Published Nov 21, 2017With the world spotlighting Canada as an incubator for new hip-hop talent, all roads seemingly lead to Toronto. However, a six-hour drive east will bring you to another hotbed, Montreal, that has already pushed out the likes of Kaytranada and High Klassified, as well as rapper Wasiu, a frontrunner in MTL's hip-hop scene who recently released his second mixtape, MTLiens2.
"There weren't many rappers there focusing solely on the beats, which is the basis of the city," Wasiu tells Exclaim! about Montreal's musical renaissance, led by the Artbeat movement from 2011 to 2014. "That's where a lot of our big name producers, Kaytra[nada], High Klassified, Da-P — a lot of these guys, they made a name for themselves."
In 2015 Wasiu released MTLiens, a notable project in the "Piu-Piu" movement, best described as the merger of electronic and futuristic hip-hop sounds in Montreal, and streamlines into his latest release.
"I wanted MTLiens2 [to serve] as a continuation of the first instalment. It's what I couldn't do with the first one, like getting everyone that I know was poppin', and that I really wanted to collaborate with under one roof," he notes. "It was like a Montreal compilation album type a thing."
Pulling from the style of Yasiin Bey and the energy of groups like Outkast (who's sophomore album, ATLiens, serves as the inspiration for Wasiu's series), MTLiens2 is unique in sound and themes.
"The thing about Montreal is that it's a melting pot, and I like to approach that with my rapping style as well. I don't like to be confined to one type of style, so the diversity of the beats really allow me to broaden my horizons and be better with my skills," Wasiu says. "Whether it be something like 'Sunday Morning,' where it's like a more soulful beat from Dead Horse Beats or 'Angry Black Man,' which is like a trap beat from High Klassified, I really don't wanna limit myself to anything."
But it's not just his style or the features that round out MTLiens2, it's the lionhearted themes Wasiu speaks to that complete it, like his experiences as a young black man in Quebec. Describing the bold record "Angry Black Man," Wasiu takes a moment to reflect on his childhood.
"When I was younger, I went to an all-white high school and battled a lot of stereotypes. It was difficult being the only black person, because I felt like I was the representation of black people to them. So, if something made me angry, I didn't wanna get too angry, because I'd fit into that stereotype. It was really difficult for me to express myself, because I was always thinking about how it'd be perceived and how I'd be letting down the whole community. That's what that song is; it's really just the repressed anger I've felt for all these years, and being able to express it on a song."
Growing up in a French-first province has also carved out a unique experience for the young rapper, which is the focus for "Loi 101."
"There's been an English and French division for as long as I remember here. To the French natives, they felt like they were losing their culture and French influence because of all the immigration and English speaking, so they made laws to preserve the French culture," he explains.
"In 2017, the way our generation is, we're such a mix of everything. At this point, if you don't know any French, you're weird. If you're an immigrant, you speak your parent's language, you speak English, you speak French, you speak everything. You speak 3-4 languages at a time, and this [song] is our Loi 101," he continues.
While the laws will continue to exist, Quebec's new generation, like Wasiu, are determined to not only head the musical shift, but create an inclusionary musical experience.
Simply put, "It's [about] the new generation," he proclaims. "Out with the old, in with the new."
MTLiens2 is out now; you can check it out here.