Eternia & MoSS mesh sounds on new album At Last [Interview]
Toronto, ON – Despite a hectic schedule, it’s hard to pass up an opportunity to interview two people responsible for one of the most important releases of the year for Canadian hip-hop.
Over the phone, Eternia sounds like the type of person with the kind of charm that’s always working the room. This charm translates into her stage shows, as she’s known to body a venue as well as she does a track. Producer MoSS on the other hand, is reserved, the guiding hand, the contemplative architect behind the jagged yet fresh sound beds of their new album, At Last.
It’s a cleverly crafted record, with Eternia’s sometimes heart-wrenching autobiographical tales drawing you in, and leaving you with pieces from different songs to capture her whole story. Yet, you’re left feeling like you just rocked out at an intimate show in crowded a venue.
So we chopped it up over the phone for a good hour, touching on everything from their stellar new album At Last, getting intensely personal on records, paying 44 dollars for an LL cassette tape, fans in Toronto versus everywhere else in the world and why Janis Joplin is Eternia’s kindred spirit.
HipHopCanada: So how’d you guys hook up in the first place?
MoSS: I was on tour with Marco Polo and EMC, and Mr. Attic and Torae were doing this kind of cross-Canada beat society thing a couple of years ago, and I ended up running into Eternia in Winnipeg of all places… I saw her do her thing on stage and I was really impressed by it. So while EMC and them were doing their set, I ended talking with Eternia for a bit. We talked about doing a few songs and then maybe doing a project and it just kind of rolled from there.
HipHopCanada: And why the title At Last?
Eternia: I mean I think it means something different to each of us. “At last” can be used in so many different settings it’s more than just a double entendre. For me it’s like breathing a sigh of relief, at last I did the record that I’ve been wanting to do my whole life. And I know that sounds corny but it’s just true, it’s very sonically consistent, it’s very sonically me and MoSS. We really represent ourselves very accurately and honestly on this record, so for me it’s like finally, it’s a coming of age. If people didn’t know who I was or what my sound was before this album they will now.
HipHopCanada: In “32 Bars” you talk about traveling a lot. You talk about touring and the response and love you get everywhere from Japan, to the West Coast, to even Ethiopia you mention. But how do you feel about the response you get in Toronto, in your home town, or in Canada?
Eternia: I view each performance as a battle, so you either come out victorious or you don’t. I get lots of love, definitely feel victorious in my home town. That being said, it’s been a training ground for me to be able to rock anywhere else because we all know that Toronto cats, especially hip-hop heads they’re really critical, and they won’t show love unless they really respect what you’re doing. One of the first times I ever rocked Toronto was at the Planet Mars show at The Weave, in the 90’s and cats went crazy. That was the same week that Kwesro passed away. And they did a tribute to Kwesro from Nefarius, cats that came up on hip-hop in the 90’s including MoSS know what I’m talking about. I did a set that night and people went crazy, and that’s the first time I ever performed that I can remember in Toronto actually booked, you know billed as ‘Eternia performance’, [and] not just jumping up on stage. Since then it’s been uphill when it comes to the crowd reaction in Toronto, all the way up to the performance at the first Manifesto two years ago. The Mixtape Show with Tara Chase, Choclair, Saukrates, Dream Warriors, Maestro Fresh Wes, Michee Mee, BrassMunk everybody. So I’m loved by Toronto, but I definitely feel like I have to learn to really rock in order to impress.
HipHopCanada: So would you feel that it’s still more challenging in Toronto to please your fan base whereas elsewhere you might get a warmer reception?
Eternia: Yeah. That’s not to say that I don’t get a warm reception when I’m in Toronto, I do, but I can honestly tell you that everywhere else I go it’s much easier for sure. Including New York City, including the place where hip-hop was born. It’s easier for me to impress cats here then it is in Toronto.
HipHopCanada: Ok, and with the recent success of guys like K’naan and Drake who are putting Toronto on the map, do you feel like that in any way will sort of open doors or have people be more open to listen to you? Or has that not affected you at all?
MoSS: I think there’s definitely been an impact in terms of visibility of Canadian artists. I’m assuming because of the success those guys have had that’s now become an asset, whereas 10 years ago it wasn’t an asset it was more of a liability as an artist. We’ve had an unbelievable scene in Canada for many years. Anytime someone comes up, you know Premier is up here, I’ve been friends with Jake One for 15 years, a lot of people come through the city. And everyone always says the same thing, hip-hop is really thriving here. Everyone recognizes the talent, but you know that border is a lot bigger than people recognize in terms of the difference between our countries. But with the Internet now, and obviously with what Drake has done, I think a lot of people need to take advantage of the situation. I know 7 or 8 years ago when Obie [Trice] signed to Shady, you go for meeting in New York and they might say “Oh you’re from Toronto, what’s happening up there? Do you know Kardinal? Do you know Sauks?” Nowadays when I’m in New York they’ll be like, “Yo, what’s going on in Toronto? Who’s the next artist, who’s bubbling?” So it’s no longer do you know the guys we know, [it’s] what’s coming next? So people are paying attention and a lot of artists out there should take advantage of it.
HipHopCanada: On “Pass That”, “To the Past”, “The Half” and especially “To The Future”, you discuss a lot of personal stuff and you’re brutally honest about some things. Do you ever worry that you’re giving too much? Do you ever put a limit on how much I guess honesty you put out there?
Eternia: Good question. No, I’ve never worried, I’ve never been fearful. I’ve never recorded something and then thought should I have recorded that, no. Then again me as a person, aside from music, I usually say things that other people wouldn’t probably say in front of people they don’t know. I’m one of those people I’m very unapologetic which has gotten me in trouble at times. But what makes my music unique to me, or what makes Eternia’s songs with MoSS or whatever is what makes Eternia uniquely Eternia. Nobody else can say what I’ve gone through so one of the strongest points about me as an artist is the fact that I am that vulnerable.
HipHopCanada: Ok and who is that you sampled on the song “Goodbye”? Who was it speaking over the chorus I wasn’t able to make it out?
Eternia: That is Janis Joplin who I feel is my spiritual, kindred spirit from another decade. I really love Janis Joplin and so I found this documentary and pulled the audio off a VHS tape. Funny story, me and my grandmother watched that together, my grandmother is ’93 years old, in order to find those quotes. Janice Joplin always says things that I feel come out of my mouth. She just says things that I think, so I’m like let me just use her.
HipHopCanada: Anything I may have missed that you’d want to add?
Eternia: The one thing I’ll say just in closing is I just encourage people to listen to the whole album straight through, and MoSS says the same thing. Before you assume anything, just listen to it. Because I guarantee when you do, you’ll be happy with it. You’ll a new perspective and it won’t be what you expected. And it’s amazing, I think it’s amazing. So for everyone reading this right now before you even hit comment, go out there and listen. Straight up.
At Last is available now on iTunes.
Written by Atkilt Geleta for HipHopCanada