Interview by Jenkin Au and Alan Ng
Words by Cornelius Suen and Ryan Goldade
Photography by Jenkin Au
Please introduce yourself to our readers.
What’s up!? It’s your boy Mugz, here from Montreal, Canada. I’m trying to represent Canada as a whole, and it’s Blackrose music till the end.
Where did the name Mugz originate from?
Mugz came from my earlier stages. My cousin gave me that name. He’s a rapper by the name of Mezziah. We never really came up with a definition for Mugz, so I came up with “Music’s Unknown Gift,” and the “z”, stands for Ziah because that’s my cousin’s nickname. He gave me that name when I was 12 years old, so I stuck with that.
At a young age you were signed to your cousin’s label, H-Cap. Tell us a bit about your early stages as a musician.
Watching H-Cap grow was crazy for me because I’d never been on a stage and never touched a mic before. When he introduced me to that, it was like a different part of life, a different side of life that I enjoyed. We started going to studio and he started teaching me my flows. I learned it all early and luckily, I had time to grow and develop as an artist as I watched [my cousin] develop as well.
Can you tell us how you got to where you are today?
A lot of hard work, man. A lot of motivation and a lot of inspiration thanks to my circle, my family, my manager, and Black Rose. I met a lot of people throughout my whole career; some stayed and some went. It’s all an experience and at the end of the day, it’s all about how you decide to go with it.
How has your music changed and progressed over the years?
I met a lot more producers, I got a lot more people’s attention as the years went by, and the quality of my music evolved as the years went by. I decided to take different routes as the years progressed so the sound was never the same on any of the CD’s that I put out. I grew over the years, God willing. Thanks to God for blessing me and letting other people hear my music and see what I do. I was able to make a lot more connections than usual and then everything fell into place.
What are some of the most notable changes you’ve seen with your music?
Your schedule gets a lot more packed up, so you have less and less time to do what you used to do and see who you used to see. Emotions get involved and it’s hard, but you try to balance it out. At the end of the day, you’re pursuing your dream, so they got to understand and support regardless.
You mentioned Black Rose. What is this movement? What does it have to offer to the Montreal music scene?
Black Rose music is my label, I’m the co-owner. I got my manager involved with that. My best friend is my hype man and my brother-in-law is my DJ, so it’s a family business. Black Rose symbolizes a new beginning for me. You kill the old and we’re going to kill the new as well.
Can you tell us about the mixtape, I Co-sign Myself?
I Co-sign Myself was my favourite CD ever to make. I met a lot of producers during that process and I had a lot of different inputs; people were giving me their suggestions about what I should do and what I should change. I was more open to working. Recording it was fun and I hit different genres like pop, r&b, hip-hop, the gutter, the south, and the smooth stuff. On I Co-sign Myself I was able to experiment instead of sticking to the same sound.
On the mixtape there is a wide range of music. Some critics might view this as you being a versatile artist while some hardcore rap fans might be disappointed. What are your views on this?
It’s music at the end of the day and music doesn’t have one particular sound. If you have the ability to go and experience different music and work with different people, then you’ll appeal to more than just one crowd. I’d rather appeal to the world than just one specific crowd.
Within your fanbase, are there any people that compare you to another artist out there?
Yeah, they like to compare me to Drizzy (Drake), our neighbor, the guy who knocked down all the doors. They say I’m right there; they say I’m up there with the big boys. That’s what I aim for. I don’t look at Montreal as my competition. I look at Montreal as my support. I don’t look at Canada as my competition either. I’m looking at the big boys. I’m trying to win Grammy’s over here. I don’t want to do small stuff. I’m trying to be major.
Where do you draw from for inspiration? Who are some of the artists you look up to in the scene?
I look up to a lot of artists, from the Lil’ Wayne’s to the Jay-Z’s. What I do, basically, is take from life experiences. I put it together as a story and come up with a song. The beat is what helps it fit into place much easier. I get inspired from everything I see every day, whether I’m dreaming or awake.
Image is very important to an artist, from fashion to the personality they portray. Why do you feel this is so important?
The music business involves marketing and marketing is very important. Your music has to be appealing to the ear, and your appearance has to be appealing to the eye. Fashion is always changing, just like music. Therefore, the two work with each other. For me and my squad, our fashion is always good. We’re always checking to see who has the latest polos on or the latest jays. That’s what we do: we like to have fun and get dressed up.
What do you have to say to the people who think there’s a divide between doing what appeals to yourself and catering to the desires or interests of other people?
When I feel like doin’ me, I do me. But, let’s say to I want to do a record for the ladies. I’m going to talk to a lady and figure out what she likes so I can put that in a record. I have my days when I want to just do me. When it’s just me, it could be just me or the entire crowd, but when I appeal to others, I have the entire crowd. It’s guaranteed. It’s a chance you have to take in this business.
Why do you think it’s important for artists to create music videos?
You got to sell what you’re doin’. That’s what the game turned into; it’s a lot of promotion. People want to see what you’re doing and hear what you sound like at the same time. When you have something that makes them want to sit down and watch the video, they have no choice but to listen to the song. Then, the song gets embedded in their heads, they download it on iTunes, and then they buy the album. It’s a cycle that you have to follow. It’s a pattern, a formula for the game today. You got to work on that one single that gets their attention and when they want to buy the product, you got to make sure the quality is good enough as well.
When you were starting out, before music videos, how were you able to promote your music?
I would put out every record that I recorded and be like “hey listen to this!” I would hit up DJ’s at parties, asking “hey could you play this?” It’s word of mouth. Eventually everyone was sayin’ “who’s this Mugz cat?” As time went by, I was able to put out a video and they were like “oh, this is him!” I was able to reach out to a lot more people than before.
Do you venture into the other forms of MC’n, such as freestyling or cyphering?
Freestylin’ is what I do with my boys; that’s how I started. We used to come home drunk from the club and they’d be like, “Yo Mugz, tell a story about what happened tonight,” and I would just make everything rhyme. As far as cyphers, we did one on a rooftop before I left for vacation. We like to do that because we like to tell stories. The whole battle rap thing, that’s a different type of hip-hop that I never really touched or practiced. I think it’s crazy how dudes can up with shit off the top of their head.
Ladies and love is a genre that you often discuss in your lyrics. What’s your approach on the subject?
What I’ve been told and what I see is that women buy records. What do I love most? Women. I like to make music for them but at the same time, I like to make music for the dough boys. I got the mainstream on lock, but I got the hood boys on lock too. They show support and they show love, so I’m thankful for that.
Your mixtapes are very versatile. Is there any style of hip-hip you wouldn’t touch on?
No, I would touch anything. I would touch country but I would just find a way to flip it. Music is music. They can label it as much as they want but at the end of the day it’s rhythm and nation, it’s words and beats.
What do your tattoos symbolize?
Every tattoo I have is a story. I have a treble clef, I have the microphone, I have the angel ( that’s my guardian angel), a gift and a curse, cause everything has a curse to it. I got the black rose, which represents my label. I got my mom’s favourite saying, which is: “growing up I was told everything happens for a reason, nothing happens before it’s time.” That’s what she always told me. Tattoos, to me, symbolize life events, experiences and future experiences. They are just stories on my body. I’m takin’ these to the grave with me.
There always a controversial argument between hip-hop and pop music. Where do you think the line is drawn between the two genres?
Nowadays, everybody is making the same genre of music and they could be a hip-hop artist or a pop artist. To me, music is music, but at the end of the day, you’re going to hear a little hip-hop in pop and a little pop in hip-hop.
What is HYPE?
Hype is the best thing in the world. Hype is what you got to get used to. Hype is energy. Hype is what the world needs.