DijahSB on Getting Shouted Out by Kid Cudi and How Rapping Is Like Wrestling

The Exclaim! Questionnaire

"For every person that recognizes me, that means I need to continue doing what I'm doing and focusing on connecting with more people"

Photo: Joshua Peter Grafstein

BY Kyle MullinPublished Apr 29, 2024

Even if DijahSB doesn't release any new music this year, 2024 is already poised to bloom beautifully for the rapidly emerging Toronto rapper.

The MC was recently approached by revered UK indie label Ninja Tune, home of towering veteran MC Roots Manuva, jazz experimenter Kamasi Washington and more. DijahSB tells Exclaim! that a publishing deal with the imprint is important because "I want this to really feel like a career, you know? So I'm really excited to build, brick by brick. It's cool to find somewhere that aligns with me." DijahSB also hopes this partnership will help them make inroads in the UK (a place they have yet to visit), meet new peers and collaborators they wouldn't have the opportunity to meet otherwise, and more. 

Aside from this career advancement, DijahSB hopes to drop more music this year, but won't sweat it if it takes until 2025. Their pace has been, after all, prolific in the past five years. Since debut full-length 2020 the Album inspired Toronto to instantly dance with its pinball-bouncy beats and a flow nimble enough to stay lockstep, DijahSB has followed it up with two more albums, plus two EPs that were robust enough to essentially count as long players, with a steady drip of singles all the while. 

The latest, last November's The Flower That Knew, sounds more serene and secure than some of DijahSB's past projects, which often cathartically mined anguish. This album lives up to its green thumbed motif, finding the MC more deeply rooted, emotional petals upturned to a promising dawn.

But in the same way sunning and watering need balance, DijahSB knows their output shouldn't be doled out witheringly. As they put it: "I don't want to oversaturate. There's other things I could do to boost the music I already have out. I want to figure out that lane. Every year, I either put out an EP and an album, or just an album or just an EP, and it gets a little exhausting. I need some inspiration before I dive back into writing music, and I want to focus on doing more shows. Just connecting with people outside more."

Taking the Exclaim! Questionnaire, DijahSB touches on their favorite wrestling era, getting recognized at the movies, and their leap of faith to leave their day job and become a full-time musician.

Why do you live where you do right now?

Honestly, it's pretty convenient for me. I live in downtown Toronto. And I got my place at a good time, like three years ago. So it's not as expensive as what I see when my neighbours post their condos up. It's kind of wild, honestly. I only wish that it was affordable to live elsewhere. But for where I am, it just makes sense to not move. Even if I were to find somewhere cheaper, the cost of moving and the stress that comes with it, just doesn't make sense. Otherwise, I've spent the majority of my time on the West End of Toronto. 

Is the West End where you grew up, and where you have a lot of family?

Yeah. Particularly Eglinton West, and then I moved around to the Jane and Wilson area. Practically my entire life was around there.

Quite similar to your song "Green Line," and how it taps into the classism of commuting.

Uh-huh. I was a big TTC person. I frequented Jane Station a lot, and my uncle lived in Scarborough. So I would have to go, like, from Jane all the way to the other end.

You recently participated in a jingle for the Jr. Jays Club, a youth membership program for the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team. How does it feel to have this exciting opportunity to reach — and write for — a new, very young audience? 

It's exciting! I know I don't make the most child-friendly music, so being able to hit that demographic is cool.

As a local Torontonian, what fun memories you have of the Blue Jays over the years?

My grandma loves the Blue Jays. We've been to a few games. The last game we went to, I got us really close tickets. She was so ecstatic, given she'd only ever watched from higher up. 

What's the best way to listen to music?

If it's a new release, I'll just listen to it in bed on my phone. Once I'm familiar with it though, I like to listen to music when I'm driving. It helps soundtrack your journey. And certain places remind you of certain songs sometimes as well.

What book or movie has blown your mind recently?

I loved The Iron Claw. I was a wrestling fan growing up. The wrestlers in this movie were a little bit too old for me, though. I grew up on Rey Mysterio, Randy Orton, John Cena, those guys. But the movie had phenomenal acting. And the story was tragic as hell. It was just very well done.

Jeremy Allen White is certainly having a moment.

Maybe because when I watch The Bear, Jeremy Allen White has clothes on. But like, I don't know how he got so ripped for that movie. He did pretty well. Everybody in it did. Zac Efron is unrecognizable.

Some other underground rappers, like Open Mike Eagle, like to compare rap and wrestling. Do you see any overlap?

The entertainment aspect of it, for sure. And just continuing a storyline, you know?
The beefs and rivalries are a bit different, but both are certainly performative.

Speaking of which: you mentioned performing will be a big priority that could be inspiring for you in 2024. What has been your most memorable or inspirational concert?

Definitely when I did Rifflandia in Victoria last fall. That was a great, great show for me. The energy was just there. The people were so sweet. In that moment, I felt like the crowd was just so captivated. I could see all sorts of different people dancing and letting go, and not feeling like they're being judged, which is the vibe that I always want to attain at any show I'm a part of. So it was just nice to see that that was the overall feeling. After, I just got a ton of love from everybody, whether it be people seeing me walking around, or comments online.

I wish that I could leave every show feeling like that.
When something like that comes to a smaller town, I feel like people are more willing to come out and show support, because there's not as much to do otherwise. But it just seemed like a crowd that really enjoyed music, no matter who it came from. So as long as it was good, then they rocked with it, you know?

What do you think has been the greatest moment of your career so far?

Probably just being able to quit retail and do this full-time, and have enough to live off of. At first, I just didn't understand how I was going to make enough to sustain myself financially. Then it all kind of clicked together like puzzle pieces. Achieving that makes me feel very successful. Now it's just about continuing to grow as an artist, and keep maintaining this.

What has been the worst or most challenging moment so far?

It's definitely trying to maintain this, knowing how volatile opportunities can be. Some months you'll get a lot of opportunities. During others, it'll be slower. Not expecting to know what's next is a gift and a curse. You just have to put faith into things working out for you. And that's very difficult. Because it's not like I get paid every two Fridays, like at my old 9-to-5. It's through contracts, through shows, through whatever opportunity pops up for me.

That must be hard when inflation is this bad.

Absolutely. You have to budget out what you have, not knowing when something else is going to come. It's disheartening, and makes you just want to be like, "Fuck it, I'm just going to get a job." But then, when opportunities do come, you have to be ready for them. And sometimes it's difficult, if you're working full-time, to just be like "Hey, I need the next two days off to go to a show in L.A." So that flexibility of just being able to get up and do whatever I want, or go wherever I want, is very important to me. So I gotta take it and just deal with the waves, and just hope that opportunities become consistent.

What advice should you have taken, but did not?

I feel like, being an artist, you got to go through the trials and tribulations. If I tell an artist or give them advice about it, it doesn't matter, because they have to experience it on their own in order to understand.

If you weren't doing music, what do you think you'd be doing instead?

That's a good question. It's hard to imagine doing anything else. But probably something in tech. Because in every retail job I had, it was always technology-based. So probably something online.

How do you spoil yourself?

I sleep a lot. [Laughs.] But I'll also take myself to a Raptors game every so often, or for a massage or something. Just to chill out, you know? But I feel like I spoil myself every day, regardless. Just being able to do whatever it is I want with my day, I feel like that is a privilege in itself.

Shad put it best when he rhymed: "The only thing I love more than rapping is napping." Some artists do struggle with that, because their "work day" starts at a venue in the evening.  

I don't think I'm at that point yet where I'm that busy. But that's why I cherish these moments, where I don't have anything to do. Because I know that, God willing, when things do pick up for me as an artist, there's going to be the long nights. There's going to be the long days where I only could wish that I was laying in bed and watching TV all day instead.

What has been your strangest celebrity encounter?

I haven't met a celebrity where it was weird. Somebody recognized me when I went to the movies the other month, though. And it's always strange to be recognized and told that they listen to my music, or they love my music, just because this city is so big. I remember one time somebody came up to me in an airport too, and I was just like, "Okay, this is kind of wild."

Did you have to tell them at the movies, "C'mon, I'm trying to watch Iron Claw here"?

No, they're nice fans and it's always a positive encounter. I feel gratitude every time, because for my music to reach that many people, to the point where people can recognize me, just means the absolute most to me. And it just means I'm not doing all of this in vain. For every person that recognizes me, that means I need to continue doing what I'm doing and focusing on connecting with more people.

Who would be your ideal dinner guest, living or dead, and what would you serve them?

I probably want to meet Kid Cudi. He's the only artist where I would feel it was unreal to meet them. I don't like to idolize or make people feel like they're not human, because they are just artists whose stuff we enjoy. I never want to be like, "Oh my God, I'm going to faint." But Kid Cudi is my only exception to that. I'd have to hang out with him in my old neighborhood and eat some Jamaican food or something.

He even shouted you out on social media, calling your music "tasty."

Yeah, that was kind of a big deal, because a lot of my friends are Kid Cudi fans as well. It was very validating. Nobody could tell me anything about me or my music after that, because somebody that I look up to said that my stuff is dope. That's all I really needed ever.

Who's a Canadian musician that you think should be more famous?

I'll definitely always shout out and have love for Clairmont The Second. It's very rare that somebody can be as self-sufficient as him. He does it all himself. He should definitely be on everybody's radar.

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