I’m fairly confident that most people who check out ugsmag know who Epic is. For all those with the wool over their eyes, pick up any of his albums 8:30 in Newfoundland, Local Only or Epic & Nomad and you’ll get a better picture of who he is.
What do you think of DJ Premier? What have you been up to?
I love DJ Premier, he has made some of my favorite music. I remember a time when I would order his mix tapes, then study them to become a better DJ. When he or Kilocee did ones and twos I nearly would start crying. One thing I was looking at the other day is that however dope he is everyone he works with quits working with him and ends on bad terms. The Group Home guys, Jeru the Damaja, etc. They would rather be broke than deal with the greatest producer of all time. Maybe he is an asshole I think.
Do you care if that Premo/Nas album ever comes out?
Not really. I haven’t heard much from Premo or Nas for years. My brother played me some songs from two Nas albums ago, it was cool but every time I listen to him I can’t help but to think of him and Foxy and the whole firm fiasco. To me he only has a one hot album every 10 years average. I don’t care about New York rap generally.
Are you more of a west coast fiend? Or you’re just more concerned with Canadian rap?
I like rap from Saskatoon mostly, then rap from Canada. I also like rap from Rhode Island north to the Canadian border, the western outskirts of Jersey City to California. Cali rap is really cool. I was going out to New York at one point to stay with Louis Logic, he invited me out there but I never made it.
Why do so many Saskatoonians like west coast rap?
Because it reminds them of prairie rap. I think it goes both ways. People in the west coast of Cali love Saskatoon rap. That’s why Factor and I can go out there for tours. Actually from my experience, Americans embrace artists like myself, soso and Josh Martinez. They think this sort of rap is fresh and ridiculous. Most Americans I talk to think that Swollen is from California and Kardinal and Kaos are Americans also. Not that mainstream Canadian rap is bad or anything, the average American just doesn’t get excited about it like they do when listening to a mcenroe CD. This surprised me really. Being in Phoenix and the promoter picking me up in a mcenroe shirt and hearing stories of Martinez rocking parties for 500+ Americans is an inspiration to me.
Do Americans clown Canadian rap?
Not at all. Rappers such as Buck 65 and soso and Nolto are completely in opposition of what Americans have been told that they should like. It’s hard to break into the U.S. market business wise. But we have had small successes. I mean one thing I learned out there is that most rap people in the U.S. feel as far away from what’s going on as we do. Heck even my homies from San Bernardino valley (outside L.A.) feel like outsiders. You know there is rap scene in Hawaii that like Canada is completely original and fresh? Have any Hawaii mcs ever made it big?
I guess not, I couldn’t name one Hawaiian emcee.
Well indie hip hop can be about two things: 1. A farm league for the majors or 2. Being in it for the right reasons. If you are in it for 1, that’s cool, but we aren’t on the same page. Be honest about it.
How was your last tour in the U.S.?
It was really cool, we went to a few spots in California. Then ended with a show at the 2Mex anti-Christmas show. I got up on stage just after 10 pm and there were already more people than I’ve seen at an underground rap show. I was really nervous. Everyone looked mean haha. But as soon as I started rapping I just had fun with it. L.A. showed lots of love to everyone at the show. I think L.A. may be the best place to play.
I also got to meet K-the-I??? and Mestizo and lots of cool people at the show.
A lot of people talk about how violent L.A. is (and not just rap people). Did you get this impression when you were there?
I think I’m more on guard for something to go wrong when I am there. I know that friends there have seen way more violent shit that Canadians have. For the most part people are just there to have a good time. A large amount of people from the rough neighborhoods of L.A. have mortgages and kids and report cards and girlfriend issues to contend with. Hip hop is a common love with everyone, whether you are from the south France or south central L.A. We went to south central to Project Blowed last year and everyone there embraces guests. They seem to be proud that their little café rap night in the ghetto gets visitors from all over the world.
Do people down there ever clown you for your “rapccent”?
Nah, that would be ridiculous.
Is it though?
Those people don’t really go to very many rap shows, so I don’t run into them very often. It takes effort to go out on Friday night and go to a rap show. Those sort of people stay at home more often than not. In my experience, people from generation x and the following generation are bored. They want to have fun. If you are in San Diego and hear someone with my accent, then hey that’s great to them. How often do you hear that? Plus, when it is mixed with their underground hip hop ethics, then hey that’s a fun night.
Your new album seems even more personal than your other albums (it has big pictures of you on it), what is it about? Where are you coming from with Aging is What Friends Do Together?
Basically this is the way I see it: I saw some dude on TV. the other night. He was a really famous Canadian artist/writer and his work for whatever reason appealed to the 16-25 crowd. They viewed him as being great for wanting to speak to the 16-25 crowd. They could really relate to him. It also seemed he had never worked a day in his life. I thought: you know there is a large percentage of the population that is not considered cool by society. The music industry leaves these people out of things. I mean Canadian rap industry seems to like just a handful of personalities. You know the scary black guy, the white guy who takes chances with his music and is smarter than everyone else, etc. None of them have jobs and regular life experience. I’m basically trying to relate to the older music and hip hop fan who has life experiences like trying to get time off of work to go stay at your moms house for a week. Getting in car accidents and having to find the money for your insurance increase. Having to deal with a micro manager for a boss. Adult relationships. Respect for aging and balance. You know, the issues that relate to 98% of us that the 2% of rappers and indie rockers don’t have to deal with. This album is about dealing with those issues from the perspective of someone who grew up listening to De La Soul and BDP. I’m at the point in my life where I feel that I am grown up.
You’re trying to relate to the common man/woman?
No. I’m trying to relate to the other 450 types of people that are not represented by the 18 types of people making a living off of music are trying to be.
I’m just about 36 years old. When I was 20 listening to rap I thought that rappers were the coolest people ever and that everyone else needed to learn about the way the world is and how to treat it. I guess that’s what I hate about young rappers today. The same mistakes I made at that age with my worldview. I mean yesterday I got up and was at Superstore by 9 am on Saturday morning. To me these days, that’s ill as fuck.
You mean, people had to learn the world through rappers?
I certainly gained a lot of my perspectives from the teachings of the golden age rappers. I mean growing up dirt poor in the middle of a nasty recession in the poorest province next to Newfoundland, I was mad as hell at the world. I needed an explanation as to why my family unit had nothing. I studied politics from a left wing perspective in university. Rap made being poor a source of pride for me I guess. I mean we could talk about that all day. I think rap really helped me get a sense with what is right. With all radical things you know 50% of the politics were probably bullshit. I still view the early rappers as regular people that through some freak of sociology really could speak their views to millions of people. Most mainstream rap is nowadays is really just taking up space.
What’s the problem with mainstream rap?
Most mainstream rap is just the world from the viewpoint of 2 or 3 of the 18 types of people that the music industry created. I mean 1. the scary black guy who became rich. 2. the guy who can get girls to touch their toes on the dance floor. 3. the white guy who grew up with all black people. That last one is the most ridiculous marketing scheme created. Pretty much every white person I know in this day and age is friends with people from minorities– and trust me I know a lot of white people. I hang out with a lot of East Indian people at work. I mean that’s a simple explanation, but really mainstream rap insults the intelligence so much, but you can’t give simple answers to poke at it. Most people I know could never relate to those three characters. I mean I like Talib Kweli and Common and The Roots and other rap from “good people.”
Did you ever want to make money out of this rap shit?
Of course yes. But there is such a small percentage of rappers who make it. I’m almost 36 with responsibilities. Paid is hanging out with Chadio and Guha in Vancouver. Paid is going to the grocery store in Zürich and having rap fans buying you the best bread and cheese in the whole store.
Are you optimistic about the state of Canadian rap today?
Sure. I mean my new album is out on Hand’Solo records, which is a partnership between someone out east and out west. When underground rap becomes the cool thing again I’m sure there are a lot of us ready. I’m really optimistic that the demise of much music will eliminate a few of the types of people that Canadian rappers aspire to be.
Why is the album out on Hand’Solo? Is CHR (Clothes Horse Records) dead?
Well basically I don’t plan on dealing with friends on any sort of business matter ever again period. It’s hard to keep them separate. When one person is viewing things as a friendship and one as a business, it’s not really a healthy relationship. I think that really the sound that soso and I created is really a CHR sound. The new soso album is far away from the CHR sound we created. I think the CHR sound was really built to a large extent on soso’s drums which were just so original. So yeah, I hope CHR is dead just so people don’t get confused. I mean this Ness album was supposed to come out on CHR and I hope it does because its really just classic Ness and really really good. Hopefully the name of the label changes. soso is really great at bringing the best out of people musically and I hope he continues on with that. People don’t really understand what I do for the label as far as like a guerilla, promoter, etc. Consigning cd’s in stores in the middle of nowhere. Answering every single myspace mail I get, booking shows. Basically stuff that is maybe useless in the scheme of getting you famous or any sort of juice in the industry. I love doing that and will continue doing that for Hand’Solo records. I really like SJ the Wordburglar and I really like Tom. So, that’s my new label.
Can we expect a soso diss track from Epic?
I don’t think so. I got a Christmas card from him, so that’s better than a diss track. Making a diss track for 35% of the reason that you are still making music at 35% is gay. That goes for the both of us.
You’ll keep working with soso though right?
I’m not sure. My new album is produced to a large extent by soso. I have some really good beats from Maki and Kils and Factor and Kutdown and others on there.
Hell yeah. Nabahe and verbal, Heywood, Ira Lee, Factor, Max Prime, Kelley. Check out my new album Aging is What Friends do Together. My favorite song is [download#56#nohits] also I got a song about Ales Hemsky with Touch on the interlude. um. I’m going to Europe in March for 13 shows. noyz319 and Nicole. Yeah, thanks for the interview peace.