DL Incognito’s Urban Zen
"It’s just about the love of making music,” says DL over the phone from his Toronto-based crib. "It’s like when you love playing recreational basketball — you keep playing whether you make it to the NBA or not.”
This isn’t to say that Oliver Nestor doesn’t possess major league talent. On his underground grind since the turn of the century, DL Incognito — he of the inimitable "real talk” flow and style — concedes that his frame of mind when it comes to defining success has shifted since dropping the acclaimed A Sample and a Drum Machine back in 2002.
"It’s funny because at the time I was just looking to release product and get the music out. We had no idea what the Canadian market was really like from a retail and industry perspective,” recalls DL. The Juno-nominated artist now has a deeper appreciation of the grind and, with the lack of anything resembling an infrastructure for urban music in Canada, that touring and establishing a loyal fan base is mission-critical to something resembling success. It’s also the reason DL, a new school veteran in this Canadian hip-hop game, adopts a Manichean approach of absolutes in determining success. Born and raised in Ottawa, he soon found out that he had to be proactive in term of writing, producing and developing the local hip-hop scene. "We do it ourselves or we don’t do it at all,” he says on the eve of a tour heading to the West coast this month. "If you’re not going to adopt that DIY mentality you’re not going to be successful because labels have less and less money to spend. Especially now, I’m doubtful that any major labels will dump any money behind an urban project at this point.” All things considered (and true to his character), DL is far from bitter. The rapper has always tried a Zen approach, showing hip-hop’s human side behind the commercial gloss and glamour. It’s perhaps the reason for his longevity and A-list Canadian hip-hop stature.
According to DL, A Captured Moment in Time is his most introspective record yet. Featuring in-camp production from Techtwelve and T-Wrecks, the 12-track album is soulful life music, created to evoke a certain feeling and bring people back to a certain moment in their existence. Coming from an artist typically known for his bringing a lot of himself and his personal struggles (including the untimely loss of his mother to cancer) into the music, it’s a serious statement.
Indeed, new joints like "Atmosphere” (featuring Theology 3), "Made It Through” and "Too Late Now” explore a range of emotional themes and ultimately reflect his "keep it moving” perspective and ethic. A decade into the game, DL still brings the lyrical heat, commanding listeners to not only respect him but to also know him as a person.
"It’s been a grind but I like doing music. When I don’t like doing it anymore I won’t, point blank. It’s never been about getting mass appeal, clearly the stuff that we do won’t appeal to today’s masses,” says DL. "But I do have the sound that I was looking for — and one that’s borne out of necessity. We have fan support and we’ve always found ways to succeed.”
NewsAug 31, 2015
Mick Jenkins on New Sound 'Wave[s]' and How Poutine Led to Kaytranada
With his latest EP Wave[s], 24-year-old Chicago MC Mick Jenkins is continuing to build on the success of his critically acclaimed mixtape Th...
FeaturesAug 26, 2015
Beach HouseAll Natural
When Beach House announced their fifth album, Depression Cherry, back in May, Alex Scally and Victoria Legrand described it — in their...
FeaturesAug 24, 2015
Steam Whistle Unsigned presentsExclaim!'s Camp Wavelength Preview
Summer is almost done, but that doesn't mean all the fun music festivals are over just yet. The inaugural edition of Camp Wavelength —...
FeaturesAug 21, 2015
Fred PennerAll My Children
It's been a good while since Fred Penner was on television, but these days, he's having a bit of a moment. He plays festivals regularly; he'...
FeaturesAug 20, 2015
The Exclaim! QuestionnaireCarly Rae Jepsen
Carly Rae Jepsen could have been a one-hit wonder. When the British Columbian singer/songwriter released a single titled "Call Me Maybe" ...
FeaturesAug 20, 2015
Lindi OrtegaStar Struck
"It's one thing," explains Lindi Ortega, "if you get signed when you're 19 and you have a hit song that goes through the charts. You have a ...
NewsAug 20, 2015
K-os Still Can't Be Pinned Down and He Couldn't Be Happier
K-os's inventive, profanity-free rhymes have always set him apart, so longtime fans may be shocked to hear the Toronto rapper sneer: "Take o...
FeaturesAug 19, 2015
Coeur de pirateMap of the Heart
"All my fears and anxieties and all that crap that humans go through — I didn't face them because I was so busy putting my energy into...