Drake may be the most famous Canadian who’s worked with R&B rising star Summer Walker, but he’s not the only one. Featured on the opening track of her latest album, Over It, is a sample by Vancouver singer-songwriter/producer Teddi Jones.
“We found out only a week before the album dropped,” Jones says, of finding out that Walker has picked up one of the samples she’d created alongside producer Coop the Truth. “It was a really fun experience.”
For Jones, music has always been a hobby, dating back to the age of 9 or 10, when she first started writing songs – a process that she remembers being therapeutic. But it wasn’t until this past year that she realized she wanted to turn that into a true profession. “There are so many avenues you can take in this industry,” she says. “It’s really exciting to have the freedom to express creativity in so many ways through music.”
Another artist Jones has worked with is Montréal-based R&B singer-songwriter Shay Lia. Jones is credited on two songs from Lia’s debut album, Dangerous: the slow groove “Rock Baby,” and the more rhythmic “Find a Way.”
So far, Jones has learned to “trust your intuition and never stop learning,” something she’s trying to apply to both her work and life. Whereas 2019 was “a year of preparation,” Jones is ready to transform all her experience into even more new music in 2020.
The key, to Jones, is to connect with artists who “share a mutual love and respect for music and people. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s about for me.”
Photo by Joey James
Allie X: Wanting to be seen
Story by Sarah MacDonald | March 26, 2020
Allie X is a Leo. As the most glamorous sign in the zodiac, Leos want attention. They want to be noticed. And so, for the bold, vivid, Los Angeles-by-way-of-Toronto pop artist, this scans. Allie X has always wanted to be seen. But her personal Gospel of artistry and performance were at odds with her realities as a teenager growing up in a suburban Ontario town. Here, she was faced with the unfortunate truth that other teenagers totally suck, and they’ll make life harder on you if you’re different in any way.
“When I was in high school, I wanted to be seen so badly, but I wanted to hide socially as well, she says. “I was willing to accept people being kind of cruel in exchange for just being acknowledged.”
These experiences are at the foundation of Allie X’s sumptuous second full-length record, Cape God. This project seems like, on the surface, like a bit of a departure from her others, especially so when seeing Cape God set against the bubbly-plastic EP Super Sunset. Sonically, she swerves, gets quiet, propels herself during what she calls a “party segment.” It is different, but isn’t that what we expect from her anyway?
It was time, Allie says, to confront some of the harder experiences from her youth, because she never had before. So much of the conversation around Cape God in other publications and reviews relies on the anecdote of Allie being moved by a documentary on substance abuse called Heroin: Cape Cod, U.S.A.. Certainly, Allie says, the documentary has some importance to this record, but more than anything, it was an emotional opening for her to be empathetic to a younger version of herself.
“What the documentary did was put me in a headspace where I was able to tap into old feelings, because of the characters [in it],” she says. “I just related to the fear, the desperation, and the struggle. The isolation and the difficulties connecting to the family, and the shame, embarrassment, and not knowing what the future holds, on so many levels.”
Writing Cape God came, surprisingly, very easily to Allie. Of all the work she’s done, including writing pop songs for others – like a recent BTS track – Cape God more or less flowed out of her. She didn’t strain, or re-write songs. Tucked away in Stockholm, Sweden, Allie worked on this record with a few people, but her primary collaborators were Swedish producer Oscar Görres and co-writer James Alan Ghaleb.
The record opens with the pulsing “Fresh Laundry,” a melancholic, nostalgic track for some ordinary vibes. Impressions of what regularity or “normal” is appear all over the record, as in “Regulars,” or on songs like “Life of the Party” or “Super Duper Party People.” The album closer “Learning in Public” is perhaps the jewel of the album: it sounds more like a tribute to herself, a nod to what growth looks and feels like. (Difficult, always.) It bookends the record with opener “Fresh Laundry,” and she saysit’s a sequencing choice of which she’s proud.
Cape God is a liminal space but it’s also, as Allie confirms, a safe space. It’s a container of her own making, where she could sort outfeelings about her youth. “I wanted to make a place that was beautiful and that I could control the aesthetic of,” she says. “It’s a place that I got to control, and to curate, and [that could] safely exist. I think that’s maybe why writing this was such a pleasurable experience, as opposed to, like, a painful one.”
Allie says this project documents a period of her life that she never felt equipped to deal with until now – when maturation, growth, and a little bit of experience could cushion it. What she’s done is provide a sympathetic, tender conversation from one person (Allie) to another (teen Allie) that almost every adult can understand.
It;’s confusing being young. You’re confronted with a lack of experience, but also told this is the very best part of your life, and expected to determine and drive culture. Being artistic, and authentically different on top of that, causes extra strain. Allie’s wish to be seen, to be heard, to do something of note in her life, is happening now – but she couldn’t reassure her young self that any of it would happen at all. She just had to grow up and see it.
Photo by Felipe Arriagada-Nunez
LaF’s Community Rap
Story by Élise Jetté | March 25, 2020
The creative engine of LaF is still going. It’s a six-capacity carousel, onto which Bnjmn.lloyd, BLVDR, and Oclaz first board. Bkay, Jah Maaz, and Mantisse then hop on, with lyrics that interlock but never invalidate each others’. Do you like fusion cuisine? LaF offers you fusion rap, a place where sounds and words converge in the spirit of community. That’s what family is about.
“When we’re in the studio, we bring to life stuff that we explored in cabins,” says BLVDR. “We’re in fine-tuning mode.” And as soon as their Citadelle album was in the can, the guys already had more work cut out for themselves. “That’s because when we’re together, we make music. Our friendships and our music are one and the same. We don’t have a clue which comes first,” Bkay adds. The chicken or the egg? Friendship or rap?
Plus the fact that taking a break is useless. Mantisse even considers it nonsensical to stop. “We don’t take a break from our music,” he says. “It’s not because we just launched an album that we’re gonna stop thinking about the next project,” he adds, staring straight ahead at whatever might be coming next.
But the community aspect of their music didn’t happen overnight. Yet, it also wasn’t pre-meditated. “Before Francouvertes, we did community rap. Our audience was our entourage. We didn’t do shows four hours outside of Montréal for a crowd of people we don’t know. Then there was Les Francouvertes, Hôtel Délices (August 2018) and the contract with 7ieme ciel. That’s when things switched. We weren’t doing this only for ourselves.”
Their lives have completely changed since then, and their place in the music industry and in rap has crystallized. Music is their occupation, their trade, their life. “Benjamin (Bnjmn.lloyd) is the only one attending school,” the boys giggle, making him the clan’s egghead.
In order to truly understand LaF, one must understand the “LaF cabins,” which is where everything happens. That’s the method, the process, developed by the band: they isolate themselves to let creativity come to the fore. One of those cabins was almost he death of them, early on, but they got over it.
“Tangerine” was born in January during a cold spell,” Bkay explains. “We were going deep in the woods in Saint-Adolphe-d’Howard, and we’d planned that the walk through the snow to get there would take about 30 minutes, but it took us three hours.” Enough food, water, and recording gear to spend four days in the middle of nowhere had been gathered on sleds in order to reach the isolated place among the trees, a wood-fire heated cabin. “We created a summer vibe for ourselves in the middle of winter, and when I’d go out to cut wood for the fire, I felt like I was doing it to save my friends’ lives. That added another level to the whole thing,” BLVDR says with amusement.
“We co-habitate, letting go of ourselves and going with the flow, so we’re always at the service of the song.”
Every time they gather outside of the city, and its rules, they follow the same ritual: “We get to the cabin, get all the gear out, and we pick a track,” Bkay explains. “We often go to different places. We want to be in touch with the outside, a good vibe and good sound. We set the gear up and then it’s a whole day of eating, chilling, listening to what we did the day before, and starting new beats.” “While the boys tinker on a melody, we work on our lyrics,” Mantisse adds. “We work on all aspects at once.”
When one of them gets tired, someone else jumps in. No reason to dampen your friend’s inspiration in mid-flight. “Bnjmn.lloyd studies digital music, so he brings the more academic side of things to the table, while I’m more intuitive and Clazo brings the house flavour,” BLVDR says, pointing out that, usually, a good day’s work together ends with a good, “keeper” of a beat. “In any case, whenever one of us is mad inspired and it brings the project forward, we go for it,” Mantisse says. “We’re not on a quest for equity. We’re at the service of the track, and if that means all I do are backing tracks, that’s fine with me. We co-habitate, letting go of ourselves and going with the flow, so we’re always at the service of the song.”
Highly technical and versatile, Jah Maaz is, according to his teammates, “the best rapper in Montréal,” while Mantisse is the extravagant poet and Bkay, the clan boss who pieces everything together. And with him, “If your work is shit, he lets you know.”
Rap has changed over the course of the last few years, and so has LaF. They’ve mastered the musical and melodic codes that now permeate indie, pop, and rock. “I don’t know what will happen to those who are fundamentally rap, but I know we are able to step outside of our codes and hybridize,” says Bkay assuredly. “Our friends in O.G.B. (the band who won Les Francouvertes the year after LaF) are like the jazzmen of rap, and it’s still beautiful.” In other words, the possibilities for re-invention are endless, and this is merely LaF’s first incarnation.
“Maybe we just opened a door for future generations, and we’ll just keep re-inventing our sound,” Bkay says. “Just like Luce Dufault, who came back in 2020 after years away from the scene?” we ask. “Luce Dufault?” they answer.
So, to make sure 1996 never fades away in history, the interview ends as we listen to “Les soirs de scotch,” which they’ve never heard, over the studio speakers. Music truly is an endless cycle.