Sean One [Interview]
Fredericton, NB – Things were looking good for the Maritime hip-hop scene back when Capitol Records came to Halifax in the 80’s and signed M.C.J & Cool G. Not only were they the first black artists to get a deal from Capitol Records Canada, but they were also the first Maritime hip-hop act to get a deal. Local radio station CKDU-FM was giving muscle to a hip-hop scene which was feeling the constraints of a backwards music industry and a culturally dormant society less than willing to give their support to a culture deemed as deviant and inartistic. Nevertheless, it wasn’t long before that early foundation began to crack under the pressure.
During the early 90’s the Halifax hip-hop scene was all but dead. M.C.J & Cool G moved to Montreal, people stopped going to shows and local hip-hop artists became frustrated. However, there was one man who refused to simply let the local scene die. Jorun Bombay began to breathe life into the hip-hop scene by putting out records with his own money and aiding other Halifax legends like Sixtoo and Buck 65 by providing production and guidance. Jorun put Halifax hip-hop back on the map and built a new base for up and coming Maritime hip-hop artists.
Introducing MC/Producer Sean One. By 1997 the Halifax hip-hop scene had become one of the strongest in all of Canada and had even began to receive attention internationally. Although it was still very underground, Halifax pioneer Jorun had laid a strong foundation for new artists like Classified to build on. Meanwhile, in New Brunswick a new group of artists began to catch Jorun’s eye. The illustrious Vet Cru hailed from the grimy streets of one of Canada’s oldest cities; Saint John. The group consisted of Sean One, Above, Microphone Jones, J-Below and Phillintheblank. Even though the crew eventually recorded a full album under Jorun’s guidance, their material was never released. Sean One did, however appear on Jorun’s Compilation Breakfluid. Sean One eventually went solo and released two albums of his own: I Live in New Brunswick (2002) and I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter (2003). Eager to reunite with a group of like-minded artists, Sean One hooked up with long-time padres Above, Jorun and Fredericton native DJ STV to form the group First Words. The group put out their first (self-titled) full-length album in 2004 to rave reviews. DJ Loc Dog (of CHSR FM) called it “the best thing to come out of Maritime hip-hop.” It took the number one spot on hip-hop Top 10’s across the country in October 2004, including 4 weeks on the national Chart Attacks Top 10! Sean One is constantly collaborating with other artists. In 2005, he dropped the Jorun’s Way/Sean One’s Way 7” vinyl with his musical mentor, Jorun Bombay.
As of late, Sean One has found new focus in his musical career . . . he’s spending as much time on instrumental production as he is on his rhymes. With his new found musical interest he has released two production based albums, Full of It (2006) and MCs Not Included (2008). First Words have recently released a 7” vinyl EP called The Anti-Mixtape Movement, as well as their second full length album Cheaters. Over the past few years, Sean One has shared the spotlight with Styles of Beyond (Ill Boogie – Los Angeles), Classified (Halflife), Pip Skid and John Smith (Peanuts and Corn), Kamau, Skratch Bastid (Scribble Jam Champion), The New Deal, J-live (New York) , Universal Soul (Much Music Video Nominee), Grand Theft Bus, Cesar Comanche (Justus League – North Carolina), The Goods (Camobear), Pumpkinhead (Red Army – Brooklyn, NYC) and Grand Master Flash (Pioneer of Rap Music – New York). He’s earned praise from audiences and reviewers alike . . . for his live energy and his penchant for crowd participation.
With two group albums, two vinyl EP’s, two ECMA nominations, two solo albums and a handful of instrumental projects under his belt, Sean One is now ready to release his third and most anticipated solo project. In recent years Sean One has become just as well known for his production as his MC’ing. He has crafted beats for some of the best in the East and is now poised to introduce his skills both on the mic and behind the boards to the rest of the country. HipHopCanada caught up with Sean One to discuss where he’s been and where he’s going in the world of hip-hop.
HipHopCanada: Let’s set the record straight! What city do you represent? Is it Saint John or Fredericton?
Sean One: I’ve lived in Fredericton for almost 8 years. I have friends and family here, so it’s only natural I rep the river city. I still have mad love for Saint John, big ups to everyone in the Port City.
HipHopCanada: Not only are you a well respected MC, you are also known on the East coast as New Brunswick’s go to man as far as production goes. What tools do you use in the studio and how would you describe your style of production?
Sean One: To make beats I use a Stanton turntable and mixer, an M-Audio Fast Track Pro, a 4 channel Yamaha mixing console and a pair of Roland DM-20s, a computer, various programs, and a large collection of vinyl. I invest most of my time and energy digging for breaks and would consider my style to be sample based.
HipHopCanada: Who are you working with at the present time? I heard that you are producing for a talented young MC by the name of Monark.
Sean One: True story! Monark is more than talented, he’s a natural. He has a way with words that most rappers would kill to have as their own. For a younger cat he has a real mature delivery and an ear for production unlike many other rappers. His album is actually finished and it’s something else. It’s a Sean One-Jorun Bombay production. I contributed all of the beats and Jorun added the intro and an outro, a beat, cuts, and the finishing touches to the project. This album should really turn some heads.
HipHopCanada: Aside from Monark, are there any other any other New Brunswick MC’s that should be on our radar?
Sean One: Yeah for sure, there is quite a bit of talent in the province; we’re just spread out among the 3 major cities, Fredericton, Saint John and Moncton. In Fredericton there is Socially Acceptable, and my group First Words. In Saint John you’ve got Phakt, Microphone Jones, J-Smirl, Nostic, Add Higga just to name a few. In Moncton you’ve got Nayles and Hotbox makes some nice beats . . . Lots of talent and I’m sure I’m forgetting someone.
HipHopCanada: What’s the best advice DJ Jorun has ever given you and how have you applied it to your own career?
Sean One: I could write a book on the advice I’ve got from Jorun. It’s way too hard to pick one piece of advice and say it’s the best. I have turned to him for guidance a number of times throughout my career. People should take note of his do it ALL yourself mentality. That mentality sets him apart from many others on the East coast. Who else do you know can produce the album, mix and master it, design the artwork and website, write the one sheet, and film the video?
HipHopCanada: Talk to us about your new solo record. Who’s going to be on the record and when can we expect to see it on the shelves?
Sean One: It’s been a work in progress for almost 4 years. I would have to say that I have produced and recorded over 40 songs for the project so far, all of which have been scrapped except for 2. I want this release to be my best piece of work to date. As of right now you should expect to see the entire First Words family on the album, Jorun, Above, STV, Monark, and Ghettosocks (the Cappadonna of First Words). I have a track with Cesar Comanche finished and I have been in touch with Classified, who was the first person to record me over 10 years ago. I don’t like to pay for guest appearances; however, I will pay for their studio time if need be. I know trends are changing in hip-hop, but I just don’t like the idea of paying for a random verse from some guy I’ve never met. If I want to collaborate with another musician I would expect the other party involved to have the same enthusiasm. I guess I’m looking for mutual respect. I’m not too sure when you’ll see this album on the shelves. My main priority is First Words, and I often get distracted with spontaneous side projects. Hopefully it will be available sometime next year.
HipHopCanada: Are there any non-Maritime artists you would like to work with?
Sean One: Yes. Skratch Bastid. I’ve know him for a pretty long time, but we’ve never collaborated. We’ve always said we would, but for some reason it has never happened. Now that he’s into the production game the options are endless. There are a lot of other artists I would love to work with, but I can’t seem to find enough time to reach out.
HipHopCanada: Does the album have a title yet?
Sean One: The album has been named One Day at a Time. I think that the name fits the concept, just taking it one day at a time.
HipHopCanada: On your second solo album you said, “I’m going to finish what I started and leave the Maritimes.” What has changed during the past few years that has made you change your mind?
Sean One: I also have a song called “If I Wasn’t So Lazy”. But honestly, I think things change. I liked living in the Maritimes, so I decided to stay. I quickly realized that making a steady income in the music business wasn’t my best option. I went back to school and now have a career I enjoy, a career that can provide a decent standard of living. I can’t believe you actually listened to that album, wow!
HipHopCanada: So you recently became an elementary school teacher. A few years back you had the opportunity to do some shows with J-Live. If my memory serves me correct J-Live also became a teacher after graduating from Albany State. When did you first decide that you wanted to become a teacher and is J-Live a role model for you?
Sean One: Except for being frisked at the door it was nice. I got to rock a good crowd and briefly share some thoughts with him backstage. I wouldn’t say he’s a role model, but he’s definitely an inspiration to continue moving in this direction.
HipHopCanada: What about KRS?
Sean One: He’s taught me a lot. I got to see him live last year, absolutely incredible.
HipHopCanada: Do you incorporate hip-hop into your daily lessons?
Sean One: I use hip-hop when the time is right. Once a week I have the kids chant or rap the spelling words they are studying. I always make sure to accompany their rap with a certified Sean One banger! The kids have fun and learn something at the same time. Now who says learning isn’t fresh?
HipHopCanada: Who’s the dopest MC in your class? Shout-outs!
Sean One: I’d like to give props to Grade 5M.
HipHopCanada: Thank you for doing this interview. All the best in the future!
Sean One: Not a problem. I would like to thank Elusive and Monark Skateboards . . . Oh and candy apples aren’t really candy! That’s my word.