Introduce yourself, crews affiliations etc..
My name is Sontiago, currently hailing from Portland, Maine and currently rocking shows with my girl, Dilly Dilly and my dj, Gabe FM. Both also of Portland. Affiliated intimately with Endemik, and affiliated loosely with certain members of Anticon and Backburner.
Steel Yourself is your Sophomore release, how have you grown as an artist?
The more I listen to this new one, the more I feel myself already growing into a third album. I find the more you listen to your work and the more you perform it- the more you’re able to detect your own and the listeners likes and dislikes and what sounds better and feels better to perform live. I also grew in the sense that I didn’t settle for just any production. I used more discrepancy because I wasn’t as hungry to just get something recorded. I also developed a new outlook on songs as a true collaboration between producer/emcee. I had a lot of back and forth between the producers and myself this time around, which I think really makes for a better end product.
What is the significance of the title of your new cd, Steel Yourself?
It’s a reminder that we must always be prepared. No one knows what is to come in the future and I think the more we ready ourselves emotionally by having this awareness, the better we’ll be for it when the unexpected arrives. When Christian Science Monitor reporter, Jill Carroll was kidnapped, her magazine’s editor was put in charge of calling her mother to deliver the news. He said, “Mrs. Carrol – Steel Yourself, your daughter has been kidnapped.” I remember reading the words in print in the newspaper, and knew I had my title.
How did this record come to be on Endemik and what is it like to be an American artist on a Canadian Label?
Can you get me dual citizenship? Cause I would move to your country in a heartbeat. Not that I dislike my own, I simply adore yours. In a nutshell, here’s how I got on Endemik. My husband (yes, jdwalker) and I meet Bleubird at a Grand Buffet show in Portland. We keep in touch with him. My husband and Bleubird do a show together in Halifax that Scott Da Ros (Endemik label boss) booked. We keep in touch with him. He books me on a show in Halifax with my husband, K-the-I??? and some other folks. Nobody else shows for the show so I frantically perform alone in another country and without a dj for the first time ever. I apparently held it down, because Scott was sold. Years later he offers to put out my album after hearing some rough eight-track recordings of things I was working on. Thank God for Scott Da Ros.
I think it’s a plus to be an American artist on a Canadian label. It provides some intrigue for Canadian audiences and makes me look super dope to my American audience to be internationally known. (“and I’m known to rock the microphone”)
What is a typical day like in the life of Sontiago?
It’s typically full. I arrive to my 4-day a week job at an alternative news weekly between 8:30-9:00. I usually leave for an hour for a lunch date with someone. I leave work at 5:30 and either go to the gym, or my second job as a bartender, or babysit my nephew, or watch a movie on the couch with my husband and our cats, or play a show, or go to a show. I never just do nothing. I despise being idle. I am a fiend for stimulation.
Do you live in a log cabin in the woods and is your husband, jdwalker, a fisherman who can drink beer smoke cigarettes tell stories and chop wood at the same time?
We actually live in a cozy commune right in the city with three other couples who are close friends of ours. It’s not a log cabin at all. It’s four apartments, three floors high. My husband is jdwalker indeed, and yes he can drink beer, tell stories, fish and chop wood all at the same time. Never cigarettes though. He’s totally anti-smoking. When we first started dating he gave me the ultimatum that I had to quit or he would leave me. I quit within a month. He’s not as much of a “typical Mainer” as people make him out to be, but he could live in the woods off the land if need be. So when armageddon goes down you’ll want to make fast friends with him for sure.
Are you and your husband competitive when it comes to music? Do you ever battle each other and does the loser have to do the dishes?
We aren’t competitive really. If anything we are bad at doing music together. The only time we freestyle together is in the car and Jay always wins. He’s faster and gets completely ridiculous. I always end up laughing too much. We share on the dishes all the time.
Is it beneficial to have a partner who also raps? What are the pros and cons?
It can go either way. What it does is ups the anti for the other if one of us is being really productive, or it can be completely discouraging it if the other person is on a streak and you’re not doing anything.
What was year earliest hip hop moment?
Hearing “6 minute, 6 minutes…6 minutes Doug E. Fresh your on,” coming out of my sister’s radio at our house in Pennsylvania. She would try and tune in to this Philadelphia rap station that didn’t come in very well. We would put tinfoil on the antenna and move the radio around the room so we could hear more.
What inspired you to pick up a mic and move the crowd?
My grandmother and mother wrote poetry. That’s where I started. Poems turned into raps in high school. Then some guys in North Carolina where I was going to college heard me rapping and encouraged me to move forward with it.
I think you are the first indie rapper I have ever seen thank their stylist in the liner notes. How would you describe your style and what does a stylist do for you and does having a stylist mean you lack style?
I do not lack style. I actually pride myself on my ability to put together an outfit. I love digging through rack after rack at Value Village for some vintage skirt, then splurging on an overpriced hoodie at American Apparel and seeing how they compliment each other. I’m also good at shopping for other people. Ghettosocks has given me permission to be his personal shopper. The only reason I have “stylists” is because I have hairstylist and jewelry maker friends who like to try out new things on me, like asymmetrical bangs and oversized hoop earrings, and I’m always down. My stylists keep me fresh by introducing new styles to me, that are often intended for me specifically which makes me feel pampered like a real star.
How would you describe your music to a person as you waited for a crosswalk light to change?
It’s hip-hop- but you’ll like it even if you don’t like hip-hop. I rap and I sing.
What has been you most exciting hip hop moment?
Meeting KRS-One in 1992.
You have been touring a lot lately any plans to head out west?
Umm..sadly not yet. Europe is first on the list.
What do you hope to achieve with your music?
Happiness for myself. Inspiration for others.
Any last words, stories, shout outs etc?
MIA, call me, let’s collaborate. Bleubird, I miss you. But since this is a Canadian publication I will use the opportunity to shout out my Canadian massive: Scott Da Ros, Robin, Ghettosocks, Fresh Kils, Dj Frame, Uncle Fester, Dexter Doo Little, Y-Rush, Jorun, Gatineau, Jim, Khyro, Kool Krys, Bix, Thesis Sahib, Toolshed, Beat Mason, Andrew Gordon, and First Words.