Story by Samantha Edwards | Tuesday January 5th, 2021
JACELYN almost became a country music star. A few years ago, she was in Nashville recording her debut country album, and playing on the same bills as Keith Urban and fellow Canadian Johnny Reid. But something felt “off.” “I knew deep down it didn’t feel authentic,” she says. “I realized I didn’t actually know who I was as an artist.”
To find out, the Toronto-based singer-songwriter enrolled in the professional development and mentorship program, Canada’s Music Incubator. It was in working with the incubator’s musicians and songwriters that she discovered her true voice as jazz/soul singer. “I was a bit surprised, because I had this idea that jazz was for old people,” she laughs. “But then I thought, wait a second, some of my favourite singers are jazz, like Amy Winehouse, Adele, Frank Sinatra, and Norah Jones.”
With renewed vigor, JACELYN scrapped the country album and began work on her new project, writing fresh songs while travelling through North America and Europe. Eventually, she landed in New York City, where she enlisted composer and pianist Amina Figarova to co-produce, and Grammy-winning audio engineer Max Ross to record. To fund the album, she launched a Kickstarter campaign and raised more than $60,000.
This fall JACELYN released her debut full-length, Dovetailing, a blend of jazz and soul with surprising hints of hip-hop and bossa nova. Four of the songs were written at Canada’s Music Incubator, including “Fool”, an emotional, acoustic guitar-driven torch song.
Although the pandemic cancelled planned tour dates, JACELYN’s making the most of her time these days. At press time, she was in Costa Rica writing and recording new music, including a holiday album planned for 2021. “I get a lot of inspiration when I’m out here,” says JACELYN. “I feel more free and creative.”
Photo by Jeune Loup, Estelle Bonhomet-Proulx (Calamine), Julio Alejandro (Misa), Sam Aden (Rosalvo), Félix Boss (Aswell)
Five “Queb’” rap rookies to watch In 2021
Story by Olivier Boisvert-Magnen | Wednesday January 6th, 2021
Now a Paroles & Musique tradition, here’s this year’s instalment of our annual series on Québec rap artists sure to reach a greater audience in the coming year.
A bona fide rap lover since childhood, Calamine noneheless waited quite a long time before grabbing a mic herself. It was only in her mid-twenties – after completing a B.A. in Arts and several stints as a drummer, guitarist, and bassist in various garage rock bands – that the artist from Cap Rouge (an affluent suburb of Québec City) took her first steps as a rapper.
“To be honest, I didn’t feel legit doing rap,” she says. “What the hell does a young white girl from the ’burbs have to say? I’ve always loved this music, but I couldn’t find a model. Even less so in Québec, where it’s such a male-dominated environment…”
Things changed when she met producer Kèthe Magané in Montréal. “We were roommates, and our late night entertainment was to kick verses,” says Calamine. “In that kind of context where no one takes themselves too seriously, it felt less embarrassing and more natural. I tried a few things and then thought to myself, ‘OK, now you can do this for real!’”
The Sessions 1420 EP (2019) was born out of those free-form sessions, as was “Fraîche heure” (2020), the opening salvo of Petite Papa, a trio composed of Calamine, the aforementioned Magané, and Sam Faye. Then, in November of 2020, the now 29-year-old rapper launched her first full-length, Boulette Proof, where she asserts her feminist, environmentalist, and anti-capitalist views, over warm productions with hints of jazz and soul.
“I take radical positions, but I also know it’s useless to preach to the choir,” she says. “That’s why I like to nicely present my ideas so that everyone can have a taste. I strive to offer something smooth and accessible. I want everyone’s uncle to have my songs stuck in their heads!”
She has quite the challenge ahead of her in 2021, with the release of a second, equally convivial LP. “I didn’t want to take the easy way out and complain about the hard times we’re going through,” says Calamine. “I prefer exposing luminous ideals.”
Born in Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville (a suburb on Montréal’s South Shore), Aswell became hooked on Québec rap at the end of his grade-school years, when he discovered the WordUP! battles. “We started organizing rap battles in the schoolyard,” he says. “Problem is, I was always too rough and personal, because I was the only one at school who actually watched the WUBs… I was too hardcore for my league!”
At the tender age of 14, the rapper cut his first tracks alongside PC the Infamous, with whom, shortly afterward, he founded the collective La Collection. At this point, Dead Obies was a major influence. “We’d bump that endlessly,” he says. ”Initially, I wanted to rap like them because they’re also from the South Shore… the dirty South! Then came Loud Lary Ajust, and that was a major catalyst.”
That catalytic effect prompted Aswell and his collective to record Moonstone and Public Figures, two EPs of trap beats and dark lyrics. “That’s when I realized the level of my anxiety, and how important it was that I spoke about it,” he says. “There was a certain mal de vivre that awaited the youth [in Saint-Bruno]…”
And although that melancholy is still part of his repertoire, Aswell’s solo work is more lyrically positive. With his songs falling somewhere between pop and emo trap, the rapper, singer, producer and mixer’ has found success quite promising since the release of his 2018 singles “Don’t Be Mad” and “Dead Summer.” His song “Leaving” reached the impressive mark of a million plays on YouTube (without an actual video), and enjoyed an unexpected craze on TikTok last year. “I would even venture to say the song has become larger than the artist!” says the now-21-year-old rapper. “My goal for 2021 is to corral everyone.”
Armed with about a dozen new songs, including his recent “Hard to Love” and “On the Low” – which have garnered tens of thousands of plays since their release last year – the adoptive Montrealer is well poised to achieve his goal. A new solo EP should be released this winter.
Born in Algeria, Misa embarked on his musical journey in Gatineau. That’s where he discovered Nas, DMX, 50 Cent, and pillars of the golden age of French rap like Mafia K’1 Fry. Right from the get-go, with the release of his first EP Nouveau rebeu (2014), one could already sense his smart writing and eagle-eyed view of our society. “I grew up with the kind of rap that takes a position,” says Misa. “Even the gangsta rappers we listened to had a message. That’s why it is essential to me that I talk about what’s around me.”
It didn’t take long before he found an audience in France. At a mere 18 years old, Misa could already count on the support of a handful of French rap platforms (Yard, Rapélite, Skyrock), and the validation of rap superstar Rohff – who invited him onto his popular video series CPLS (the acronym of Certifié Par Le Street). Backed by the American publishing powerhouse Warner Chappell, Misa enjoyed a thrilling early career before experiencing a few disappointments. “[Warner Chappell]’s artistic director, who had signed me, left to manage the career of MHD, so I ended up on my own… But whatever, I carried on like nothing happened.”
Throughout his EPs 17h à Alger and Loca, as well as Okulte, a collaborative EP with Nova, Misa explored many musical territories. “I’ve tried so many things,” he says. “At some point, I was so focused on flows that my lyrics were almost empty, content-wise. I’d sometimes lose sight of the essence of my music.”
After a bit of soul-searching in 2018 and 2019, the now 25-year-old rapper was back in full force on Tout va bien, his fourth solo EP, where he mixes his original protest rap with a melodic force that leans heavily towards R&B. “It’s like a calling card that presents everything I can do,” he says. “I’ve found my identity, the soul of my music.”
Freed from his contract with Warner Chappell, the new Montrealer sees 2021 as a new beginning. “I was looking for myself for quite a while, but I’m back and renewed. I want to be rediscovered,” says the artist, who’ll release singles throughout the year and, possibly, a new EP “if the demand is there.”
It is while analyzing the underbelly of the music industry that Rosalvo found the motivation to become a rapper. With the help of Philippe-Olivier David, who helped launch MB’s career, the Montrealer from the Little Burgundy neighbourhood masterfully orchestrated his way forward. “I started making music in 2016, but for the first three years, I focused on developing my sound and understanding the business side of the game,” says Rosalvo. “I wanted to hit the ground running.”
All that time made Rosalvo want to be as hard-working as possible when it comes to his music. “I closely observed what Montréal’s Anglo rappers were doing, and what I found was that consistency is the key,” he says. “When you hear a rapper complaining that things aren’t panning out for them, it’s often because they put out a song every six months. You can never take a day off…”
Ever since the release of his first single “4th Quarter” in 2019, the rapper has lived by that mantra. He’s released about two dozen songs, on top of launching two projects: Libation (2019), and Deep Waters (2020). Equally trap and R&B, his music is reminiscent of the glory years of Future, one of his favourite rappers. “I can just as well sing in a monotone voice about raw shit than I can sing high and sound slightly more pop,” says the 27-year-old, whose lyrics are true to his lofty ambitions.
Just as comfortable in English as he is in French – his collaboration with Shreez on the track “Mystique” is proof of that – Rosalvo expects to be working twice as hard in 2021. “I plan on releasing four projects, one for each quarter,” he says. “I did make a name for myself in the last 12 months, but now’s not the time to get comfy. It’s time to take it to the next level. My priority is exporting myself, and putting Montréal front and centre. In five or six years, this city will be world-renowned.”
Inspired by Gucci Mane and Roi Heenok since his teen years, Jeune Loup is one of the most fascinating characters in the history of Québec’s rap scene.
Two years have gone by since his explosive arrival on the scene thanks to “Back sur le BS,” a video that’s earned 330,000 views to date. The Montréal-based rapper laid down his musical aesthetics: a basic trap beat, an intentionally out-of-synch flow, and lyrics that are both playful and biting about his illicit activities in the realm of recreational drugs and pharmaceuticals.
“I can’t tell you what I was trying to achieve,” says Jeune Loup. “It was more of a freestyle that had been bouncing inside my head for a while. But in hindsight, I think I wanted to show people that it’s possible to rap and have fun. The Montréal scene is always too serious, but yo, it’s all good, it’s gonna be cool, everything’s chill…”
The video’s success quickly propelled him onto a few stages opening for Dead Obies, and it helped introduce him to several talented rappers and producers. Like Mike Shabb, who ended up producing his first two albums: Rx (which includes “Sensuelle,” a track that recently became a TikTok phenomenon), and Rx archives, both launched in 2019.
This great momentum was dampened by a prison stint last year. “In the end, I was acquitted of all the charges [possession of a firearm],” he says. “I lost eight months of my life, but at least I don’t have a criminal record.”
Released last fall, “1st Day Out” signalled his return to the scene. Jeune Loup reveals a flow that’s sharper, and as melodic as ever, over a jazzy trap production by Numb Blond and Mike Shabb. “I wanted people to see the title of the song and imagine it’s your typical coming out of jail song,” he says. “But instead of coming out raw, I come out super-sweet. It’s a feel-good song.”
While playfully twisting rap codes, the 21-year-old will kick off 2021 with the release of a third album, Slime contre le monde. “Slime is not an alter ego, he really lives inside of me,” says Jeune Loup. “It’s a mental state, a state of mind. And now, after his jail time and a breakup, Slime finds himself alone against the world and ready to embark on his mission. Each track is a letter to myself.”
Here are other “Queb” rap breakthrough artists to watch closely this year:
Huguette Langlois retiring, after serving music publishers for 40 years at SOCAN
Story by Philippe Renaud | Thursday December 17th, 2020
As Senior Account Executive for Music Publishing, you might say that Huguette Langlois is SOCAN’s memory, and that, in a sense, her office was a second home for SOCAN’s Montréal branch employees for many years. As she was poised to take her well-deserved retirement, after 40 years of faithful service, she reviewed the far-reaching changes that have affected music publishing during her time in the field.
Since every cloud has a silver lining, as the saying goes, the current health situation might actually make it easier for Huguette to transition to retirement – because, like her SOCAN colleagues, she’s been working from home since the first wave of the pandemic.
“We’re all experiencing some grief during this pandemic,” she says. “Working from home and being cut off from your colleagues are part of this, and that might actually make the ‘break’ less painful for me. The members that used to drop by the office, and whom I used to bump into all the time, my contact with our team, those were things I no longer had during the pandemic. But frankly, it’s making it easier for me to move on,” says the music publishing specialist, who considers having been an ally of, and sometimes an accomplice to, the publishers – with whom she considers herself fortunate to have been working: “I felt I was part of their teams, and that I working right in their own offices, so to speak.
“Of course, the physical contact is no longer there, but we’ve managed to stay in touch with members, which is even more important in a situation that creates such challenges for the entire creative community. We’re happy to have been able to bring a level of support to our members. It’s tough on everyone, but at the creative level, they’ve been the first ones to get the brunt of it, and they’re going to be the last ones to get to recover,” says Huguette regretfully.
She recalls that her entry into the world of music publishing was purely accidental. As a young bank employee, she says, she’d heard about a music publishing job opportunity, “but I was totally clueless – I didn’t even know copyright existed! I was in tears for three months, wondering, ‘What have I done? I don’t understand anything!’” And then, gradually, she fell under the charm of that industry that came to fascinate her.
In 1981, Huguette took a position with CAPAC (Composers, Authors and Publishers Association of Canada), an organization that had been established in 1925 as the Canadian Performing Rights Society by the British Performing Rights Society , and that had positioned itself over time as one of Canada’s music publishing leaders. Huguette had already been with the organization for some time in 1990 when CAPAC merged with one of its competitors, PROCAN (the Performing Rights Organization of Canada), and became SOCAN. “A merger that was not easy,” she recalls, “but one that was good not just for music creators, but for music users too.”
One of the most significant changes to have occurred in the industry over Huguette’s four-decade tenure was, she says, how music publishers were perceived by music creators. During her first years with CAPAC, she “realized that having a publisher was not always viewed as being a good thing… [Songwriters] sometimes signed their agreements because they had to, without having actually read them – some were signing for life, sometimes without any obligation [on the part of the publisher].”
From Huguette’s Account Executive point of view, the creation of the Professional Music Publishers’ Association (Association professionnelle de l’édition musicale-APEM) in 2002 greatly contributed to a more positive perception of the music publishing profession. Moreover, “APEM set up training programs that helped the profession evolve.” Huguette herself had many opportunities to share her expertise as part of music publishing workshops, where she always insisted on continued training “because this is a constantly evolving profession. The industry is changing all the time, and the music publishing profession must keep pace.”
The reason being, in her view, that if the music publishing profession is a specialization within the music industry, “music publishers have to be dealing with more than just copyright. They must be aware of everything that goes on in this industry if they want to be able to answer all of the questions” that are being raised by creators. “Songwriters need to create: they need to surround themselves with a team. Creators can find publishers they can trust, and in turn, that trust can help publishers promote music creators” by exploiting their works smartly.
Huguette Langlois is leaving SOCAN with a sense of accomplishment, and with the pride of having built a trusting relationship with music publishers, while still feeling “a bit sad to be leaving at this particular moment. Of course, the music publishing business has changed a great deal over the past 40 years, but change will occur so much faster [in the coming years], and the battles [that music publishers face] will be even greater” due to the re-alignment of the music industry along the digital axis.
“Our publishers are now facing the future with confidence, they’re fighting, they are joining coalitions involving all of the stakeholders of the Quebec music ecosystem, whereas, in the past, it was more like every man for himself,” she says. “Today, everybody understands that we have to unite if we want to push for legal changes, and help creators enjoy fairer tariffs.”