Team Rezofficial [Interview]
Hobbema, AB – When a collective of artists decide to call themselves a team it can only be done with success in mind. Hailing from the West coast of Canada, five young men by the names of Stomp, Jay Mak, Hellnback, Drezus and Tomislav make up the infamous Team Rezofficial. Comprised of two producers and three MCs, they are making waves in Alberta and Winnipeg with the release of their second full album, The World [And Everything In It]. We had a chance to sit down with two members of the team to discuss their success and future plans in hip-hop.
HipHopCanada: So what has Team Rezofficial been up to lately?
Stomp: In the past little while we’ve been working on the release of our second full album, The World [And Everything In It]. That came out late April, so we’ve been doing a lot of promo and whatnot for that. It’s been kind of tough keeping tabs with the people who organize and actually do all of the funny work with it, so all the stuff that we’ve been doing has been just on our own – like organizing shows and whatnot. It’s not really a big deal because that’s the way we’ve always done it anyway. The new single “Lonely”, we got that into MuchMusic last week. We’ve been doing a bunch of promotion for that and we’ve got our mixtape also, which we put out just to promote the album and show a whole different side of the music. A lot of the stuff on the album we’re sort of streaming for mainstream and The Work mixtape we put out was more straight up roots.
HipHopCanada: [Stomp], you are one of the producers who was originally in Rezofficial- when you and Jay Mak were working together as producers, how did you decide that you wanted to bring MCs onto the team?
Stomp: I had been working with a group called War Party before and I left because I wanted to work on my own thing. We were looking for people to work with, basically. As producers, we were looking for talent and the first two people we picked out were people that we knew from doing different shows and going different places with War Party. We kept in contact with different talent and that’s the reason why Team Rezofficial has members all over the Prairies. The production is based out of Alberta and Hobbema and the MCs live in Ottawa [and] Winnipeg. So when we first started producing, we just picked out the people who we thought were dope and who we really wanted to work with. That’s when we pulled Hellnback. It just happened to be that the first track that really got us a lot of buzz was the first track that we did under Rezofficial Music. It wasn’t even through Team Rezofficial.
HipHopCanada: Having a strong Native background in the group, what is your take on the Canadian Aboriginal hip-hop scene? Do you think it gets enough exposure?
Stomp: I’ll say it’s definitely growing. I think it’s still in its infancy as far as people having the skill level and being competitive with what’s out there already. There are a few dope MCs and the way that I look at it is: it’s good that we have a lot more outlets for the music to get out there. It’s bad that it’s coming at a time where the record industry is so messed up right now with people not getting signed. Everything is basically “do it on your own” and you make as much buzz as you can and create something for yourself. For Aboriginal hip-hop, [there] aren’t a whole bunch of groups coming out right now that are really, really dope. That was one of the main things when we first started out that we wanted to make sure of – that we had the skills to back up everything, the whole image, and come out as strong as we can so that people will be forced to look. That’s how we’ve always been and that’s why we’ve never been big on coming out there and saying we’re Native, we’re Native, we’re Native – and it’s not because we’re not proud of it, we are proud of it – but we’d rather be seen as musicians first. So as far as Aboriginal hip-hop, there are a lot of groups out there right now that do that and more power to them but they’re not necessarily dope. In time it’ll come though, I’m sure.
HipHopCanada: So do you feel that when people know right off the bat that you guys are Native that they tend to put you in a box and it makes it harder to get yourselves out there?
Stomp: I know with War Party we put ourselves in a box, but with Team Rezofficial we don’t. We don’t put ourselves in that box and we do talk about Native issues but it’s just like if somebody black were talking about black issues or a white dude was talking about Scottish issues or something — he’s doing hip-hop. So basically it comes down to the music first. The barrier is only there if you put it up. I haven’t really experienced anybody coming to my face and saying, “Oh, no you guys are another Indian hip-hop group.” I’m sure it happens, but nothing to my face. That just comes down to as long as your music is first then you won’t have any problems; people will want to listen to it regardless.
HipHopCanada: I was reading Rezofficial’s bio and it says you guys came together through your love for making real hip-hop – how would you define real hip-hop and how do you know when you hear a song that it’s real hip-hop?
Stomp: Real hip-hop, to me, is when you hear a song that gives you shivers. Or you’re listening to it in your car and you play it over like seven times back-to-back. The last song that got me like that was that “Let’s Go,” the DJ Khalil Remix. DJ Khalil is one of my favourite producers and when I heard that I was like “wow”, just because I’ve always been a fan of Nas. It’s 2008 but it sounds like it came straight off of Illmatic. Stuff like that that just forces you to listen to what the person’s saying and has the whole package: the beat, the delivery, everything. That’s real hip-hop to me. One of the main things that we wanted to do is make sure that everything is as tight as we can make it coming out of the box. We wanted to force you to say, “Wow, who are these guys?” Especially coming out of the West – you were talking about being pigeonholed and in a box – that is the biggest box. Just the way it seems sometimes, especially [based] off of Toronto; Toronto’s its own scene in itself. Then coming to the West, the West is so spread out.
HipHopCanada: The World [And Everything In It] is your second full-length album release – how does it compare to what you’ve release before?
Stomp: This one was a lot more structured as far as [process]: we sat down and had a couple meetings, [and] got together all the beats that we thought were quality to get onto the finished album. Basically sat down with all the guys, had a meeting in the studio and set it up where they could sit there and choose which beats they were going to use and we all collaborated on the song ideas. As opposed to the first album, where we got a block of studio time, the guys went in, did a bunch of songs and once we had about 30 or 40 songs we said, “Hey, we should put these together and call it an album.” [Laughing] So this one is a lot more structure from start to end.
HipHopCanada: How do you find the group dynamics, having both MCs and producers in the group, when you’re putting an album together?
Hellnback: I think it just melts together. We’re all friends so it’s just more fluid; it just works. At times we know what we’re thinking and what we need to get done and we just do it. We get together for the album to choose beats and have group meetings to figure out what we’re going to put on.
HipHopCanada: Do you have a favourite song or songs that you feel relates to you most on the album?
Hellnback: I really just feel all of them. We put a lot of work into it so I feel like every single one of them is our baby. We got solos on the album because we’re all different MCs. I have a song on there called “Take My Hand” and it’s really personal. It talks about my mom and how she grew up and how she raised me and my brother with no father. The message goes out to my cousin who’s in jail right now for murder and my other cousin who’s kind of crazy; he’s living on the streets. That song really reaches out to me because I put a lot of heart into it.
HipHopCanada: What do you like most about being in a group and then what makes you say, “This is difficult!” being in a group of five?
Hellnback: What I like most about being in a group is that we click together. What I dislike is that sometimes we’re going through things and we all can’t be at the same shows at the same time or we can’t always be in the same places at the same time. Other than that I don’t dislike anything because we’re doing what we’re doing and we’re living what we’re living. It’s a blessing.
HipHopCanada: And how did you become an MC before Rezofficial?
Hellnback: That’s a story on its own: I’ve been rapping since I was 10. Me and Stomp were some of the founding members of a group called War Party back in the day. I was rapping like three years prior to that. When I got into it my brother had turntables and he was into the breakdancing aspect of [hip-hop]. He introduced me to hip-hop and ever since then I’ve been loving it.
HipHopCanada: So who were some of your musical influences getting into the hip-hop game?
Hellnback: Back in the day I was a big kid, I was a really big kid. My brother was always a big inspiration. Another one is the Fat Boys. They were a big inspiration because they were a bunch of big dudes having fun doing it and I thought, if they can do it I can do it. KRS-One and some undergrounds. Just people that were out there making music to make music, not making music to try and make money. Hip-hop has definitely changed.
HipHopCanada: Right. You said you make music for the love of hip-hop not for the money – so do you have any words of advice for people coming up in the game with the mentality of wanting to make lots of money?
Hellnback: It just all depends on who’s making it. Sometimes people rap about money and all sorts of stuff and they really are getting a lot of money. Sometimes people rap about diamonds and stuff and that’s what they’re trying to achieve. I think that people who make real hip-hop… they’re [just] making music. They go into the studio to make music, to get things off their chests. Hip-hop, to me, has been the biggest therapist in my life. Every time I have a problem or I’m pissed off or something, music is the best way to translate that. Anything that I have to say to the younger cats coming up is keep doing it because when we were doing it there wasn’t really a market, nobody cared about Natives rapping and stuff like that. We just kept doing it. If you’re in it, be in it for the right reasons, be in it for music. Don’t be in it because you think you can be super rich. There’s no Canadian artist that I think is super rich. It almost turns into a nine to five but it’s a nine to five that we love doing. Just keep on doing what you’re doing; the real will prevail. People aren’t stupid. If you second guess yourself then people are going to second guess you.
HipHopCanada: Are you already touring for The World [And Everything In It]?
Hellnback: No, not yet.
HipHopCanada: Do you plan on touring?
Hellnback: We did a little bit of touring down in the States, a couple of shows in Albuquerque right when it dropped. Right now we’re just trying to plan out and get stuff together because that’s the way it goes, you’ve got to make things happen. You can’t win without sacrifice.
HipHopCanada: Many groups these days come together and everything’s great, and then a few years down the road something happens and they split up. So what is your strategy for staying together and what do you guys plan to do for the future?
Hellnback: That’s a nice question. [To Stomp] What are we planning for the future? As far as I know we’re expanding our portfolio, working with more artists and each member of the clique, but we’re all our own solo artists too. We’re all trying to drop our own solo albums, but we’ll still be under the Rezofficial umbrella.
Stomp: In the future, one of the main things we want to get done is get our small family of artists and expand. Another Rezofficial album will probably happen down the line. We’ve got a couple of pretty big records right now that we’ve got in the vault. I’m not too sure if we’re going to do a Team Rezofficial EP. It’s just the whole move with the label moving from here and Winnipeg out to Ontario right now.
HipHopCanada: That’s good because it’s a huge move to make. It’s hard. That’s one of the main things with artists that I talk to from the West coast – a lot of them are trying to make that move.
Stomp: Yeah, I can imagine. One of the main things with us also is just getting together for studio time now. It helps now that the MCs are in Winnipeg but as far as with us producing stuff, we’re out in Alberta. So every time we want to do something we’ve got to book time, the guys come up here and we also send stuff over the net. That whole Work mixtape was basically done over the net. Since me and Jay [Mak] are getting more confident with our studio skills we don’t really need to depend on anybody to do anything. It’s just all a part of having that total package.
HipHopCanada: Any last words or shout-outs?
Stomp: I’d just like to shout-out everybody who’s been supporting us over the years, especially out in Toronto. There have been a lot of people who’ve helped us along. I know Sol Guy gave us good advice; we’ve sat down with him a couple of times. One of the biggest things we want to do is find a manager, but the best way to do it is on your own because you’re going to get out of it what you put in. Just thank you for supporting and we’ll keep putting out the best quality music we can possibly put out.
Hellnback: I just want to shout-out all the fans and everyone who has been supporting us. Even the haters, they keep us on our toes. Family… and not everyone in the crew has kids but shout-out to the kids too. Shout-out to the up and coming generation. And a shout-out to Hobbema, Winnipeg, Canada in general – without them there wouldn’t be any “us”.
Editor’s note: For more information Team Rezofficial check out http://www.rezofficial.com and http://www.myspace.com/teamrezofficial.
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