At the Line Hotel in Los Angeles, well-traveled Toronto upstart Jazz Cartier is pleasantly surprised with his generous accomodations. Perched in an upscale, boutique hotel room built above one of L.A.’s fastest rising areas, the young Canadian rapper is less than 24 hours divorced from an opening set for iLoveMakonnen and barely over 24 hours away from opening for Nicki Minaj at Red Bull’s biggest west coast show of the season. In other words, his career is currently sitting at a point where he is beginning to have every makings of a future star. The potential is firmly there, he just needs to continue down that path.
Following his breakout debut album Marauding in Paradise – which he released towards the beginning of the year — Jazz Cartier has garnered attention across the blogosphere for being a rapper who is emotive, obsessively open, focused on melody and agile, all the while able to seamlessly blend all four sensitivities and capabilties into one. He has a songwriter’s eye and ear, but the tongue and pen of a battle-sharpened emcee. In the coming storm of Toronto talent destined to make an impact, he currently stands as the number one draft pick with the best chance of coming close to matching his city’s reigning champion.
Jazz Cartier admits to downing packs of his beloved Belmont cigarettes while anxiously refreshing his SoundCloud account and scouring the screen for new listens and opinions. That alone should prove that this is all much, much more than luck and some savvy industry manuevering. His mind is focused on what every prospective successful artist’s should be: delivering the best possible pieces to as many who will accept them.
For the next step in his climb up the ladder, Jazz Cartier has a new full-length project he plans to drop sometime in 2016. Just weeks before the beginning of what most certainly will be his biggest year yet, we spoke to Canada’s next dominating force about his life, his drive to be a star, his music, social media and more. We also teamed up to drop the official, final version of his OVO Sound-premiered single “Tales/Psycho ‘93 Freestyle.”
Right out the gate, you pretty much wore your heart on your sleeve and laid out all your emotion with your debut project Marauding in Paradise. What moves you to be that open with your music?
Just being exposed to a lot as a kid. I went to thirteen schools, so travelling a lot kind of opened my eyes to a lot. I sort of kept things in for a bit, so my only escape was music. And, that’s why I ended up with ‘Marauding in Paradise.’
Going from school to school and traveling so much, how did that impact you?
It was weird at first. Some schools I knew I would be at for six months or shorter, so I just created different identites for myself at different school. One year I just told everyone I was a rapper and it stuck — that’s good.
What grade was that?
That was seventh grade — I was in Kuwait.
Why’d you move around a lot?
My stepdad works for the U.S. Government — he’ll kill us both.
So, you were pretty young when you decided to be a rapper?
I was always into music. I always wanted to sing, but some of us can’t sing, so I ended up rapping. I was doing it for a bit, and these past 3-4 years I’ve taken it seriously.
I like harmonies a lot, I like melodies. I like the sensation of hearing those high notes and how it makes you feel. My mom always played 90’s R&B around the house — I wanted to be like Maxwell, but I couldn’t. I wish I did choir when I was in school, I just always thought it was whack. Looking back, maybe I could have had something — shout out to Auto-Tune. I’m getting better at it now though
Is that why there are a lot of melodies in your music? Because you come from more of that background? There’s a lot of emotion, melodies, harmonies and emotion in it.
I tend to use all those to help me as much as I can. I was also pretty timid at first and I clouded my thoughts, but this next one, it’s going to be very jiggy.
To be honest with you, Marauding In Paradise took so long to make and it came to a point where it almost became a burden. We just didnt want to drop the ball. But, this next project, I can ensure you we’re having a lot more fun with it.
But you’re still pretty proud of and satisfied with Marauding in Paradise?
For sure. If I ever get a tattoo, I would get that first. I built it up in my head for so long. Lantz and I thought, “If this doesn’t hit the way like we want it to, then we f*cking failed ourselves.”
So much sh*t comes out of Toronto; a lot of good, a lot of bad. I din’t want to be any part of the bad crop, I wanted to separate myself. This wasn’t supposed to be a mixtape, this was a free, full-blown album.
With that last song on Marauding in Paradise, “See You In Hell,” what was that about?
That was a little to my 21-year-old self, a letter to doubters. That was a summary of what had happened in that two-year span in my life from that moment and back. That was really one of my favorite records to do. Some days, you just have to address your haters in one way or another. My way: one day, I’m going to see you in Hell because we’re both not perfect. There’s a reason why you hate me, there’s a reason why I hate you. So, good riddance.
All the songs that you have recently dropped, like “Stick & Move,” are they actual singles for the next project or just one-off releases?
At first, they were just going to be a throwaways. But, I don’t really do throwaways. Based off the hype they’ve been getting, they’ll probably be included. I like giving fans an experience. This next project is going to be really good.
Since you have spent much of life traveling and are on the road a lot now, are you more comfortable being mobile and more nomadic like that?
You can’t stay at one point place for too long — I mean I can’t. I’m so conditioned to travelling all over, that If i stay at one play for too long I go stir-crazy, I get cabin fever, I’m like, “get me the f*ck out of here.” If I could, I’d tour for a year straight. I hate living on the road, but I get such a high from being on stage. I practiced in front of the mirror for 12 years, just waiting for the time to be on stage. I’ve always wanted to do it, and now that I’m doing it, I always want to do it.
They said that performers like Michael Jackson felt more comfortable on-stage than talking to people. Do you kind of feel the same way?
On-stage, it’s just a different beast. I f*cking love it — I see why musicians go crazy and why artists have drug problems. That high you get on-stage, you try to match it afterwards and it will f*ck you up mentally. The adrenaline pumping through your veins is like next-level, it’s f*cked up. When you’re on-stage, anything you say they love, so it’s like how you can ever fail? It’s wild
Can you ever see yourself going to a label or anything like that?
People need to make money, and in order to make money, people will make money off of you. I don’t myself always be an underground n*gga, that’s now you how it works. I won’t be for too long, I need billboards, I need that endorsement money (laughs).
Do you think you will still have that more underground, artist’s mentality?
Oh, for sure. But, I was born a star — my mom always told me that. She instilled that, she was the one who is being like, “if you’re doing this rap sh*t, cool, at least you can get me a mansion.” That’s the reason why I’m doing it, to make sure my mom and my family are good.
I’m not an idiot. I studied law and psychology and all that in boarding school. No one’s going to come up fast on Jacuzzi. Not today, no.
Where does that drive to become a star come from?
I’m very petty, like super petty. If I hold grudges, I don’t want to cause any physical harm. I just want to prove to you that you f*cked up and I’m not one to mess with.
Do you always try to keep your finger on the pulse of public perception?
I don’t really care too much; all rappers are actual rappers. They tweet like rappers, they take pictures in the studio. I tweet about watching Scandal and I play Black Ops and FIFA. That’s one thing I never want to do. The moment I startt doing very rapper shit like wearing Ferragamo and riding around on a Skywalker, I want you guys to hit me up and slap me or something, please. No Maison Margiela, shit, no walking around with all Versace and sh*t. That’s whack.
To an extent, every rapper is delusional. If you think about it, we’re all just somewhat delusional. We all think we’re the best — and to each his own — but we’re all delusional and social media isn’t helping us at all. Every rapper is literally boasting about how they’re the best and they’re better than this — rightfully so, every man should think that — but we’re losing it. Instagram’s not helping, Twitter’s not helping. I don’t know, I’m just trying to stay sane.
As a person, outside of the rapper stuff, do you like social media though?
People take it to heart too much. I love Instagram, Instagram’s great. Twitter’s great. But, lowkey, I can’t follow the same people on Instagram that I do on Twitter. People on Twitter that post memes? Oh god, bro. Meme city? Sh*t’s very bad, can’t do it. Twitter’s good though because it’s like jokes. It’s all entertainment. What else would we do? Not be on your phones? Imagine a world without Instagram and Twitter.
When it comes to music, what artists are you listening to right now?
Lil Uzi Vert, the Erykah Badu sh*t with Andre 3000 — Andre is the god. I LOVE SZA. I’m listening to Junglepussy, Cousin Stizz, Danny Caesar, Donny Prime, Sean Leon CMDWN. I listen to mostly only Toronto artists.
Do you think Toronto could have a wave of artists that have an impact and effect like Atlanta has now?
Yeah, definitely. We never really had like a sound or identity for so long, and now that we do, we have to prove ourselves even more. We have to come a lot harder, because we’re from Canada. There’s no lacking at all, we can’t have a bad song. Next year, it’s going to be deadly for Toronto. Friend or foe, whether I like you or not, I want you to win. Mind you, I’m going to be me leading that pack (laughs).
What do you think separates your sound from the rest of everyone else in the wave?
Self-awareness. I’m rapping, like actually rapping. You know how people mention Biggie and Tupac a lot? Tupac is a phenomenal rapper, probably one of the best. But, I wouldn’t say he’s the best songmaker. But, people never bring up that argument. Biggie, he made great songs. He’s also a great rapper, but if it came down to it, Tupac could outrap Biggie, but Biggie made great songs.
Back to your question, I think I can rap and make good songs. People can do either or but they aren’t blending it. Most of my songs, I envision them for the live stage and all my shows. That’s when they come to life, and after my shows people see and they go. “wow, that makes sense now.”
When Lantz and I are making the beat in the studio, I have a mic in my hand and I’m looking at how I can breathe on stage and in between flows. It’s all part of the process.
A few years down the line, where do you see yourself? Where do you want to be?
I’ll probably take up acting, really. I think I can strive in that field. I want to write a lot more songs for people. I also want to start writing movies and stuff like that. Rap is always going to be my nucleus, and I don’t want to do that stuff now and I don’t want to do fashion and all that, I just want to create things that I like. I like movies a lot, and I love rap. Five years from now, ten years maybe, I’ll probably cop myself a nice crib on a sick little island with all my gadgets. I’ll rack up my air miles, fly the shorties out. But, I just want to live a really peaceful life. I just want peace. I want my mom to be good, I want my little brother be in school, my little sister to be chill. Me? I need a lot of money on me and I’m f*cking blessed. No issues at hand, my Belmonts on me, and I’ll always keep my vitamins on me.