“I think musically, we’re the best in the world.”

Alex Ernewein has good reason to proclaim Toronto as a top destination for musical exports. He cites hip-hop superstar Drake as the biggest example of a successful artist putting the Canadian city on the global map, but that fortune runs all the way down to someone like Ernewein – a musician and producer who has also flourished in recent years, by making “the weirdest chord progressions and textures, and still have them slap and get streams.”

Most may recognize Ernewein as a touring member of R&B star Daniel Caesar’s band, but he’s also performed with Charlotte Day Wilson, co-produced records for both (Caesar’s Freudian and Wilson’s Stone Woman EP), and surrounded himself with some of the city’s most promising talent (Sean Leon, Liza Yohannes, Dylan Sinclair). Most recently, he took a massive step outside of his sphere, contributing samples to Kanye West’s album Jesus is King.

He also makes music under his own name, where he strives to go “even weirder” by exploring odd chord progressions. (He admittedly grew up on a lot of jazz music.) “People know me for R&B,” he acknowledges, “but I’ve worked on so many different projects now that it’s more diverse than that.

“I think in the next 10 years, the sound is just going to get even better, and more sophisticated,” Ernewein says of Toronto’s sonic identity. “There’s too many great minds for it not to.” While he may not have reached the upper echelon of the city’s most prominent acts just yet, Ernewein –  who says he’s still “showing and proving” his skills to others – is well on his way to becoming one of those great minds.

Go big or go home, as they say, and Matt Holubowski did just that when he played Montréal’s MTELUS on March 4, 2020, to mark the release of his new album Weird Ones, and kick off a spring tour that’ll take him all over Québec, Canada, the U.S., and France.

We had access to his soundcheck (B&W pictures) as well as the main event (colour pictures), and you can almost feel the quiet but intense energy of his stage presence.

Critics have been unanimous about Weird Ones: it’s his best album.

“Holubowski outdoes himself. Weird Ones’ songs are proof of the talent, musical intelligence and creativity of their creator… He’s delivered a simply sublime album.” – Marissa Groguhé, La Presse

“A weightless trip through beauty itself. Matt Hobulowski’s angelic voice swims in a sea of reverberation, his melodies follow a path only they know, strange sounds made by strange instruments paint landscapes that are just as strange, indescribable and incredibly beautiful. A delicious feeling of strangeness.” – Sylvain Cormier, Le Devoir

“In his move beyond the more traditional folk of his previous work, Holubowski has uncovered new dimensions in his music, striking that delicate balance between songcraft and newfangled shimmer.” – Kaelen Bell, Exclaim!

To download or listen to Weird Ones, and for tour dates, go here.

Lary Kidd originally wanted to call his second album Thus Spoke Larry Kidd, something that would have been in character for this Ahuntsic (Québec) rapper who’s fond of literary references, and who once casually dropped the name of Romanian philosopher Emil Cioran. But he eventually realized that a reference to Friedrich Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra might be heavy, and decided instead to choose a title that was evocative of another concept linked to the German philosopher: The Superman.

Lary KiddSince the album’s release last November, Larry has refrained from posing as an intellectual, and rightly claimed instead that the Superman idea also corresponded to the extreme braggadoccio so typical of the rap scene. “It’s a way of placing yourself above the fray; I love bragging!” he likes to say. “It’s always been part of the hip-hop codes, it’s not just something that you fall into. A good knowledge of the genre’s codes is what helps me explore, go further, and build my sound intelligently.”

His sometimes killer rhymes, however, go beyond mere show-off. While everybody agrees that Surhomme’s production is airier, and that the rhymes are more playful than those found on the anxiety-producing Contrôle, the new rhymes are often very dense, beginning with those of the title piece, whose references to drug consumption are more of a warning than a glorification.

“At my age [32], I’ve grown somewhat wiser,” Kidd explains. “When I talk about depravity in my songs, I mostly look back to my early 20s for inspiration – rap, after all, is a young people’s music! I hope to still be relevant when I’m 40, but it’s important not to turn into an old man preaching to his audience.”

Put together with Ruffsound and his old sidekick Ajust – the sound builders who’ve contributed to Loud’s success – Surhomme is both punchier and lighter than Kidd’s previous opus, and much easier to take in. “I sat down for six months writing the words, but the music came in a flash,” he says. “The guys [Ruffsound and Ajust] arrived at the cottage, they set up their keyboards, and they worked until 11:00 p.m. every day. They’re just like machines, they can come up with something like 10 beats in a work day.”

Every time he gets a chance, Kidd stresses the importance of beat-makers in his creative work. “They work like maniacs, especially in the weeks following the recording,” he says. “It takes a lot of talent to take a rap album that could easily become repetitive and tiresome, and turn it into something rich and varied, and I think that they succeed in doing that spectacularly.”

“I’ve realized that the hummed, somewhat soft rap that dominates right now isn’t my thing.”

Unlike his old pal Loud (credited on the song “Sac de sport” ), Kidd hasn’t yet broken into the pop scene, but he’s far from feeling sorry about it. “I’m making a good living with my clothing line [Officiel], I never lack work, quite the contrary!” he says. “And the cool thing is that my sideline is providing me with another creative avenue; it’s not like I have to go back to mopping floors!”

That security is making it possible for Kidd to do his own thing without trying to please at all costs. “Of course, I could have a few club songs with women in them,” he laughs. “But I’ve realized that the hummed, somewhat soft rap that dominates right now isn’t my thing. Personally, I’m sticking to a more classic rap, and I hope that when that kind of sound is back in style, I’ll be recognized as someone who has always toed the line. I’m not trying to make myself look like an old purist, but I sometimes feel completely disconnected from today’s sound. When I looked at my Spotify playlists, I realized that the song I listened to the most times in 2019 was Ghostface Killah’s “Mighty Healthy,” a piece that goes back to 1993!”

But don’t believe that Kidd is frozen in time. It’s the opposite: in our interview, he frequently stresses the importance of evolving without losing your character. “This album took me to the next level,” he says. “I feel that the process made me a better rapper, both in the flow and in the writing. Everything I’m writing now is four times more solid. I look for the right turn of phrase, the right rhyme, and I stay away from stuff that’s too facile. Writing half in French and half in English, for instance, just because it’s easy, is something in which I’m no longer interested.”