Ebony “WondaGurl” Oshunrinde may be the Queen of the Beats, working with everyone from Jay Z to Drake to Don Toliver to Killy, but don’t ask her where they originate. It’s a bit of a mystery, even to her.

“It can come in so many different ways,” says WondaGurl from Los Angeles, her home for just over a year. “It could be an idea that I had in my head the whole day; it could be something I voice-noted. Or maybe I’m just going through samples on the computer, and I start a beat from there. Or it could be that I’m sitting somewhere, out for dinner, and I hear some sample in a nightclub in the spot that I’m in, and I go home and make a beat out of it.


WondaGurl, receiving a SOCAN No. 1 Song Award in 2017, for co-writing Travi$ Scott’s “Antidote.”

“It can happen in so many different ways for me, and it’s not really one thing that I’m looking for. And I can’t really explain it – it’s hard for me to explain the technical side of that.”

Seriously though, WondaGurl isn’t in a position where she necessarily has to explain her magic: at only 23 years old, the native of Scarborough, Ontario, is still enjoying the momentum she’s generated since unexpectedly landing one of her beats on “Crown,” a last-minute addition to Jay-Z’s 2013 million-selling album Magna Carta Holy Grail.

With hip-hop visionaries Travi$ Scott and Matthew “Boi-1da” Samuels in her corner as mentors (her “WondaGurl” moniker is a female twist on Boi-1da), Oshunrinde has apprenticed on the front lines, providing beats for rap elitists like Drake (“Used To” and “Company” on If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late), Travi$ Scott (“Antidote”), the late Pop Smoke (two songs on Shoot For The Stars Aim For The Moon), Quavo, Lil Yachty, Killy, and Big Sean. Most recently, she was responsible for half the tracks on Don Toliver’s Heaven or Hell, including the three-million-selling single  “No Idea.”

There’s also been some pop spillover, most notably as a co-writer and co-producer of Rihanna’s “Bitch Better Have My Money,” Mariah Carey’s “Caution,” and a remix of Maroon5’s “Girl Like You.”

It’s this enviable track record that drew Sony/ATV to WondaGurl, signing a global  co-publishing deal through Travi$ Scott’s Cactus Jack publishing, and allowing her to establish her own label imprint, WondaChild, to which she’s signed Toronto rapper Jugger.

“Still, to this day, I’ll learn about a placement literally the day it comes out”

WondaGurl, who prefers FL Studio software when composing her beats, probably figures the prestige would have earned her some breaks when dealing with the music business. But apparently, that’s not the case. “Still, to this day, I’ll learn about a placement literally the day it comes out, you know?” she laughs. “It really happens.”

Even interested artists sometimes keep her in the dark. “Usually, you don’t hear from them for awhile,” she explains. “If they listen to it right then and there, they’ll tell you which beats they like and what they want to hold. Usually, you don’t hear from them for awhile, though.”

Although WondaGurl obviously receives requests to supply beats, but she also still chases certain artists when she thinks she has a beat with a good fit for them. “Usually, I send out a whole [sample] pack of beats,” she says. “But if I have a beat where I hear this person on it, I’ll just send it straight to them, that one beat. It goes both ways – a lot of people approach me, and I still approach people the way I did years ago.

“When I start the beat, I may not have someone in mind, but after I make it, I can kind of hear who I want to send it to.”

Lockdown Slowdown

You’d think that enforced isolation might stir the creative juices, but even WondaGurl is feeling vulnerable while living in L.A. “COVID-19 has been better for my creativity, because it’s been a little nerve-wracking on a daily basis,” she says. “And then with everything that’s going on in the world today, it’s been a little hard to just focus on creating.”

As a woman who’s constantly experimenting behind the console, it would make sense that WondaGurl might be close to inventing her own software, or series of loops. But if that’s the case, she’s keeping it close to her vest. “There’s definitely a lot of different things – mainly technology stuff… I just don’t like talking about things,” she admits.  “Especially where it’s just an idea, and I’m trying to figure out how to do it. I want to get to a point where I’m an executive, and just a boss.”

One project that she’s willing to talk about is her own album, that she hopes will clarify and define her own sound for her peers. It’ll involve singers and rappers Savannah Ré, Baby Rose, and Yung Baby Tate, among others.

“It’s just something that I wanted to do for everybody, where it’s all produced by me, and you can just hear how something would sound as if it was completely released by me,” says WondaGurl. “I always wanted to really show people what my sound is, in my opinion, because I still feel like people don’t know. But I plan to have features on it and different producers.”

As for trade secrets, WondaGurl says there a number of things that ensure her creative and professional happiness. “Kind of keeping the right people around me and making sure that I’m in the space that I need to be in is the most important thing that I’ve learned recently,” she says. “Obviously, staying humble and just knowing how to act in the studio are other things I’ve learned. But probably the most important thing is just the people that you keep around you.”

After five EPs and seven years of studio explorations, CRi is officially launching his first full-length album, Juvenile.

CRi“I see it as an accomplishment, a page that I’m turning, but also the start of something new,” he says, as if thinking out loud. “It’s a bit like the EPs were research projects, and this album is me turning in my final paper.”

To achieve this, the Montréal-based electronic producer had the support of Anjunadeep, the slightly more left-field branch of the British label Anjunabeats. “I made sure I waited to be well placed [before releasing the album],” he says. “I didn’t want to release it independently, with limited means. I wanted it to happen with people I trust, because it’s always quite challenging for artists in my genre to export themselves and advocate for Québec culture.”

The mother label, which is behind the immense success of Above & Beyond, is mainly known for its trance releases. It started its sub-label to be more audacious, and give a chance to often-emerging producers, from all musical horizons. “Frankly, I didn’t quite identify with their style, initially,” says Cri. “But then I understood that Anjunadeep was specifically to showcase young, new producers that make something other than the ‘deep house Ibiza ecstasy’ vibe. I changed my mind. I went to London, and met the human beings behind the company, and saw how passionate they are.”

Launched in the fall of 2019, the three-track Initial EP served as bait. “It’s a complete club-oriented electronic delirium,” says CRi. “A way to introduce myself top the Anjunadeep crowd. I made a slightly safer selection, [whereas on Juvenile], I was going for something more personal and authentic. I went to a place I’ve always wanted to go.”

After a stint in Feuilles et Racines (Leaves & Roots), a Québec City band that enjoyed a certain niche success in 2011– thanks to its organic and harmonious rap, with philosophical lyrics – Cri (aka Christophe Dubé) has always been attracted to the pop aesthetic and “any melodious and emotional music.”

Influenced by his studies in digital music, his first forays as a producer didn’t take him in that direction. “It’s my mom who pushed me towards music after seeing me on the verge of a nervous breakdown and a serious alcohol problem,” he says. “I moved to Montréal to complete a program which you could define as a mix of electro-acoustic composition and computer programming. I released Eclipse [his first EP, in 2013] as soon as I started university. I didn’t understand what I was doing, but I very quickly realized I wasn’t edgy, and all I wanted was to give people goosebumps. University taught me to intellectualize my practice, but it truly is when I tinkered in the studio, spending a whole day fine-tuning the sound of a kick drum, say, that I found my own voice.”

Juvenile marks the peak of his sonic quest so far. Located somewhere between progressive house and future garage, CRi’s signature is made of raw emotion, expressed with sensitivity, through cold and enveloping layers of synths, cavernous basslines, and intense rhythms. “Never Really Get There” and “Faces”, songs he co-produced with his longtime collaborator Jesse Mac Cormack, set the tone of the album.

“After that, my intention became clearly more pop,” says CRi. “I adapted the album to my live shows by relying on massive drops. But to achieve this, I had to accept that side of me; just a few years ago, I thought pop was corny and was for douchebags. I was thinking like a Mile-End hipster!” he says, bursting out laughing. “Now, I’ve emancipated myself into something lighter and dancier.”

And rather than complicating his structures, CRi stuck to the essentials. Even the album’s short title says a lot: “Juvenile is a state of mind, a demeanour, a lifestyle,” he says. “It means running towards things without over-thinking, and embracing whatever comes your way. It’s instinctive and in the now,” he explains, before feeling the need to nuance it a bit. “But even though emotions are through the roof, it’s a controlled chaos.”

He created this “controlled chaos” with excellent artists (and friends) such as Robert Robert, Sophia Bel, and Bernache (of Men I Trust). “My main motivation to create is to be in contact with people,” says CRi. “Music is almost an excuse. It’s so much fun to hear the feedback of people I love, to be able to rely on their sensitivity. Otherwise, I end up feeling ridiculous,  dancing by myself in my slippers, alone at home…”

CRi had the privilege of working with one of his idols, Daniel Bélanger, on Signal. “Rêver mieux was the soundtrack of my teens,” he says. “To this day, that album still moves me. I cry every time I listen to it.”

Alongside Charlotte Cardin, his house remix of “Fous n’importe où,” one of the standout tracks from Bélanger’s third album, had seduced the ears of the veteran singer-songwriter. “I was convinced he’d hate it when it came out! Even I thought it was too pop,” says Cri. “I was even reluctant to put my name on it,” he says about the cover, which crept into the Song of the Year category of the 2019 ADISQ Gala.

“I finally found out he really liked my remix, and that gave me the courage to write him a short message on Instagram,” says CRi. “I proposed a collaboration and not even five minutes later, he replied: ‘I only see good in that idea.’ We met in a café in Little Italy, and it felt like we’d known each other for 15 years.”

In and of itself, this new alliance is the symbol of CRi’s new ambitions. Aware of his international potential, the composer still wants to conquer his home province first. “I used to want to move to London or Berlin, but now I want to reach a wider audience here,:” he says. “The script has flipped. There was a lot of ground covered, in recent years, to democratize hip-hop, and it would be nice if the same happened to electronic music. Producers like Kaytranada, Jacques Greene, and Lunice made their mark internationally, but they’re still relatively unknown here. I want that to change, so that we can have electronic music tours across Québec. I’d love it if Monique from Baie-Comeau listened to my music.”

Writing Tips
CRi says he’s most creative when he’s got nothing on his agenda. “Those when I have no engagements, no interviews, no meeting in two hours,” he says. When the context is optimal, his songs take shape progressively. “I’ll start with chords on the piano and I’ll tinker with those after a spliff and coffee,” he says. “Once I have my chords, I move to the studio and transcribe those into MIDI. Then I send that to synths and try to find the song’s colour. Then I move on to the percussion. To be honest, I see myself much more as a songwriter than a producer.”

There were flowers that weren’t allowed to grow. Singer-songwriter Antoine Corriveau re-thinks the places where things grow, the homes where people live, and the opportunities we give culture to bloom, even as we’re conscious of the end.

His fourth album Pissenlit (in English, Dandelion), released on Secret City Records on Oct. 9, 2020, was primarily inspired by the cute and naive aspect of the flowers of our youth, which we used to gather large bunches of before we learned that some were less valuable than others. Then the issue of territory and its ownership developed, lending a different colour to dandelions that insist on remaining yellow.

Antoine Corriveau“From day one, with music, I wanted to try new things. This time, I wanted my upcoming show to be like a freight train that runs over you and stops only two or three times for more introspective moments,” says Corriveau.

During the final shows of his latest tour, Corriveau performed a punk version of “Noyer le poisson” (Les ombres longues, 2014), and, later on, “La ville d’où on vient” was given the same makeover. The energy emanating from such a show proved to be a source of excitement, if not redemption, for Corriveau and his band. “I didn’t mind having sore arms at the end of the show because I’d played so hard,” he says. “I wanted a full album of that.”

Corriveau locked five drummers inside his Van Horne St. premises and let them improvise together. Only drums. “I ended up with three-and-a-half hours of drumbeats that I started listening to in my car,” he says. “Tracks of nine-to-14-minutes long. These sounds provided me with something solid right there,” he marvels today.

Corriveau’s honesty renews itself, and takes new forms, with each successive album. “I recently re-listened to Cette chose qui cognait au fond de sa poitrine sans vouloir s’arrêter (2016), and I realized that whatever I might do later on would sound very much like pop music to me, because that album was very dark,” he explains.

Corriveau admits that, as he was self-producing his album and dealing with the hazards and opportunities of lockdown, he allowed himself to explore some rather unusual areas of his repertoire. “I let it all happen because there weren’t too many witnesses,” he laughs. “I tried things. Being self-taught, I don’t understand 75 percent of what I do. I piled things up, played around, trusted myself.”

The new album revolves around the theme of the freedom that can be enjoyed by getting out in your car instead of sitting at home. But there’s also a “bandit” side, a rebellion, but mostly the point of no return in what we tolerate as musicians and as a society. “Writing, recording, performing shows, and starting all over again are clichés,” says Corriveau. “My original view of the industry was candid. Like everyone else, I believed that I was going to create a recording that would change everything. I don’t have that kind of career today, and that’s OK.”

When Québec Premier François Legault shut down concert venues for the second time, Corriveau felt that this was the most inconsistent thing he had ever done. “When he claimed that shows were places where people go to socialize, it made me mad, because the truth is that you’re supposed to shut up during a show,” he says. “Saying a thing like that is ignoring what’s happening onstage.”

While the Pissenlit album was designed to be experienced onstage, Corriveau can’t see the end of this very dark period for the performing arts. “I don’t think this crisis will ever end,” he laments.

Erika Angell combines her voice with Corriveau’s on Les sangs mélangés, a song that deals with First Nations issues. “In America, we all have Indian blood, either in our veins, or on our hands,” he sings, against a slow chord that takes time to insinuate the idea, the better to show the seriousness of the situation. Asked what else we should say, or understand, about that as a society, Corriveau seems unable to pinpoint anything.

“It’s in everything,” he says. “This summer, during the wave of sexual aggression denunciations, we suddenly realized that our teenagers are getting five hours of sex education during the school year. The same goes for history classes: 20 minutes on Indigenous peoples, and then, off to the battle of the Plains of Abraham for the rest of the year.”

In his view, they’ve got their priorities all wrong. “It makes no sense that, in a pandemic, our reaction should be to let our cultural institutions be the first ones to die,” he exclaims. “They erase what they’re uncomfortable with, they pull out the weeds. And, if you extrapolate, this idea of erasing what makes you uncomfortable, for some, including the First Nations, this adds up to a death sentence. I realize that the planet is heatng up, that we’re going through a worldwide pandemic, and that we’re all going to die, but it’s still possible for us to look around our own life environment, and make it less bad.”

Perhaps by letting the dandelions grow.