Sometimes it’s impossible to put an artist into one succinct category or genre, and that’s okay. Freeman Young is the perfect example.
The Surrey, BC, artist – who once described himself as “pop with an urban touch” – has a sound as varied as his influences, which range from D’Angelo and Jai Paul to Radiohead and Nickelback. Young’s voice, a velvety-smooth texture imbued with a tender soulfulness, has landed him in the R&B realm in the past. But in an interview with Noisey, he warned, “You don’t want to pigeonhole yourself. Especially for Black artists, it’s important that you don’t corner yourself too early.”
It’s that flexibility and imagination that’s given Young a freedom to explore like he does on the Brotha Jason collaboration, “Brother,” where he flexes a more rap-like cadence; or when his singing takes centre stage on the grooving Raiel and Isaac Shah joint, “Wrong Turn.”
Outside of those tracks, Young’s music is hard to find online at the moment. Young, who garnered attention in 2016 with his debut album, Young, has since wiped the release from his Soundcloud and other streaming platforms. But the suspense is leading to something.
In 2017, he explained to Discorder Magazine that he removed his music because, “I’m just on something else now. I think you get a clearer understanding of what you want to communicate as time goes by… You can’t get nostalgic or too sentimental, even if it is your art, even if you put everything into it, it’s about what’s next.”
In October 2018, he made his next big step: signing to Republic Records. In an Instagram post, he shared the “wildly surreal” news adding that he’ll “be back sooner than later.” With any luck, 2019 could finally be the year that we receive a grand re-introduction to Freeman Young – because the little that’s left of him online has left us craving for more.
Photo by Xavier Martel/Forom
Kenekt Québec 2019 : A Memorable Collaborative Experience
Story by Eric Parazelli | June 5, 2019
The tradition continues. The fourth edition of the Kenekt Québec Song Camp has, once more, left unforgettable musical and human memories in the 17 authors, composers, and producers who accepted the invitation of SOCAN A&R representative Widney Bonfils. From April 28 to May 4, 2019, they gathered at Rabaska Lodge, a resort on the majestic Baskatong Reservoir, four hours north of Montréal in the Upper Laurentians. Once there, they each worked on a different team every day, tasked with writing a song based on a theme that was revealed to them each morning, and which would be played back for everyone during the evening listening session. Bonfils, the mastermind of the Kenekt Québec Song Camp, explains:
Yannick Rastogi (KNY Factory)
Félix Bélisle (Choses sauvages)
Naya Ali Producers
Sean Fisher Publishers, Managers, Labels
Sony ATV UK
Dare to Care
Lili Louise Musique
Organizing this kind of project – gathering 17 authors, composers, and producers from all musical genres, from rap to rock, electronica to folk – isn’t exactly a walk in the park. I’m proud of the Class of 2019 because they were incredibly open-minded and true.
For a whole week, we were lost in the backwoods, with no Internet access or phone service. Each day was a unique challenge within the teams (which changed every day), or regarding how the day proceeded. Bold or downright crazy, the choices for teams were made after spending months listening to the work of each of the participants. What’s pleasantly surprising is that despite their different styles, they all have a song, or a sound, that unites them – and it’s through experimentation, that forced them to step out of their comfort zone, that they realized it. Each morning, we revealed the day’s theme, chosen to help them work closely together.
Here are some of those themes:
Day 1: Image
We presented a different image to each team. The goal was to use that as a conversation starter.
Day 2: Country
Here, they were asked to pick one of the five proposed countries and find inspiration in it. The countries were France, Canada, the United Kingdom, South Africa and the Caribbean region.
Day 3: Sensations
While blindfolded, they were asked to touch and/or smell the objects we had carefully selected for them (coffee beans, wintergreen leaves, plastercene, etc.). Here again, the goal was to bring them to open up to the sensation they felt when they touched that object, in order to connect with their emotional memory.
Day 4: Introspection
Each participant had one minute to write a sentence or two about themselves. Then, as a team, they had to pick one of those messages randomly. We were amazed by the depth and the vulnerability of some of those messages. The resulting songs were all deeply moving.
This week-long experience left all of us with a deep feeling of well-being and acceptance. It’s through our differences that we learn from one another. No matter the colour of our skin, or what musical universe we inhabit, we’re all the same: we all have the same fears, the same desires, the same dreams. Music has the power to unite us, to motivate us, and to heal us. We arrived as strangers and left as friends, forever united by this incredible memory.
Here’s a short video shot during the 2019 SOCAN Kenekt Québec Song Camp that’s a perfect example of the creative and festive atmosphere of the camp and of the camaraderie between the participants:
Stay tuned in the coming months, as some of the songs created at the Kenekt Québec Camp could very well make their way to your ears!
Photo by Pavel
White-B: Moving Heaven and Earth
Story by Olivier Boisvert-Magnen | June 4, 2019
Blacklist, the new EP by rapper White-B, sees him tone things down – without selling out – in order to widen his audience.
“I can’t deny that I’m feeling a bit of pressure, but I don’t want to rush things,” he told us last January in our report on 2019’s best emerging rap talents. Now that his latest work has been released, the 24-year-old artist fees more relaxed. “The one question that was constantly on my mind was, ‘Will people like it?’ Let’s be honest, this project is quite different from the previous one. That’s why I felt pressure.”
More on the pop tip than Confession risquée (Risky Confession) – his first solo mixtape, released in the fall of 2017 – Blacklist was produced more quickly. Which, at least in part, explains its increased artistic consistency. “Confession was a hodge-podge of songs I had for over a year,” says White-B. “This time around, I focused on my music for six months, and you can hear it in the musical evolution, my flows, and the melodies.”
He’s inspired by the new wave of extremely melodic French rap by artists like Ninho, Niska, and Koba LaD, but also by Québec’s street rap scene, spearheaded by rappers such as Souldia, Tizzo, and Enima. White-B has enlisted the support of several up-and-coming Montréal-based producers, notably Fifo and Birdzonthetrack. The latter played a key role in the creation of this release by providing the music behind five of the eleven new songs.
“Before I met him, I was having a hard time finding good instrumentals,” says the rapper. “I wanted to avoid buying licences on YouTube as I did before, but none of the meetings I had with beat-makers panned out. He sent me two instrumentals that I didn’t feel, initially, but I still knew that his style had depth. I sent him samples of songs that fit my style, melodic bangers, and he got back to me with the beats for ‘Solo’ and ‘Chacun son récit’ (‘To Each Their Own Story’). From that point on, it just happened really fast.”
On ‘Doué’ (‘Gifted’) and ‘Vien danser’ [sic] (‘Come Dancing’), White-B steps out of his comfort zone and adapts his flow to the kind of tropical rhythms that are in vogue lately. “I wanted to come up with more festive and danceable tracks,” he says. “The themes remain the same, but I figured that maybe that type of more accessible beat would take me further, like on the radio.”
Despite that, he didn’t succumb to cheesy pop ethos and went right back to his favourite themes: loyalty, money and ambition. Wanting to leave behind his dark past – rife with poverty and crime – he’s still grappling with the same duality that powered Confession risqué – that of an artist who, despite remaining on his guard about a system that’s given up on him since his high school days, still wishes to prosper and succeed in the world of music.
“I moved heaven and earth to get everything I didn’t have,” he confesses on ‘Chacun son récit,’ the first single from Blacklist. That sentence is typical of his state of mind. “I’ve always managed on my own, because I got used to having nothing,” he says. “My mom never bought me brand-name items, I never had cable TV before I was 18… In the end, I’ve always done everything I had to to get what I didn’t have. And I know the way to achieve that is to work hard.”
He carries on with this reflection on ‘Million,’ a song where he raps about his grand ambitions. “I was raised by my grandfather, who had three jobs and worked constantly,” says White-B. “Even today, at 80, he buys condos and flips them. He’s a major source of inspiration. Ever since I turned 10 years old, he’s told me that you always have to save up some money to have a safety net for your family. I didn’t pay any mind to it until I found myself in a rough financial situation. I needed a large amount of money and I realized how right my granddad was. Now, I always think about him.”
Now in a strong position to reach his goals, White-B is experiencing enviable success on YouTube and other streaming platforms. He raps that his “salary from music has tripled” (on ‘La nuit’ [‘The Night’]), has bigger ambitions than ever before, and admits being especially happy that the industry is finally accepting his type of rap. “I’m fully aware it’s far from over,” he says. “Millions of views are great, but they’re just views…That means continuing to work very hard. Whether you like it or not, labels like 7ième Ciel, and the success of a guy like Loud, does open doors for us. It’s good for everyone.”
Writing Requires Solitude
Even though he’s often found with his 5sang14 peers, White-B needs to be isolated in order to write. “I can write within the group, but I find it harder. It truly is when I’m alone, with my headphones on, that I write my best lyrics. Some rappers need light, but I feel more comfortable in darkness. It may sound peculiar, but I need a dark place to get into my zone and start writing.”
A regular at small venues, the rapper can now aspire to larger-scale shows – like the one he’ll give with his band 5sang14 at MTelus (formerly Metropolis) during the upcoming Francos festival, in Montréal. He does find it regrettable that the good health of the local rap scene is still undermined by stereotypes. He has memories of a few shows cancelled by promoters due to a lot of pressure from the police, notably one scheduled at Belmont in 2017. There’s also the stigma attached 5sang14, wrongly perceived as a street gang after the incarceration of one of its members, named Lost. All this has left a bitter taste in his mouth. The last-minute cancellation of a show he was supposed to give alongside Lost, during M for Montréal in the fall of 2018, offered a powerful demonstration that nothing should be taken for granted, not yet.
“I don’t understand that closed-mindedness, especially when you look at the rap scene in the States,” says White-B. “Whether it’s Eminem or anyone else, they rap about violence, drugs, weapons, the street, money… But if it’s a local rapper doing that, people are uncomfortable. I think that’s slowing down our industry. When you look at the economic uplift of a festival like Metro Metro, it’s obvious that the whole city benefits from it, whether it’s hotels, restaurants, or the taxi industry. We have to catch up, and slowly, all those people will realize all the money they lost in the meantime. Things are changing.”