MUSIC

Sudanese-American hip hop artist Oddisee is transparent about the intentions behind his EP, Alwasta, which he released online for free last March. “You give something to get something.” Alwasta complements his even more recent instrumental release, The Odd Tape (which followed in May), adding repertoire and hype to his current 30-date North American/European tour. Alwasta derives its title from the Arabic term “wasat.” The colloquialized form, “wasta,” loosely translates to “middleman” or a figure who possesses great social currency and who uses that wealth to connect members of their community. “A person has achieved social currency by being an influencer or someone who can come to the aid of others,” Oddisee explains. “It’s almost like a credit system. I’ve definitely been there for a lot of people, and I’m a person that everyone knows they can count on.” Oddisee can’t overstate the importance of wasta in funding the EP’s creation. “The whole album wouldn’t have come together without having wasta.” Vital personnel including his graphic designer, keyboard player Ralph Real, and friend who is an Arabic-English language teacher all returned his requests for services – album art, musical tracks, and translation – within 48 hours. “Social currency is something that

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  Florida rapper J $tash is not just known for his music but also modelling for the likes of Bape, Colors Berlin and Kanye’s ‘Yeezy’ 3 collection. In addition to being signed to Rich Forever Music, J own’s his own label, Relax Rekords, which has dropped three different mixtapes of unhinged raps. We caught up with the American rapper in Montreal to fit him in some Vitange Frames while on tour. J $tash’s mixtape Hood Rich is streaming now, listen on Spotify.

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Actress, singer, entrepreneur and reality TV star, Christina Milian first tore up the charts in the early 2000s with songs like like “AM to PM” and “Dip it Low”. But in 2016, she wears many hats. Today, the “mom” hat takes precedence. She’ll have to drop off her daughter Violet’s homework at school because they forgot it at home, she says, over the phone from L.A. It’s a gorgeous March day and Milian’s enjoying this brief home stint between rehearsing and shooting in Toronto for Kenny Ortega’s remake of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, in which she plays Magenta, a domestic. Ortega threw his net wide for his cast, finding performers from Britain, the U.S. and Canada. “I guess they couldn’t find a Magenta,” says Milian. “The dancers suggested to him that he should check me out. From there, I got a phone call asking if I would even be interested – I’ve always been a fan of Rocky Horror. After that, it was just talking about getting into this character, but [Ortega] was just really free about it and creative, and I got to come right on-board and start working on it directly. It’s been fun learning my character

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Angel Haze has lived a life that most people couldn’t imagine living, much less understand. The young artist was raised in the Greater Apostolic Faith, which she’d sooner refer to as a cult than a community. She was raped between the ages of seven and ten while living in an insular environment that frowned upon communication with the outside world, including music. When she was 16, her family broke free of the church’s rules and relocated to Brooklyn, New York. It was then that Haze discovered music for the first time. “You can imagine not consuming something for such a long amount of time, and then feeling like a crazy, gluttonous hunger for it,” she says of her initial attraction to music. It wasn’t long before she decided to make it her career. In early mixtapes such as 2012’s Reservation and Classick, Haze confronts some of the sordid and desperate moments of her past, broaching topics like sexual abuse, depression, drug addiction and insecurities. She signed to Republic Records and released her debut album, Dirty Gold, in 2013, and then parted ways with the label in 2015 following a yearlong hiatus. Now, she’s recaptured control of her destiny, and has

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At just 19 years old, Raury is on his way to starting a revolution – not one that merely pushes sociopolitical boundaries, but one that encourages rebellion through creative expression in pursuit of a brighter world. Although it’s been less than two years since the Georgia native originally captivated the world with his debut mixtape, Indigo Child, he has already created a far-reaching fan base rooted in love, power shifting and music. To a certain extent, Raury is the love child of 1970s black soul music, the hip-hop roots of the 1980s and the attitude of 1990s post-punk revival. Fast-forward to October 2015 and the release of his debut album, All We Need – a 14-track coming-of-age tale that revels in refreshing lyricism and poignant messaging. Though the album is relatable and accessible, creating it wasn’t exactly a free and easy process for Raury. “It’s not as easy to put the words together as people like to believe,” he concedes. “Putting all these random thoughts and views onto paper and then into songs, it takes courage to believe that people will understand and relate to what you’re saying… It’s a very personal process and it’s somewhat [of a] daring process.”

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Bay Area-based hip hop artist G-Eazy – a.k.a. Gerald Earl Gillum – is riding a wave of success following the late 2015 release of his second album, When It’s Dark Out. The record spawned a hit – “Me, Myself & I” (featuring Bebe Rexha) – and an extensive world tour schedule to promote it. His rare off days have landed him in the studio, working on features for other artists, as was the case with a recent visit to Vancouver’s Warehouse Studios. “When you get a song that catches on, your phone starts blowing up.” G—Have you enjoyed making time to get into the studio during this tour? G-Eazy—It’s nice to get out of the routine of tour. The studio’s where I can get lost and find peace. It’s just hard to find the time. G—How have you dealt with the new level of success you have reached recently? GE—Nothing can prepare you for how busy it gets. It’s life-changing; but it’s not all bad. I’m about to help my mom buy a house. She’s never had that in her life. That’s one of my biggest motivators – to help take care of her. G—I read about her being at

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Ever since he first appeared on the rap scene in 2009, Cleveland native Colson Baker – better known as Machine Gun Kelly – has been enjoying a steady rise to fame and fortune, experiencing significant artistic and personal growth and amassing legions of fans along the way. Following the 2012 release of his first studio album, Lace Up, Baker’s latest effort, General Admission, came out in October of 2015, reaching number three on the Billboard 200 chart and selling 47,000 copies in just one week. G—General Admission’s lead single, “Till I Die”, has a harder sound, whereas “A Little More” seems more conscientious. Where does the album fall in the scale of these two songs? MGK—I think that this album is a perfect blend of both. On one end you have the person who grew up on the east side of Cleveland, involved in a lot of things that I wasn’t comfortable talking about in the first album. On the other, it’s motivational, taking lessons I’ve learned and looking at them in a positive way. Musically, this album is exactly what I wanted. I can pick up my guitar and play every one of these songs. The way we composed

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Staying true to one’s original narratives can be tricky in a game that constantly threatens to change you for everything you are. Stockholm’s Yung Lean has gone from being a somewhat obscure underground figure to a burgeoning global star in a matter of a few years. Bursting onto the rap scene with his Sad Boys in 2013, the last three years have seen a deep period of strife and personal development. Sitting down with Yung Lean, we talked about his influences, growing up, fame and staying true. The 19-year-old star is no stranger to the lifestyle that seems to compel youths to express themselves through rapping. “I grew up in Belarus, in Russia, but spent most of my time in Stockholm. Stockholm is kind of crazy. I went to normal public schools – a lot of bad kids and a lot of hooligans.” Lean characterizes his transformation from high school to a three year period of running around the world as just a progression of life. “It’s nice, it’s fine. It doesn’t make any sense, really, but I guess you can really do anything if you put your mind to it. Like, I worked at McDonald’s and I tried to

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Since the introduction of The Weeknd, the world has become familiar with a new sound in R&B, one that’s fuelled by drug addictions, dark atmospheres and moody vibes – all of which have subsequently laid out the blueprint for several artists to come, including Kentucky native Bryson Tiller. What’s been understood as a niche ‘Toronto Sound’ has taken its journey across the border and into this 23-year-old’s world, spawning hits like “Exchange” and “Don’t”, and even inciting The Weeknd to jump on “Rambo” himself. For Bryson Tiller, a high school dropout, success has come at an alarming pace. He started making music and quickly landed on Timbaland’s radar. “[He] told me to quit my job. [I] went down there and he was busy,” he says of the opportunity. “He had this artist named Tink that he was working with, and he was really focused on her, and he didn’t really have time for me and didn’t think it through. He felt bad, but you know, it just told me there’s no turning back. I had already quit my job and I worked really hard to get that job, so now I gotta keep going. I gotta keep making music and

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What do you get when three friends who met during their university days in NYC move in together and form a band? Wet – an electronic pop trio made up of members Kelly Zutrau, Marty Sulkow and Joe Valle. Currently signed with Columbia Records, Wet feels like a bit of everything – from R&B to indie rock to pop. Stories of love, loss and anguish are often told through Zutrau’s trusting voice, which is sweetly complemented by the powerful percussion movements of Valle and tender strums of Sulkow. Wet’s Joe Valle spoke with us about first introductions, renting a house in Massachusetts and working under a major record label. G—The three of you met through friends while you and Marty were students at NYU. How did this relationship evolve into forming a band? Joe Valle—A mutual friend introduced me to Marty as her “weird friend”. We started hanging out and eventually I met Kelly, whom he was already friends with. They were working on music together, and he asked me to help them out. That was 2008. Then we kind of all ended up in different places, but we always stayed in touch and talked about music through text and

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“I’ve had an itch to make a record for a really long time. You get to create your own world when you make a record. It was really fun.” As Chris Baio talks about his recently released solo debut, The Names (Glassnote Records), there is a hint of excitement in his voice. Better known as the bassist of Vampire Weekend, Chris steps into the spotlight as BAIO – the electropop music producer with art rock sensibilities and meticulous production. “Once I started to write songs I knew I couldn’t look back,” explains Chris. “I knew I was good enough and that I wanted to put it out there into the world.” Although his own musical universe started to come into fruition, Chris sat on the project for a while until this past fall when The Names was released. “Making the album and then sitting on it was a different kind of crazy because I felt like I had made the exact record I wanted to – a record where I wouldn’t change a single thing, but no one else in the world had heard it. It was a bit excruciating, but when it finally came out I got to start

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  “I’ve never seen it snow while sunny,” Tinashe says as she looks out the window of the Phoenix Concert Theater during the Toronto stop of her Joyride tour. After completing a set of video interviews, Tinashe and I, two of four women in the male-dominated room, cozy up on a couch where we start discussing some of her recent accomplishments – including two cover stories for Complex and DAZED, r espectively. When asked why she doesn’t have a new album or album release date despite her current tour and its accompanying interviews, Tinashe replies: “Honestly, the album is probably the only thing I can’t control. I can do all the other stuff, but it’s kind of out of my control as to when [the album’s] released or how it’s released. The tour and all the stuff was created with the intentions that the album [would be] out. It was supposed to come out at the end of [last] year, slash the beginning of [this] year, slash now who knows – but in the meantime, I’m just trying to do all I can to stay busy and connect with my fans. I’m still releasing new music and I’m previewing some

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Burundi may not feature prominently in the headlines of North American news outlets, but there’s a computer hacker who will soon change that. This is one of the plot lines behind Saul Williams’ new project, Martyr Loser King. The newly released album and forthcoming graphic novel traces the story of the eponymous character, Martyr Loser King. While the concept is fictional, the plight of the people in Burundi deserves our focus, and according to Williams, no one is paying attention. Williams fuses activism with art and doesn’t conform to just one craft. He’s a provocative artist who has spent over 20 years creating an impressive body of work that includes poetry, writing, rapping, and acting. G—Let’s talk about the music of Martyr Loser King. Saul Williams—I feel like it’s the furthest left I’ve gone musically. Like, if I were to put it in Nine Inch Nails terms, I would think it was like my Downward Spiral. It’s the weirdest I’ve allowed myself to be, the least amount of fucks I’ve ever given, and that has everything to do with the times and the fact that radio is pretty much non-existent. People watch videos on YouTube and people stream out, so

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Thundercat is everywhere. If you have even a passing interest in boundary-pushing rap and R&B, you’ve probably found yourself floating through his orbit. Born Stephen Bruner, he is the son of Ronald Bruner, Sr., a drummer who played with Diana Ross and the Temptations. Bruner’s career has featured him writing, performing and recording with a diverse group of notable musicians including Herbie Hancock, Erykah Badu, George Clinton, and Suicidal Tendencies. More than a hired gun, he’s developed his own sonic persona, starting with his collaborations with Flying Lotus and then coming into full view on his two blistering solo slabs of jazz fusion: 2011’s The Golden Age of Apocalypse and 2013’s Apocalypse. He returned this year with a surprisingly deep mini-album called The Beyond / Where the Giants Roam. Bruner’s sonic DNA is intrinsic to the fabric of Kendrick Lamar’s iconoclastic statement To Pimp A Butterfly. His ebullient bass playing is prominently featured across the album, along with production credits on “Wesley’s Theory”, “Hood Politics” and “Complexion (A Zulu Love)”. His extensive involvement also put him in a position to see one of today’s greatest artists at the height of his powers from close-up. “Kendrick is such a dynamic person,

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  For a guy that’s been tagged as being the face of the so-called “slacker-rock” genre, you’d be hard pressed to find someone that’s spent more time working on their craft than Mac DeMarco. Despite an endless tour schedule that’s taken him across the globe, he used a brief road hiatus last year to write and record the recently released mini-LP, Another One. We caught up with Mac in Vancouver to talk about the new album and finding the time to write. G— You wrote and recorded Another One following an Australian tour last year. Did you have a clear idea coming off the road as to what you wanted to do in the studio? Mac DeMarco— I had a couple scratch demoes, but nothing really. For me, when I decide that I want to do that kind of thing, I’ll just sit down; and if it works, it does, and if it doesn’t, I’ll give up. G— I’d read that part of the motivation for writing the album was that you felt like you didn’t want to go too long without releasing new material. MD— The release part doesn’t really matter to me. The amount that we toured and

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As the daughter of Columbian parents who spent her childhood living between Argentina, Columbia and Vancouver, it’s little surprise that people find it hard to characterize the sound of New York-based singer-songwriter, Valerie Teicher. “The changing of my environments is something that has influenced me as a person. It’s affected the way I approach music and my desire to make something eclectic and not easily defined – something that pulls from a lot of different places and sources.” Better known by the moniker Tei Shi, Teicher’s latest EP, Verde, is at once indie-pop, electronic, minimalist and sumptuous, effortlessly blending ‘80s synths and R&B grooves with silky, layered melodies and soaring, powerhouse vocals. It’s a notable departure from the more melancholy EP Saudade, which Teicher wrote and recorded while studying at Boston’s prestigious Berklee College of Music. She explains, “My first EP was very raw – it was minimal in its production and the arrangements around the voice. I had never done anything like that before.” In fact, 2013’s critically acclaimed Saudade was not only the product of Teicher’s first professional effort, but also the first of her music to ever go beyond the four walls of her bedroom. “I always

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