s an important part of this Canadian hip-hop puzzle. From working with his group Labatt Brothers in the late 1990s alongside others like Osearth, Foster the Fence Hopper, Wheelsaw and Johnny Trainwreck, to working almost as a “secondary” Backburner emcee during the early days of the London-Halifax collective.

Thanks to the advent of Bandcamp, another project he was heavily involved with has recently got it’s shine; GSG’s God Told Me Not to Battle. The 16 song project had 8 songs with Mat himself, and I wanted to dig into it deeper. Enjoy reading the interview, and hopefully it inspires you to go through London’s vast catalog with a bit more depth.

RR: How involved were you in GSG? Were you an official member of the group? “The one man army” claim comes up with Chief Chills, but you’re on this album almost a dozen times, and most people in London would associate you as GSG.

Mat Labatt: GSG is a “one man army” and Chief Chills is GSG. The reason most people in London would associate me with GSG is I was the first DJ/Producer Chief Chills ever worked with. I recorded his first demo. I had been producing for a few years prior to producing Chief Chills. I actually came up with his rap name, Chief Chills. I produced all kinds of tracks before God Told Me Not To Battle. But I’m not GSG. I’ve got a lot of rap homies, but I have always stood alone.

RR: Was this album at any point called “Music From The Immortals”? The cover that’s on Bandcamp appears to be under that title, with scotch tape over the cover with God Told Me Not To Battle written with sharpie on said tape, then scanned in. Was the release done like this at the time?

Mat Labatt: No. To my knowledge, the album was always called God Told Me Not To Battle. I think Chief Chills released maybe a hundred CDs and it was very DIY. But I could be wrong.

RR: This is one of the early London hip-hop albums. There wasn’t a lot of recorded material to make waves prior to this. Demo cassettes from Toolshed around the same time, Genocide had the CD, and some earlier demo stuff from groups like Brotherman Syndicate, Black Reality, and Collapse Syllables, but this seemed to have gotten spread around at the time. While recording the album, did you see this as a pioneering hip-hop record for London?

Mat Labatt: Not really. It felt like we were in our own lane, in our own neighbourhood, kinda just doing things for the neighbourhood. Our release party at the Victoria Tavern was a big success, but it was pretty much all underground success. It felt like we had something different from everything else out at the time. We didn’t know or care if people would like our music. We liked making it. The guys on this list are all guys that I had already worked with or had tremendous respect for. Brotherman Syndicate came way before us and was on a way higher level, sound quality-wise. We were on some broke-ass basement demo recordings. So I didn’t even consider it an official album – I was just sharpening up my production skills. As the DJ, I was bringing most of the samples and the drums to the table with my record collection.

RR: Do you have any stories regarding the recording of the project, or during the immediate promotion of it?

Mat Labatt: Yeah. For sure. I remember around that time period teaching tons of people how to make beats. Like, mad people. Some of them are still producing now. But one of the stand out beats on God Told Me Not To Battle was made by Chief Chills’ little bro, Derek. The track “Scandals and Animals” I think is the best track on the album, and it’s one of the only beats I think he’s ever made.

Also, we recorded the first 3 GSG albums in his bedroom. The release party was at Victoria Tavern, London’s oldest bar, and we had one of London’s best drummers rockin’ a live kit in the basement. Danny Miles (of July Talk) was playing along with our beats and the show got so loud that they unplugged the jukebox upstairs so they could hear the show on both floors. Chief Chills raps loud.

You can download GSG’s God Told Me Not To Battle for free on Bandcamp, or stream it below. 

Knowself and Ginzuintriplicate – Science, Technology and Globalization All Suck! (1999)

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Back in 1999, following the release of Pseudo Freedom in the Age of Manipulation with DJ Moves, Halifax based Knowself hooked up with fellow emcee Ginzuintriplicate to record and release Science, Technology and Globalization All Suck! The album has been re-released in various forms throughout the years, including an online only release titled Mind Controlled, Automaton Conformist, Ego Enslaved, Manipulated Materialistic Robot, Indoctrinated Pawn Fool World. These online releases have quickly been pulled off the net, however you can still locate some of these on obscure hip-hop blogs.

Last year I interviewed both Knowself and Ginzu for the book and although we covered a variety of topics, this project came up in both of them. Within the last week, I chopped it up with Knowself again to cover this release in more depth via text. Here’s what came of that conversation. If you’d like to read more obscure Halifax history, including projects with Ginzuintriplicate, please check out other articles on the website here. (The Sentinels release piece I highly recommend.) Enjoy the piece, and thanks to both of these amazing artists for putting out quality work and advancing the Canadian scene one track at a time.

RR: Coming off of the album with Moves, why change it up? What made you start working with Ginzu? And were you friends with Jesse at the time as well?

Knowself: The album with moves was recorded in ’97 and late ’98 (same time as Truth of the Trade, Cock Dynamics and Hiss 2) before Moves moved to Toronto to work with Len. I had attempted to move up to Toronto to keep working with Moves and made the move but didn’t have the money to pull it off properly so had to move back to Halifax. I already knew Ginzu and Jesse a bit from the Hali scene and knew they were skilled, humble, real cats and we just naturally gravitated toward each other as we had a similar chill, open temperament and creative inspiration etc. Also, Buck 65 was the guy who put me on but he was super busy and focused and same with Sixtoo who was the 2nd guy who had my back in Hali and taught me a lot like Buck did but he was very busy too with the Triple Bypass internet radio show, recording etc. So, it made sense to work with people who were in a similar lifestyle. Being 1999 we were not sending sessions via pro tools so working with Moves from a different city wasn’t even an idea.

RR: The project that eventually was put out in 99’, what exactly did it entail? From what I’ve gathered it was this weird collection of freestyle rhymes and unorthodox flows. Can you detail this further?

Knowself: The project that dropped in 1999 was the album with Ginzu and it was originally titled “Science, Technology and Globalization All Suck!” hahaha- not joking. Not that I meant that as absolute but I was expressing valid concerns and there is lots of truth to that statement. The original release had a track produced by Sixtoo “Subliminal Media Technology” and another one produced by myself.

RR: When I was speaking with Ginzu, he had mentioned the Weather Modification Party, and one crazy weekend that happened at the spot in Shobukto. What can you tell me about that weekend? And are we ever going to be able to see the full recordings of what went down?

Knowself: Yeah, that weekend long recording party from 1999 was in an apartment I was living in with the Dregs of Society. It was Wordburglar, Tòm T, Disco Stu, me and a few other dudes in a 3 floor, 8 bedroom house. This crazy session was set up by Ginzu, Jesse Dangerously and myself. We had a live drum set, turntables, sampler and people came through with their instruments; guitars, bass guitar etc. there was even a xylophone. Local singers like Jeannie Taylor came through and laced some vox too. Emcees like cee!!!!!!!! and Tachichi dropped some verses and Gordski even blessed us with a ill Ski’ verse. More emcees were supposed to come but couldn’t make it. We got crazy creative and almost just executed a type of spontaneous, stream of consciousness kind of recording process that captured lots of next level and creative moments. It was like recording in the middle of a party while there was actually another party going on in the rest of the house. The cops were actually called on us and I had to go out and assure them we would keep it down. We didn’t really keep it down but they never came back again so that was cool of them. haha. The meat and potatoes of that project was released on the “Mind Controlled, Automaton…” project and can be viewed on Discogs.com. A larger version was briefly released but pulled but I will re-release with like 10 extra songs in the future and it will include stuff I did going back to 1992. Tracks of me from 1994-95, unreleased tracks with Sixtoo etc. A big ass compilation project will be out at some point.

RR: The release that came out in 1999, and the later online re-releases that the work has seen (generally only lasting a short period before being deleted), how different are these versions? And do you still have the original masters?

Knowself: They were almost the same. The first one was the one on Discogs (Mind Controlled…) and the second one just had like 8 extra tracks. I have weak old CD masters of some of it. It was on Youtube but it got deleted. I took it off Bandcamp as I wanted to add more tracks and release a final version in the future.

RR: Do you have any further stories regarding either the recording of the project, or promoting it shortly after?

Knowself: I`d just say that we had a dirty, musty, dark jam space on Gottingen St. (me, Jesse and Ginzu and a few others) where we jammed and recorded at that point in time. Other people would come through and it was a cool time. Thats where a lot of the vocals were recorded. Also, I performed many tracks from the album with Ginzu live a bunch of times when I was opening for Sole and Sage Francis in Hali and other shows I did with Ginzu, Jesse Dangerously, Smoke Dogg and Cee!!!!!!!!  before I moved to Montreal in September 2001. There’s a video of me performing a bunch of those tracks at a packed show at Cafe Mokka or the Kyber Club. As far as promotion just hand to hand slinging dem tapes baby! Fun times.