Who is ira lee?
I’m just a dude. With a gang banger pops, and a strong, beautiful, powerful, but literally insane mother. Superhero grandmother. Tap water, Macdonald’s packet sugar sandwiches and frozen no name wieners. Nobody has any idea; I have no idea, who I am. When I die, I want to be dead. Not a legend, or a rebel, or an icon. Just dead. And missed. And happy.
How come you are rarely interviewed and why do I get the supreme privilege?
I asked you to. I wrote half of these questions. I fucked around so much, for so long that people just stopped bothering. This is the first interview in eight years I’ve consciously approached with a straightforward smirk. My five sentences in Exclaim, good and bad, are still a fucking career highlight. Taking yourself seriously as an artist is offensive. I appreciate the interview home slice.
What is it that made you get into rap and hip-hop in the first place?
Free styling. I didn’t release a single song until Frek Sho’s Papercuts in 2002. I am the best freestyle rapper in Canada. Also the most difficult, and detailed songwriter in Canada. I started arting to be popular. I’m not the most likeable person, and a borderline sociopath. Rap makes these qualities more beneficial in the short and long term. Like hot Asian girls on public transportation. I will end it in a super 2 hotel bathroom covered in a dead hooker’s puke. I want to be art worse than anything. That is why I rap. And started. And will not end. If you ever hear me say I’m retiring, or rap is dead, or Canadian hip hop sucks, slap the fucking shit out of me.
Who put you on?
My Grandma. Kutdown. Dj Sets. Spoof and Frek Sho. Dj Heywood. And Saskatoon. Saskatoon Saskatchewan is hands down, bar none, where rap lives.
Frek Sho was the best live rap group Canadian hip hop has ever, and will ever know. Bar none.
You we’re a new school Frek Sho member? What the hell happened there?
Frek Sho was the best live rap group Canadian hip hop has ever, and will ever know. Bar none. The P&C doodes made a lot of important songs and had a stronger impact overall, but Frek Sho took live hip hop to another level. When Kutdown and I joined the crew, the original crew was pretty much washed. Sunil had moved to India to make electro pop, Ismaila was working in a restaurant, Shazzam was tutoring deaf kids, Gruff was writing the masterful Druidry, Gumball was reading meters for the province of Manitoba, and Marty was watching the game and playing with his kids. Frek Sho used to rob gas stations on tour, to be able to tour. I think what happened was a group of pioneers tried to re-kindle the magic with some fresh blood. (Kutdown and myself) There was unequal distribution in the workloads, conflicting ego’s, and just too much life getting in the way of hustling on our proverbial grind’s. Frek Sho should have released tournament edition in 2007. There’s nothing that compares to that album, to this day. Nothing.
Whatever happened to DCB?
When we we’re making I ain’t afraid of no ghost I slept on a floor for six months in Def 3’s ex girlfriends baby blankets. Def paid the rent, bought the weed, bought the food. Basically kept our shit alive. In return I put him on. I got him writing, recording, and performing, brought him into Frek Sho, and generally just did what you do for your boys. Leech off them. What you have to understand about myself and Def 3, is that we are both controlling, anal, psychopathic, manipulative assholes bent on proving we have nothing to prove. It got to the point where no matter what, we’d both have the win the stupidest argument or die trying. We we’re both so fucking impossible to work with it started to kill us as friends. I love Def 3. He’s like a sister to me. I would do anything for him except let him be in a group with me. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone except Dj Heywood. Because he has a purse dog and drives a war canoe. The real tragedy of dead can’t bounce is what happened to a small town in Canada called Regina, Saskatchewan. For a while dcb made laughing at wiggers the mode. Now Regina is back to square none. If you rap and you’re from Saskatchewan do yourself a favor. Start fucking a hot cindy rock chick and move to Saskatoon. Alberta’s trying to kill me.
Are you still on Side Road records?
Side Road Records is a group of homies that get together and put out dope hip hop music. A lot people don’t get that. Most politics are outside in. People need to be involved if they’re not, so they talk smack until their part of it. I don’t live in Saskatoon, I missed the barbeques, the sleazy bar nights, the rap jams, missed out on everything. Factor is the hardest working producer in Canada. Side Road gets wild, and I’m just not around enough to get down properly. Heywood and I watch tv, eat haggard products and pet the purse dog. We’re not socially butterfly enough for our own good. I can’t even give shit away. A lot of my friends, family, and critics are indifferent to my film, music, and multimedia achievements in the last year. I expect that much at least. I understand. If I ever decide to make shitty dance music i’ll be the richest shitty dance music making motherfucker in the world. Life is real.
I heard that you we’re working on material for Clothes Horse as well, what happened?
soso and I made some amazing songs. At the time that soso and I we’re working together, I was pretty much on drugs 13 hours a day. soso is a very pacifistic, amicable, and jovial alcoholic. It became an issue of personality difference. After persistent gentle inquiry, soso explained his uneasiness with my confrontational and defiant personality, and our shit just sorta stopped. It’s unfortunate, because the music was awesome.
“Walking down Whyte Avenue makes me puke a little bit inside of my mouth.”
Do you want to be famous?
Popularity means you have a bunch of shitheads that you don’t like as fans. That is my worst fucking nightmare. Do I want my music to be heard as much as possible? Yes. But not by retards that like my seventy’s throwback and acid wash cutoffs cause their kitchiness. Alberta has given me a great appreciation of how important it is to be popular, contemporary and successful in Texas. Walking down Whyte Avenue makes me puke a little bit inside of my mouth. I may not ever tour the world, or sell a million records. But I can guarantee you some fucking indisputable facts. I pay to tour. I pay to rap. I pay to live. I’ve made peace with being underrated and overlooked. When you’ve been doing it this long, you have to.
The shitty thing is where music is right now, in general. Every musician, from every genre I know of is trying to make people dance. As a priority. Rap that wants to be pop and can’t admit it. I mean some of this shit doodes are ‘innovating’ has been redundant since 1980. A twelve year old child in a workshop I was doing told me her brother killed himself and she wished everyone knew santa clause didn’t exist. She explained to me in tears, that she’d believed for years and he was still dead. I have been through so much shit this last year, I just had to record it. For me. There’s no middle ground. I spent a lot of time with Billie Holliday and Millie Jackson this year. My goal was to alienate as many people as I possibly could, cause that’s an attainable goal for me. Blow up? Live off rap? Tour Europe? These are dreams for 80 percent of us. Piss people off, be too weird to be the cool weird, write some really difficult and detailed songs, these are my accomplishments.
You did almost everything on Die… scratches, cuts, production, mixing, rapping. Why?
Heywood is my dj. I rap, produce, mix, and scratch as well. Die was made to introduce what I can do as a musician. Rapper was always just a small part of it. Having learnt from Die what I did, there’s not any aspect of releasing an independent record I haven’t developed my strength in. Independent rap is a malleable definition. Some guy signed to an indie label, with major label distro, engineers, booking agents, A&R reps, that’s not indie anything. I recorded Die running in and out of the vocal booth I built. Using a wireless mouse I stole, reading my lyrics on a computer screen in the peripheral vision sense. There’s not a single thing on the Die Lp, not one single aspect of that entire product was not me, Dj Heywood, or our homies. There’s no marketing push, no label money, no friends at magazines to claim I reinvented the art of art. No dead homies to pay homage to for the next six albums. The Die lp is not a New York freestyle.
What did you hope to accomplish with “Alberta’s trying to kill me”? How did the Alberta arts board respond?
I’m pretty under the radar. I say whatever the fuck I want to. Whenever it feels right. You’d be amazed at the shit you can get away with when you’re a professional with no fans. Tell me that Alberta’s trying to kill me is not true? Tell me it’s not necessary? Needed? Examine the lyrics in the song, word for word. There’s no filler in my songs. And when I say filler I mean, there’s not one single word that doesn’t have a definitive fucking reason. I could give a fuck about flow. I’ll sacrifice all of my aesthetic and rhythmic appeal to highlight the message in the Die lp. To underline the meaning. There’s a huge movement towards accessibility in music, and fashion right now. Shitty hot chick rap. Kids call each other nigger cause it makes their skinny white girlfriends laugh. Our generation is a bunch or spoiled middle class scene fuckers whining about their privilege and trying to be ironic. Which isn’t ironic at all, ironically. It’s fake. I’ve been the emo rap queen of Canada for 6 years. Now I’m being compared to doodes who blew up yesterday for biting Atari teenage riot. Scene – rap will disco itself out. The sweater bellied hipsterati fashionista is the guitar solo of 2007.
You’ve released albums on a handful of different labels. What’s the deal with that?
Just trying to get music out. I’ve never been approached by anyone but friends to finance my art. That’s it, that’s all. I got money from every government agency in Alberta and Canada that I could possibly scam and put out the Die lp. That’s what you do. Hustle. Instead of selling drugs I write proposals. Instead of robbing fools, I rob bureaucrats. The best rappers in Canada don’t have records out. I’ll do whatever it takes to put my crew on. Intelligence is adaptation. I also have a really big mouth and am an inherently jealous person. Some people just get sick of my shit, and it’s better to move on than cry about it. People change, its life.
You spent most of 2006 on reserves around Canada, how do you think that affected both you as a person and your music?
I’ve always been so fucking poor, and struggling to pull myself out of that poverty. When you get a bunch of people with nothing to live for in the same room, they’re not good people. Their trying to survive. My manager, Dj Asshole (Andrea Morin) was living out on Muskoday First Nations while I was writing and researching Die. We we’re touring throughout Saskatchewan and Alberta trying to keep some native kids from killing themselves and each other. I got threatened, stabbed, cornered, victimized, and celebrated. I think I built enough character to live a lifetime in those six months. It completely destroyed my grip on reality, but for the first time in my life I was meeting people worse off than me, who needed music or they would die. With no help. No nothing. I slept really well every night on the rez because I spent all day trying to be a superhero and all afternoon hiding from doodes that wanted to kick lenny kravitz’es ass just for being there. I’ve spent time on reserves in Saskatchewan and Alberta that make the ghetto look like club med.
“I’ve slept with too many girls to be popular.”
How can you call yourself a role model?
I don’t. I’m just the guy that shows a room full of meth heads how to roll a better joint. You have to deal with the realities of life. Everything else is irrelevant. The whole art education schtick is a crock of shit. Kids have to think you’re cool to listen. You have to convince them. It frustrates me to no avail that anyone, with any degree of fame doesn’t devote their entire lives to giving other people the same opportunities. So I’m a youth worker by default. I don’t make jack shit off rap, so I have to figure out a way to combine youth work and music. I need my community as much as they need me. I go to every show I possibly can, because that’s what you do. That’s a scene. Accountability. Responsibility. Commitment. The same things that make a good person, make a good community. And that’s what a role models does. Flaunts his mistakes so other kids coming up can learn from them. I’m a default role model. I’ve fucked up so many times; it’s either reformed role model, or jail.
Why is Ira Lee so hard to work with?
I’m stubborn. I deserve more recognition and I make people uncomfortable with themselves for not giving it to me. Myself and Heywood we’re talking about this over issue the other night. A lot of it boils down to pure fucking coincidence. My fan base has always been interwoven with my relationships. I’ve slept with too many girls to be popular! Haha! I wouldn’t work with me. I’m just too much. Most of the socially successful people you’ll meet are very lighthearted. Pretty people don’t worry about shit. Their pretty. Poor ugly doodes come up off violence, and striving, and luck. Or getting shot enough times to make a career out of it.
Are you reading any books right now?
I’ve been jerking off to the jewel poetry book while listening to TTC. I spent a lot of time in Montreal this year and it opened my eyes. Western Canada is so American it’s sickening. Montreal isn’t Canada. I’m reading the entire Calvin and Hobbes collection over and over again. Research.
Did you fall off?
I am the best rapper in Canada. Period.
Is there enough for everyone to have a piece in Canadian rap?
There’s only room for one dominant poster boy in Canadian hip hop. The rest of us have real jobs and work for a living. That’s the gangster shit. Having a real job. A lot of people dream about being famous, I dream about getting a better job and sleeping with a real Asian girl.
Where would you like to see Canadian rap within the next 5 years?
It feels like it’s starting over. I’d like to see the fad, be fans, instead of rap. Rap will be what sells. It’s a business. Artists will conform to what gets them signed, even if it’s unconsciously. It pays the bills. I want to see styles taken back. Way the fuck back. To when rap was about dues, skill, and respect.
What kind of rapper do you want to be?
If I could be anyone in Canadian rap It would be me. I can’t get over myself. Honestly. My biggest fault is that I’ve been scared to be me. All out. I’ve been a pussy. I’m calling me out.
So you and I are currently working on an EP and you are also working with Mattr for another release. What kind of direction are you planning on heading with these releases? Should we prepare ourselves for the introspective and socially conscious Ira or Ira, the zany ass mofo that raps over crunk beats?
Mattr and I are Asian girl. It’s very sad german industrial. As far as the writing is concerned, it’s perfect. I have written the perfect songs. It makes Die look like macaroni art. It’s really the project that I’ve needed to do my whole life. Myself and RBC are going to have a shitload of fun. I’ve payed zero attention to flow and stylistic approach in my last few projects. I missed out rapping about rap and bitches, and drugs, and hats, and cars, and biters, and how dope I am. We’re going to catch up. Then do mad shows. Angry performances.
Lastly, is there anything you want to get off your chest?
I am the most important artist in Canadian rap. Got beef? I can take my shirt off in 8 seconds.