The hook for “The Downtown Cliché,” the statement track from Toronto rapper Jazz Cartier’s debut album Marauding In Paradise, couldn’t be more blunt:

“I don’t see you n___as downtown, I don’t see you n___as downtown/ I don’t see you n___as on road, I don’t see you n___as on road,” he repeats over and over until you get the message: Run through the 6 all you like, he’s already there.

It’s a frank war cry on an album that otherwise features often complex explorations of relationships, self-determination and the pitfalls of pursuing one’s art. It also signals the arrival of what may be the city’s next great rap act.

Born in Toronto, Jazz Cartier (a.k.a. Jaye Adams) had a stepfather who was a world-traveling diplomat, taking Cartier to far-flung locations around the world like Barbados, Houston, Kuwait, Atlanta, and Idaho. The young man coped by listening to music.

“I literally just listened to music all day.”

“I literally just listened to music all day,” Cartier says of those sometimes lonely moments. “All day. My mom had a good CD collection, over like 300 CDs. Every day was like a task to flip through a different genre, or different time period, just so my knowledge expanded.”

But Toronto was always where he’d come back to on family vacations, the place he felt most at home. In 2012, he bunkered down in the city with producer/right-hand man Michael Lantz and began working on the intensely Torontonian Marauding In Paradise.

“Feel Something,” a rumination on drugs, loneliness and depression was inspired by an evening at Nuit Blanche, the annual all-night, city-spanning art event. In a likely hip-hop first and only, smooth-skating former Toronto Maple Leafs hockey player Mason Raymond gets name-dropped in “New To Me.” Add in scene-setting Kensington Market booze cans, Thompson Hotel parties, and recording studios in Scarborough, and the city is really baked into Marauding.

The album’s masterwork is “Rose Quartz/Like Crazy,” a hyper-modern exploration of relationships that’ll leave you thoroughly unsettled.

Split into three distinct suites, the narrative of Cartier’s relationship highs and lows are split by an extended sample of chillwave musician Toro Y Moi’s “Rose Quartz” and an uncomfortable chunk of dialogue from the 2011 romantic drama Like Crazy, where Anton Yelchin’s and Felicity Jones’ characters argue over infidelity, and what sort of implicating evidence is contained on a mobile phone.

“That’s personal,” says Cartier, who used a message he received to anchor a verse. “It started out with a text that I got, and it literally started with [what became a line in the song] ‘You only need me any time you feel alone,’ and that spawned it. And then the movie Like Crazy has always been one of my favourite movies. So I wrote that Like Crazy part with that scene on repeat.”

That multi-part, song-splicing technique is one that Cartier employs a number of times on Marauding, including “Flashiago / A Sober Drowning,” “Forever Ready / Band On a Bible” and “Secrets Safe / Local Celebrity Freestyle.” It’s not an accident. “I love the aesthetic of two songs in one,” he says of the device. “And that’s a thing I’m gonna carry on out as long as I can.”

It shouldn’t be hard to notice if he does. He’ll be the one downtown.

Track Record

  • Tennis is Cartier’s sport. “I’m super-competitive and I don’t like to lose,” he says. “And if I do lose and it’s my fault I’ll take full responsibility.”
  • Cartier doesn’t do many features on other peoples’ records. “If I’m forced to work with you, that’s like having sex with a stranger,” he says. “It may feel good, but afterwards you feel like shit, going, ‘What the fuck’s going on here?’”
  • Cartier has a (barely perceptible) stutter. “Sometimes I’m really on it and it’s flawless,” he says. “Other times, if you were to ask me something I’d have to think about it and find a word, then find another word to push behind it so I could get that word out.”

Publisher: N/A
Discography: Marauding In Paradise (2015)
SOCAN member since 2015