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.