Published Nov 22, 2011Good chemistry is hard to come by, but spend a little time with the Get By (rappers Justis and Mantis, and DJ Pangea) or listen to their new record, Let Go, and you get a feel for the creative potential. Over a decade after meeting each other while attending high school in Kitchener-Waterloo, ON and honing their skills individually, the Get By decided to pool their resources. The result is a polished first attempt that feels inspired by the everyman simplicity of Little Brother, with a uniquely homegrown bent. A number of guests, from Rich Kidd to Saukrates to Tanika Charles to Shad, enhance what the core trio do well: fluid, engaging back-and-forths over crisp, interesting production. Charming references ("I'm Canadian, shouts to TBTBT") and altruistic exchanges pair well with the two rappers' ability to craft expressive, memorable hooks. Pangea bridges DJ traditionalism, like sample-freaking and scratching, with synth-y melodies, resulting in a contemporary sound that no one else is really doing right now or not as well, at least. Let Go's beating heart is "Faster," a pulsing Rich Kidd production flowing with heady vocals from Brassmunk's Richie Hennessey.
You've moved since, but what was the hip-hop scene like in K-W while you were growing up?
Mantis: Believe it or not, when we were in high school, the scene was pretty vibrant. A lot of people who hold some stature in Toronto's scene grew up there and came here to make an impact. But there were always outlets and things happening.
Justis: The Kitchener scene was thriving for a while and there were a lot of people we were lucky enough to know and help us out. But like all small towns, people who have bigger aspirations pack up and leave.
Pangea: And the schools ― University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier ― are there, so guys like Shad and JD Era were going to school at the time and they've both done pretty big things. It helped provide some visibility; it is a small city but it's not miniature, and obviously its proximity to Toronto helps.
Why did you guys decide to come together after working solo?
Justis: I had my own album and so did Mantis, but ever since we started doing music we were doing it together, so about a year-and-a-half ago we decided to put a name on it. I think we just spend too much time together and thought it was kind of weird, so we might as well do something with it.
Mantis: Whether it was a Mantis show or a Justis show, we would be each other's hype men and Pangea was always DJing. And we produced for each other, so it was always in-house anyway. It was just logical to Voltron the whole thing and do the record as a unit.
Pangea: It's a bit different because there's no one captain to the ship anymore, so there's a lot more agreeing on things that has to go on. We have to ask each other a little more and be patient.
There are a lot of features on here. Did you plan it that way?
Mantis: It was not premeditated at all. We'd do shows and meet people and some would reach out. Shad, we knew from K-W, and had worked with him before, so that just came naturally. Rich Kidd, we're good friends with. It just kind of worked out.
Justis: We were really lucky to be embraced by these people, especially as the new guys, the boys outside of the circle.
Pangea: The records also weren't built around features. We'd make a record and be like, "You know who'd sound really good on this…?" and then just reach out, so it felt a bit more organic. (Independent)