justLISTEN! e.d.g.e.

Interview by Jenkin Au & Alan Ng
Words by Jenkin Au
Photography by Jenkin Au

WEBSITE

[audio:Welcome.mp3]

The man behind the alias, e.d.g.e., is Derrick Douglas. e.d.g.e., which stands for “Eternal Determination Grants Everything”, describes to us that his stage name is not only his alias but also his way of living. As he matured, e.d.g.e. discovered that his days are becoming more and more systematic and structured – and he’s comfortable with this aspect. By day, he’s a chef and soon to be head chef. By night, he’s a family man, catering to the hearts of his new family. By late night, he jumps back on the grind, making new music. Then, he repeats.

This seemingly never ending cycle is almost what defines e.d.g.e.. Almost every day, you can find new songs from this artist, or some sort of new news relating to him. There is almost more content coming from him than some celebrities.

But this grind is not infinite, as everything has its limit. After our chat with e.d.g.e., we discovered the true meaning behind his blog post of how he might leave the game. It was never about leaving the game, as he describes his true passion for music will never change and will never leave. Rather, he will be concentrating on it in different ways. We see it as a matter of reincarnating itself in a different practice.

After our chat with the man, it was clear for the justalilhype! Crew to see and feel his unwavering passion and dedication to music. e.d.g.e. speaks to us about his early life in music, his progression through it, and about his possible exit of music as a career.

Please introduce yourself to our readers. Tell us a bit more about your life as e.d.g.e and the man behind it, Derrick Douglas.

Alright. Basically, as far as the music goes, I started writing lyrics when I was 15 and it just started as a hobby-it wasn’t anything serious. Eventually, I became part of a group called Usual Suspecs, alongside Web and DJ Krisp. From there, taking it from just a hobby, we started doing shows and making mixtapes and just taking the whole format to another level. The 3 of us ending up opening for Talib Kweli, Common, Raekwon, Mobb Deep, DJ Kool, DJ Green Lantern, Naughty By Nature, 2 Live Crew and The Roots. The name e.d.g.e. is an acronym I created, that stands for “Eternal Determination Grants Everything”. If I had to describe my day to day life, it would have to be pretty simple now that I’m raising a family, working full-time and recording lots of new material. My life has become very structured as of late: wake up, family time, work time, come home, record music.

Tell us how your determination and focus in life has led you to the alias of “Eternal Determination Grants Evetything”, and how is that theory applied to your music?

When I first thought about it, I realized that where I live and my situation, being an MC and an artist from Vancouver, nothing is handed to you. When you’re from Canada, you’re automatically looked at differently on a global scale because people don’t accept Canadian urban music the way they accept American urban music. I figured that I would have to make it to a level where I was accepted just as much as any MC from anywhere in the world. As far as the determination goes, you guys have, as of late, seen my grind every day. I fully believe in my name and what it stands for.

East Van born and raised, tell us a bit about your involvement with the local community and what it’s like to be an hip-hop artist hailing from Vancouver, BC.

As an only child, I was raised by a single mother. The first place where I grew up was the Mount Pleasant area, right by Broadway. I went to Florence Nightingale Elementary and then I moved to South-East Vancouver to Champlain Heights. Growing up where I did, and being the product of a single mother, you see life a little differently because nothing is handed to you. You basically learn from a young age that there is struggle and things that you have to do yourself. Not to say where I grew up was harsh, but I didn’t grow up with a silver spoon either. Being raised in that part of the city is strange because now that I live in Kitsilano, I see a different side of life and it makes me appreciate where I came from. Looking back on that, I wouldn* t have grown any other way, anywhere else in the world. I really appreciate my upbringing and the things my mother taught me. I understand that what I went through as a child, my daughter isn’t going to have to go through that.

Your presence on social media is strong. You have your own blog that you discuss about your personal music updates, sneakers, music you listen to, along with e.d.g.e vision. How has social media assisted you in spreading your music and connecting with fans?

Basically, it has increased my presence 10 fold. What I first started doing was recording mixtapes and we would just go hand to hand. We would stand on the streets with a boombox and sell mixtapes-that was 2002. Now it’s 2010 and no one wants to get handed CDs. So I get on the internet and as soon as I record a song, it goes to my blog, my Twitter, my email, my Facebook-you have to keep your presence on the internet strong. Having so many avenues of social media helps me because one song, I send it to five blogs. Those five blogs post it up on their blogs and other blogs get it and it just starts a chain reaction. I actually have been corresponding with a blogger in France so anytime I record new material, he posts it. Shout outs to Matic from Le Hip Hop Sur Ecoute, Kevin Nottingham and Justin Ivey from KevinNottingham.com, there’s also Fresh Kut Ave from L.A., my boy June Howard has really been supporting my music and I.G.O.D. from The 9 Elements, Are You In That Mood Yet, and those are just a few. Social media is a definite improvement to how I’m getting my music out. I fully support all forms of it.

After all, it allowed us to find you.

That’s true!

You launched Superiority Complex about a year ago, in the April of 2009. It’s your sixth solo mixtape that you have put out. Even though there was lots of exposure for this album through the release party and blogs across the internet, it seems like it hasn’t reached your expectations. Tell us your views on that.

It definitely hasn’t. If I had to take any body of work that I’ve done since I’ve started in 2002, when I dropped my first mixtape, Superiority Complex is my most deep, most cohesive, most thought out, most planned piece of work. You can listen to Omega, you can listen to Desperado-every song has a different emotion and feeling to it. It took about a year to write the entire project. I put so much effort into it and it was such labour of love and a huge production that, for me to release it and not receive the justification that I thought it deserved & in my mind, I thought that once I put that out, people would hear that and open a lot of doors but it just flew under the radar. It’s crazy that Alan heard it a year after it was released and contacted me about the interview. Man, it’s taken that long to catch on. I’ve found that once people listen to it, they go back and think, “Why weren’t we listening to this before?”  It kind of makes them go back and think about all the other stuff that I also have. As far as that goes, I’m kind of disappointed that it didn’t meet my expectations, but on the same hand, it’s good because it brings awareness to the previous works and things to come.

It reminds me of Nas’ work, “Untitled” . I was reading up on it on other blogs about it and how it completely flew under the radar, even though it might just be his best record yet. It didn’t hit anything and it was kind of weird to think that it didn’t receive the success it deserved. When I first listened to it, I didn’t like it so much, but I just had to give it another go.

That’s another thing that happens. You might get something new and not like it. That’s what happened to me with “Blueprint 3” . I’m a big Jay-Z fan…. I’m a big fan of his work, and the first time I listened to it, I was disappointed…. (makes a face)

Yeah that happened to us too. We only liked one song from it!

Yeah, I skimmed through it and I was really disappointed. I went back and gave it another listen and really realized how in depth the songwriting was. Jay-Z is a genius and you can listen to the beats he picked, how he flows over the beats, the choruses and just how everything meshes together. Sometimes, it just takes that much time. You might just have to listen to it a couple times over to begin to understand it.

Yeah, us going through the mixtape, we see a lot of work going into it. We hear meanings and feelings. What you’ve done that we haven’t seen anyone doing, is individual album arts for each song.

That’s another thing! People don’t do that. I’m glad you noticed that. We had the cover art already done and I sat down with each song. Each song to me told a different story. That’s why when you download the mixtape and upload it into iTunes, each individual song has its artwork that corresponds with it. You can totally look and see that it invokes the feeling of the song.

Kind of like this menu that we just chose from.

(everyone laughs)

Yeah, very detailed.

Tell us a bit bout your connection with Jellyfish Recordings and Eli “Headspace” Muro, what made you decide to release your projects through this independent staple? Furthermore, it seems like you have been constantly been giving out music. What is your view on that?

Headspace is a good friend of mine who I met through working at Hell’s Kitchen in Kitsilano. After working together at Hell’s Kitchen, we both started working at  the Noodle Box, which ironically enough is down the street. As soon as I learned he was a producer, we started working on music. Within all of that, one day he suggested starting an independent label and he asked me what I thought of it. I told him it was a good idea, I support him and I would release my music through his label. Who better to start off with than friends? That’s how my relationship with Jellyfish Recordings was created.

My whole thing with free music is that I’ve been giving away free music for eight years. My opinion is that the state that the industry is in, no one wants to buy music anymore. Independently, realistically, the best way for me to go is to release music for free and keep my name out there and keep a buzz going until an opportunity arises. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to sell music and live comfortably doing what I love to do, but right now, I’m not in a position to do that. For me to reach that position, I’m going to grind like I never have before.

After the recent birth of your daughter Mia, how has being a father changed your life experience and how do you think that is going to affect your approach to music?

Honestly, the birth of my daughter is the greatest thing that has ever happened in my life. There is no expression there. There are no words to explain the feeling you get when your child is born and you look at her and it’s you. Looking into a mirror is one thing, but looking into the face of your child is something that is beyond me to explain. Basically, my approach to making music is that I look at her and I need to provide for her. Regardless of having a job, regardless of being a chef and regardless of what’s going on in life, I’m going to be making music. If I can find a way for music to provide for my daughter, then it’s going to be a bonus. On the same hand, I am realistic, and I am not going to rely on music to provide for her. That’s why having a 9 to 5 is so important to me.

Tied to that aspect, in the end of 2009, precisely on Dec 3rd, you wrote a blog post that said the following: “I have honestly reached a point in my career where I feel that if a grand finale doesn’t assist me in reaching a point I’m comfortable with, it’s time to reconsider my options.” Along with that, you introduced the grand finale project: The 48 Laws Of Power. It seems like that strong statement hints more of a message in regards to your career. Tell us a bit more about how you felt during that time.

Since 2002, I’ve been releasing mixtapes, I’ve done a lot of big shows and I’m definitely a self-sufficient artist. I got to a point where I sat down and had to seriously think about my direction in music. If I’m not going to get signed to a major label and get exposed to a larger market, then I’m going to have to grind. I’m going to be releasing a series of EPs and if I can’t release eight short albums in a year, rather than one long mixtape, and garner some sort of buzz, then I’m going to have to re-evaluate my options and think about music as being more of a hobby and something off to the side, rather than being really prominent in my life. That’s what I was thinking at that point in time. When I thought about it, I said, if I’m going to drop a new short album every month and then in between, have enough material for a full mixtape, by the end of the year and I’ve been on the grind as hard as I have now, and nothing happens, then maybe it’s time to re-evaluate the situation and not put so much effort into it.  I still love it and will still make music but if I’m going to put that much time and effort into it, then I definitely want to see some results. I’ve seen some results like the “Lucid” music video with Rel!g!on and Moka Only on MuchMusic, so big shout out to those two guys…. they are like my big brothers and they’ve given me a lot of insight and help. That was a big step in the right direction but there is only one way to go and that’s to keep grinding and that’s what I’m going to do.

Also in your opinion about major labels….

Oh, I’m very opinionated about that.

– It seems like a lot of times, when people get co-signed under a certain name, that person often has a lot of influence on the artist. What is your view on that?

I don’t think there is anything wrong with having a co-sign. If you take a look at anybody….and I’ll use the most obvious example, Drake. Drake has  the Lil Wayne co-sign and what that did for him was open way more doors as opposed to the doors that would have opened without him. Drake did have his own following before that, mind you it wasn’t as big as it is now, but the Lil Wayne co-sign definitely did help. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with co-signing, but my opinion on it is that once you’re co-signed, you have to make your own lane. You can* t be always under someone else’s wing. You got to be like, OK, he’s given me that stamp of approval, and I’m going to do what I do, my way.  It is really important because at any time in my career, if I were to get a co-sign, I’m going to say, alright, round of applause. This is a step in the right direction but I got to keep moving.  I’m not going to be using that as a selling point but some people do. You’ll get a co-sign from a major label or artist and that will be why you’re getting all these features. That’s fine, but I’d try to achieve that all that on my own.

Music as a form of art, like everything else in life, progresses with the artist. Throughout your releases of past mixtures, can you critically point out the major pivotal changes of your music career?

I can actually break it down for you. If you look at  Captain Nasty’s Introduction Volume 1, that’s 2002 and I was 21. I wasn’t working and I was making music. I was partying a lot, I was drunk all the time, I was out being crazy and it’s reflected in the music. If you listen to that music, it’s wild, it’s not structured, it’s not tame. It is just me venting. Even if you look at the cover, it’s me giving the finger. Who does that for his first release as an unknown artist? Basically, that was just my mind frame at that time.

That was the one with the first  “Females Females Females”  right?

Yes. Oh wow, let’s not talk about that one. My girlfriend hates that song and I’m going to get in a lot of trouble for that.

(Everyone laughs)

Those two songs are trouble. They are songs that my daughter will never ever hear. Ever. And then if I look at  All Star Flow, which was two years later, that was the one where I was wearing the jersey on the cover. The two years in between, I matured a lot. I was still partying a lot and I was still making a lot of music, but I was in a different frame of mind. I was working a regular job and I was focused on it more. The music sounds more together. One thing that you notice, if you listened to all my mixtapes, is that my flow changes a lot. My first mixtape, if you listen, there are parts where it seems like I am still trying to find my flow. There is a little tremble and it’s not confident. The second one, on All Star Flow, I really learned how to use the words and breath control. Basically, wearing the jersey on the front, it was like I was off to the game, like “let’s go!”. The third one, I’m Here To Save You, I was sitting on the tank. That was seek and destroy. I’m going to come into your studio, I’m going to eat your microphone, I’m going to eat your beat, and that’s what I’ve come to do. That’s why I sat on the tank. We were down there with my manager at the time, Justin, and I sat on the tank and he said, This is tough. This is kind of brings out the emotion of the mixtape. If you listen to it, a lot of the beats are really hard, the lyrics are harsh and there are a lot of really really evil things going on. It’s a good project because I had Web and JayKin all over that. The team at that time, under Central Soul, it was just a really good way to bring everyone together. After that it was Year of the Flow with JayKin and that was just straight lyrics. That was a collection of songs that we had done for previous mixtapes and a couple new ones here and there. Clean Sneakers and Dirty Politics, that was a mixtape in 2007. That was my second favourite. Oh wait! We missed one, Consider This A Privilege in 2005, with me on the cover in the blazer and headband. Don’t ask me why I did that, it looked crazy! If I could take that tape and compare it to any of the other mixtapes, it was like I’m Here To Save You but it was a little darker and the beats were harder. Right around that time, I wasn’t working again. I go through stages in my life where I’m doing things and you can really hear it in my music. It reflects a lot of things that I’m doing and I just wasn’t in a good space. If you listen to Metal Gear Solid and Passenger 81, these are songs where I’m just venting. After that one was Clean Sneakers and Dirty Politics in 2007. I got really personal and I wrote a song called Myself and I talked about my Dad and I talked about my relationship with my girlfriend, among other personal things. I hadn’t done this on my previous mixtapes. That one was definitely my second favourite. Then I did the Ghetto Laundry mixtape with Jeff Spec, and that was us making a short EP. That was just us making songs because other than all these random songs, these mixtape tracks….for me to write mixtape lyrics is nothing. For me to actually sit down and write a whole song, with a subject and meaning, it takes a long time. Finally, we have Superiority Complex  which we already talked about, which was my magnum opus, my best work so far. After that, I am into the 48 Laws of Power (8 six-song EPs) and I just released the first EP,  Regularly Scheduled Program  (sponsored by KevinNottingham.com and Jellyfish Recordings), which I self produced. The next one is going to be produced by Rel!g!on and I’m working on that one right now. Then it is, in succession, Headspace, Moka Only, Jeff Spec, Bigg Knock, Savage Beats, Grafhic and Beats Me.

In relation to the above, it seems like many artists fade away from their original approach to making music. Some constantly improve and some go downhill as they dive to become mainstream or being too influenced and work too close with various established artists. In regards to that statement, how do you think you have changed since day one of making music?

I’m a lot more careful now, whereas when I first started, I was 15, I was in high school and I was writing for the sake of writing. I hadn’t mastered my craft and hadn’t honed my skills. It was really free and it didn’t really touch on subjects. As time has gone on, I’ve learned to put ideas and emotions into my work and I’m a lot more careful with what I have to say, especially with a daughter now. I’m really careful about putting out music that I wouldn’t want her to hear because I do have a lot of stuff in my past catalogue that I will make sure she never hears. There is no reason for her to listen to that and think of me differently because of opinions I may have had years before she was born. Definitely, if I had to say, anything that’s changed is that I’m more careful and things are planned out more. Basically, I just keep trying to out-do my last verse.

Do you feel like the music is not just a component that walks alongside you in life, but rather walks inside of you?

It definitely does. It’s so much of my being now and it’s so much of what people identify me by and with. Earlier, when I said that the 48 Laws of Power  was going to be my grand finale, and if it wasn’t going to do what I wanted it to do, then I would put music aside, I may actually put it to the side but I will still have it in my heart. I hope that my music will still resonate with people in the sense that, even if I do stop making music, they will enjoy my music after the fact.

When we first read that post, we were kind of excited to see how you would react to our questions. But now, after you sat down and had this chat with us, we really do see that it is impossible for music to leave you.

Definitely. I kind of thought about the fact that it sounded like I was giving up. From an outside perspective, you might read that and go, Oh, you haven’t really touched base yet and you haven’t really made an impact yet. How are you ready to quit?  But the thing is, if you look at the body of work that I’ve done, I’ve been doing this for years. If I still haven’t been recognized, what else is there for me to do? I’m just going to rap my face off and by the end of the year, if I don’t make an impact, I’m just going to put it away but it will still be with me. I might just step back a little bit.

Throughout the past decade of making music….

Wow, decade.

OK, the past eight years.

No, no! It’s just crazy, I’m almost 30. It just sounds crazy. I like that.

Throughout the past decade of constantly pushing out music, constantly hustling, and constantly grinding, from your day time job to family to your music, it is very impressive and we know that it’s hard work.

I appreciate that. I’m glad someone is noticing.

From that point, what is it about music that keeps you going every day, no matter how hard the work is.

Basically, I’ve always had the mentality that if you had a talent, you should pursue it to the fullest. You should keep it sharp, you should hone your skills….always keep on top of what you’re good at. From the moment that I realized that I had a talent in music, I thought about perfecting the craft. How many songs can I write? How many shows can I do? How sharp can I make my lyrics? How many mixtapes can I produce? For me, it was always a push and wanting to do more. It was always pushing and moving myself. That kept me going this whole time, just trying to top myself. It was like an internal war. If you listen to the tapes, it’s a progression of me getting better.

Have you ever choked when you freestyle?

We’re going to have to clarify that question. There are different answers for that question. Freestyle, just being a cipher on the streets and rhyming, that kind of freestyle, then no. Being on a stage and performing a show, yes that’s happened. My very first show with Web, we were at the Legion, downtown, and it was a song that I knew by heart. I had done it over and over in the studio and memorized all the lyrics. I got on stage and then looked at all of my friends. I got to the first verse and just stopped. Dead stare, blank. I looked at my DJ and I was like, You got to rewind that, we’re doing it again.  And we did it again and I killed it. It happens. There are so many words in your head and so much going on. For you to fumble, is one thing. But for you to fumble and recover, that’s another thing. I did that once where I fumbled but I freestyled enough bars to get back to the point at the chorus and no one knew. When we opened for The Roots, it was two nights back to back, sold out at The Commodore. I get on stage and I look at Web and the whole Commodore is packed. I looked at the audience and my heart just dropped. But it went like (whistles). Have you ever heard of fight or flight?

Yes.

When you get up there, its fight or flight. You either kill it and have a good show, or you’re going to choke. The last show with Zion I, there were guys fighting in the audience. What am I going to do, tell them to stop fighting? I just kept going and zoned out. You have to do that when you’re on stage. Your words have to hit everyone individually.

Speaking of that, stage presence is very huge. Stage presence is a huge aspect of artists that fans look towards. What is the connection to live shows?

My thing with when I’m on stage is that I try to make fans when I’m on stage. If you’ve never seen me perform and you come out, I’m going to try to make you leave and go,  Who was that guy? Where can I get his music? I need his music.  It’s all about connecting with the crowd. I’ve seen rappers where they get on stage and they mumble into the mic and look at the ground. You have to look at everyone in the crowd and deliver your lyrics. You have feeling, you have emotion, you get into it and you show the crowd that you know what you’re doing. You can’t look unsure of yourself on stage because that’s going to translate into the music. It has to be natural and you have to command the audience. This is what I do and you’re going to leave a fan.

What is HYPE?

Ramen. For real. That ramen was HYPE as fuck, I’m not going to lie.

(Everyone laughs)

No, HYPE to me has so many different answers. What’s HYPE, honestly, to me, is you guys reaching out to me, locally, respecting what I do, and keeping in touch and building that relationship with you guys. Then, finally sitting down having an interview, talking about music, and having a good time, that’s HYPE.