Young rapper Koriass, a.k.a. Emmanuel Dubois, has made quite a name for himself on Québec’s hip hop scene and to prove it, he recently won the 7th edition of the Echo songwriting award for his track “Saint-Eustache”. This name he made for himself, he did thanks to his smart lyrics and excellent beats, but also – mainly, even – for his proficiency at Battle Rap.

We met with him and his producer and friend Steve Jolin (a.k.a. Anodajay) to learn more about how it all started: “I immediately identified with Hip Hop as soon as I first heard it. When you’re barely a teen, there’s a bit of revolt inside you and Hip Hop is the music of revolt. I started writing just for fun, with friends. I always loved writing stories and I was good at creative writing. That’s why Rap was the perfect vehicle for me.”

His fascination for Eminem led him to get into Battle Rap, a generally live battle where MCs measure each other’s ease on the mic. “What I really like about it is that it’s very condensed, you can expressed a lot of stuff in very little time.” It’s by studying the genre’s greatest names that he developed his own style, obviously adding a lot of his own colour to it all.

“I was fortunate to begin on the scene when it was just about to explode. Around 2001, I recorded songs with whatever I could use in a friend’s basement and I would put them out on the Internet. Then came the Battle Rap competitions over the Internet. I really wanted to try it and there were basically no such events in my area. That’s how I started to make a name for myself and that’s when invitations to appear in concerts started coming in.” His first album, Les racines dans le béton was launched in 2008 and was well received by the public and critics alike.

During his creative phases, the 28 year old rapper generally starts by creating a demo of a track at home and then takes it to various musician friends to get their input. “I rarely write the lyrics before laying down the beats, but that being said, I don’t have a set process, so anything can happen. Most of the time when I create a beat I like, I listen to it over and over and build the lyrics around it so they are in perfect harmony.”

What are his goals and how would he describe his creative process? “What I’m trying to do is dispel the widespread idea that rap is intellectually mediocre. I also feel like expressing political opinions, but I find it a little hard to become a so-called activist, because that entails defending your ideas publicly and not always in a way you want to. So I chose to promote intelligence and open-mindedness, that’s my true banner call.”

As a multifaceted artist, he wants to avoid being pigeonholed: “I don’t want every single one of my tracks to be heavy with meaning, I also like humorous and party-like stuff; that comes easy to me.” This is exemplified on his second album, Petites victoires (2011), where more emotional material sits right next to humorous – sometimes caustically so – lyrics as well as subtle sociopolitical messages. “I can’t stop analyzing the world I live in, and that informs my songs.”

As for winning the Prix ÉCHO – where finalists are selected by a panel of industry players and the winner through a public vote –, he was surprised to be selected, but not necessarily to actually win: “Just being nominated was huge; I was surprised they chose a rap artist, because it’s not mainstream. But as far as the public vote, hip hop fans are very involved and strongly support the artists they like.”

Encouraged by this accomplishment and growing notoriety – Koriass was recently nominated at the ADISQ Awards in the songwriter of the year category –, he forges on and hopes to gain recognition in other Francophone countries. Fans of “smart” hip hop should not overlook the unique artist with an incredible flow and characteristic aesthetics. Now a father and living in Québec City, Koriass is a shining example of sincerity who does not take himself too seriously, yet remains one fearsome MC.