Words by Ryan Mitchell Photography by Adam Luk
Ryan had the chance to talk with Red1 about his life, inspiration and music. They met up and had a nice chat at “Architect”, a store within gas town. The story telling of everything from Red1’s early life to his current record label “Killawatt Records” went on at this boutique.
Would you consider yourself a pioneer in Canadian Hip Hop?
Nah, I wouldn’t consider myself a pioneer in Canadian Hip Hop. I think of myself as part of a group of conglomerate people trying to take Canadian Hip Hop and have it known around the world as good music. There has been lots before me , and there will be lots after me. I’m just a part of that contribution. Maestro is a pioneer, Dreamwear is a pioneer…
Is Vancouver over saturated with American music?
I find Vancouver MCs have their own thing going on, some have this Canadian or American thing going on. You can tell a lot of MCs here are heavily influenced by American MCs, as is everybody in the game, but we have our own swag to it. It’s hard not to be influenced by America, because that is where Hip Hop started, everybody looks to New York as Mecca. For talent, people look to Canada for ‘Hockey,’ I think it’s just one of those things.
What do you have in store for the coming year?
Since I was sixteen I’ve been through the highs and lows of this game, but I feel I have made enough connections in this business that I could use those to advance for the local scene. I see kids from my hood, trying to do what I did [when I was their age], so for them I started the label called ‘Killawatt Records’ signed an artist named ‘HEATWAVE’, started doing mix tapes the latest one called ‘Hotter Than July’, and he will be starting his album real soon. Signed a singer from Halifax ‘LAMAR ASHE’, finishing up his album right now and its called ‘LOUDER THAN WORDS’ also group from Toronto named ‘PLAZMA,’ I recruited. They just did a mix tape called ‘CONTRABAND’. I also signed in myself, dropped my first solo album ‘BEG FOR NOTHING’, first one for my label. We are tying to make good vibes in the city, and you say its saturated (with American influenced music) but the cream will rise to the top. Again we are just trying to keep the hype alive in the city!
What is your vision for Killawatt Records?
I’d love to see the artist on the label right now, flourishing with careers of their own, making great music, doing big things. We aren’t trying to be rappers that don’t care about the locals, I feel obligated to give back to the kids. We are in the community, having neighborhood BBQs, organizing basketball tournaments etc.
What does Vancouver need right now?
More Killawatt! Van city needs a real radio urban station for local scenes, not just Hip Hop. In other cities they support a lot more of their local artist, you hear it on the radio when riding from the airport. Vancouver needs youth to be more involved in the music scene and more hype supporting local artists.
What is the necessity of the Northern Touch?
The necessity for the Northern Touch was this; to help bring what was going in the East in Hip Hop and what was going down in the West in together, because we always travelled East. The people in the East didn’t know what was going on in the West and people in the West didn’t know what was going on in the East .So the necessity of the Northern Touch was to bring Canada to a unified front. For example today, Drake has a song with the rapper ‘Page’ from Toronto, named ‘I’m so Fly,’ it is an anthem for Toronto-while no one in the West even knew about it. Thats the reason for the Northern Touch, it was made to help bridge that East to West gap. Get people checking for artists outside of their city.
What does it mean to be on Top of the World?
Just happy. Be happy and content. Out of all the people I know, the ones that have the most money are the ones that are the most irritated and have the most complicated situations going on. The ones without money aren’t necessarily the happiest in the world because they have no money, but their life’s seem less stressful, but for the most part, being happy is what it means to be on Top of the World.
What influences your lyrical creations?
Just… life, other artists, Van City, places I go. I try not to rap about sad things; I don’t want to drain the song. Yeah rap is about truth, but it should be uplifting in a certain sense. I try to put my music on a positive level.
Has American saturated content happened because of quality of Canadian content or lack of exposure?
Lack of exposure. Hip hop in the United States is genetically deeper than Canadian Hip Hop [as in history], like I would be on the second or third wave of Canadian artist that came out, Kardinal on the fourth or fifth wave, Drake would be sixth or seventh. Americans are already on the twentieth wave of their own artists. When you are like far away from something, you are more of a student, and you study it more academically, so Canadian artist emphasize more on a lyric game.
Has support for home-grown Hip Hop increased since the 90s?
Hard to say, from back in the day we’ve always had the city on locked. People, MCs, and big names in the city do come out to show their support. The city does support us, they do know the label. It is cool to perform [during Rock the Bells] with the crowd saying ‘Red1! Red1! Red1!’ People say I’m a general with strips, but I tell them my nails are dirty because I’m still on the frontlines with the young guns.
With your success do you find more people to be asking and begging for favors?
I find a lot of people trying to work with us, trying to get on the label. My clique is really the Rascal foundation, and Killawatt is built on that, we are able to sign artist, and have shows. It would be a shame not to use those opportunities with fans knowing the Rascal name.
Where are the Rascals?
What you talking about? We are still here! I was just on the phone with some of them, we do current shows. Right now we are just doing our own thing, trying to make our own music but Rascals album will be coming out in the next eight months. Before I do another Red1 album, we will do a Rascals album! Let me just buzz up a little bit of time.
Does the formal music industry now have a better appreciation for Hip Hop?
Oh they have no choice; they can’t be hot without recognizing what’s hot. Any [successful] artist that fits into the format of radio will be played. Rappers are now rapping over a lot of even electronic and techno beats, it’s like the rappers are adjusting to the radio, not the radio adjusting to them. They got all those reality shows, ‘Fifty Cent’ has a show, ‘Three 6 Mafia’ has a show etc. Rappers are always try to fit into mainstream. When I came into the scene, it crazy for someone to be singing on a hook, but then Puffy (P.Diddy) came in and completely changed the game, even 50 cent sings hooks. Now Lil’ Wayne is putting out a rock album and he dresses like a rock star, but he raps, you see Hip Hop is everything it’s Pop,it’s Rock, it’s Techno. There is no beat that is off limits.
What does HYPE mean to you?
Good energy. When you feel good, you always use the word ‘HYPE.’
‘Lyrical Game’-Area where artist put majority of effort in their words, but do not emphasize so much on the beat