When we had to leave our old studio space in 2017, it was a little bittersweet because we had put a lot of work in. We had built a booth, we put in wall panels to pass microphone cables through, and it was nice and clean. We painted it, carpeted it, put some track lighting up in there. So it sucked leaving.
I went back to 9-to-5 life for about a year and a half, and through that whole time I was always on Kijiji looking for studio spaces. So when this space above Pyrus came about, I didn't know what the fuck I was going to do, but I jumped in head first.
I moved in with a partner, Freshchanges. He's been dropping music left right and centre lately. When we were in high school, he released a bunch of mixtapes. It Is What It Is volume one and two were popping back then.
I had built quite a reputation working with the hip-hop artists from the old Track House 1.0 [at Maxwell's Jam Hall in Waterloo], but this move exploded just because it was the perfect timing between getting set up and so many people deciding they wanted to try their hand at hip-hop at the same time.
A lot of folks who are in high school now are thinking that they can do this. I'm seeing a lot of that. If we rewind to 15 years ago, I also started rapping when I was super young.
In seventh grade, we'd battle on the basketball courts for jokes and shit. They'd be like one-line battles. I went to St. Mary's for high school, and there was no radio program at all. It was kind of bland to me over there. I was the kid that always had my headphones on. I made instrumental CDs, and I was rapping. I needed some culture. I needed some programs to get my rap shit off, because nobody really took it seriously. So I transferred to Cameron Heights specifically to do music.
Early in grade 10, I was walking for lunch with a group of friends and we were going past the Kitchener Market. The Market was still really new then. I was walking by and I saw my boy Hajah Bug, one of the OGs from out of this city. He's a legend out here. The way I had met him originally was at the community centre that I used to play ball at. He used to breakdance, he used to come to all of the dances and be the chaperone.
So I told him, bro, I'm trying to get into this music shit. I need a place to go record, I've got songs. And he told me he worked at this spot called 3rd Degree.
I was sixteen, trying to get to 3rd Degree, and Hajah Bug actually met me halfway because I don't know where the fuck this place is. I finally walked in and I met Jonny Riddim, one of the engineers. I'm working on this song, I sound like trash, but it's all good. At one point I go out to grab food or grab cash or something like that. When I come back, they had done all these crazy edits to the song, and I was like, yo, you guys are on some shit!
The first song I recorded at that spot was a rap that I wrote to Knock Yourself Out by Jadakiss. After that, I came in and did a remix to No No No by Jae Millz, it was this reggae remix. Shout out to my boy Rudeboy, I had him on the track. And then I did a Roc The Mic remix. I did that song with my girl Sandra, she was singing on it. So those were the first three songs I made at that studio.
Deru, who owned the studio, wasn't there too often because he was working at Blackberry at the time. His brother, who went by the name Night, was an artist there at 3rd Degree. I used to go to block in my times, and they'd have this big whiteboard with a calendar on it. I'd be like, yo Johnny, I'm trying to block some time. Let's go look at the whiteboard. And I'd see that Night blocked like a whole week. Like, fuck! Who is this guy?
I kept going back to that studio for about three years until they closed down. I probably recorded 30 or 40 songs there.
I had eSJay on a track, so that was cool, because he was the guy. He was the God Emcee out here. I was like the newcomer. This man walked through three feet of snow to come to the studio session. And when he made it in, he bodied it, no pen, no paper, just off the top. His track, Lord God, that was the anthem.
I grew up in Country Hills. So there was our own thing going on over there with Blackwood Beats. His dad, Errol Blackwood, is a legendary reggae artist.
Before going into 3rd Degree, I would rap at friends' houses. In seventh and eighth grade we'd just rap over instrumentals. There was this rap game that came out for PlayStation and it came with a little USB mic. We'd hang it up in his laundry room, we'd put blankets around that shit and hung it from the ceiling. We were rapping to Lloyd Banks instrumentals. Fort Minor just came out with something, we were like, Linkin Park's the shit! Shout out to Tyson Major, we used to rap together. We used to rap at our homie Robbie Wolf's house. We'd go to his crib, watch How High, and I'd just go upstairs and rap to instrumental songs.
I was doing raps solo, but I would do features with my brother, and him and Tyson were doing a group together. So we all had a group together for a summer.
MSN Messenger was the thing at that time. But it was still a pain in the ass to send songs, but somehow it still got around. I was burning copies of discs to hand out to people as well. Shortly after, MySpace was poppin'. So MySpace was probably one of the biggest spaces where my music was accessible. But just being in school, talking to people, and then just being like, yo, pop on my headphones, or something like that, made a huge difference as well.
I did a solo project of 21 songs, I formed a group called Youngest In Charge in the midst of all that, and I found some of my closest homies at that point. There were six of us and we were all spitters. It was me, my boy Shah, my cuz Ace, my boy Rude, the homie Malachi, and then Tyson came, he was part of the group for a minute, my brother [Junior Don] came along for the ride for some tracks... We all had our own solo things going, plus we had group projects. We were in there all the time. We were all locking in the studio down, putting in work. We definitely got it in at 3rd Degree.
Ultimate Entertainment picked up eSJay and they were bringing in big acts, and eSJay would open for everybody. At high school, he was the guy, I was quiet as shit. We had a music class together, and he came for like three days. Then he'd show up like a month later. We were like, that's eSJay, bro, he's about to blow up, he doesn't need to come to class.
Embassy was rockin', and they were part of a project called the Northern Horde, which is where a lot of these guys got their notoriety. Because the album was so big because there was so many different groups of people on there that it just spread. So you'd find out about new artists that were on there. So I was in high school, I would go get my hair cut over at Diverse barbers, and they had the CD in there.
If Embassy was doing a show I'd go out there and see who's doing what. I found out about Cronically Ill that way. I would go and see their shows, and they would bring out loads of people, young people, old people, who all had the Cronically Ill shirts. These guys were squadded up. 30 of them on stage, and another 100 in the crowd. I'd pull up to the show with my eight guys and show them, look at these guys, this is the move. Fast forward a year later, and we're doing similar shows. We had shirts that said, Youngest In Charge.
Haj, who got me into the studio [3rd Degree], he worked for the City of Kitchener at the community centres, drop-in centres, and all that in person. And then here I am doing similar things, doing the drop-in centres, running day programs for kids. So it was cool, because both of those times, if I hadn't gone to KYAC, I wouldn't have been social or outgoing at all. My mom told me to go into that because I needed community service hours.
I did a couple shows called Unity Jam. One was inside the rotunda at City Hall, and one was outside. They had a hip-hop headliner, but they did a lot of rock at the same time. Jonny Riddim performed at one of them. And there was the KW Hip-Hop Expo, and that was a huge event. JD Era was the headliner, Cronically Ill was on that, just a lot of big names. Shout out to Chris Stevenson, I think it was Ace Entertainment at the time. Later on, Chris introduced me to JD Era. And I might not have got on some of those shows had I not been part of Kitchener Youth Action Council, because I helped set up one of those shows by being on the panel. It was for the youth, you know, bringing everybody together. And it just looked like a scene for a few summers.
Shout out to Paul Maxwell, because he never ever turned down a hip hop show. Even though, you know, shit happens at the hip hop shows a lot of the time. He always lets us know: no bullshit, let's all make this a good time. And he's always been down to work with the hip hop guys. So salute to Paul.
For people attending these shows, if you have problems with people, stay your ass at home. Don't go to these shows looking for trouble. Deal with your situation away form this community gathering. Let this be a neutral spot. You're kind of fucking it up for everyone else who is doing it for the art and for the culture and you're staining the reputation of all of us.
I know so many artists out here, I want to do shows, and I've had people be like, bro, it's not worth it. It's not worth the hassle and all the bullshit that comes along with it. But we need it. Why not push for these shows? So shout out to the homie Tyson Major for opening up Erb and Culture. He's really doing it for the culutre and going against what everybody told him not to do. He's doing it. He's bringing these acts down to KW.
I think a lot more artists out here are starting to represent the city. It's just a matter of time before the masses catch on to what we've got over here. Any artists to come up out of here should be proud to represent what we've become.