March 30, 2010


Vancouver based rapper/producer Cityreal recently dropped his appropriately named debut album, The Beginning. His music welcomes listeners into his world without any trepidation and has earned the respect of artists like The Sweatshop Union and Moka Only.

Take our readers into the world of Cityreal. What motivates you to do this rap stuff?

I kinda got into it through a love of music and went from there. I got into it organically making beats for the fun of it, rapping and free-styling with my buddies, then I gradually started to take it more seriously.

Why the name Cityreal?

As a kid people used to call me “Real” all the time, which I wasn’t crazy about. Then I was helping a buddy make a documentary style movie for one of his classes and we were looking through reels of footage and one of them said “City reel”. It was a reel of stock city footage and I kinda liked the sound of that and I took it from there. It was meant to signify just that. Images of the city. Then I changed the name from “Reel” to “Real” to signify those images and reality to the city as well.

How long have you been in the game?

I started doing it officially since about 2004/2005 while I was in University in Winnipeg. I’ve been rapping since I was a kid just messing around in high school. I didn’t start taking it seriously until I was in Winnipeg and was making beats for a bunch of Winnipeg artists. I got into the scene that way, then I got on the mic and got really good feedback and took it from there.

Does the fact you studied Political Science influence your music?

Yeah it did when I first started rapping. I was a lot more political but I started thinking that sometimes that political stuff can come off a little preachy, so I kinda eased off that and try to put it in slightly as a nuance in my music but not the main effect. I try to reflect on life itself. But yeah, it has a large influence on me as a person but I shy away from being too political in my music.

Would you say that playing the drums growing up got you into producing?

Yeah Yeah. I was in whatever my high-school band was. I had a good understanding of that. I played a little piano and keyboard on the side. Having that base knowledge definitely made it a lot easier for me to pick it up.

With the advent of new technology I find that a lot of producers aren’t legitimately based in music now. I think it’s good that you have that foundation.

Yeah for sure man. There are lots of dudes out there that just mess with the MPC, find a good sample and put some ok drums behind it and maybe a bass and that’s it.

For sure. Your beats have a layered quality and a certain level of depth to them.

Thanks man. I like to throw lots of instrumentation in there, but not synthesized stuff. I try to stay away from what’s poppin these days. You know the Electronica, House influenced beats. I try to take it back to a more organic, classic hip hop sound but add more instruments like piano and guitar along with the samples.

Did you play any of the instruments on the beats?

Yeah most of them actually. I played basically everything except for some for the guitars and bass you hear in there. I’m not crazy good at guitars. I had a couple of buddys help out. I had my buddy Daniel Pangman who plays in a bunch of bands around here to do guitar on 2 or 3 tracks. Then I had my buddy Justin Brown who’s a fucking sick bass player in Vancouver who charges people lots of money to do bass on their shit but did it for me for free cause I knew him from way back in high school. He must have done bass for like half the tracks on the album. Then there’re the collaborations I have with Wes Mackey. He’s an old school blues guy and a really good blues guitar soloist. On the 2 tracks he did he plays the guitar solos that go with the tracks. But other then that. I did everything else that’s piano or keyboard oriented.

Is “Liar” based on a real experience?

Yeah. Liar is my retaliation. It’s me being fed up with a lot of elements in main-stream hip hop. Both on my experiences coming up in the game, talking to dudes talking lots of bullshit about being hard or about the shiny aspects of the game. Then coming up and realizing that it’s really a lot grittier and harder to make it then that. Just being fed up with the whole chain, diamonds, grills aspect that used to be prominent but I guess is kinda fading away now. It was my rant about that I guess.

You and A-Hustle have great chemistry. You put out a mix-tape recently that was supposed to be an album but due to a mishap you lost a lot of the material and had to scale the project back. Do you guys have any joint projects planned for the near future?

Yeah but A-Hustle’s kinda AWOL man. He ran into some legal issues and I don’t wanna get to deep into that, but he’s kinda laying low right now. We keep in touch but I haven’t talked to him in a while. What happened with that mixtape is that… We were recording at this studio in Winnipeg and the owner packed up overnight and took off with a lot of our shit. In the process of trying to get our shit back Hustle got into some legal troubles. So I took whatever we had from those sessions and turned it into a mixtape.

How did you hook up with Sweatshop Union?

I originally hooked up with Kyprios through some people I knew and took it from there. We did a track on my album then I asked them if I could open for them. There are lots of people from Van City trying to open for them but they gave me a shot. I met all of them and they’re all good guys. Then built a relationship from there through the different connections I had.

What else should the people out there know about you?

That’s a good question. I’d like the music to speak for itself. I’m quite politically motivated if you talk to me but I don’t put a lot of it in my music. I like to stay with that soulful sound. Keep it more organic and for lack of better word, more “real”. Not as much bullshit in the music. I reflect on my life and my life experiences without making up a bunch of shit or act real hard.

Any shout outs?

Moka Only, The whole Sweatshop Union family, A-Hustle, Shannon O’Neil; basically anyone that helped me with the album.

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