Not for Nothing

In October 2012, I traveled to Vancouver, BC for a week of family, good food, art and music. I finished the week in Victoria with an intensive recording and production session with my collaborator, Maki. This is a single entry rap diary.


I have just awoken from an impromptu post-dinner nap on the floor of Maki’s bedroom studio in Victoria, BC. I have been taking full advantage of lunch and dinner breaks gorging myself at some of the must-eat restaurants in the city — wood fired pizza from Prima Strata, pulled pork and deep fried mac and cheese from Pig, chicken liver pate from Stage, and a fish taco AND fish and chips from the wharf-side spot, Red Fish, Blue Fish. Unadulterated gluttony in conjunction with long sessions of in-studio inactivity (lots of sitting, pacing, thoughtful listening) have been wrecking havoc on my energy level. At any rate, I don’t think Maki noticed I had dozed off as he has been engrossed with a bass line for the past hour or so. We are entering our second day of recording melodies, moving bits around, dropping snares, re-ordering kicks and the like. It’s kind of a tedious process but absolutely essential. We review our progress periodically and are reinvigorated. The coffee and other caffeinated beverages also help.

The new record has been taking shape over some time. The earliest of tracks were written upwards of four years ago with the newest material finished just days before recording. I was hoping to conjure a sweeping epic exploring the human experience — things about god, the hunger for myth, benign cruelty, acceptance. Of course songs about love and personal failure have inevitably found their way into the mix diluting an otherwise brilliant opus into more of the same old soso. Next record I guess.

Following up on Tinfoil on the Windows has been a bit of a challenge for me. The production was really quite something. Maybe Smith scored a special record of such scope I was unsure how I could ever make another “regular” record. At the same time, however, I’ve found new optimism in a less goal-orientated music making process. Gone are the fool-hardy notions of independent success through well-penned one sheets, radio service, key markets, media campaigns, and other nonsense. If the Canadian independent hip hop scene scratched out a niche in its formative stages through innovation and determination, it had been being quickly undermined by the false promise of the “music industry.” I was not immune to the BS. I had poured everything into my last album and as the fall of 2007 gave way to the winter of 2008, I was feeling downright burnt out and slightly bitter. I was someone with absolutely nothing to lose and I felt that I had somehow lost. Looking back, it was the most incredible time in my young life and I found a way to feel like I had been wrong done by.

Fast forward to the uncomfortable carpeted floor of Maki’s home studio. I am listening to him hone his beats with a weird feeling of pride. Maki has been dj-ing, making beats and organizing shows since the early nineties. In fact, he promoted a show on my first Canadian tour (I was tagging along with my Saskatoon rap pals on a tour with Awol One and Busdriver). Over dinner, Maki confessed that heĀ  slapped some kid in the face for making disparaging remarks about my music. Good to know your rap homies have your back. Though I had worked with Maki in the past, a full length project had never really been in the cards due in no small part to my sluggish work pace and the geographical distance that separated us. The timing was right for this record though and after a couple of years of starting and stopping, sending beats and vocals back and forth, we finally reached something that had the makings of an album.

And it’s a great album if I do say so myself. Maki has hit his stride. Blending his brooding melodic sample arrangements with a strong no-nonsense drum program, he has created a cohesive collection of beats for this record. The writing is more wordy than my previous efforts and I’ve enjoyed playing with idioms, double negatives and other nuances of the English language. There’s a bit of off kilter crooning. It’s a bit dense at times and, of course, there are no real hooks. I think it’s a nice progression. The record is called Not for Nothing. The details of the release haven’t been entirely resolved but should be in place in the next couple of months.