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Student-artists: “Connect, Grow, Achieve” with CAMPUSTREE [Interview]

Ottawa, ONWelcome to Brand Buzz – first up CAMPUSTREE. Over the years in working at HipHopCanada, I’ve met a lot of aspiring artists who are also university or college students. Some of Canada’s most reputable artists have either attended a university and bailed in pursuit of musical success, or, graduated, often with honours, from some of the best post-secondary schools our country has to offer… think Shad or D.O., k-os, JD Era, Harvey Stripes, Tara Chase, new comer Logik Dat Lad and so many more.

Interview: Student-artists: Connect, Grow, Achieve with CAMPUSTREE [Brand Buzz] -

Artists like D.O. and the Godfather Wes “Maestro” Williams tour the country not only for concert performances but also speaking engagements at high schools, colleges and universities, and even middle school or younger audiences to engage the youth using hip-hop as the medium. We even have members of our hip-hop community who have either taught or are currently teaching at colleges and universities – think “Northern Touch” legend Thrust or UMAC President Will Strickland. Needless to say, the Canadian hip-hop scene is a lot more intertwined with Canadian education than most might think. But let me not get into too much detail on that before people start calling me out on names I missed or examples I should have used. This was just my segue into the main point of this piece: to introduce the hip-hop heads who are also students to CAMPUSTREE.

Launched originally by CEO Jason Tabbara in Ottawa, CAMPUSTREE is a new social networking tool for students that is quickly getting people’s attention. The site offers a ton of great tools and services for students and there are a lot of new upgrades launching soon. With the student-artists in mind, and knowing CAMPUSTREE will be promoting the Canadian scene through their entertainment coverage, we decided to reach out. Check out a recent interview with CAMPUSTREE’s VP of Business Development Justin Knox to see what CAMPUSTREE is all about and how it might benefit you.

Justin Knox is the first person to be interviewed as part of our new Brand Buzz series which will periodically go behind the scenes with up and coming businesses.

HipHopCanada: You’ve been a fan and part of hip-hop culture for quite some time. What kind of artists did you grow up listening to?

Justin: I grew up listening to artists who are known today as the grandfathers of hip-hop. From Notorious B.I.G., to Snoop Dogg, Jay-Z, and Eminem, this ever-evolving cultural phenomenon, not only as a form of musical entertainment but also as a lifestyle, has and continues to be a part of my life since childhood. I remember the first album I ever owned – Dr. Dre Chronic 2001 – an album that, if you can recall its “blunt” cover art, hardly impressed my parents who could not grasp the concept of this new genre that seemed to encourage anarchy in youth. The heavy bass blaring from my basement room didn’t help either. Nevertheless, I climbed through high school in Nova Scotia listening to hip-hop, including local artists such as Classified, Jordan Croucher and Last Glance.

It was during frosh week of my first year at Carleton University that the Canadian hip-hop scene really grabbed my attention. To promote student and campus life, the Carleton University Students’ Association (CUSA) organizes concerts throughout the year, bringing in Canadian artists such as k-os, Kardinal Offishall, and more recently, Shad – all of whom I’ve had the opportunity to see live, outdoors, and on campus.

Despite my own personal love for hip-hop culture, it was the breakout of Canadian artist Drake that catapulted the Canadian hip-hop industry into international recognition, subsequently exposing our nation’s many other talents further out into the world. Drake’s presence in hip-hop culture, as well as the presence of all other great Canadian artists, is inspirational, living proof that one does not need to look outside of our country to find talent.

HipHopCanada: What’s your take on the current state and/or potential of Canadian hip-hop — post-impact of Drake’s international success?

Justin: Not only has Drake’s international success softened the barrier between Canadian and American hip-hop, the artist also serves as a trend setter through his recording of high quality mixtapes. With today’s popularity of music piracy through the power of the internet, Drake appealed to audiences by utilizing these resources to his advantage and was able to create a name for himself – even before the release of his EP. His third mixtape in 2009 titled So Far Gone was initially released for free download to the public, and became so overwhelmingly successful that it was re-released as his official EP, with only one additional song. Since then, many artists such as Chris Brown and Diddy have followed suit, changing the structure of modern music publishing and marketing strategies. Thus, Drake has not only contributed to the hip-hop world as a great Canadian artist, but also as an artist who has contributed to the evolution of hip-hop itself, marking Canada as a birthplace of influential musical talent and showing the world what our nation is capable of.

HipHopCanada: What’s the story behind Campustree and who’s behind the idea? Has it been a long time coming?

Justin: Campustree has been an idea that our CEO, Jason Tabbara had for quite some time, though it wasn’t until recently that he was able to transcribe its multifaceted concepts into a fully functional and navigational online site. His experience in the entertainment industry dealing with the student demographic aided him in learning about the various challenges that students experience while attending college or university is what prompted him to come up with the idea of Campustree. During my time at university, spanning from my arrival as a freshman until after I graduated, I noticed there were many problematic areas in terms of access to information and resources for students who are unfamiliar with university life and the community in which it exists. Today, hundreds of thousands of young adults are transitioning from high school to post secondary education programs – both at home and abroad – many of whom are not being provided with the crucial resources required to fully obtain and explore the attractions and amenities which their city has to offer. This hindrance of truly experiencing student and community life is where Campustree steps in – students need more available resources to ease the stresses of, and initial transition to the next phase of their lives, their post-graduate studies, all the while having fun and creating a network for themselves. Campustree was created by students for students, to provide opportunities and other great resources devoted to helping students achieve an unforgettable college experience.

HipHopCanada: What is the concept of the website and accompanying service(s) offered?

Justin: The concept of Campustree was developed in order to save students time and money, and provide them with useful resources prior to and upon arrival on campus, throughout their university/college career, and even after graduation when the time has come to enter the “real” world. On our website one will find listings for off-campus housing, study groups, and savings and deals around the city. Our website’s first purpose will be to offer students deals on local and national products and services. Students are able to sign up and create profiles, from where they can find the deals that appeal to them, share information with other classmates and students, as well as make use of the many other helpful applications, tools and the services provided on the website.

HipHopCanada: What are your main goals to accomplish after a year now that you have officially launched the service?

Justin: Our main goal is aimed at making the university and college experience as easy for the student as possible through providing accessible means to a healthy and successful academic and social student career. In order to accomplish this, we must first find and attract students to our website and hope that through Campustree they will discover a highly useful map and key to life on campus, within the community and throughout the city.

HipHopCanada: Have you limited the focus to Canadian schools and students to begin with?

Justin: Yes, currently our main focus is on Canadian students, in September we will have our official launch in Ottawa across three campuses: Ottawa University, Carleton University and Algonquin College. After Campustree successfully launches and begins reaching students throughout the city, we will begin to expand throughout Canada in an attempt to reach and help as many students as possible.

HipHopCanada: Can students expect a Campustree application for their Smartphone anytime soon?

Justin: Not anytime soon, however, Campustree is in the works of developing an application for all three major Smartphone operating systems. The application will be a more mobile-friendly user platform where students can access many of the website’s functions more easily through their mobile device. The launch date is still unknown, as currently, we are focusing mainly on the website’s extensions and applications.

HipHopCanada: Aside from Campustree, what is your view on the current state of social media? Who is leading the pack? Who has lost relevancy?

Justin: Good question, Facebook was claimed the victor in 2010 – unsurprisingly. In fact, even some of my friends’ grandparents have sent me requests for online friendships! It amazes me the power and allure of the internet, a product of the technological revolution that our grandparents can navigate with ease, and yet they continue to be dumbfounded by the buttons on a DVD player.

Second to Mark Zuckerberg’s universe behind the computer screen according to 2010 statistics is YouTube, a video-sharing site that has become one of the most important features of the cyber world as well as everyday life. YouTube is based off user-generated content, and therefore is an efficient platform on which artists around the globe can showcase their talents to the world – all in video clips that can be uploaded and streamed to the public free of charge. An example of its popularity as an effective medium to the online population is the earthquake that took place in Ottawa last summer. Within minutes, a user had uploaded a video of his fish tank shaking during the quake.

The social media world is becoming more competitive every day with new sites, users and changing applications to meet users’ demands. Right now, social media is a flourishing marketing and advertising tool that everyone is using, including Canadian artists. Justin Bieber is a great example, and a likely reason why more and more talented Canadians are beginning to share their videos online.

Exclusivity is now the demand, and justifiably so. Therefore, as for sites that have lost relevancy, those whose focuses are vast, and whose initiatives are marketing or communications driven, will be on the road to irrelevancy if they have not already arrived there. These types of initiatives gradually become obvious and annoying for users, who eventually will leave the sites and never return. With that being said, I believe that websites such as Twitter will begin to decline in popularity overtime with the overwhelming amount of “noise” which it creates.

HipHopCanada: A lot of the people that come to our site are not only aspiring artists and musicians, but also students – how will Campustree be able to benefit these people?

Justin: Our website was developed by students for students, and so, students are our target audience and will be the ones to benefit. As previously mentioned, Campustree will be able to offer students flexible jobs, savings, and deals as well as educational resources and tools all at their fingertips. With that in mind, and its overall functionality, Campustree will be able to aid in optimizing the university/college experience, and help change that experience into a career.

HipHopCanada: From what I’ve seen, there will also be a focus on entertainment and music on the site – can we expect a lot of support for Canadian hip-hop / local musicians?

Justin: Absolutely, our initial focus will be on current, new and upcoming Canadian musicians. We hope to showcase an artist each month on our website. Eventually, we hope to have a featured artist for each campus and city as well as a national artist for each country. We anticipate that through showcasing artists on Campustree, it will not only help build artist awareness, but will also offer students a means of discovering new sounds, styles and beats.

HipHopCanada: Is there opportunity for people to get involved with your growing business? If so, how would they go about doing so?

Justin: Yes, we are currently looking for student diplomats to represent several colleges and universities throughout Canada. Campustree can help students gain relevant experience, and in turn build their resumes and allow them a source of monetary income while in school. If students are interested in becoming a college or university diplomat, please refer to the coordinates on our website at

Interview conducted by Jesse “Dutchy” Plunkett for HipHopCanada

Be sure to check out and follow @CAMPUSTREE on Twitter.

Interview: Student-artists: Connect, Grow, Achieve with CAMPUSTREE [Brand Buzz] -

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Jesse Plunkett

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  1. Jenna Gold

    Amazing interview, Great Job HHC!

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