Published Jan 01, 2006As his album title Tom Strokes Presents The Classix Plus Six suggests, Toronto-based MC Mr. Roam is hardly a new jack. Collecting several songs recorded over the past several years, it avoids the easily identifiable influences that debuts often reveal. Instead, in association with producer Attic of Da Grassroots, Mr. Roam's unconventionally relaxed, yet assured mic persona comes to the fore. "I'm not rah-rah," he explains. "I can't necessarily get rah-rah. I'm more like Let's have a conversation.' It's the art of conversation. It's conversational rap, you see."
While he may be half-joking, it's evident Mr. Roam has definitely used his gift of gab to help facilitate some significant moments in Canadian hip-hop. During the post-"Let Your Backbone Slide" commercial fallout in the mid-90s when domestic hip-hop was barely registering on the national radar, Mr. Roam introduced the owner of then-dance label Groove-A-Lot Records to members of Ghetto Concept and producers Da Grassroots. The rugged jazzy collaborations between those two camps surprisingly garnered back-to-back Junos and helped to kick-started the rise of domestic independent hip-hop labels.
Mr. Roam also "busted Attic's ass" to finish Da Grassroots' acclaimed Passage Through Time album, but that was just one side of the dialogue. "At the same time he was busting my ass to kick raps and I didn't want to kick raps. So really the thing is why am I in this game? I'm really only in this game cuz I like Attic's beats and I can rhyme over them. Really that's all it is. It's an unwritten rule."
While Mr. Roam's banter with Attic's stripped-down beats is in stark contrast to the imposing presences of legendary MCs like Chuck D and KRS-One, he cites these icons as influences for their intangible qualities, knowing that in communicating, it's often what's not said that makes the difference. "What separates a good rapper from a bad rapper these days is their style and charisma," he says. "You don't have to be complex, you just have to be cool with it."