Published Jun 04, 2015Before he turned 22 years old, Jazz Cartier lived in many places — Barbados, Houston, Kuwait and several northeast states in the U.S. — but he didn't discover himself as an artist and a person until he returned to the city of his birth.
"You'll find out a lot about yourself living the downtown Toronto lifestyle for six months," says the young rapper, fittingly at a restaurant near Kensington Market, where Cartier lived on a friend's couch when he moved back to the city in 2012. "As I found myself, my stories got better and my writing got better, but I needed to get more comfortable behind the mic."
A self-described "club kid," he sold drugs to get by, while making music with producer Michael Lantz, drawing on influences including Caribbean soca, Feist ("I like how her voice is so delicate"), '90s R&B and Houston rapper Z-Ro. "For four years, I watched everybody come out, I watched all these 'top in Toronto' lists and I wasn't on any of them," he says. "I could have broken down, but that's not me, I knew my time was coming."
After a string of well-received singles, including the sinister trap-inspired "Switch" and the Toro Y Moi-sampling "Rose Quartz/Like, Crazy," Cartier finally released his debut project Marauding in Paradise (with Lantz) in April. At 16 songs, it more resembles a mixtape than an album, a fiercely confident introduction to an artist carving his own lane.
"If you look at the history of Toronto rappers, there hasn't been anyone to put downtown Toronto on the map," he says. "Everyone comes down here, and then they start networking and trying to grow, but I'm actually from here."