Edmonton, AB – Love him or hate him, Epic is an O.G. in Canada’s rap pack. Born and raised in the prairie outpost of Saskatoon, Epic got his start as a DJ in a crew called the Beat Combers. Armed with his unforgettable western Canadian drawl, Epic freestyled his way to 8:30 in Newfoundland, released on Clothes Horse Records. As the label grew, so did Epic’s discography and he released a number of albums including Local Only and Epic and Nomad until he unexpectedly left last year. Epic’s most recent endeavor is called Aging Is What Friends Do Together released earlier this year through Hand’Solo Records. If you’re bored of the same old copycat rap, peep the interview and cop Local Only.
HipHopCanada: Do you think Canada is too big and diverse to support its own big rap scene or do you think that Canada can only thrive with small communities within it?
Epic: I think the feeling from out west to a certain extent is that Toronto does not support west rap. Thus, people do not support Toronto rap like they used to. My generation got on board getting excited when Maestro or the Dream Warriors or even Kish came out here. We took pride in Canadian rap. I think this changed a bit when the rap scenes grew out here a bit. Then the rappers that we liked in the west didn’t get the same love out east at least in the Toronto media. Not everybody, but a lot of people were like cool I am not really making it a priority to buy Rapper X’s CDs on an indie Toronto label. Then rappers like Mindbender came out here and are good ambassadors for that city. I think we can do things to build up this scene as one big Canada scene . . . respect the whole but still have our regional differences. Canada is 10,000 kilometres from Gander to Tofino so you can’t expect the same, but it’s still Canada and we can take pride in it.
HipHopCanada: People might say that your music isn’t hip-hop enough, what would you say to render that statement false?
Epic: “I think that they are narrow minded and poorly taught” – Stetsasonic
Everyone knows how much I have given back to the rap community. I’ve listened to 96% rap music since 1988. You can say my style is this or that, but not hip-hop enough is not something I’ve heard from anyone who I have met in real life.
HipHopCanada: How many albums have you released?
Epic: I’ve released 4 CDs, one vinyl-only EP, one CDR and a new song on the Noah 23 album with Sole from Anticon and K-the-I. My favorite of these albums is Local Only. I put my heart into that album. I cut myself off from going out with friends and renting movies for a whole year. I put my heart into everything. I guess you can say I risked my mental health for that one. The beats on it are my favorite. The raps reflect exactly where I was at that time in my life. Soso really went the extra mile recording and helping out.
HipHopCanada: You’ve done shows all across Canada and the U.S., east and west coast, would you say you get more love from left coast heads?
Epic: My best shows are usually in Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Saskatoon, Vancouver, and in Germany. Definitely the western part of the U.S. and in Canada. Though I’ve done some really cool shows out east. Boston is cool. I’m trying to get out east and see as much as I can.
HipHopCanada: Do you think the average fan of Kool G Rap would like your music?
Epic: I listened to Kool G Rap ‘cause I got into the Colors soundtrack. Sean Penn was great in that movie. The one thing I noticed about rap is that everyone is tougher now then they use to be; especially white people. I saw this white dude I know from back in the day, a really nice guy, sensitive type so he was good with the ladies. When I saw him he was acting different. He had an Ill Bill t-shirt on or something. He started rapping, so we battled a bit. He was like “I’m the reason your pet squirrel does fucking coke.” I’m like, “Jeez man, I don’t even have a pet squirrel.” At the end he was like, “Give Mark a big hug for me when you see him and say hi to your mom for me.”
HipHopCanada: Are you working on a new album?
Epic: Yes, I’m going to slowly work on a few things. Right now I’m really down with Hand’Solo Records and trying to spread the word of the label wherever I go. Making music with my friends, Factor, Maki. I’m proud of DJ Brace for pulling through and bringing that Canadian champ title back.
HipHopCanada: Your albums don’t have a lot of guests on them usually, why is that?
Epic: Yeah definitely. Too many guests break up the flow of the album in my opinion. Just my opinion though. If an album has a sticker advertising guests I demote it 5% in my calculation of which album to buy. I generally think that an album should always have at least one guest. Illmatic had the tight AZ verse. KRS always had a Ms Melodie verse you know. My new album, Aging Is What Friends Do Together, has more guests then usual. That’s the way it worked out. At the same time, it’s hard to cut out verses from CDs from friends
HipHopCanada: What is the majority of what you listen to or are inspired by?
Epic: I probably listened most to KRS-One, Slick Rick, De La Soul, Volume 10, Ice T, Saafir. I listen to a lot of Soso, Nolto. I’ve been listening to Subtitle lately. I get inspiration from going to rap shows and being part of the community.
HipHopCanada: Has attendance for rap shows waned in your region lately?
Epic: It’s been pretty good lately.
HipHopCanada: Is there higher attendance in places like Saskatoon vs. Edmonton?
Epic: The most people probably attend shows in Saskatoon. Edmonton has a cool vibe though. Mainstream shows are wack in Edmonton; I won’t even go.
HipHopCanada: Why do you think other music sub-cultures seem to have better attendance at shows vs. rap shows?
Epic: People want to be where it is coolest at that moment. Rap wasn’t cool in 2007, so people turned to other things. Some rappers started getting weird haircuts. Rap is the best music, so I don’t concern myself with trends generally. I couldn’t keep up with the latest trend if I tried.
HipHopCanada: What’s a good look for someone wanting to check out west coast or prairie rap?
Epic: Look up Side Road Records, Nolto, Touch, Cadence Weapon and the latest Factor album, Chandelier. For west coast I would suggest Subtitle, 2 Mex, K-the-I, Ceschi, Verble. A classic prairie album is Tenth Street and Clarence by Soso. My homie DJ Brace has a new instrumental CD called The Electric Nose Hair Orchestra.
HipHopCanada: How will your raps/subject matter change when you turn 40?
Epic: I’ll probably spend more time rapping on health issues: sore hips, arthritis – that sort of thing. Heavy stuff, maybe more rapping about social issues, preventing water diversion to the U.S.
HipHopCanada: Do you see yourself quitting this rap shit any time soon?
Epic: I’ve quit rap four times in the last 10 years. Usually lasts one or two days. Rap is just too important.
HipHopCanada: What do you want people to take from your music?
Epic: Have fun, but even when you are partying stay real. Be compassionate; don’t take shit from the powers that be. Play lots of records. Give your friends a phone call once in awhile.
HipHopCanada: Any shout-outs or last words?
Epic: Peace to Factor (check out our new group Canadian Scarf Faces), Chaps, Nolto, Kay, Jesse Dangerously, Thomas Quinlan, DJ Kelley. Save the planet, protect Canadian NHL teams. I am against arts funding.
Written by Jon B for HipHopCanada