As has become our habit, we present six young beatmakers who’ve seen their stars rise over the past few years and who are, in 2023, changing Québec’s musical landscape in the fields of hip-hop and electronic music.
Some of Québec’s greatest producers – Kaytranada and DaHeala, to name just two – were successful internationally before being properly recognized for their talent at home.
It feels like the same phenomenon is about to happen to Chase Wav, an artist from Montréal who just secured one of the year’s biggest placements. One of his compositions turned into the hit “Silver Platter,” a song by some American singer named Khalid that ended up on the soundtrack of a low-budget independent movie barely anyone has heard of… Barbie.
Chase Wav partly owes this placement to another Montréal producer, his friend Jay Century, who’s become acquainted with the American sound engineer and producer Denis Kosiak, Khalid’s right-hand man. “Jason played online games with Denis for about a year,” says Chase Wav. “And their relationship developed to a point where Jason introduced him to his music and mine. Then, at some point, someone said to me, ‘Hey! Khalid recorded a song with what you sent!’ When I hear stuff like that, that sounds too good to be true, I’m very cautious. It was quite the rollercoaster ride, but it worked out in the end!”
Far from shunning Québec’s market – he’s composed for several local artists, like Zach Zoya, Naya Ali, and Kallitechnis – Chase Wav has known for quite awhile that the future of his is in the U.S.
He had a very early start, at the age of 12, encouraged by his dad, an R&B producer. As a youngster, he had access to lots of instruments and recording gear. His style has evolved considerably, as has his musical universe, and network of contacts around the world. After accompanying Montréal producer and singer Yonatan Ayal (of R&B duo Chiiild) to Los Angeles, he quickly connected with American artists, such as R&B singer Amber Mark and rapper DRAM. In 2016, his participation in OVO’s (Drake’s record label) famous Battle of the Beatmakers contest also allowed him to establish his name in Canada.
Several major releases are coming for Chase Wav in the coming months, notably with Amber Mark and American singer Victoria Monét.
Photo: Nader A
Funkywhat had an epiphany about five or six years ago, while paying a visit to a friend of a friend — a music lover whose apartment walls were covered with vinyl records, while there were MPC (a production control tool) and drum machines strewn about. “I saw him grab a vinyl, chop the break and sample it,” says Funkywhat. “I’d always been interested in doing that, and now, finally, someone was doing it right in front of me.”
It would be the beginning of something big for the Lebanese, Moroccan-born Montréal artist, who’s the main sonic architect for indie R&B artist Magi Merlin (Bonsound). The sound he unleashes in his productions for the singer (as well as with other artists such as Béli, dope.gng, and Kaya Hoax) stems from a lifetime of exploring different musical genres. That started with what his parents listened to, including the “big American soul” of James Brown, The Temptations, and Ike & Tina Turner, as well as Arab music, notably that of Egyptian singer Oum Kalthoum.
Funkywhat also owes part of his musical upbringing to his uncle, who introduced him to the guitar at an early age and, incidentally, to some of the most influential American artists, like Jimi Hendrix, Parliament/Funkadelic, and Sly and the Family Stone. It’s through his brother, the rapper Busy Nasa, that he honed his knowledge of more modern rap and R&B sounds. “I started by listening to A Tribe Called Quest, The Game, Biggie,” says Funkywhat, “but it was when I discovered the hip-hop sounds from the South, and their experimentation with funk and soul, that I suddenly wanted to create beats.”
The budding beatmaker took his first steps in the world of composition during the mythical Loop Sessions, where all the key producers would gather to create, exchange, and share. After one of these evenings, he befriended another producer, Senz Beats, who gave him a faulty MPC. Using this partially functional piece of gear, he carried on his musical development for awhile.
This evolutionary path is constantly driving him to unusual and innovative areas, especially in the realm of R&B, a playground where he can experiment by flirting with house music and hip-hop.
Photo: Rondo Banks
Born in Martinique, Majosty is a music lover, first and foremost. He thoroughly analyzed the R&B, funk, and soul sounds of the ’70s before he started making his own music. But his palette is much wider than just American music, and one can hear it in his current productions. “I was deeply influenced by the music scene where I came from in the Caribbean,” he says. “Stuff like Jamaican dancehall, zouk, compa, and artists such as Kalash, or Admiral T.”
Majosty arrived in Québec for the first time in 2013. He spent three years studying administration and communications before returning home. That’s where his future started to look clearer. All of a sudden, those countless hours spent listening to music were converging towards a single goal. “For a whole year, I spent at least 10 hours a day tinkering with Logic. It’s not super-healthy, but it helps you evolve.”
He came back to Montréal with a whole new idea in mind. He enrolled at Musitechnic to learn the ropes of sound recording. This allowed him to meet many contacts, and especially local producers who were starting to make a name for themselves, such as KNY (of Banx & Ranx fame) and Neo Maestro (known for his work with Rymz).
Majosty has since fine-tuned his style by exploring the various musical genres about which he’s passionate: all the contemporary varieties of rap, afrobeats, synthwave, and, of course, R&B. Working alongside leading up-and-coming artists such as David Campana, Odreii, Nissa Seych, Shah Frank, and Naomi, he’s bringing new colours to Québec’s pop scene.
Had Birdzonthetrack followed the path that was set out for him, he would have gone to the music conservatory. His mom had enrolled him in piano lessons when he was six, but after a whole childhood of tinkling the ebony and ivory, the artist, who comes from Montréal’s East End, felt he’d had enough. “I was growing tired of it all,” he says. “It felt too calculated for me. It left no space for my creativity.”
He turned to beatmaking during his teens. He watched YouTube videos where the American rapper Future shows how he makes beats, and that became a huge source of inspiration. When he started Cégep in 2017, he installed FL Studio on his computer, and started composing his own music – inspired by other producers with popular tutorials, like Alex Beat Genius.
The first artist to whom Birdzonthetrack mustered enough gumption to send a beat was none other than White-B. The promising up-and-coming rapper was working on his Blacklist EP, and entrusted the young producer with a few tracks. This led to Lost – a colleague of White-B in the 5sang14 collective – also expressing an interest in his music. Only a year after he started working in FL Studio, Birdzonthetrack had his first placement: “Bandito Story,” Lost’s 2018 hit.
He’s since carried on making a name for himself by collaborating with several rappers on the local scene, like Shreez, Jeekay, and Rosalvo. And thanks to his growing list of contacts, he’s seriously thinking of exporting his music to France, after collaborating with established French rappers LKS and Timal. “When I saw that I was able to make connections in France,” he says, “I started thinking of music as a bona fide career path. I managed to make a few from Montréal, but I’m going there to put my boots on the ground in November [of 2023].”
The unavoidable trap influences of his early productions have now taken a backseat to a greater diversity of musical genres such as afrobeats, amapiano, and house music. Ironically, classical music has been re-surfacing in his life, lately. “I’m listening to a lot of Mozart, Beethoven and Bach…” Maybe those piano lessons were a lot more important than he suspected.
Sarah Bergeron just came out of a coma. The Montréal-based producer from Gaspésie felt like her head was going to explode a few weeks ago. She went straight to the ER where she was treated for a major neurological problem.
She’s better now, and her barely contained enthusiasm is undeniable proof of that. But one quickly surmises that her enthusiasm isn’t anything new: Bergeron is a real powerhouse.
Her first steps in the realm of music were taken very early on: she would grab her dad’s guitar, inspired by the music to which he was listening, most notably Elvis Presley and Emerson, Lake & Palmer. She took guitar lessons, and her musical horizons expanded in her teens: she listened to John Coltrane just as she did to the Dead Kennedys, prog rock, and Biggie Smalls.
Then, about 10 years ago, she heard an EDM track that left a mark in her mind: “Animals.” by Dutch DJ and producer Martin Garrix. “That’s when I said to myself: ‘Oh My God! I really need to learn how to produce music!’” says Bergeron. “I was mesmerized. So I installed FL Studio and dove deep into it like a mad woman. I spent an incredible amount of hours learning how to use it.”
Five years later, she met a guy in a bar, producer Kriz Voogoel who shared a studio with Godfatha Beats, another producer from Montréal. They both became de facto mentors for Sarah. Not only that, but they also opened doors for her to score her first placements with established rappers of the local scene, like Cupidon and Lebza Khey.
Since then, Bergeron has taken off on the Montréal scene, collaborating with rapper Raccoon and pop singer Carlyn. After taking the summer to rest, she’ll be back with a vengeance, including a beatmakers battle in late August of 2023 during JOAT, an international festival of street dance.
It was a day like any other in Simon Skylar’s life. He was eight years old, and his parents told him, as they were taking him to school, “We have a surprise for you!” As any kid his age would, he expected a Nintendo, but it turned out to be something completely different. “I got home and there was a piano in the living room! It was peculiar, since no one played music in my home.”
Young Simon took piano lessons, but he truly fell in love with music a few years later, in his teens. A friend showed him Virtual DJ software and he became obsessed with making mixtapes. “Cool,” says Skylar, “but, you know, at some point I thought it would be cool to use my own tracks on those mixtapes, so I started creating beats in Garage Band and Logic. The first time I launched it [Logic], I said to myself, ‘OK, that’s what I’m going to do with my life! I’m becoming a producer!’”
Initially, Skylar’s music jumped on the electro and EDM bandwagon, influenced by the sound of hot American and European DJs like Mord Fustang, Wolfgang Gartner, and, of course, Avicii. ‘In the beginning, my productions were very heavy and technical,” he says. “I switched sounds every half-second. I simplified things over time. I focus on music that’s fun to listen to, not just fun to make.’
Over the last few years, Skylar’s expanded his horizons by including hip-hop, R&B, and Québec pop. Backed by popular local producer Domeno, Skylar has worked as an additional producer on songs by Marc Dupré, Ludovick Bourgeois, and Anthony Kavanagh.
Now, he has his eyes on the American market, creating musical loops for the Cymatics, a platform that then uses them to fill its countless sample packs (packages of samples that are sent to various international producers), Skylar ended up collaborating on the 2021 song “Miss the Rage” by American rappers Playboi Carti and Trippie Redd.