By Ryan B. PatrickVancouver and Toronto hip-hop luminaries SonReal and Rich Kidd come together like Voltron with a concept album that's not quite concept album, The Closers. Since the announcement that both signed respective deals with Black Box, you kind of figured something was in the works. You'd think that two artists with such disparate styles and sensibilities wouldn't be able to gel, but you'd be wrong. Recorded in Toronto and Los Angeles, what's right about the ten-track project is that both manage to get their shine on without overshadowing the other. It's a project that merits heavy spins; Rich Kidd shows once more that he's just as capable on the mic as he is crafting the beat, while the distinctive SonReal sounds as confident as ever. Ultimately the joint LP demonstrates that either on the individual or collective tip, Rich Kidd and SonReal are on the good side of Canadian hip-hop.
Congrats on both of you now being with Black Box. How did you guys end up working together? SonReal: We first met up around 2005 or 2006 when we were just both starting out. We were both working on stuff and started working together, started working on projects; he would produce some stuff for me. Basically, in 2011, we put out a video for a song we did called "Already There." It did really good and basically we had chemistry and just rolled with it. We ended up getting the same deal and decided it would be good to develop a project together.
RichKidd: We've been working together a lot and Black Box kind of brought us together on an EP concept. We were down with it because we were thinking of doing the same thing anyway. So when they approached us, we were down with it. We just did it up: flew out to L.A. and recorded a lot of stuff. We recorded some of it in Toronto as well. Basically, we recorded 12 or 13 joints and they liked most of the joints so we started putting it into an LP instead of an EP.
You guys obviously have different styles and sounds. How did you guys manage to mesh your styles and develop a strong chemistry working together? SonReal: To be honest, man, it was just kind of natural. I don't go into making a song with Rich Kidd and think that I have to conform to him or that he has to conform to my sound. I think it's just supernatural; we both like the beat selection. You would think that the way that I kind of built my career that I would be the one doing all the hooks and Rich would be doing all the beats and raps, but really when we come together on a project it's like 50/50. It's just natural, man. We both kind of feed off each other.
What does each of you bring to the table? RichKidd: We both bring our type of artistry. Son is a very melodic type of songwriter. He's deadly on the mic lyrically, but he's also a good songwriter and in finding good hooks and bridges. And, you know, just that gritty, raw rap stuff that I do. We both have the same respect for quality music, so that never fails on that end. And the styles of rap that we bring are different, so when it comes together on the record you can hear the difference, but you can hear how the synergy flows. We go together well.
Is this a concept album? SonReal: It's not a concept album like that. I'd say it's more of a themed album. Everything we recorded it was thinking, like, we were recording it live or in an arena. So a lot of songs are there for the live performance.
Would you say the album captures a distinctive Vancouver sound and a distinctive Toronto sound when it comes to hip-hop? RichKidd: I feel like it's [more] a SonReal sound and a Rich Kidd sound on this album. There hasn't really been a Toronto sound that I could identify with. You know, everyone is working hard, but I don't think that there's [one] Toronto sound. If people want to follow what we do then that's cool. Maybe that could become that new sound. I think we both just bring our creative sounds to the table. We kind of stand on our own as artists, as opposed to artists that are a part of whatever or what sound the country is going in.
Is this a one-off type of deal or can we expect more from you under The Closers umbrella? SonReal: Well, right now it's a record; it's a record that we collaborated on. I mean, me and Rich are both on the same label and if this is working for us and is something that we want to do again then there's no question that both of us will come together and do something again, like another album or video. As far as it being a group, it's not really a group right now; it's a record. What it really comes down to is Rich is my brother, we love working on music and it's more like a family thing. We call the album The Closers and I think people are going to start calling us the Closers, but we just came together to make a record. And we'll probably make more.