Introduce yourself and your crew affiliations.
SJ the Wordburglar, representin’ the Backburner Crew and the Props Department and the Dregs of Society.
Listening to Burglaritis it’s clear you’ve been a fan of rap for a long time. How did you get into rapping?
When I was a kid, I had all these rap tapes. Buck65 used to have a radio show and put me on to a lot of really dope stuff and I could never get enough. I used to send away to Beatstreet Records; save up all my money. I’m lucky, I’ve got a bunch of prime, early ‘90s 12”s. I rapped in junior high, we used to make all these tapes, our crew was called the Dregs of Society, we have a bunch of really bad rap songs. I love them.
Were you always a prankster? A trickster? A Wordburglar?
I always liked to have fun on the mic. I always liked the punch lines. Like, I went through my crazy ‘scientifical’ phase, but it just kind of happened after rapping and rapping.
Do you ever get clowned for the kind of raps you kick?
Every now and then you might encounter somebody, but for the most part it’s okay. I perform anywhere, I’ve played shows all over Toronto and across most of Canada; I’ve played with a wide variety of acts: from the most thugged out dudes to weird indie rock/punk. I think all that stuff has its place. I love rap and a lot of people aren’t ready for that. There are certainly more crowds that are more receptive to it. If I show up at a place and people are expecting Three 6 Mafia, there might be a little surprise, but the response has been pretty good.
How did you hook up with Hand’Solo Records?
Bassments of Badmen I was a big album for Halifax because it featured tons of Halifax hip hop; I think pretty much all of it was from Halifax except one group from New Brunswick. I got that when I was a kid and then after all this time I heard they were doing Bassments of Badmen II. At this point I had some tracks recorded. I submitted a 5 track EP to Hand’Solo, they put one of the songs on Bassments of Badmen II and it was well received. They told me they wanted to put out my next project. They’ll be putting out my next album.
What are your thoughts on Halifax rap? Why did you move to Toronto?
I love Halifax, it’s awsome. It’s always home to me. I’ve been kind of bouncing in and out of Toronto for the past couple of years, right now it feels like the right place for me. I don’t know how long I’ll be in Toronto, but Hand’Solo is based here, I’ve been doing lots of shows. There’s a lot happening in this city.
Is it a natural thing to throw your life into your music? How much of it is real?
It’s funny because sometimes people say that all I’m rapping about is how good I am, but those are the kind of rhymes I like writing. I think if you listen to the album, people understand where I’m coming from. I think any art you got to draw from your own experience, I try not to get too personal.
What’s the deal with “Cream of Wheat”? Is it just a nostalgic track?
Yeah, I guess it pretty much is. I joke around that most hip hop albums [have] certain songs you have to have: your flashback track, your sex track…that’s what I was trying to do with this stuff. “Cream of Wheat” just sort of flowed together, because you get on a certain wavelength.
The most serious track on Burglaritis seems to be “Breeze.” Do you have any songs that are serious? Do you feel like you have to ‘say something’ with your music?
I look at it for the most part as entertainment. I feel like if there’s something I really feel strongly about I’ll say it. I’ve had a lot of things happen to me, but in a lot of ways I just try to keep it separate. I think for me right now, people respond to a party vibe and I like that, I’m a party guy. I’m celebrating stuff I like.
How did you hook up with Pigeon John?
I opened up for him at a show in Toronto. We hit it off; I was a fan of his music before I met him. He was really cool and supportive, he happened to be hanging around in Toronto for a couple of days and he was like ‘we should totally get a track.’ So we just chilled, got some pizza and made a song.
The next album, what’s that about?
More stupid rhymes.
What do you think of Canadian rap?
I like it. I try to listen to all of it. It’s like anything there’s a lot of shit. There’s a lot of really dope stuff; that Nato and Touch album is dope – one of the better Canadian albums I’ve heard in a long time. Toolshed put out a dope album this year, Relapse. Ghettosocks’ album Get Some Friends is really good. Jesse Dangerously’s Verba Volant is pretty tight. I think there’s a lot of good hip hop, I mean the thing is that so many people in Canada don’t even know there’s Canadian rap or their only idea of it is like the 3 different guys on Muchmusic all the time. It’s tough for artists in Canada.
Do you think that Canadian rap is too hard on itself?
I think by the time any Canadian rappers make it in Canada, they get tired of doing it, like: ‘Fuck, I put out 5 albums–I’m done!’ You get guys like Classified who’s like put out 10 albums or something; each one better than the last. You get into the States, that market is huge. I think there are under 5 Canadian artists making a living of hip hop; I’ll be really surprised if there are more than 5. Maybe there’s more, maybe I’m being pessimistic, but I know realistically, it’s really hard. If you can make a full time living on hip hop, that’s awesome. It’s just so crazy with the Internet, everybody downloads your shit and it’s tough. You sell albums at shows, I could sell 5-50 cds at a show, whereas it will sit at HMV for months because nobody’s checking for me.
Tell me about the Halifax rap scene. How’d you get involved?
I used to go to hip hop shows when I was a kid. They used to do these all ages hip hop shows, it was mostly Jorun; he’d throw these big parties featuring anyone who was making hip hop. The guys I used to be really into were Hip Club Groove, The Sebutones, Jorun; guys like Classified were coming up.
Halifax seems like an unlikely place for art to be thriving, especially for a city of its size.
It’s pretty much the only major Canadian city that’s never had any kind of big sports team. I think people like to produce their own stuff, there’s lots going on. Something about it, I don’t know, maybe it’s the ocean air…(Laughs) It’s a very productive city for art. Other than having the best rappers in Canada, the best comic book creators in Canada are in Halifax. They got the best women too.
How long will you do this rap shit?
Hopefully a long time. I do a lot of writing and performing. I love doing it. Guys are rapping in their 40s right now, Chuck D is I think 50.
Everyone in Canada and Ugsmag!