Friday, February 4, 2011
WHO ROCKS MY SOCKS? GHETTOSOCKS - WITH DRAKE UP FOR A JUNO
It's not everyday you acquire nods for your very first JUNO Award nomination, especially when you're up for Rap Recording of the YEAR, alongside the likes of Eternia & MoSS, Shad, D-Sisive, and - of course - Drake. But whether you're like Drake (a Toronto native) or Ghettosocks (a Halifax bred) - Canadian artist or rapper alike - you may not get the same credit where credit's due from everyone in America or other areas internationally. Some of them may argue that Canada doesn't generate the same level of resources as the US does in the entertainment industry or that rapping is considered a lower form of poetry, when, in fact, spinning and mixing words while simultaneously keeping up with quick beats proves rapping as one of the highest forms of poetry or even art alone. And with that kind of Juno lineup, you cannot doubt for a second Canadians and rappers have fought and triumphed over these ridiculous (and even racist) stereotypes, especially when rappers like Ghettosocks hustled to the top of the gold from an underrated place like Halifax, Nova Scotia. Now, with his latest album Treat of the Day and an award nomination, Ghettosocks had a lot to speak out on about racism, fame, media (and more!) in our exclusive Q&A. Check it out!
V.B. How was it like for you growing up? Could you relate your story to a rags-to-riches one like Eminem's or other rappers that mused your talent, or would you say your inspiration came from something different?
G. Growing up for me was fun for the most part. I really enjoyed riding bikes around the neighborhood and doing things that most kids do, like drawing and playing Nintendo, and all that. I can't really relate to the "rags-to-riches" stories, because I didn't come from poverty (nor affluence), and I have yet to become wealthy. I'm definitely inspired by my youth, as well as the people, places, and things that exist in my day-to day life.
V.B. Would you consider the Halifax culture different from the culture in Toronto or any other culture in Canada (in general or industry-wise), and why?
G. I love Halifax. Culturally, it's interesting and obviously different from any other place in the country. I think what makes it unique are a combination of factors: economy, geography, and history. You could probably do a whole separate interview on this topic. I love Halifax.
V.B. How did you come up with the name Ghettosocks :) Was that name your idea?
G. My friend Ewan Mill came up with it. He was making fun of me, and the name stuck - as any good nickname does. Smiles.
V.B. There aren't many Caucasian rappers; the only mainstream white rappers that come to mind for me are Eminem and Vanilla Ice. Do you feel like your race is perceived as a blessing or curse in today's hip hop industry? Do producers or any other representatives treat or depict your image differently? Do you make this - or issues with race - evident in any of your songs?
G. I haven't really spent much time considering the prospect of my race being an asset or liability. In my experiences, I've usually found that it's the media who most often makes race an issue. For example, mainstream media journalists are generally outsiders to the hip hop world and can only say "Em and Vanilla Ice," when asked to name off some white rappers. It's pretty much all they know, despite artists like 3rd Bass, Aesop Rock, Asher Roth, The Beastie Boys, Bubba Sparxxx, Buck 65, Classified, El-P, Everlast, Eyedea (RIP), House of Pain, Ill Bill, Looptroop, Mad Child, Matisyahu, Necro, Sage Francis, Sole, and The Streets virtually becoming household names. The lack of knowledge on behalf of those journalists is partially to blame for the perpetuation of this lack of information.
V.B. Coming from such an unlikely town and province in Canada (you usually hear about talent from Toronto and Vancouver), would you say networking and connecting with the industry has become more difficult?
G. I think that because of the prevalence of the internet, it has become easier to network from a place like Halifax, Nova Scotia. I would also like to argue that Nova Scotia is known for generating some of the greatest talent to ever come out of this country, and is in many ways comparable to the larger cities you mentioned. There is a vibrant, diverse music scene here with resources available to artists (ie: Music Nova Scotia) who are serious about furthering their careers. In terms of connecting with the "industry", it's pretty much Lord of the Flies everywhere nowadays, no matter what city you live in. It's the end of one era and the beginning of another.
V.B. How did you end up breaking from those limitations? Did you start off small first with gigs at bars, or do you prefer the newer, more public means of self-promotion i.e. Justin Bieber's way of YouTube?
G. I started off small. A few of us would rap outside of the library on Friday nights. Eventually I began to play at bars and coffee houses, hosted break dance battles, and entered rap battles. My crew (Alpha Flight) hosted a weekly hip hop night at a bar called the Khyber Club for a few years. It was during this time that I "cut my teeth" and got serious about music and performing. YouTube's definitely been a more recent thing.
V.B. What's your view on the most recent means of gaining publicity? It seems as though anyone can become famous - for anything i.e. a sex tape, a YouTube video, etc. - and the next thing you know, they're plastered all over Perez Hilton and getting interview requests from The Star, Maxim, etc. They can pull something completely tasteless - like drink and fight on a reality TV show or flash a crowd - and then suddenly, they're pushed into a reality where they have transformed into the newest viral sensation or sex symbol. Is this fair for those people who have different morales and may still confide in the internet for self-promotion but would like to maintain a more subtle approach, or do you think if they really want that degree of success, they should take any opportunity that comes their way, no matter what the consequence?
G. For me, the internet is a tool. Personally, I used it for staying in touch with people and getting my music out there. Obviously, some are going to rely on it more than others (Antoine Dodson), and others will exploit it in questionable ways (Ray J). At the end of the day, people are going to be checking out for names they like or trust. It's definitely a new game when people can get super famous off of a 30 second video clip, but I'm not sure where morals come into play. The internet is an anonymous place.
V.B. How's it like being nominated alongside the likes of Drake? How do you feel about all this Canadian talent finally becoming more recognized in the US?
G. I think Drake is a very talented artist without a doubt, and it's definitely unreal and great to be nominated alongside him. It's somehow comforting to know that an independent (unsigned = me) can be listed beside a Cash Money recording artist. Regardless of this, the entire category is stacked with fantastic artists who made amazing albums; D-Sisive, Shad, and Eternia & MoSS are all serious contenders, and I feel extremely privileged to be listed among them. I'm not sure to what extent we're getting recognized collectively in the US, but I guess it's cool that Canadian artists are making some waves down there.
V.B. Does your latest album - or any of your albums - convey an inside story or theme(s)? Do you possess a goal in terms of what you're telling in your upcoming albums, in terms of lyrics, beats, etc.?
G. I rap about stuff that I know and/or like and/or find interesting in terms of lyrics. Treat of the Day is a straight Rap album. The aesthetics of the beats and rhymes are influenced by the sounds of the 90's New York hip hop style. The content - although sometimes aggressive - is always genuine and within my world.
V.B. Last but not least, what are your hopes and dreams for yourself, for music, and for the world? Can you possibly articulate these feelings in rap lyrics for us?
G. I had a dream like Martin Luther that started super: watching the clouds cruise and stars maneuver. All the waitresses abandoned their jobs at Hooters and suddenly appeared on the beach rocking bras in Cuba. Scrubbing each other's arms with lufa, there was Carmen, Uma, and at one point thought I saw Medusa; but I wasn't lubing no boobs for Kama Sutra - I was charming their crew singing songs of Judah. King Solomon brought keys to unlock Bermuda. Slick Rick remembered his compass but forgot the ruler. Beauties blew smoke rings as they sparked the buddah, letters drifting up to the sky spelling 'Socks the future'. 'Ahhs' and 'oohs' got used up 'spite the screaming. Lots of clues ensued from the rhyme and reason, and as I realized the meaning of life's true teaching- KRS told me bluntly: I was dreaming.
Watch out for upcoming Ghettosocks material and much more through Droppin' Science Productions.