Vancouver, B.C. – Emotionz is a staple of the Vancouver scene – not only does he run the city’s only consistent hip-hop night, Monday Night Live, but he also brings newness to the community by integrating various genres and artists on the cusp. In some ways, he’s the measure that challenges rappers to tighten up their creative games; it’s highly doubtful that any Vancouver MC could battle this cat and win. Emotionz is a little controversial, and any self-respecting hater probably has beef with him, most likely about that time when Emotionz made him play first at MNL, or maybe didn’t pay out the expected amount. But when it comes down to business, Emotionz seems to have his system pretty much perfected and until someone else steps up to lead the hip-hop community, people will just have to deal with it.
HipHopCanada sat down with Vancouver’s most feeling MC to talk about his new music video, his latest album and his musical genes. Sitting at a window table in Joe’s cafe – a veritable east van landmark – Emotionz revealed all, dishing on drugs, whack MCs and his sisters.
HipHopCanada: Your album Kush came out recently, let’s talk a little about it.
Emotionz: It’s a metaphor for being some of the strongest and dopest shit on the West Coast. Cause Kush is some of the best weed from the West. But it’s not a weed album, people expect it to be but it’s about everything. Mainly about having a good time and letting loose, that’s what I tried to do on the album. In the past I always felt like for every song I made, it was the last day of the world and I had to say this crazy shit, put all my knowledge into one song or whatever, and I really lost that on this album. You’re not a very good songwriter if you can’t make a song about having fun, or can’t make people dance, or make them want to fuck or want to fight. If you can’t evoke emotion then you’re not a very strong writer. I just wanted to make some shit that was not dumbed down, but was simple enough that the mass public would get it without sacrificing what I want to say. That was hard to write. That’s why the last song on the album is a letter to god, that “Hundred Bars” song, the rest of the album was so dancey. And that wrapped it up, a really lyrical one to finish with.
HipHopCanada: Been getting a good reception?
Emotionz: Great. Best reaction to any music I’ve ever done. It’s been amazing. I have people from every city telling me it’s their favorite album of the year, one of their favorites ever. My tours are booking themselves because of it. Canada, New Zealand, Australia, California, Japan…all over the next year.
HipHopCanada: Any new music videos?
Emotionz: I just put out a video for my “Hundred Bars” song (Dear God), this guy Aaron Mallin from LifeSoDigital Productions made this insane video, all visuals, whatever I’m talking about in the rap just spinning through with textography. It’s nuts, came out December 29, I did a release at Monday Night Live then YouTube. Also working on a music video for “That’s my Record” and “Wildstyle,” a split video. Out in the new year.
HipHopCanada: What makes it worthwhile to run a weekly rap night like Monday Night Live?
Emotionz: MNL is off and on, but overall I’ve made money although I’ve lost thousands of dollars on some nights. I do it for the scene here, to keep myself involved – cause I’m traveling all the time – so it keeps me connected with everybody. And nobody else is doing it right now. When I was younger there were six or seven rap nights in Vancouver where you could see live rap at different places all over, a Wednesday, a Sunday, a Friday, a Monday. I didn’t feel then that I had to throw events to really keep hip-hop alive or something that drastic. But at this point, I feel like, fuck, if I didn’t put it on, I don’t know if anyone would step up to the plate and put on a weekly night, it would just be scattered rap shows and there would be no building community that sees each other every week and checks in, and everyone’s working together and artists are meeting, you know what I mean? I get 10-20 emails every month from rappers that are coming here from out of town so I try to put them on most of the time. I don’t know if a lot of them would even play in Vancouver if I wasn’t here to do it.
HipHopCanada: A lot of Vancouver venues won’t do rap shows, do you find it difficult?
Emotionz: It’s mostly egos of rappers that piss me off but I usually have a great time. But I understand why clubs don’t want to do rap shows. The shit I’ve seen at rap shows is retarded: from shootings to riots…I’ve never been to a rock show or a rave where I’ve seen crazy stupid unwarranted violence like I have at rap shows. And that’s not hip-hop, it’s rap. Rap is a part of hip-hop, it’s the spoken word of this underground culture. Rap music on TV and everything is different now than hip-hop culture with break dancers and graffiti writers and all that. It’s like that Necro riot (*link here: http://abortmag.com/?p=5473*) – Necro is a hip-hop MC but those people there were hicks. Metal rap heads. It wasn’t a hip-hop community of people.
HipHopCanada: They say that what you put out into the universe is what comes back to you: if you’re putting out shitty, misogynistic lyrics you’re gonna get shitty, misogynistic fans. So can you blame rappers for things like this, for attracting like-minded individuals to their shows? Can you blame Necro for that riot?
Emotionz: I can’t blame him for it but I think he carried himself really badly. He thanked everybody who rioted and said that it sounded like a great time. I thought that was really fucking lame. Cause DJ Sage was hospitalized and got stitches, my life was in danger, and Snak’s, and real hip-hop artists in our city were put in danger by these psycho fans for no reason, because this guy didn’t make the show for whatever reason. I was ready for him to apologize but I know his whole thing, he’s just a fucking asshole that’s his image and he has to stick with that.
HipHopCanada: What would a hip-hop Utopia in Vancouver look like?
Emotionz: It all comes back to the rappers egos, if rappers could see it’s not about being the best, or better than the other guy but about being your own character… a good example is Snak the Ripper. He’s tapped into that, he’s not trying to out-lyric the other guy, he’s just dope and he’s Snak, he’s himself and he’s raw. Some rappers don’t have any character, they can say the craziest thing but you can tell they’re just writing something and off the mic they’re not the same person. I think the egos in Vancouver hold the rap scene down. If only people were more down to help each other out and collaborate with everybody, the conscious rapper with the gangsta dude, nobody judging each other, thinking they’re way tighter…even when I book artists for Monday Night Live they’re like, ‘Oh man, I’m booked with him? I’m way tighter than him.’ I could rap as good as anyone in Vancouver and I’m going to host the night with the guy, so fuck off.
HipHopCanada: You have a distinctive system for paying your performers; what has this taught you?
Emotionz: My boy Kyle Kraft (Battle Axe) put me up on this system that they were doing in L.A. with people saying who they came to see and half of that money going to the door, the other half to the performer. That’s been a real eye-opener to me cause some bigger groups, who are really well known and might be able to sell records, don’t even bring one person to the show. And then some new kid brings 80 people to his first show and generates 800 bucks at the door. So for me and a lot of performers it’s been an eye-opener to their value, I know that some underground artists see how many people come out and support them when they rap, and it’s boosted them to take their career to another level. And there’s been other artists who have had a reality check about self-promo, or about making some more calls to get people out because you can’t expect everyone just to know – you’ve got to put in a little work yourself.
HipHopCanada: You’re doing a lot of Dubstep Electro Glitch, branching off from traditional hip-hop. How does that feel?
Emotionz: It feels great, it feels really refreshing and new. Anybody who knows me knows that I’m a hip-hop minded person in everything that I do, either business or just hanging out, so I think in that sense it’s really cool that I can bring that traditional hip-hop flavor to electronic music or to the electronic culture. Dubstep Electro Glitch involves three different genres of music; the night’s called Whatever’s Dope Wednesdays [at Shine] cause we’re trying to bring in whatever kind of electronic music is dope and let the DJs have free range with that. Some of them play a bit of drum and bass too, a little bit of hip-hop or breaks, whatever they want to play. Stylust, my producer, is getting really good at making dubstep and electro kind of stuff, so my music, which is rhyming over his stuff, has gone that direction too. I’ve been doing a lot of raves or different kinds of clubs on tour, where they haven’t really seen an underground MC.
HipHopCanada: For example you perform Shambhala every year, right?
Emotionz: Ten years in a row. My Wednesdays are similar to that crowd, a lot of the people who go to Shambhala come to our Wednesday nights. Shambhala definitely has a kooky crowd of lots of different people from all over the world. I like to show them that not all rappers are ignorant and hate women and are prejudiced. I show those people that there are rappers who are open-minded and just wanna have a good time. The rap game tends to be, sell your morals for money, do anything you can to get a sports car and a mansion, ditch your family to get that chain or whatever. Kids grow up looking at that, thinking that’s hip-hop. Or people from the outside who don’t know anything about our culture think that too. So to break a lot of those misconceptions has been really cool.
HipHopCanada: That crowd has a reputation for drug use; how do you see drugs and music fitting together?
Emotionz: I don’t think it’s necessary but it’s going to be a part of any culture. Any musical genre is going to have its preference of what they like to drink, or what drug to do. I think certain drugs can be beneficial. Something like e or MDMA can be beneficial to some people if they use it in the right way.
HipHopCanada: What’s the right way to use an illegal substance?
Emotionz: Say somebody who has problems opening up and doesn’t see a counselor might do e and talk about deep, dark feelings to their friends or whoever, connect and figure some shit out about their life. I think physical release through dancing is good; I don’t think you need drugs to do it but if that’s what it is then that’s what it is. There’s a lot worse things you can do on drugs. People can do drugs and break into people’s houses or whatever, right? If kids or adults are doing drugs and dancing, loving each other, it could be worse. Like anything it’s got to be in moderation.
HipHopCanada: Let’s change the subject and talk about your sisters Dani & Lizzy, musician and entrepreneurs on the rise…
Emotionz: They’re doing great. They’re in negotiations right now for a development deal that has to do with their sunglasses, a clothing line and their music. A record deal and a deal for LOKD sunglasses in California, could be really crazy. They’re 23 now.
HipHopCanada: And wasn’t your dad in some new wave band in the 70’s?
Emotionz: Yeah, he was in the Payolas.
HipHopCanada: So a musical family all around. Do you feel that a life in music was chosen for you?
Emotionz: I feel like when I look back at my upbringing it was pretty obvious I was going to be in the music industry, I was always around it. When I became a young white rapper when I was 13 my parents weren’t really stoked. Especially when I was a little older in my teen years and decided to do it as a career, then they were like, “oh shit.” They were supportive but it really wasn’t what they thought I was going to do. I started out rapping and winning local battles in Vancouver. A couple years into my rhyming career there started being beatbox battles in Vancouver and I was good already at it so I started entering them. It kind of sets me apart, it’s something other rappers don’t do or can’t do at their shows. I think it also makes me more of a musician and a DJ also, so I connect better with producers and DJs in the sense that I orchestrate drum patterns and basslines, and make beats myself. All that stuff you would do on the boards on musical programs, I do with my mind and my mouth too. I communicate with musicians better because of it.
Editor’s note: Since HipHopCanada interviewed Emotionz, he has announced that he is ending his role as the facilitator of Monday Night Live. He’ll be touring six countries this coming year, and wanted to remove the weight of “a bar making me feel like I’ve gotta throw a crazy concert every week.” He will still be involved with Whatever’s Dope Wednesdays at Shine, and will be throwing monthly shows at a variety of venues around the city. For more information on Emotionz check out http://www.myspace.com/emotionz.