Prime Boys Use Collective Power to Unite Their Toronto Community on 'Koba World'

Prime Boys Use Collective Power to Unite Their Toronto Community on 'Koba World'
Photo: Norman Wong
A collective encompasses a group acting as one entity, but for Toronto's Prime Boys, it means family. Made up of videographers, photographers, designers and, of course, artists, the world of the Prime Boys' collective is ever-changing, with high highs and lower lows. For rappers Jimmy Prime, Jay Whiss and Donnie, their newest world is positively charged and centred around their debut full-length as a group, Koba World.
 
Despite making music as individual artists for several years, subsequently finding success in the media world and co-signs from some of the biggest names, it would take the three artists an extra nudge before deciding to make music together.
 
Koba World track "See Through" "was the first song that we made when we all came together and started making music together," Jimmy Prime tells Exclaim! "That made us think we should make a whole album."
 
With that decision came the task of taking three different styles of rapping and creating a cohesive album in the studio.
 
"Whiss brings the lyrical and sauce to the music, and Jimmy brings the flows and crazy melodies," Donnie explains. "They both inspire me, and I try to take a little bit from both of their books."
 
"He's a good teacher and a great artist," adds Jimmy about Whiss. On the other hand, while laughing, Jimmy describes Donnie as "the loudest person I've ever heard in the booth, ever," and that he's responsible for bringing the energy.
 
"This is the group's story," affirms Whiss. "When we come together, the vision is very meshed. It's very universal because there's three of us, we're not going to go into something we've had to deal with individually, but it's a reflection of all of us."
 
With Canadian producer Murda Beatz, who's arguably one of the biggest producers in rap music right now, taking the sonic lead on Koba World, the album reveals his longtime investment in the group professionally, but also as a friend.
 
"Murda has that special touch. It's a blessing to get to work with someone as talented as him. He might give you a beat, you do something to it, and then he goes in and makes the beat even better than it was before. It's crazy," Donnie says about the trap producer. "He has a lot of ideas, he'll give you the beat, an idea for the hook, and idea for the flow. He's got the vision."
 
"We'd all be in there in the studio with him cooking up beats, and he'd be getting the whole canvas down getting ready for us to paint," Whiss asserts. "He's always there — it's definitely the furthest thing from an industry relationship."
 
Echoing his mates' statements, Jimmy reveals a deeper connection: "He always told us what was working, what was not. He's friends with all of us, we're all just like a family."
 
As they prepared to release their album at the beginning of July, on June 30, tragedy struck. In a downtown shooting, the lives of their assistant manager,  Ernest 'Kosi' Modekwe — also known as Koba Prime — and longtime collaborator and friend Jahvante 'Smoke Dawg' Smart were taken. In the weeks that followed, the Prime Boys would bury their two friends in back-to-back ceremonies alongside a mourning Toronto rap community. But their resilience in their darkest hours ignited their strength to keep going.
 
"For me, with everything that happened, the main thing that I really want to happen is that their names never die, and that their names always live on," Whiss says in a softer, reflective state. "You can be here one day and gone the next day, so that's the main focus — keep their legacies go on."
 
"We just wanted to dedicate the album to [Kosi], because if it wasn't for him, we wouldn't be doing this. He was the one who always said we should be making music together," acknowledges Jimmy. "We added a couple extra songs that Kosi actually liked… songs we considered leaving off the album, but he was saying we should keep them, like
'Street Dreams.'"
 
It becomes clear quickly that though the Prime Boys are still mourning, they need to keep going. Like much of the album, songs like "Street Dreams" challenges the environments around them and ask for brighter futures. Koba World is the start that future.
 
"Going into the album, we knew this was our biggest opportunity at the time, so we wanted to just make the best music we could. Every night we were in the studio — it was no games," Donnie adds.
 
"When you're making music, you can feel is something is going in the right direction or if it's keeping you stagnant. It's good to keep the ball rolling in a positive direction," Whiss responds. "I never even released my own solo project, so this is my first project in general. It's something we can all stand behind."
 
Right now, not only are the Prime Boys still standing, but they're holding each other up every step of the way. Though the meaning behind Koba World has changed since they finished recording it, it remains a catalyst for the group to grow and envision the most successful versions of themselves.
 
"What makes me the most proud of the release of the album, is that I got to do it with my brothers, Jimmy, Whiss and Jermane," Donnie closes. "If this album isn't what's gonna get us out of the city, it's definitely a step in the right direction."
 
Koba World is out now on eOne.