Published Aug 03, 2018If you were to highlight the cities producing the biggest hip-hop artists over the past five years, Atlanta and Toronto would be top contenders. Though there are more than 1,000 kilometres between them, their similarities outweigh their differences sonically, creating the perfect canvas for CMDWN (pronounced Comedown) to infiltrate those music markets. Made up of Atlanta-bred Ca$tro and Toronto-raised Fiji, the two have come together in the downtown party scene to start the CMDWN collective.
"We represent a wave for the youth," Fiji tells Exclaim! "In terms of the music coming out of Atlanta and coming out of Toronto, there are crazy talented artists. What we're doing with Atlanada is obvious — our music meshes well together."
"People know that this isn't the path we chose, this path chose us," teenage actor-turned-rapper Ca$tro adds. "To see us come from nothing, kinda get a buzz, be unappreciated and then slowly get recognition, and [from throwing] parties to having a body of work and just being consistent with it — from all of the buildup and growth, we went from kids to being men."
Following the release of Atlanada in 2016, the duo were propelled into the spotlight and a life of touring, which would lead them to sign with eOne shortly after, although, none of it was expected.
"We've been working for a long time, but when it's your turn it's your turn, and you gotta wait for your turn. It's always important for us that everything is according to plan, because if we fail to plan, you plan to fail," Ca$tro says.
"We didn't know there was gonna be Atlanada 2. We kinda just made music to make music [for] whatever mood we were in," Fiji adds. "We were definitely bluffing when we announced Atlanada 2 [in 2017]. We didn't have an album structure or anything, we just knew that was something we wanted to do, so we announced it. With what Atlanada 2 sounds like, it's even better than what we envisioned when we first announced it."
Throughout the new 14-track album, CMDWN meticulously bridge the gap between the Toronto and American music scenes with features from the likes of Chief Keef, Lil Wop. Nessly and Key!, as well as Toronto artists Killy, Pressa and Lil Berete.
"[Ca$tro] made the songs that he made in mind for the artists he got featured — it wasn't random. Everything was planned out," Fiji notes. "He made 'Hit & Run' specifically with Lil Wop in mind. Same with the Chief Keef song ['Roxanne'], I just heard him, not the song. Growing up, Chief Keef was a big inspiration of mine, Ca$tro too, so that was definitely a special moment."
"This sound and lifestyle was created from the two [cities], which is why the title is so important," Ca$tro adds. "I know for a fact that Pressa has never been on an album with Chief Keef, Chief Keef might have never heard of Killy or Lil Berete, or Key! may have never heard of Lil Wop, so we're connecting the two oceans and making a different sound."
"'Bool' is one of my favourite songs," continues Fiji. "Ca$tro sent it to me, and I tried to hop on it, and I just didn't like what I did on it. But I told him whether or not I hop on the song, he needed to complete it, and then he got Lil Berete. Berete's on the come up, and not everyone knows who he is, but if you're from Toronto and you're in music, you definitely know what's going on. What we want to do with the tape is introduce artists that people may not be aware of [but] they're gonna find out on their own anyway."
Though CMDWN make it sound easy, bringing together two cities for one album requires planning, patience, and most importantly, cohesive production. For Ca$tro, it was also about educating the producers who shaped the album.
"I feel like I've been in labour for two years," he laughs. "I'm so present on the album, because a lot of times I'm in there like, 'it needs this,' and sometimes [Dnny Phntm] might hear it, and sometimes he might not, but I have to let him know that it needs to sound like this, or this off beat here, and I'd write down notes to every second that I felt was off. I needed to show him exactly what it really means to create a Southern sound, and then the next process it was trying to merge it with the Canada sound."
What becomes evident in talking to CMDWN is that, regardless of whether or not they're told they can't do something, they're going to push the boundaries to prove you wrong.
"Atlanada 2, in our opinion, is our best body of work. I feel like this project is the beginning of our actual careers, and I'm excited to live that out," Fiji exclaims. "The fact that we're able to mesh two different sounds from two different places, and have it mesh so well, and tell a story about who were are and what we represent. Hopefully people will stop sleeping, and we're able to get this out there to the world."
"I want fans to want Atlanada to seem like a real place — it is a real place, and it actually exists," Ca$tro continues. "When listening to the album, I just want them to hear the growth, the lifestyle, and hear what we've been doing from our perspective. We're trying to do shit that people in America might not think that Toronto artists are able to do and vice versa. I want that door to be open. Just imagine what we have planned next."
Atlanada 2 is out now on eOne.