Jan 13, 2009

Mantrakid

by
Mantrakid

Illustration by Pearl Rachinsky
Producer, rapper, graphic designer extraordinaire Mantrakid is a recent transplant to Vancouver Island after spending over 20 years in the prairies. Through his beginnings rocking beats in Mario Paint or his grandparent’s Casio keyboard, Mantrakid graduated to Fast Tracker, discovering that he could augment previously sequenced instrumentals created by other people. But don’t let this dissuade because he’s since built a decidedly more professional studio releasing his “official” debut Palmflowerblack (despite releasing a number of albums over the years). Mantrakid is responsible for the release of some really dope Canadian albums including Cinstrumentals and Ricca Razor Sharp’s 12 Steps to a Deffer You through his label Neferiu – but don’t send him your demo…

Some people clown the Calgary rap scene (and your hockey team), what do you say to the haters?

I’m obviously biased because I grew up in that scene, but the thing I like most about Calgary is the amount of people who are being themselves. I mean, there are a ton of talented dudes, but I think even more than that, these dudes aren’t trying to be something that already exists, they’re actually pushing hip hop’s boundaries and expressing themselves in ways other dudes aren’t

So is your rap scene like your hockey team?

From what I’ve seen with the Flames, they have deadly potential, but they slack off more often than not…so maybe…

So why is the new album your debut?

Well that’s kind of funny, because there are actually like 4 or 5 “albums” out there already that came before Palmflowerblack , but those albums really never felt like true “albums.” I’m kind of a perfectionist when it comes to my own shit, and I never fully felt confident that I could actually get behind what I was doing with those other albums. They were from the heart for sure, but my technical abilities, production techniques, mic presence, etc. It all seemed a bit immature to me… Either I just had no balls, or I was being real with myself. I prefer to think I was being real with myself. I knew I could do much better. The thing is I never wanted to go the distance with those albums because I didn’t want them to be people’s first impression of my shit.

Why’d you wait so long?

I was honing my skills, practicing my performance abilities, learning my breath control, all the while making more complex or interesting beats, learning how to mix them properly, etc. It was a long time for sure, but I feel like when someone hears it, they can’t deny its potency. I couldn’t say the same for any of the other CDR’s/Tapes I put out in the past.

So, you’re pretty in touch with new technologies and such, why choose to release Palmflowerblack on CD and not a hologram or microchip implanted in the brain?

Fuck, I would have given anything to implant the chips in people’s brains. The only problem is I think people still would have treated it as a CDR mixtape if that were the case. I think there’s still this closed-minded mentality that an album isn’t official unless it shows up on your desk as a professionally manufactured CD or 12″ vinyl record. It’s just like the universal benchmark for whether or not it’s an actual album. People want the physical representation of the album to hold in their hands, so that pretty much discounts any of the digital methods of getting it out there. Then you basically are left with the people who want something to add to their collection – they don’t want to put this strange miniature masterpiece in amidst their CD Collection so it stands out and makes the shelf all unbalanced and weird looking… they want something that fits in their collection to accent it. Maybe I’m wrong. Fuck it, my next album will be a custom vinyl toy from KidRobot with a micro SD card slot to hold the music.

Tell me about your record label Neferiu.

Neferiu is my baby. The purpose of the label is as straightforward as it gets: expose dope underground music. I started the label back at the end of ’99, early 2000, with a compilation of primarily electronic musicians. The CD was called the Neferiu Sampler and basically it was designed as a stage-setter for the type of shit coming up on the label. It featured a lot of international artists, guys from Finland, Poland, Sweden, France, etc. and to be honest, most of the guys on there I’d never even met – it was just connections through online channels and the European demo scene connections that I made over the years prior to that.

Over the years we’ve released a tonne of great music, but I think only the past few years have we really been putting out shit that is starting to solidify a true label roster and family. Especially with the shit coming up in ’09, we’re really going to fortify the type of sound we’ve been plugging for the past few years. There should be new shit from Ricca Razor Sharp, Metawon & Dirty Sample, Pete Meadows, myself, The EquAzn, Stilz (of Shep & DJ Stilz), etc. Over the years I’ve kind of known what kind of music I wanted to be represented on the label, but there wasn’t enough of it to give that impression to the average onlooker. It’s hard to explain, but basically I’ve felt like the label’s sound is very wide in range, and because of that, we’ve had releases representing a LOT of different genres. I think to the average listener they might think that we’re just putting out anything and everything, but the truth is there has been this big picture all along of having this incredible catalog of multi-genre sickness and only now is that big picture finally starting to come together. The goal is that people who are totally down with Neferiu’s hip hop will be able to check out something else on the label and still find similar aesthetics and musical dopeness in the other shit we’re putting out. So I’m super excited about that shit coming together.

Does anybody truly wack try to get on board?

I have definitely got some wack demos. A lot of the demos I get are not really hip hop, they’re the more electronic flavored releases and you would be amazed to hear the similarities between [them]. I don’t mean to sound like I’m on a high horse or something, ‘cause I totally respect and appreciate any artist putting themselves out there and trying to push themselves, etc. But when you get a shitty CDR with sharpie on it, a shittier factory CD label with some shitty BIC pen writing on it all held together in a cracked CD case that looks like they did blades off it, it doesn’t really give the impression that you care about the impression you’re giving. Then you throw the disc in and it sounds like you’re just fucking with some fruity loop presets and not really even putting any artistry into it. Pass.

Have you found that you’re lumped into the “Nerdcore” sub-sub-genre category of music?

Probably not yet. I think it would probably be easier for me if I were. I don’t know if people immediately classify me as Nerdcore until they actually see me in person, rocking the glasses and the shitty Zellers hoodie or Value Village blazer. I think when people meet me, they are obviously taken aback to find that I make hip hop music, because the stereotypes that go with “who makes hip hop,” and the fact that I intersect with very little of those stereotypes. But fuck it, if being Nerdcore means I’m in a category along side Jesse Dangerously, then I’ll fucking put it on my shirt.

Is there a problem with that?

Haha not really, it may be the simplest explanation of what I do… it’s an easy way to describe my music without giving too much false pretenses. However, I think if someone came to my show expecting Nerdcore, they’d be pleasantly surprised with the addition of TechnoRobotnoFunkScatCore that they’d also see.

What is your earliest rap memory?

Earliest Beatbox memory was trying to imitate “Having a Roni” in like grade 5 or whatever, which I just thought was Vanilla Ice taking a piss till I heard Fat Boys and Biz. So yeah unfortunately Vanilla was the first one to introduce me to Beatboxing. Then when I heard that live track of Rahzel rocking “If Your Mother Only Knew,” that was like my first thought of learning to Beatbox properly and seriously, but that wasn’t till like 2000 or something.

First general rap memory…. we had a dope babysitter as a kid, so like the first few years of elementary school I was like 6 or 7 and this babysitter was big into rap. He’d always have much music on checking out the dopeness. He would read our Dr. Seuss books with us as if they were rap songs, like rap them out, and I had this old school Fisher Price turntable and he showed us how to scratch on it and it was fucking dope. At the time he was just a cool babysitter coming up with stuff for us to do.

Shout outs/last words?

Just a couple plugs. Check my radio show: Creamreefer for a sick showcase of smokey Saturday soundtracks. Every Saturday from 2-4pm (P.S.T.) on 101.7FM in Nanaimo, BC or online at creamreefer.com. Check my album Palmflowerblack at www.neferiu.com – I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. Check Neferiu.com for a steady stream of musical mind elevators. A huge shout to my Audible Intelligence & Neferiu boys – you guys are family ‘til infinite. Massive respect to UGSMAG, I doubt I’d have half the hip hop knowledge I do today without this magazine…

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39 Comments

  1. Nice. Long live the TechnoRobotnoFunkScatCore

  2. Baggylean

    Your next album should be released by telepathy.

  3. Finally a proper Mantrakid feature on ugs.

    I love that illustration!

  4. ^Me too, though Deb looks a little off, nice interview Nate..

  5. metawon

    Mantra is a very nice man. Good interview too.

  6. WORKEYTURKEY

    DDDDDDDDOOOOOOOOPPPPPPPPEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!

  7. max prime

    i agree, the tin cd case was definately an eye catching addition to the physical cd presentation. If that’s one of the big reason the cd got excepted for so many reviews, then props on that.

  8. thx guys. thx ugs. thx jawnsb

  9. epic

    mantrakid is awesome.

  10. GorJus

    Thanx Namtra! lol congrats again dope read, The Mantrakids gotta chant to charm ya!

  11. CountTurrack

    mantrakid rules. calgary’s loss is most definitely the west coast’s gain…

  12. Nice interview! And that illustration rules.

  13. Fast Tracker!! I started off on Scream Tracker 3 and made my first three albums on Impulse Tracker 2.14.

    Mega ups.

  14. JD – You should check out Renoise – it’s like the tracker of the future, today! http://www.renoise.com

  15. Lovely

    “But when you get a shitty CDR with sharpie on it, a shittier factory CD label with some shitty BIC pen writing on it all held together in a cracked CD case that looks like they did blades off it, it doesn’t really give the impression that you care about the impression you’re giving. ”
    This would be my CD…………………..Its whats on the inside that counts.
    1 luv

  16. But if that’s as far as you’ll go to present your cd, its usually a fairly safe assumption that you didn’t go too far in other areas as well (ie, writing, recording, mastering, self-promo, performance practice, etc). Im not saying its always the case, but more often than not, if the CD package looks like shit, it sounds like it too…

  17. “But when you get a shitty CDR with sharpie on it, a shittier factory CD label with some shitty BIC pen writing on it all held together in a cracked CD case that looks like they did blades off it, it doesn’t really give the impression that you care about the impression you’re giving. ”
    This would be my CD…………………..Its whats on the inside that counts.
    1 luv

    it is. But investing in yourself gives the impression other people have a reason to. alot of rappers tell me ‘i’m so broke’ etc.

    i’ve put out 7 records and i’m broker than everyone.

    but contributing to the culture as a whole is worth that personal and financial investment.

    it feels good to lose alot of sleep, time, and money on a record you put your heart into.

    it’s the real hip hop experience.

  18. Lovely

    I put all the time into writing, recording, promo and performance. I have nothing left for visual display on a burnt CD I am handing out as a demo. I have plenty of CD’s that look great so I bought it, and the music is Sh#t.

    Not to say when I release my CD I will not put in the effort to make it pretty, but a demo? come on boys.

    1 luv

  19. chris plus

    not all cdr’s that are written on with sharpies are whack I have a suitcase full of “real” cd’s I have acquired over the years from various people on my travels most of it is unlistenable garbage I call it the box of shame.. Putting out a real cd is easy enough nowadays. 12″ Vinyl is where its at if you got 12″ vinyl chances are your real as fuck.

  20. ALBERTA RAP CHARGER

    you could release Lovely’s next album on a 180g triple vinyl with a gate-fold cover and it would still suck. I think crappy CDRs with a sharpie label suits her “music” just fine. white girls should probably stay away from rapping in general, I can’t think of one emcee in this category I’d want to listen to.

  21. Lovely

    “white girls should probably stay away from rapping in general, I can’t think of one emcee in this category I’d want to listen to.”

    F*ck you to darlin.

  22. max prime

    Ira lee is right. many of the best hip hop artists in Canada don’t have pressed albums.

    but lets get another thing straight. High quality packaging is an industry standard. Most radio show hosts won’t play anything that doesn’t look shiny and nice and isn’t given to them for free.

    yeah i know it sucks, but life’s complicated like that.

  23. i just want to see more pressed product from canadian artists. alot of fans and opportunity come from investing in yourself.

    you can do a run of pressed cd’s for about 1000$ and make back 2 – 4 G’s realistically. how is that anything but logical? considereinh how much we put into shows, and rapping, etc,

    i mean, if we don’t feel our music is important enough to invest in, why would anyone else?

    that being said. the best rappers i’ve ever met don’t have a ‘real’ album out.

    so…

  24. i just want to see more pressed product from canadian artists. alot of fans and opportunity come from investing in yourself.

    you can do a run of pressed cd’s for about 1000$ and make back 2 – 4 G’s realistically. how is that anything but logical? considereinh how much we put into shows, and rapping, etc,

    i mean, if we don’t feel our music is important enough to invest in, why would anyone else?

    that being said. the best rappers i’ve ever met don’t have a ‘real’ album out.

  25. That’s not true at all, lots of demos a radio stations are just slips with lightscribe type of shit on them.

    I agree with Ira though, alot of people who say they make music don’t ever put anything out…whatever though – in the end they just look like retards.

  26. err…not demo’s…but shit sent to radio stations for play…a lotta times it’s even blue bottom cd-r shit.

    I don’t know about Mainstream radio stations but I don’t deal with pouch lickers so they can die.

  27. haha, i guess the thing is, especially with small labels (and I guess big labels too).. you dont want to spend all your resources helping someone who gives the impression that they ‘dont give a shit’. A CDR is fine.. Ive seen CDr’s that were enclosed in a hand-sawn fun foam case, all the way to something with a stamp on the CDR & an inkjet printed label in a slim case.

    All im saying is, i appreciate the little extra effort someone takes to take their demo from something that looks like my dad burned me a cd of his favorite Kraftwerk tunes and then ate his lunch of the cracked CD case to something that they’re proud of and want to present with dignity.

    Think like the person receiving the CD. First impressions are key, and if looks like something their assistant pulled out of the office garbage can, who says they’ll even get as far as listening to the CD in the first place?

  28. I hear that for sure.

    BUT, you gotta admit – if the music on the CD was mindblowing then it wouldn’t matter.

    I guess if it was ok and you were sitting on the fence it might tip it that way.

  29. Word up. BUT if the music was mindblowing, and you were wanting to get into a business relationship with the person, I think you’d feel like you’d have the upper hand when approaching this person.. like they need you more than you need them, like they cant even hook up a simple cover/packaging design so chances are, they don’t have a press photo or press kit, so chances are they haven’t ever sent out their work for reviews, so chances are they are pretty much on ground zero when it comes to their music career. if that were the case, you’d have a lot of business leverage over them.

    Compare that to someoen who drops a full blown package in your box. You know they got their shit together, theyre making moves with or without you (so you better hop on while you have the chance), so you know they’re taking themselves and their art seriously, etc etc.

    It all comes down to the impression you’re trying to make & knowing that no matter what your intentions or reasons when making an impression, it’s NEVER up to you how someone is gonna take it. It’s all up to them, so unless you’re going to include a letter saying “this music is so dope I don’t even need to wow you with a simple CD package. You will never remove it from your CD player, which is why I never bothered with the silkscreen” then you need to have *something* that sets you apart…

  30. Lyric1

    Yeah but even if the music is mindblowing, you have to make sure that it will make it to the CD player to get heard and having good presentation definitely helps.

    Think of it like a resume. It doesn’t matter if you’re the dopest person for the job…if your resume is written on a napkin in crayon, it probably has way less of a chance of getting looked at compared to a resume that was on paper, typed, proof-read, etc.

    You have to assume that everybody that you give your CD too has absolutely no idea who you are so you want to make a good first impression immediately. Why put all your work and time to make a great product, but then cheap out at the end with shitty packaging?

  31. NATE-DEE-OH-DOUBLE-GEE

    a good music director will listen to every cd that’s sent in but i can guarantee the cdr will be listened to last… that is IF the pile ever gets low enough

  32. I get the reasoning.

    I personally wouldn’t have the arrogance to judge an artists effort into their work based on how it’s presented. I guess that’s just how I operate, like Ira said, most of the best rappers I know don’t even have cd’s out.

    The most suprising is how people still send demos to labels.

  33. That being said, 9 out of 10 times if it looks like trash it is trash….and alotta times the nicer looking local type of cd’s aren’t very good – like they put more effort into the artwork/design of the product rather then the music.

  34. “I personally wouldn’t have the arrogance to judge an artists effort into their work based on how it’s presented.”

    Wow. burn… I never thought I was being arrogant… Wasn’t my intention to be hi ‘n mighty about it, but yeah. Whatever, all I know is what I know from what i’ve known.

  35. cosm

    It’s kind of a fucking paradox because it’s getting increasingly harder to get your cds into stores, and many labels are stressing digital only releases. Yet radio and press often demand manufactured releases in order to get the time of day, and cdbaby.com/itunes warns of the risk associated with doing digital only releases when your not a well known artist.

    I for one try to check everything we get in at cjsw. Manufactured or cdr. I could be wrong, but I don’t seem to see as many cdr releases coming in these days.

    I kind of miss the good ol’ days when half my Canadian indie collection was on cdr. But I can’t even re-live it because half of them don’t play anymore lol. The City Planners need to do a free dl site with all their old gems.

    Props to Mantra

  36. i don’t think addy meant it like that mantra! handmade pause tapes are still the shit! any good rap listener knows you find diamonds in the rough. that’s implied i assumed by our general status ‘b-people.’

    but really girls, from a listeners / show goers and consumer standpoint what are you most likely to give a shot.

    emcee kool doode’s sick handmade mixtape volume 6o

    or a well organized, semi professional, designed and manufactured cd?

    everybody who ever rap’s goes through the process.

    what sucks is that it’s not a ‘goal’ anymore to put out good music.

    it’s not even on the list for a lot of ‘rappers’ who ‘contribute’ to the ‘community.’

  37. :) its my goal to make dope shit & back it up with dope shit and wrap it up in dope shit. :)

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