More or Les

More or Les
For Toronto's More or Les, when it comes to making hip-hop that intrigues, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, pun fully intended. After nibbling on the subject with the anger-fuelled Brunch with a Vengeance in 2010, the rapper/producer and Backburner hip-hop crewmember goes whole hog on lyrical cuisine with the newly unveiled 17-track Mastication. Digging into the project and each food themed song title uncovers a hearty examination of concepts of excess, addiction, and the general first world propensity for over-consumption. The project effectively proves that thinking More or Les is all about novelty rap would be disingenuous, as the rap veteran is adamant that with each successive album effort any subject, issue or concept is a target. This time out, of course, just so happens to be about food.

What's the meaning behind the foodie theme rap?
A people noticed me and food because of the last album [2010's Brunch With a Vengeance]. But really the only reason brunch was mentioned in the last album title was because of my interest in brunch being uniquely me. When I say that I don't mean me as a person ― because lots of people like brunch ― but uniquely me as a rapper. There aren't too many other people rapping about brunch at all. The whole album was really about things that people hate. It was about trying to find a title that was interesting and also mentioned me somehow. This time it's all food. Everything touches either on food directly or used in the title as a metaphor.

Are you a foodie per se? Why did you want to go down this route?
Not even. I even touch on that on the lyrics of the first song. It isn't that this is my chosen career path, talking about food when making music. It was just the whole thing was something to challenge myself. Not to say that I've been rapping for eons, but I've been rapping long enough that I wanted to do something out of the ordinary but still interesting. I wanted to challenge. I didn't think that I was going to get that challenge doing the same thing. Instead of working on some tracks and get a loose theme around it, Brunch With A Vengeance was the first step in having a more intense focus on a piece of work. I'm trying to deliver something that where you could listen to the tracks separate from the album and still get something out of them. And at the same time bring something very cohesive. At this point, what's the point of bringing together songs into an album that don't necessarily have a purpose being together? You know? Now with music just being marketed and sold online, I feel that the concept of an album is lost. No one is necessarily looking out for that. So I wanted to give people a reason to listen to a collection of songs.

So theoretically you could come up with a theme or new concept for a future album?
Definitely. At this point, I plan to do some EPs. I plan to do some shorter work to just get material out and still give people quality and cohesive material.

Is there a hip-hop template that you're following?
I'm trying to craft a unique bubble. Because I feel like my favourite rap albums do that. They are best with they involve you in their unique experience. Like an EMPD album is quite a different experience from an Ice Cube album, which a lot of the time was a very cohesive project where he had a theme and all the songs related to it and it was very tight. I feel those types of cohesive albums sort of draw you into a world of very specific things. And I feel like that when you can do that it's sort of like mission accomplished. I'm not trying to have, "Well this is the dance song, and this song is all about girls, or getting high." I'm really trying to deliver some different things. I do have a formula in the sense that I'm always trying to do different things from other rappers. Yeah it's about food, but there's a song about excess or overdoing it. And it's also on a down to earth level, instead of generic bragging about name brand champagne.

So you're not that dude that raps about food. You're that dude that takes a particular topic and runs with it.
Absolutely. To rap about food this time out was a choice I made. There are a few times where I go for it. I go whole hog.

I see what you did there. Whole hog.
[Laughs] So one [idea] that I have on the album is me trying to challenge myself to do something interesting that people haven't done before on an album. But still not doing away with the concept of skill or a dope beat or rhymes. This is the rap recipe. The expectation is that people feel because they're rapping about a specific subject that having it actually sounding good goes out the window. Which doesn't make sense to me because it's music so that's got to be, if not the top thing, one of the top two. That would be silly.

The Canadian rap scene: thoughts on the scene and your place in it. Go.
Oh man. This is partly why I'm more interested in crafting my own bubble. I feel like there isn't much of a quote-unquote "Canadian Rap Scene." There are lots of dudes that rap but as a scene, like, to what end? I think that the better question to ask is what do you consider a community? Is a community a bunch of people working together with similar interests and styles, or is a community just the definition of a group of people in a room together? There are lots of people rapping, but there aren't a lot of people collaborating and producing work together. I feel like it's important to stick to my experience, but I don't feel that has anything to do with the broader community. People have their own personal agendas. And in a way that's fine. If that works for you I can respect that. There are also others who feel that the only way to make it is to go to the States. And that's fine if that's the bubble that they're trying to create.

Speaking of the Canadian rap community, there are two rappers [Drake and Cadence Weapon] up for this year's Polaris Music Prize. Seeing as they have wildly disparate styles, is that progress from a Canadian hip-hop perspective?
I don't know. I would say it's progress if this continues and elevates in the next few years. Would Drake have this success if he weren't also in the States and working with U.S. rappers? Probably not. Are there any American rappers thinking they have to collaborate with Canadians to elevate their popularity and status? Imagine someone saying that. Unfortunately I'm leaning towards no because it's a question that's been asked for so long and so many years.

How do you measure success for this album?
The question is always one of quality. Is it arrogant for me to be saying that what I do is quality? Maybe it is. I feel that what I'm doing does have some value. For me it's about getting this out to as much people as possible. Thank goodness for the internet. There are quite a few musicians that would not get heard otherwise. It just wouldn't happen for a lot of people. For me it's about someone coming up to me at show saying that they liked that metaphor or lyric in my songs. It's just that ― people appreciating what I've done. It's about delivering the best music in the best way that I could. I put it out there and let it be what it is. The hope for me is that people would like it. That really feels good for me to hear. On this album there are more beats from me than any previous album. So there are 17 tracks and ten of them I produced. So that's a lot of work. Really this album is the most me ― more than any other album. So it really about putting something out there and seeing if anyone really cares. Especially now with so many options out there, for someone to come across my music and be interested in it feels good.