featured interview

Notes To Self: 'Sky's The Limit' Toronto collective Notes To Self aka Swamp Donkey, Roshin, Bronze One and DJ Dopey, recently released 'Target Market [RECOIL]' through Decon Media. The album's a fresh mix of humoured punchlines over synths and samples, topped with turntable tricks. Off of it comes the old school dedication 'Nobody' starring Evidence -check the video!- and the light-hearted self-ironising single 'Mr Polite' featuring Fashawn.

OK, so who's th? Mr Polite of the group?

We were all raised with proper manners when it came to how to treat a woman. That's why the song came together the way it did. We're some good kids and sometimes good kids get a little frustrated and speak out (laughs). Not only do we all have that in common but we clearly shared that same sense of respect for women with our brother, Fashawn, who voiced the same sentiment in the hook of the song 'Mr Polite'. Shouts to our brother ABS, who as I recall, did a similar joint called 'Head Games' on his first tape. It was a real dozy too. Nice guys do finish last. (laughs)

How different would the album be if it wasn't released through Decon?

Not a whole lot different. We actually trimmed some fat of as it was supposed to have been a free tape originally. But we have full creative control to how our LP's come together and play out. This is still the raw and uncut, just a little healthier in length and sequence, with some mindful content for just about everyone.

Decon co-owner Jason Goldwatch said 'It's refreshing to see someone break some new rules.' That's pretty honouring, right?

Absolutely. Goldwatch is a G. He sets the bar extremely high and we definitely attended the same school of creative thought. He clearly got some incredible wealth of experience under his belt. We learn from that all the time, through his work and his sense of cultural art. We're still new at this. We respect the shit out of Goldwatch and the way he constantly pushes the limits. He is truly not afraid. That in itself is inspirational. We think we try to do the same in pushing ourselves as we evolve and get better with every move or decision, with no fear. Growth is scary, but change is necessary. Goldwatch is a worldly creative beast who uses that in his art all of the time. We look forward to seeing more of what this world has to offer on a global scale. So many creative people we'd love to collaborate with, and to eventually work with the man that is Goldwatch.

When you make an album, do you purposely try to break some rules, or does it just come along with the work flow, vibes...?

I'm not sure it's conscious per se, but we're built differently to begin with. We're constantly pushing and challenging each other when being creative. So it's absolutely natural. But who knows what we'd create as solo artists or how far we push ourselves, if we weren't in a group, if we didn't have the next man pushing to make the dopest joint possible. No rules in this shit anymore.

The message of 'Sky Light' is 'you must aim high.' What's the highest achievement possible for Notes To Self?

Sky's the limit. It may not even be a musical endeavour. We've already begun to live out our dreams.

Who do you consider your target market?

We don't necessarily have one yet. Waiting to see what kind of mark we make, what kind of listener we hit. We aren't making songs for any particular grouping. We make rap music and we fuck with a lot of artists and genres. Like we said; when it's dope, it's dope.

Audio Research

The video of 'Nobody' is great and floated all over rap blogs and sites, how did it come together?

Thanks a lot. We're students of this rap shit and respect those who came before us. Those who did it, do it best. As for the conception of the video, well, Bronze just shat it out one day (laughs). He crafted the whole thing conceptually from start to finish. As a concept first, and it was all there, neatly presented. No hitches. He was thorough before he brought it to the table. He had gone through video after video to make sure it was feasible, enough great content to flip. It was just a lot of work ahead to execute, to pull off properly. But he was mad confident. So Bronze co-directed the video with our boy, JR, one of his best friends, who then enlisted the help of some VFX Pros because the work was clearly cut out for us (shout out to Kyle, Mike and Matt).

Once it took shape, Bronze and JR just kept finessing it to greatness, mannerism after mannerism, and from there we all pitched in and helped tweak it by weighing in on each edit and shooting/green screening. Bronze and JR made plenty of paper edits so it took many forms and got better and better with each progression. Our attention to detail helped it become the beast it is now. Didn't skip any steps, that's the key. Who knows if the team will ever experience something that consuming again.

The song features Evidence. In what way would you resemble to your idols Dilated Peoples?

We don't. Other than that we fundamentally and traditionally look like a rap group -many existed- like them. DJ -check! Rappers - check! Producer? Check! All in-house. But we sound nothing like them. Even though we're big fans of theirs and definitely look up to them and learn from them, utilize a DJ, sample some, and both use the blueprint. They're our big brothers in this shit. They showed us the ropes to a certain extent. Each shedding a different light, so in that way, sure. I'd like to think we both make bangers, dope cuts, dope raps, yadda yaddaa!? That good rap music you know. But the sound is pretty different when you really break it down. Especially us being products of Toronto first. But will always love that L.A. sound!

There are a lot of scratches, turntablism really, on the album, that's cool, it reminded us of that other Canadian group Obscure Disorder...

Cool, man. A-Trak was that guy at the time for them. We know how naturally talented he is. We like all those dudes too. Audio Research Records was the dope shit at that time. A-Trak, Dave1, P, Willo, all pushed the boundaries, making more of that classic rap music and branding serenity now! (laughs) Dopey's (the group's DJ, ed.) been on that level for a while, hell, Dopey's a world champ. Up there with A-Trak. I think he was on Soxx records at that time when Obscure Disorder was putting out records. All those dudes from Audio Research are still incredibly successful. Respect to those cats for real, an honour to be mentioned in the same sentence with them. Dave1 was a big help to Notes in the beginning without knowing it probably. One of the first cats who helped get Bronze's first EP in stores in NYC. Years ago, for nothing in exchange, just helping to connect the dots. Shout out to Chromeo! Would love to work with Dave and P, eventually.

Diddy's Dom P

Please explain the role of Diddy in your first hip-hop encounters...

15 years old. Canada gets B.E.T.. For the first time on our TV's. Rap City on Channel 49. Puffy on a yacht. For some of us, all we knew was this image he maintained, for others like Bronze and Dopey, they knew what role he played in the creations of songs and careers. Great careers, movements, and the culture, but at the end of the day he smoked that big cigar with a glass of Dom P in the video's. He was very present as we discovered a different side of rap music that was taking place before our eyes and ears. Puff is an icon, done a lot for rap music whether people like it or not. We're fans of him and his camp.

Why do some rappers think they are more credible when they avoid singers in their choruses?

Not sure. Big hooks with great voices have existed for a long, long time in rap. Maybe some cats just can't execute it correctly? Even the rawest raps can sit in the cut with a great song hook. Lots of successful examples out there. There's no rules to this shit. If it sounds dope, why not? Then it's dope even on the rawest of songs.

Will you have Pat Metheny on your record next time?

Dreams can come true, but imagine that?! That's upper echelon-dreams coming true. Would love for Metheny to play on one of our records. That would be absolute madness. Bronze and Donk would lose their mind for real.

What's next for you guys?

Just riding this new release of ours, 'Target Market [RECOIL]' with Decon Records. That's our focus right now, brand new tour, release more video's from it, a video for every song, just keep it moving, absolutely.


POSTED 05|29|2013
conducted by cpf

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