“Play No Games” is one of my favourite songs on Parallel World. It’s produced by a Toronto artist named Korea Town Acid. I started seeing her performing live and DJing around town a few years ago and I was instantly compelled by her music. Jess makes raw electronic beats with hardware and it’s so singular. She’s a true oddball and it makes her really stand out. I was happily surprised when she told me she listened to my old records back in the day.
Something I look for when I’m selecting beats is music with an organic, human quality to it. I want my instrumentals to feel alive and not be stiff or stagnant, whether they’re made with cheap computer software or the highest end gear available. I love tracks that seem like they’re telling a story or speaking their own language. I’m attracted to colourful playful sounds because they encourage me to experiment and have fun with what’s there.
When I got this beat from Jess, I was thrilled! I had sent her some grime tracks I liked as references and she came through with something even more alien than I expected. There was a haunting familiarity to the beat yet it was still unlike anything I’d ever heard before. Whenever I get that shock of the new, I get really fired up. I had already written the first verse over a different beat a few months prior but the rest of the lyrics came to me as soon as I got the beat.
I was walking down the street listening to the beat repeatedly, pausing multiple times to jot lines down. I remember stopping on the sidewalk to call my girlfriend and rap the lyrics to her over the phone. I wanted the vocals to have spontaneity where it felt a bit like a pirate radio freestyle. I wanted there to be raw, contemporaneous energy to my vocal delivery, a sense of urgency.
In the second verse, I rap about systemic racism in the judicial system:
“You could get judged, just like Dredd
When the skin’s dark, it look like a setup
If the skin’s white, he won’t go to the feds
Got me upset, got me fed up
But a closed mouth don't get fed
Those old ways must get shed
Find a new path you can tread
Have no trust in the ones who’ve led”
The nature of structural inequality is that it entrenches itself in multiple systems that work together to maintain supremacy for those already in power. That’s why I can’t take Trudeau seriously when he talks about Black business loans but he can’t even remember how many times he’s worn blackface. The experience of Celina Caesar-Chavannes as a Liberal MP showed the government’s lack of commitment to fighting systemic racism. The fact that the blackface story was just a blip on the political radar during the election and hasn’t been substantially discussed since tells you how much Black lives matter in Canada. 33.12% of Canadian voters saw the photos and decided to reward him with another term.
On the third verse, I say “Feel like Martin on Blue Streak / Too much fame, make you tweak.” In 1996, comedian Martin Lawrence had what appeared to be a mental breakdown, screaming “Fight the establishment!” in the middle of LA’s Ventura Boulevard with a gun in his pocket. In his interview on Inside The Actor’s Studio, Dave Chappelle talks about his relationship with Martin Lawrence and muses on what might be causing celebrities like him to struggle with fame:
Sometimes I feel like this on obviously a much smaller scale, especially with the internet. You never want to be the main character on Twitter for the day. I often think about the story of the woman who posted an offensive tweet before getting on a plane and got dragged by the entire world before she landed. Social media has a way of magnifying and distorting perception in ways that can have a real world impact. The more followers I have, the more likely I am to get booked for live shows. On the other hand, saying the wrong thing on Twitter could have grave consequences for me. The pressure is stronger on artists of colour who have to contend with not only having to make exceptional work but also with being expected to represent their entire race every time they put something out into the world. It’s enough to make you tweak.
I was honoured to see this remarkable career retrospective by Blake Gillespie posted on the Bandcamp homepage last weekend. It felt really good to have someone write about my old music from such an in-depth, compassionate perspective. I’ve been so encouraged to see that there’s a place for my kind of rap music in 2021
I did an interview with 15 Questions that had some of the most thoughtful, considerate questions about artistry that I’ve ever been asked. I talk a lot about my initial influences and my philosophy for creating songs, it was really fun to do
Daniel Gerhardt from all caps wrote a great post in his newsletter about Parallel World that focused on my journalistic past and how it helped build the context around my music. At the very end, there’s a link to a poem I wrote during the album sessions that is published online for the first time anywhere
Updated my playlist again! If you’re not up on it yet, I’ve been pruning and manicuring this collection of songs like it was a Bonsai tree, treating it with great attention and a delicate sense of focus. New songs every Friday, tap in:
Limited edition silver mirror vinyl is available for pre-order and will be shipping in late June. Apparently, the major labels have been jumping the line with their orders, clogging up the vinyl production plants so everything is really backed up. Sorry for the wait and thank you for your patience. Trust me, you’ll be really happy when the records arrive, the whole package is absolutely insane
Autographed LPs, CDs and bundles are all in the mix on my merch page