Big Blax [Interview]
Toronto, ON – One of the biggest assets Canada can hope for in its growing scenes is a lot more members who share the same frame of mind as MC/CEO Big Blax, who possesses a heavy combination of natural talent and entrepreneurial knowledge. While the news has been occupied by talks of economic stimulus packages as of late, Canada’s hip-hop scene has long been in need of its own financial bailout program to get the funds flowing . . . simply put, not an overwhelming amount of people are able to sustain their careers within the industry without also having another job on the side. Scarborough’s Big Blax has proven to his peers that he’s about his business and is willing to invest the money it takes when needed.
As an artist, he has already released some quality mixtapes and DVDs and has established himself as one of the more entertaining artists coming out of Toronto’s East-end. As an entrepreneur he continues to build his own record label, Rhyme Grimey Entertainment and is the co-owner of Toronto clothing store, Da Corner which recently opened some new locations.
He’s rolling with Deep Waters now and has a ton of new material set for release throughout the year including the Best of Big Blax Volume 1 and Key Money Volumes 1 and 2. We caught up with Blax to discuss the movements he plans on making and the story behind his involvement with Canadian hip-hop. Check it out!
HipHopCanada: Big Blax! Welcome to HipHopCanada. We have plenty to talk about but let’s start with some history to get people who are behind a little more familiar with you. When did you first get into hip-hop and what/who would you credit as your biggest influence?
Big Blax: First off, big up HipHopCanada.com for supporting independent local talent and businesses. I first got into hip-hop when I was in my mothers womb waiting to be welcomed to the earth. My first influences coming up in hip-hop would have to be Big Daddy Kane, Kool Moe Dee, Public Enemy, Kriss Kross, House of Pain and Snoop Dogg to name a few.
HipHopCanada: What was it like growing up in Scarborough in the 80’s/90’s? Has self-pride for Scarborough gotten stronger over the years within the community?
Big Blax: It was real positive growing up in Scarborough. There’s always a flip side to that, but your reality is what you make it. In my case I always made sure to keep a tight knit crew around me at all times. That made growing up a lot easier around my neck of the woods.
HipHopCanada: Which Canadian hip-hop songs were you really feeling in the early days? Any songs in particular that really inspired you to invest your time in the Canadian scene?
Big Blax: “Ol’ Time Killin’”, “Northern Touch”, Point Blank . . . the one where Imperial was rapping from a jail cell, their first video, I believe. “On Wit’ Da Show” by Kardinal was one of the first Canadian joints that made me boogie.
HipHopCanada: How did you know that being an MC was your calling as opposed to being a DJ or a producer?
Big Blax: Honestly, I’ve always had an uncanny way with words and poetry. And being in front of a microphone is as natural as it gets for me. I get a rush when I hear my voice amplified.
HipHopCanada: You have 3 mixtapes under your belt including an acclaimed DVD which I must say was highly enjoyable to check out. Can you talk about these projects?
Big Blax: Definitely. All three mixtapes were released by Rhyme Grimey Entertainment which is run and controlled by me. The first two mixtapes were released simultaneously in fall ’04. They’re called Scarborough Blocks: The Awakening (a collaborative effort by some of the grimiest and grittiest goons on the East side of the city, from North to South Scarborough) and The Best of Big Blax Volume 1 . . . a graphic display of lyricism mixed with hardcore harmonies and flows. The last independent release under RGE (Rhyme Grimey Entertainment) was in summer of ’07 which was entitled Key Money Volume 1 which is a CD and DVD. I like to think of this mixtape as a sign of growth with regards to my whole hustle and knowledge of the game. You will definitely sense a sign of maturity as an artist and as a businessman when you take in Key Money Volume 1. And yes, Key Money Volume 2 is on it’s way! You can call the space between my mixtapes “grind time”.
HipHopCanada: You increased your buzz quite significantly with the release of “It Weighs A Ton” and “My Girl”. The video was especially hot . . . have you been trying to get a specific message out with your music?
Big Blax: The main message of my music is don’t give up. I mean that in every aspect of the game, no matter what your hustle is. You could be a garbage man, just make sure that you strive to be the best garbage man in the world. Be the best and what you do and keep your head high. That would best describe the message in my music.
HipHopCanada: You linked with one of Canada’s biggest upcoming movements – Deepwaters which features a tight roster including artists like Gangis Khan AKA Camoflauge, Kid Cocky and newly added King Dapz, to name a few. How did you link with DeepWaters and what are your plans with that movement?
Big Blax: Camo and I have known of each other since the late 90’s. I used to hear him freestyle on tracks with friends of mine, I knew when I first heard him spit that he was an MC of my calibre. Definitely one of the hardest spitting rappers out. Once we got to know each others flow, and I realised that Camo and Deepwaters is more of a family than anything else I knew that this was something I had to be a part of. One thing about Camo that I noticed right off the bat is that he takes his work VERY seriously. Whether it’s in the booth, the streets, or the office. Big up Hudson, Kid Cocky, King Dapz and all my Deepwaters and RGE affiliates.
HipHopCanada: You’ve definitely established yourself, through various ciphers and DVDs that you’re on top of your freestyle game. How important is the freestyle aspect of being an MC?
Big Blax: Oh, man. First off let me just say that I love to freestyle. Freestyle like performing is another much needed entity to even consider yourself as an MC. I remember freestyling wit my big bro as early as 7 years old man. Freestyling is a raw display of one’s creativity and spotaniety. I used to freestyle in high school every chance I could get. I love it. Like performing, I pride myself on my freestyle game.
HipHopCanada: What’s next on the musical front? Any specific projects we should be checking for?
Big Blax: Key Money Volume 2 is COMING! Also you can check me on on dozens of collabo’s throughout the city with acts like S.L.U.G., Mayhem Morearty and a plethora of other talented MCs. Just stay tuned and keep your ears to the street.
HipHopCanada: You’ve performed all around the city and hit up some big events including showcases at Importfest car shows and Manifesto, to name a couple. How important is it for Canadian artists to be performing? Are there any big shows featuring Big Blax coming up?
Big Blax: The first thing any record company A&R is looking for in an artist is if you can draw a crowd and how well can you work the stage. Live performance is the key entity that separates a real MC from a fake MC. Anyone is capable of getting in a recording booth, distorting a few vocals and making a track. Performing live, however, is a raw display of performance and vocal ability. If you can get on stage, make your presence felt and spit your lyrics clearly so that even people in the parking lot can hear you than to me you are a true MC. I pride myself in being one of the best performers in the city.
HipHopCanada: Okay, aside from being a musician you are also a store owner. Let’s talk about Da Corner — quickly becoming a staple in Toronto’s hip-hop fashion world. What inspired you to get Da Corner off the ground?
Big Blax: Well, I was actually approached by a good friend of mine who found and ad on the net for a retail venue on Queen Street that was available. We had both talked about owning a store so we decided to put our heads together and see what we could come up with. Needless to say, that’s how Da Corner emerged and I’ve been pushing it to the limits ever since. We currently have two new locations and hope to have a lot more within the next few months.
HipHopCanada: Are there plans in place to expand Da Corner throughout Canada? What do you have in the works?
Big Blax: Definitely! My main goal for Da Corner is to create a successfully run franchise with well over 20 locations throughout Ontario and eventually worldwide.
HipHopCanada: You’ve been featured on CityTV’s Breakfast Television and other media outlets. How beneficial has this type of support been to getting the word out about your movement?
Big Blax: It’s definitely been a plus because a lot of people know me as an artist. So to have me on Breakfast Television with my dapper suede and fur coat and my tinted shades talking to one of the most beautiful host’s of live television definitely put me in a different light than the “regular” rapper. It definitely helped put Da Corner on the map and secured a lot of links and outlets with regards to networking and promotion.
HipHopCanada: Do you feel the city of Toronto (not the heads but the rest of the city) is supportive of Toronto’s growing hip-hop scene? Have you felt any resistance to your attempts to expanding your own movements?
Big Blax: I can honestly say that there is a lot more support in Toronto than there was before. I’ve definitely received my share of resistance, not so much on the music side, but on the entrepreneurial side. It’s hard for a lot of people to respect a lot of these rappers as businessmen because simply put they are not businessmen. The problem I run into frequently as being a store owner/rapper is that people assume that I’m going to jump up and spits 16’s upon demand, or rush to the store to buy the latest j’s every week. But when they recognize that I’m a strict businessman who is about his bread and butter that’s when the resistance and hate starts to shine through. But I love haters, with all my heart.
HipHopCanada: Realistically, do you think 2009 will be much different than 2008 for Canadian hip-hop? Is Canada at the point where it has no choice but to look outside it’s own borders for massive support in numbers?
Big Blax: I feel like we’ve got to support our own industry and nourish it before we go stepping on toes in foreign territory, however I also believe that once that one MC comes out of T-Dot and blows the world away there’s nothing that can be done to change the outcome. You can never deny good music. That’s all we need, consistent, good music.
HipHopCanada: On that note, do you feel Kardinal Offishall’s Not 4 Sale album has opened any doors for other aspects of the Canadian hip-hop scene?
Big Blax: It definitely puts attention on Toronto. As for opening doors for Canadian hip-hop, nah . . . not for my genre.
HipHopCanada: What do you feel the biggest events for Canadian hip-hop were in 2008 and which single do you think really stood out from the rest?
Big Blax: I would have to say that “I’m Still Fly” joint with Page and Drake was definitely one of my favourites of the year without question. I feel Drake’s movement because he is showing that he is more than an actor/rapper/singer. He separated himself from being just a rapper, which is something that I take pride in doing.
HipHopCanada: Who are you checking for in 2009?
Big Blax: BIG BLAX . . . BIG BLAX . . . BIG BLAX!
HipHopCanada: Big Blax! Once again thank you for taking the time to speak with HipHopCanada.com. Is there anything you want to touch on that we haven’t already discussed? Any shout-outs?
Big Blax: I just want to say that the grind never stops, you can achieve anything if you’re passionate enough and focused on your goals. Big up Brothers Keeper Records, my man Settu, S.L.U.G. movement, Dre, Guy and everyone else who put their heart and soul into Da Corner, J. Bizz., My dude Kidnapp, Numbers, KB, Travis Blackman, The whole Scarborough, my baking soda gang, Deepwaters, just everybody who supports the movement through love and hate, cause we need both to keep doing what we do. It ain’t easy.
Editor’s note: You can check out Big Blax at http://www.myspace.com/bigblaxmusik.
Written by Jesse “Dutchy” Plunkett for HipHopCanada