“It felt like I was in a bicycle race, leading the pack, and all of sudden I got a stick in my spokes. Clak! I pedalled hard for nothing,” an unfiltered (and still bitter) says Adamo.
Known for his modesty and straight talk, two qualities that helped him win the 2017 edition of Occupation Double (OD), this Longueuil, Québec, rapper released his first solo album, Préliminaires SVP, on May 1, 2020 – smack dab in the middle of this endless pandemic’s first wave. The summer lull helped him perform two drive-in concerts, but the man born Adamo Marinacci soon felt his interest in the project was “rather waning,” he says. “I got discouraged because I lost all the cash I had invested. Normally, performing shows would have helped me reimburse all that, but hey… Things could be worse, I could be closing a restaurant right now.”
On May 1 of this year, however, the release of the Préliminaires SVP album was a kind of liberation for this songwriter, who’s been a fixture of the Québec hip-hop scene for the past 15 years. “At that time, I knew I had to release it,” says Adamo. “I’ve always known that I was bound to release a first album somewhere along the line. I didn’t feel pressured, but deep down, I was aware of it. Ditto for my OD victory. In fact, I’ve always been like that, no matter the situation – confident without being cocky. I just know it’s only a matter of time, and that things will eventually materialize.”
The 32-year-old artist was simply waiting, “to have all the tools I needed to make a proper album,” he says. “At the time, I wouldn’t have been ready to release anything serious. I was more interested in hanging out in bars.”
That period coincides with the time he was going by the name of DisaronnO, in reference to an almond liqueur from Italy, his father’s country of origin. His colourful (and highly intoxicated) performances around rap battle leagues, like Word UP! Battles or Emcee Clash, brought him some notoriety on that scene. “That’s where the image of a drunk-ass party animal, who can still perform, came from,” he says, referring to the excellent shows for which he was known, in spite of frequent alcohol-related blackouts. “It feels like I wasn’t serious enough to take that seriously. I couldn’t see what involving myself more deeply could bring me in the long run,” says Adamo.
Previously, DisaronnO had made his mark on Hiphopfranco.com020m smack uin by accumulating victories in the rap-battle audio of that popular forum. Later on, he felt the need to tackle deeper themes, more or less at the same time as he starting feeling like he ought to do what it takes to fulfill his ambitions. The young rapper then turned to former classmate Dostie, who invited him to his Exceler studio in Longueuil. A collective with the same name was created a few years later, and Adamo eventually made friends with J7, with whom he formed the Gros Big duo. “He and I stood out because of our somewhat crazy punch lines, and our eccentric personalities,” he says. “We were kind of clashing with the other members of the collective, who were more technical and less melodic.”
Then came the somewhat absurd idea of publicizing the duo by having Adamo take part in what was then Québec’s most popular reality show. “J7 registered me,” Adamo recalls. “At first, I was furious! I didn’t want to make an ass of myself in front of the whole province for the sake of our duo! However, when they phoned me to tell me that I’d been selected, I gave it a chance, planning all along to say ‘GROS BIG’ as often as I possibly could in front of the camera for the next two or three weeks. By the way, I almost quit the show before the end.”
The rest is history: the rap community rallied, and Adamo won the final. As anticipated, Gros Big got an impressive boost out of it all. “I’d never thought it could be that big,” says Adamo. “We embarked on a mad tour with a dumb CD! We’d recorded it super-quickly at Dostie’s, and it exploded.”
Then, following a second province-wide tour, both partners felt the need to recover their identities. “Let’s be honest, Gros Big still was a huge folly,” says Adamo. “It was fun, but I needed something more serious. I needed to find my balance.”
Supported by such recognized Quebec producers as Farfadet, Doug St-Louis, and LeMind, who built a pop, trap and R&B-coloured framework, Adamo created the Préliminaires SVP album without asking himself too many questions. “I see this as a kind of training, where I touch on lots of styles. This first album contained my ‘preliminaries’ before officially revving the engine for the second one,” he says.
While admitting to a few commercial trade-offs on that album, “so that it could play on radio and reach the public at large,” Adamo explains that he’s especially comfortable on more percussive tracks such as “Lonely” and “Laisse-les parler,” an introduction that dots the i’s in the wake of his OD participation. “People only see talent when it hits them in the face,” says Adamo. “Personally, I was lucky to have OD, a show that helped many people notice my talent. On the other hand, I’m sure there are some who are jealous, and even bitter, because I’m successful [on account of that]. But it doesn’t really matter to me at this point.”
While waiting for cultural life to resume, Adamo is planning the content and direction of his next album. The songwriting sessions he held at his cottage. with friends like Benny Adam, Rymz, and Mad Rolla (a young pop singer he took under his wing) this past September cheered him right up. “I had to clear my brain,” he says. “I had stopped writing, moving around, or doing anything! At one point, I even wondered if I might not be going through a depression. I still don’t know what’s going to happen with what we’ve been creating over there, but it certainly felt good.”
As usual, Adamo is giving it time.