Maybe Jazz Cartier’s ability to keep a cool head comes from the fact that each success is not a victory, but rather a milestone on the road he’s paving to the top. Exclusive interview, the first for a French media, with one of rap’s future big star.
We The North. The world is coming to realize there is more to Toronto than Drake. Much more. The hidden part of Drake’s success story is making it out of this city, also known as the « Screwface Capital », although I would bet the nickname was found by people who never set foot in a show in Paris. Open mics, battles, freestyle nights, shows… Toronto is a petri dish for rappers and the crowd is not easy to win. Raising from the hot underground of Downtown Toronto, Jazz Cartier is one of them. He is walking on Drake’s path, just so far from his shadow.
Somewhere around Kensington Market, sort of last ungentrified pocket downtown, we reach Jaye Adams aka Jazz Cartier by phone in the middle of the afternoon. He’s cautious and starts with an apology for not answering right away. He sounds very calm. He describes his day: “Just same old same old.” He’s been all over the media, he’s the next Canadian rapper, he’s at the top of the Toronto rap wave. He just performed at the Canadian music week, had a solo show and opened for Joey Badass in Toronto, in front of a 1500 people. Funny how he says today has been « same old same old ». Obviously, the 22 year old can keep a cool head.
In Marauding in Paradise, his first album, the young rapper tells his road to paradise, whether it’s artificial, dreamt or felt: he tells about finding his way in life and how he’s shaping it. Jazz Cartier is on a quest. The golden child has an irradiating presence when he raps. His delivery is as strong as his will to be the next Canadian rap sensation. As a Toronto boy: parties, fashion, attitude and nightlife are where he’s from. But not where he’s at.
SURL : Can you tell us about the experiences that contributed in the maturity you show in your texts and made you the person you are now?
I think the fact that I was living on my own at such a young age definitely helped a lot. There’s a contrast with being in your early 20s, trying to go out but you also live at home with your mom. It doesn’t balance things out with when you have to pay for bills and pay for rent… You start to be more responsible and you start to look at life differently. A lot of people don’t have that. They want to be mature and they want to be adults but they’re still sheltered at the same time.
Traveling contributed too. Especially being from Toronto where I see a lot of guys don’t leave the city, they don’t leave the city ever. So it comes down to finding my identity, it was so much easier for me cause I have a world perspective. The traveling definitely helps a lot.
It must have been challenging though, moving from one country to another?
It was definitely hard. Especially at a young age but overtime you get used to it. You have to find the strength within yourself to be able to adapt to different environments.
Still, Toronto is always in the background the stories you tell in Marauding in Paradise. What is the Downtown lifestyle and what does it mean to you?
My part of downtown mostly consists of being in the art and the party scene. It’s just a lot of young kids who are active in a community, in our community. Most of us are owls: our days start at night. That’s why most of the album is pretty dark, it’s cause lot of the things we do are at night time and a lot of the stories throughout the whole project are based on that mood.
As part of the nightlife, your songs refer a lot to the use of substances. Was it all recreational for you, or do you feel it helped you find yourself personally or artistically?
It wasn’t the purpose. I didn’t do it to find myself or anything like that. It was just a time and place. I don’t smoke weed at all, everything else, that’s just the influences of being downtown and partying a lot. Those are where most of the references come from. It was just living in the moment.
Is that the way you would describe your lifestyle? Living in the moment?
Most definitely. I don’t want to think about the future too much. I don’t like to live in the past. It’s more about now.
Coming back to Toronto: the music scene is flourishing there. Does it make it easier for you to stand out or is it competitive? Is it hard to make a name for yourself or is that a collaborative scene?
It’s not hard for me cause I feel like every artists coming out right now, we’re all different in our own ways. I just separated myself from a lot of the comparisons with the other artists based on the last project. Not to discredit any of them. All of us thrive in our respectful lane. It’s never hard to make a name for yourself when you try to make good music.
It must be pretty exciting to be part of it?
Yeah it’s pretty sick! Because it never happened before, especially with a lot of guys who are really young, doing it at the same time so i’m excited for all of them.
Do you work with anybody in that scene?
I think everybody is just trying to perfect their own craft and my work within it is more of a starting process, you have to build your foundation first before you can invite people into your community. There are definitely parts happening but for the most part i’m just mostly working shortly with my future lane.
So for you, making music a solitary endeavor for you rather than a collective adventure?
It’s me doing my own thing but telling my story about others while I’m doing it. I’m telling my observation of things but it also involves everyone around me. Everyone is involved but I’m giving my perspective, it’s my personal narrative about how things are happening.
In Marauding in Paradise the chemistry between your rap and the instrumentals is pretty striking though. What is your creative process with the beatmaker Michael Lantz?
Lantz and I have been working together for the past 6-7 years. So the chemistry is definitely there. Usually we go to the studio and make everything on the spot. The whole album had a concept that we based certain things on and then we purposely pieced it together towards the end. So it’s mostly me having an idea, Lantz coming with his idea, it depends on how he feels or how I feel. And then we would gauge each other to do a hot track if he goes energetic, do a more mello track if we don’t feel that way. Then we just go from there, but we write everything mostly on the spot. Once you have the references then we’d go back and touch everything else.
Is that a collaboration you want to keep going? Do you want to work with other beatmakers?
I worked with other producers. The Downtown Cliche was produced by Burd & Keyz and Seven Thomas. But Lantz knows how I like to rap. Usually even when I work with other producers, Lantz has his hands in it afterwards. I will always with Lantz, he’s my right hand man but I’ll definitely work with other producers in the future.
In your writing, are there some different aspects of your raps you want to develop? Whether it’s the meaning, the delivery or the flow? Is there something that inspires you in the way you write?
I think delivery is a big part of the music. That’s how people are going to understand where I’m coming from, whether it’s me being super intense or being very composed. But definitely when I write, I keep it all in mind and when it’s time to record, everything is said a certain way of course for a reason. If my voice is high pitch, that’s there for a reason.
Most of my inspiration comes from movies. When we’re in the studio we watch a lot of movies. Movies are definitely my top one inspiration. I try to capture a moment and take you step by step as opposed to putting words together and make it sound cool. I feel a lot of rappers don’t do that and don’t take time in the writing. I definitely put a lot of time in writing everything.
Is there a direction you would like to develop more in your future work?
I’m going to elevate my sound and not make it just rap. I’m going to start bringing forth more of an artistic approach, not make it a strict rap routine like: verse, 16 bars, verse. Me and Lantz are currently trying to find a way to bring the sound to life, give it more identity so it’s more interactive for shows, and when people listen to it at home it’s an overall experience. It’s definitely a work in progress.
So the live performance really puts your work in perspective?
I keep my live performances in mind when I record everything. That’s why I’ve been having such success in my shows because people get really engaged, it’s definitely a big factor.
With everything you’re working on now, is there anybody in particular you would like to work with?
I definitely want to work with Toro y Moi. I want to work with SZA. I want to maintain the bill for our videos. There are a few people I am working with but none that I can say publicly before it actually happens. I really want to do a music video that’s done by Wes Anderson. It’s a life dream. Hopefully it’s going to happen soon.
You’ve been super busy lately with shows and promoting your first album. Is touring and performing the next step for you?
I’m going to focus on touring right now, put the music on pause cause we worked so hard on the project. I’m still going to make music in between. I want to make more videos for sure. We have a couple coming from the project. I’m excited about all that.
Everything is kind of moving at a really fast pace right now but i’m just trying to take everything as it comes.
Are you surprised or was that kind of expected? How do you deal with it? Are your relations an important part of it?
I sort of expected it but you know… I was just hoping for the best and lo and behold everything is coming into fruition slowly but surely. I just stick to myself. I don’t really listen, I don’t engage in any stupidity. That’s why I make music everyday, that’s my only thing. I read everything just cause it’s entertaining to me but I don’t really watch the negative things. It doesn’t affect my performance ever, it’s just somebody else’s opinion.
For the most part, as long as you have a strong grasp of who you are, all the other things add repository. As long as you don’t hang out with people who bring you down, then things should be good for you.
Talking to the media?
It’s mostly just being yourself. A lot of artists are pretty boring. They’re too in their heads and a lot them treat themselves a bit too seriously. And me… Im just 22. I’m just taking everything just right. None of that should be an obstacle.
You said you wanted to be « Canada’s next superstar ». What’s your ambition with your music?
I feel it’s time. It’s time for Canada to have somebody else to rep the way Drake does. Drake is doing an amazing job and I feel like I can do the same eventually. All artists in Toronto work more like Internet rappers, they do stuff for trends. I’m all for longevity. Trying to be as big of an artist as I can be.
I think the way my album was, so diverse, is giving me an opportunity to grow from, that so people don’t feel weird when it eventually happens.