On the G.R.E.A.T. album, which I put out in 2014, there's a song called Divine Intervention, which basically tells the story of how I got into hip-hop. I was going to public school in Breslau, so it wasn't actually big inner-city environment. But I have cousins that grew up in Scarborough, and we were really close. I'd go down and spend a lot of time at their house. My cousin Dan would start passing me these mixtapes with real old underground New York hip-hop. I can't even remember who the artists were on it, but it was real early stuff.
One time he picked up an early De La Soul record, 3 Feet High and Rising, and a Kool Moe Dee single. We'd just sit down in his bedroom in the basement and play records. That's when I first heard what I'd call real hip-hop. And that's where I fell in love with it.
Know-It and another friend of ours, Kenny, who went by the name of Cage, moved from Chatham to Preston where I went to school. I was a couple years older than them, but I was the only guy into hip-hop and they were into hip-hop, so even though we had a couple years' age difference, we connected. They had a rap group, and I remember one day one of the members quit. I was talking to Know-It and he asked me if I wanted to rap, so I said, sure.
I would have been in grade 11. I had written a few raps at that point, but no one had ever heard them. I had an old boombox that I could record on, I'd play vinyl on my record player and I'd rap into the microphone on the boombox. That was how I recorded my first demos, but no one had heard them up until that point. So when he asked me to be in this group, I was like, yes!
There was no KOTD back then. Back then, we cyphered. Rappers would get together and just start rapping. Inevitably, when there's a couple alphas in the cypher, they like to sharpen their skills against each other. Even if it was just with your homies, things turned into impromptu battles. It was still a matter of one-upmanship, I may not be dissing you, but I'm going to go right after you, I'm going to out-rap you. A lot of that would go on even in friendly cyphers.
We called ourselves SWAT Team back then, and we did a few demos and a few shows around Cambridge, and some school talent shows.
I started going down to Dr. Disc, downtown Kitchener, around 1987. And by the time I hit high school in 1990, it was just full-blown. That was the music I loved. I'd pick up Source magazine and whatever I could get my hands on, to see what I should be looking for. I'd buy mostly cassettes, and some vinyl too.
I went to the Ontario Institute of Audio Recording Technology in '94. When I came back to town, I was at Loose Change Louie's, and I ran into Pro-Logic. He was known as The Professor at the time. We knew each other from back in the day – we used to go to the Twist and we would dance battle each other.
I started hip-hop dancing before I started rapping. Pro-Logic was a good dancer as well. He mentioned that he was producing music, and he was putting out this project. And I said, all cocky, "Well, I'm the best rapper in this city, so you should probably get me on it." He said, "All right, why don't you come by the studio sometime."
When we got there, The Lyricists were there, Al Green [AKA Al Geta] was there, Fraction was there. There were a bunch of the Beatdown guys there and we all met and hung out. There was a little bit of a rivalry at first, but it didn't take long to turn into a friendship. The vast majority of those guys are still good friends of mine to this day. It was a pretty nice studio we recorded in with Mike de Mello. That was a fun project to be a part of.
As soon as we finished that project, I started working with Pro-Logic on my Treacherous Waters record. The Lyricists were working on their record. A bunch of us started working on solo projects. There was a decent amount of buzz around the crew and we were all from different circles, so we could capitalize on each others' markets. That's why we ended up doing a bunch of shows in Michigan and they'd come up here for shows.
There were some setbacks that happened. We basically had the whole Treacherous Waters recorded and then we accidentally wiped the hard drive and had to start all over. As soon as we dropped that album, I was working on my next album, and my car got broken into and all my rhymes from the last two years got stolen. So by the time I got my second album done, I should have had four or five albums.
That was hard for me, as a person, to overcome. The song "Stolen Years" was about that. I remember after doing Treacherous Waters and looking at the songs I had written for the next project, I was really excited because it was the strongest stuff I'd ever written. I had it all compiled, all the beats selected, all the lyrics and hooks, I had everything ready to roll. And then it just all vanished. I don't think I rapped or wrote anything for about a year and a half after that.
When I got back into it, it was with a fully fresh tank. I basically tried to put that out of my mind. But it affected me. It put me down a bad spiral in life. I started drinking way too much, I got really depressed, it was a bad couple years for me. Probably the lowest I've been in my life. And when I got out of it, I just acted like it never happened. So when I finally found the perfect beat, I wrote the lyrics for "Stolen Years" in about 10 minutes. It just poured out of my head. And I recorded it in one take.
My second album, Selacophobia, was recorded at Dub J's studio. We met because I was looking for a studio to record at. There's two beats on that project that were his: Sharky Night in Canada and the last track, the one with Classified, was also one of his beats. Stylistically, there wasn't a lot of crossover between Dub J and I but, I get along with everybody and he was easy to work with. He's a great engineer. I know he's had some conflicting opinions with other guys that I'm cool with, but it's not my beef, I try to stay cool with all of them.
For the Beatz… No Question album, produced by Know-It, we rented a studio in Cambridge called Hi-Fi Way Studios. A bunch of it was recorded in the same session. The Lyricists did their stuff, I did my stuff, back to back as there were three or four of us that recorded at the same time. I got laryngitis in the booth while I was doing the ad libs. I'm lucky I nailed my takes when I did for that, because I literally couldn't talk 10 minutes later. My track on that album, Out The Door, is probably one of my favourite songs I've ever done.