At the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, Canadian figure skaters Eric Radford and Meagan Duhamel gave solid performances that helped them finish seventh in pair skating and get the silver medal for Canada in the first figure skating team event. Much was made of the fact that Duhamel and Radford had skated their short program to music composed by Radford himself, the first time in the sport’s history that an athlete had performed to his own music. Radford’s piece, Tribute, a classically inspired lyrical piece, was recorded by the Longueuil Symphony Orchestra with singer Jenifer Aubry. “Apparently, back in the 1990s, a Ukrainian skater wrote a techno piece for his performance, but this took place in a non-competitive context,” Radford said. “And Edvin Marton is also known for the pieces he wrote for specific male and female figure skaters, but what I did was different.”

Radford’s feat was a first. In 2006, the young skater had written a simple and moving piano composition in memory of his trainer, Paul Wirtz, who had succumbed to cancer at the age of 47. That could have been the end of the story. “Music has been in my life since I was eight,” Radford recalls. “Whenever I check into a hotel, as soon as I can locate the piano, I have to sit down and play something. I can’t tell you how many times people have asked me if I had ever thought of skating to one of my own compositions some day,” a suggestion Radford finally took a couple of years ago when, without mentioning anything to his skating partner Meagan Duhamel or his trainer Julie Marcotte, he did an Internet search using the keywords “music,” “composer,” and “Montreal”. That led him to Louis Babin, whose online musical excerpts impressed him. Promptly reached, Babin was initially skeptical: “I had been contacted before about similar projects,” the seasoned composer pointed out, “and I wasn’t quite sure.”

“Music has been in my life since I was eight.” – Eric Radford

Once the two composers met face to face, however, Babin was in. “I saw that Eric was really talented and that his composition was solid. He was also using Logic Pro, the music software I’m teaching. I totally understood why he had reached out to help his project materialize,” Babin recalled. But it wouldn’t necessarily be easy. First of all, Meagan Duhamel and Julie Marcotte had to be brought on board along with the Figure Skating Federation. “I found out later that Meagan and Julie were not immediately convinced,” Radford remembered. “After hearing the synthesizer demo that had been produced with sampled sounds, they didn’t believe it could work. At some point, I promised them that, if it didn’t in the end, I wouldn’t mind. The main thing for me was seeing the process through.”

Over several months, Tribute was orchestrated by Radford and Babin, who owns a 10% performing right royalty interest in the piece. While they occasionally met, they mostly worked through e-mail, and Babin strongly suggested that Radford hire the Longueuil Symphony to record the piece, an expense that paid out. “That’s when I was able to appreciate the enormity of this project,” Radford explained. “Wow! The instant we heard the first bow strokes, Meagan, Julie and I looked at each another, and I knew that this could really happen. When you’re an athlete, you concentrate on stepping onto that podium, but that’s a very brief moment after so many years of training. With that song, I was able to live an experience that was just as intense. What a gift!”

Drawing many parallels between the precision required for a work like Tribute and his work on music cues for film and television scores, Babin pointed out that “it was extremely important to listen to trainer Julie Marcotte’s comments as she was describing the timing between the music and the choreography. Eric and I made adjustments until the very end. We still had to cut out four seconds of music before sending the piece for final mixing.” Babin even travelled to Boisbriand (Quebec) to watch Radford and Duhamel the first time they skated their short program to Tribute.

Babin was both thrilled with his collaboration with Radford and impressed with the Olympic athlete’s courage. “He stuck his neck out. That venture could have brought a lot of additional stress, but Eric saw things differently.” Tribute can now be purchased online, with half the proceeds being donated to the Canadian Cancer Society. Above all, Eric Radford is planning to pursue his creative partnership with fellow SOCAN member Louis Babin: “That’s the musical world I want to get involved in once I’m through with figure stating. Will it be in two, four years? I really don’t know. Right now, I’m gearing up to write the music for our next long program. There’s no going back.”

To purchase Tribute, go here.


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“Started from the bottom, now the whole team here.”

So says Drake in “Started From the Bottom,” and that’s exactly how his big-bang explosion on the worldwide hip-hop scene has affected the fortunes of his whole team – more than 60 Canadian, Toronto-based songwriters, beat-makers, producers and other collaborators. Drake has almost single-handedly created an entire industry that has blossomed in his wake, and inspired the next generation of Canadian hip-hop in the process.

It’s already known that Toronto native Aubrey “Drake” Graham is gifted with a unique vernacular that has vaulted him into the forefront of rap music and placed him on the global sphere of influence shared by Eminem, Jay-Z and Kanye West. Now he’s also the first-ever recipient of SOCAN’s Global Inspiration Award, for being particularly generous in bringing his Toronto-centric crew along for the ride – to the tune of collaborating on 226 commercially released songs and four albums.

For a Grammy- and multiple JUNO-winning artist – who’s sold more than 5 million albums, staged multi-million dollar tours and, in five short years, already squeezed 36 songs onto the Billboard charts (including the Top 10 “Forever,” “Best I Ever Had,” “Find Your Love,” “Take Care,” “Make Me Proud,” “Started From The Bottom” and “Hold On, We’re Going Home”) – his sense of loyalty and devotion to T.O., and his hometown collaborators, is refreshing.

“I put a lot of people in positions to do great things.”

“When it comes to this city [Toronto], I mean, I’m so vocal about how much I care,” Drake told CBC’s Q with Jian Ghomeshi. “All I ever wanna do is just see this city get the recognition and the love it deserves, see people from this city shine. Y’know, I put a lot of people in positions to do great things. That’s all I wanna keep doing.”

So how deeply does “The Drake Effect” impact the contemporary hip-hop scene? Just look at the company his collaborators keep aside from Drizzy.

Some, like high-profile producers, engineers and mixers Noah “40” Shebib and Boi-1da (Matthew Samuels) who’ve been with him since he was spitting out his first rhymes back in the mid-00’s – have been tapped by some of music’s biggest names to share their expertise.

Boi-1da’s Drake connection has led to him working with Jay-Z, Eminem, Kanye West, Nicki Minaj, Young Jeezy, Rick Ross, Flo Rida, Kelly Rowland, Meek Mill, and Lil’ Wayne – the American rapper who took first took Drizzy under his wing, signed him to his Cash Money Records/Young Money Entertainment label and management firm, and helped establish him internationally.

Grammy-winner 40 has been sought out by Trey Songz, Lil’ Wayne, Alicia Keys, Sade, fellow Canuck Melanie Fiona, Usher, Beyoncé, and many more.

When Boi-1da and 40 accepted SOCAN’s inaugural Global Inspiration Award on behalf of Drake, presented at the SOCAN Awards in June 2014, 40 made the point that almost all of Drizzy’s music is “written by Canadians, produced by Canadians, and recorded by Canadians… We make a conscious effort to keep this here [in Canada and Toronto].”

The Jamaican-born, Ajax, Ont.-based Boi-1da, says he’s known Drake since his Degrassi days, and confirmed the accuracy of the Nothing Was the Same Top 10 anthem in an interview with HipHopDX.

“We started working out of a studio that was rat-infested,” he said. “I was working at Winners at the time, and Drake was working at two places: He was working at Degrassi: The Next Generation and at a restaurant where he was doing spoken word over the piano.

“To me, he really started from the bottom. When I hear people say [that he didn’t], it really upsets me, because I was there when we all started it and went through the struggles… Drake made a lane of his own.

 “I’ve always said this. When I first met the guy and heard his music, I said, ‘This guy – and not to disrespect anyone – was going to be the next Jay-Z.’ He had everything working for him. He had the swag, the look, and the music was always spectacular. To this day, I’ve never heard a bad Drake verse.”


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Should Vancouver-based rhymer SonReal’s career come to an abrupt end, he can always fall back on motivational speaking.

When asked at what age he discovered a talent for writing rhymes, SonReal (born Aaron Hoffman) flashes a humble side that few rappers ever reveal.

“I was about 15,” he says. “I had a crappy mic and a computer, and I just started downloading beats and rapping to them. My friends said I was good so I just kept going. But I was absolutely horrible. Like, the worst! But the passion was there.”

The rapper cut his teeth at little clubs in Vancouver, and considers himself fortunate to even get a few people come and say he was dope.

“My friends said I was good so I just kept going. But I was absolutely horrible.”

“It took me time to find out what I wanted to say, how I wanted to write songs,” he says. “I’ve spent a lot of time doing this, so when situations get crazy, I’m prepared. If I didn’t go through the open mics, horrible recordings, and low-budget music videos, I wouldn’t be here today.”

“Here” is a place at which many Canadian rappers would be happy to reside. SonReal was nominated for a JUNO Award in the Rap Recording category for the last two consecutive years. The album nominated in 2013, The Closer – a collaboration with Rich Kidddebuted at No. 3 on iTunes Canada’s hip-hop charts. MTV called him “Canada’s latest hip-hop phenomenon,” and the video for “Everywhere We Go” has reached a million YouTube views since being posted last August. SonReal also boasts a prolific work rate: he released three albums in 2012, and has toured incessantly.

So what’s the source of his appeal? He attributes it to his “realness” – being genuine. “I spend time every day replying to fans,” he says. “I work hard at making sure they know they’re the biggest part of my story. I’m just being myself.”

Listen to his lyrics and it becomes evident why so many enjoy him. He can come off as alternately cocky, introspective or vulnerable – or, in his words, “relatable.”

“I think one thing that separates me from other artists is that I’m not afraid to be vulnerable,” he says. “[The song] ‘L.A.’ was inspired by falling in love. I wanted to write about that, but in an indirect way. That’s why the whole song takes place in a kind of ‘horrible day-in-the-life’ format, but at the end of each verse, it ties back to a woman who makes everything feel okay.

“I love writing songs that are open to interpretation.”

FYI
Publisher:
N/A
Discography: Good Morning (2008), The Stroll (2009), The Lightyear Mixtape (2010), Where’s Waldo? (2011), Words I Said (2012), Good News (2012), The Closers (2012), One Long Day (2014)
SOCAN member since 2009
Visit www.sonreal.ca

TRACK RECORD:

  • “SonReal is hard-working and innovative, has a supreme ear as an engineer, and has a heart of gold,” says singer-songwriter/bassist/producer Chin Injeti, who’s worked with Dr. Dre and Eminem.
  • “My love for wordplay goes back to when I first heard hip-hop,” says SonReal. “I was a huge fan of artists like Nas and Outkast.”
  • SonReal says the video for “Everywhere We Go” was inspired by the movie Napoleon Dynamite.

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