Published Jul 26, 2018Though a debut album is usually the first introduction a mainstream listener has to a new artist, it in no way means an artist is new. This is especially true in the case of Toronto rapper Jazz Cartier. His presence on the Canadian scene — whether you're familiar with his music or not — has been inescapable. Though he's remained one hit away from the mainstream frenzy he's destined for, his major label debut, Fleurever, the followup to 2016's Juno Award-winning Hotel Paranoia, is poised to change everything.
For fans who have been following the rapper from day one, the album is Cartier at his best, though brighter, evolved and more polished. "Putting it together was not easy at all," the 25-year-old rapper tells Exclaim! "There's a lot of pressure, but it's pressure I put on myself.
"I'm a perfectionist, but you can only try to be perfect for so long," he says. "I think there's beauty in seeing the imperfections and the flaws that a human has. Fleurever started off as just a cool title, but the process [of recording the album] was a learning experience — a spiritual thing. I became in tune with myself as a person and as a man."
A big part of that self-discovery is audible and thematically felt throughout the project. Jazz feels more — among other things — happy. "I'm not in a dark place in my life anymore," he admits. "While recording my older music, I had a big chip on my shoulder, like I was pitting myself against the world. That's not healthy. I think for the first time, I [really] had fun creating an album. I feel like I got better at making music.
"I started this album much in the same way as my others," he continues. "The first two versions of this project were just me being all serious. Then I just started to [really] align myself with the music."
While he speaks, it's easy to pick up on how humble Cartier indeed is; it's an admirably sombre trait considering the immense (if indirect) influence he's had on the urban music scene since his infamous 2017 Juno win. While accepting his award during an untelevised gala, he took the opportunity to call out Canadian radio for ultimately sleeping on their homegrown talent — a position he still feels strongly about. "Canadian radio is gonna have to stop bullshitting and start playing our own on our radio, so these kids don't feel the need to go to the States to make it or get heard," he wrote via Instagram after his win.
"Canadian media is out of touch," he says frankly. "They don't know what's going on. They don't have a pulse on what's going on." It appears as though his criticism was taken to heart — the following year, the Junos televised the rap award categories, even enlisting the cast of one of the nation's most revered '90s hip-hop anthems, "Northern Touch," to present it. As well, 93.5 The Move (formerly FLOW) began to dedicate airtime specifically to play local talent. "I'm happy that everyone's getting their shine," Cartier says.
"I'm pretty sure that stemmed from that thing I said at the Junos," he adds. "I'm just happy people are starting to like realize that you can't keep running the same charade forever and not get caught out on your bullshit."
Another prominent focus Cartier seems to have stuck to is a non-reliance on features or American talent to fast-track or bolster his success. "This is my therapy," he says. "Yeah, collaboration is a good thing, and I have songs with bigger artists that I choose not to put out, because this is my story. I've waited two years for this project; I don't feel like people will want to hear a fucking album full of features."
He is cognizant of the precedent he's set for a new generation of talented Canadian artists. "I do feel like what I'm doing is important and I do feel like kids from the city can get inspired. Not everything happens overnight — the faster it comes, the quicker it goes. I'm enjoying this process that I'm going through right now throughout the ups and downs. This is the shit that keeps you sane and keeps you humble. I never want to forget this phase in my life."
That being said, Jazz Cartier is acutely aware of the grandeur of his new work. "I'm over my humble phase right now," he says with a hint of pride in his voice. "Now it's time to turn up."
Fleurever is available July 27 via Universal.