oronto hip-hop collective Notes to Self are on the verge of something big. They’ve headlined at NXNE and Canadian Music Week, opened for their heroes De La Soul on a reunion tour, signed a record deal— which they are sworn to secrecy about for now. Notes to Self’s new LP, Used to be Dark [Recoil], is in the can and awaiting a release date.
The group took the time to chat with The Lance before their first performance at Phog Lounge on June 28; their first time there after working with Windsor ex-pat Lee Gaul.
STEPHEN HARGREAVES: What do you think of the current state of hip-hop?
BRONZE: We love the current status of rap and that drives us and we respond to it. I think we are ever evolving and relevant; not throw back, not future rap. We may pay homage, but are driven by our peers.
SH: What about Toronto hip hop?
ROSHIAN: The scene has exploded over the last couple of years with the obviousness of Drake and the Weekend. It’s opened a whole generation’s eyes on a bigger picture, what you can do musically and not thinking that ‘This is just a hobby’ or ‘I’m trying to be the king of the castle in a limited pond.’ Outside of Toronto, people are begging to look at Toronto as a city that is going to continue to produce great hip-hop.
SWAMP: It always has.
BRONZE: It’s just now respected as world class.
SH: What about Drake? Do Torontonians really love him that much?
ROSHIAN: He’s loved in Toronto, and he really cares about Toronto. He lives there.
BRONZE: Though [Lil] Wayne helped him, he made his way organically with his own [Toronto- based] team. He believed in his own people. I think Toronto is very much like that. We’ll use the US for exposure and the buzz, but we are going to put ourselves on.
SH: How did you hook up with Windsor’s own Lee Gaul?
ROSHIAN: One of Bronze’s oldest friends, Benjamin Young Hart, who has directed and worked on a lot of our videos and stuff, was very good friends with Mr. Lee Gaul. And he, in talking to Bronze said, ‘You’re very talented and you’re very talented, let’s put this together.’
BRONZE: Ben had a couple of jam sessions with Lee and they cut a freestyle gospel record together. The recording wasn’t too tough but, Lee came through. It raised hairs on my arms. I knew instantly that I wanted to fuck around with this guy. When we came together on “Today (I Wanna),” I felt like I found something in both of these guys (Roshian and Gaul) and harnessed it in a way that had never been done before.
LEE GAUL: I like challenges musically. The more music you write, you feel like you are being pigeon holed into one genre, so having the opportunity to work outside of my realm was awesome and it showed me a different side of the coin.
BRONZE: Lee has this authentic soul to him … to the point that when we first leaked that song, people though that Lee was a sample.
SWAMP: We have two other songs that we did with Lee, one where he did some really nice backups and another that we are working on a video for, which he is featured very prominently on.
BRONZE: Yeah, that’s a song that we completely worked on together for an idea that Lee bought to the table, which flipped the coin on us totally. That solidified, not only me wanting to produce an album with Lee, but that I wanted Lee to be a major part of this album with Notes.