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The Get By Talk “Let Go” Album, Group Dynamics and Day Jobs [Interview]

Toronto, ON – On October 28th, The Get By released their debut album Let Go. The album offers an easy, cool throwback old school vibe complimented with wit, social commentary and confident “do-you” pronouncements.  Let Go features clean production complete with live instrumentation from the group’s Mantis and Pangea as well as Rich Kidd.  Guest appearances on the album include acclaimed Canadian artists Shad, Tona, Saukrates, Richie Hennessey, Promise and Tanika Charles. I got a chance to catch up with the group after their appearance inside Rivoli at Droppin’ Knowledge.

Although Mantis and Justis (both emcees/producers) each experienced some success as solo artists, the duo, backed by DJ/producer Pangea, just fit together. Their chemistry is like boys from the neighbourhood and it shows; in person, on stage and on the record. The three grew up together in Kitchener/Waterloo and prior to this album, all relocated to Toronto.

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Wearing jeans and t-shirts, The Get By are average, regular joes. No bling, no flash, their anti-brand is a brand in itself. They get by and they get it. They are in tune with who they are as individuals and as a group, socially and musically. On one hand they don’t take themselves too seriously, on the other their ambition is absolute. Their music speaks to the common man hustling for a big dream, whatever that dream is. Their sound exists somewhere between “real hip hop” and a pop edge and they remind you that that’s okay:

“Please don’t place me in your pigeon hole/Hip Hop’s going taupe but I’m so indigo/I mean I still bleed the culture with a crimson glow/ But I am not a slave to the image. I am in control/…Keep the ego low I don’t front like I’m king shit/Ball caps and black jeans, trench coats with wing tips.” -“Stereotypes”

“The underdog status is something I’ve become cool with/Y’all stay inside the lines I’m colored paper and glue sticks/…I keep the money going out quicker than it’s comin’ in – that’s the lifestyle/And it’s probably 4 am before I’m lights out/…worried bout tomorrow but I’m living in the moment/Never turn a deaf ear to good advice and I was told if I’mma do something than I should fuckin’ own it.” – “Music Is For Love”

Although in full-chill mode, Justis, Mantis and DJ Pangea Delphi of The Get By were eager to speak with me. Their passion for music and the grind was evident in their tone, expressiveness and acute awareness of the music business.

HipHopCanada : You are known for bridging the gap between the real (quote-on-quote) Hip Hop and the escapism of a more pop record, or a pop feeling – was it a conscious decision to bridge that gap?

Mantis: I think it’s great to be accessible – the last thing you want to do it alienate anybody. Any listener is a great listener and we appreciate that immensely.  We really make records for ourselves first. We’re not goin’ into it saying we need to hit that market.. That really doesn’t matter, that’s more of an after effect.  If they like it – great. If they don’t – whatever.

Justis: We try to make records that we enjoy and know our peers enjoy. I think we stay true to what we believe is the foundation of Hip Hop … you can do that without sounding dated. You don’t have to sound like 1994 to “keep it real’.

HipHopCanada: That’s a key point, new records that are deemed more real often sound dated, how do you master an old school sound that’s still fresh?

Mantis: More than anything it reflects our taste. On any given day you can catch us playing a Lil Brother record to a Three Six Mafia record, a Black Sheep record.

Justis: Good music is good music. We don’t label it ourselves. Not like “yo let’s bump a South record, let’s bump some Can-con”.  It’s whatever’s relevant to us. From a timeline [perspective] it doesn’t even matter. You can bump Drake, u can bump James brown.

Mantis:  I’m an adult now. I don’t have to put everything in a lil’ box. We all listen to different kinds of music. You don’t have to have that boom bap time signature to call it Hip Hop. It doesn’t have to be just samples. We incorporate a lot of live musicians and a lot of synths n stuff like that and I don’t think that’s straying from what people consider Hip Hop. A lot of great records came out after 1990. Keep it moving.  Music’s getting better, technology’s getting better, you need to embrace it.

Pangea: Hip Hop is one of the only cultures that pigeon-holes itself as much as we do. Like “I listen to underground” or “I’m about the Golden era” or “F— all that, give me trap music”. Just play music and like whatever’s good for you I guess.

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HipHopCanada : How do you choose which cuts make it on the record:

Mantis: We definitely had a timeline so we couldn’t take forever. We were graciously funded by Factor. Going into it we had a basic idea of what we wanted to do and we just had to execute it.

Justis: We just kept recording, basically picked our favourite songs. We didn’t really go in with too much of a vision we just wanted to do something that’s honest and represented us well that we thought people could connect with and make music that speaks to people instead of down to them.

HipHopCanada : Justis, Mantis, you each had solo records, how is coming together? Any ego?

Justis: I don’t really like Mike (Mantis) all that much (laughs). On my record, Mike was all over it with production, We’re always hypeman-ing on each other so it’s a natural progression. I prefer the collective thinking.

Mantis: Less sixteens to each have to write. We’re lazy as f—!

Pangea: I’ll tell ‘em when shit’s whack. And I know they would do the same. Its more ideas. Its three minds coming together for one purpose.

HipHopCanada: Do you feel the vibe is much different in Toronto than back home in Kitchener/Waterloo? Especially growing up; Toronto was called the “Screwface Capital of the World”:

JUSTIS: Not at all, we were always here.  We never thought of Toronto that way.

MANTIS: If you sucked, yeah people might get screwface. If you didn’t, than people would probably enjoy it. We have been blessed and embraced.

HipHopCanada: Your records often have the DJ cuts and scratches. Is that a conscious effort to include the DJ in the record for the live stage show or it’s really about incorporating the DJ on the record itself?

MANTIS: A – we love the sound. B – that’s why [Pangea’s] in the group. The DJ is an integral part of Hip Hop

JUSTIS: We gotta pay him for something!

MANTIS : Not try’na be biased, but if you’re a Hip Hop group and you don’t have a live band then you need a DJ

PANGEA: And I know when to drop out and step back and let them rap. It just adds another flavor in the pot.

HipHopCanada: You’re all producers in the group. Why branch out and why branch out now, to other producers like Rich Kidd?

MANTIS: Most of the collabs on the album, we knew them from years and years of shows and events, we kicked it. We were interested in what they were doing and they were interested in what we were doing.  So we didn’t even have to reach out… We do production for outside the group too but we’re not focused on that now. Wouldn’t be fair selling beats to people after it’s gone through The Get By ringer first.

HipHopCanada : You talk about the struggles of being an everyday person with big dreams. Now, you get by, when do you get there? Is there a marker for when you have established that your dreams are realized?

Pangea: $3 million cash

Justis: And a Bentley! Nah. As an artist, don’t you always want to attain more and get better and keep making good music? It would be nice to gain more fans and notoriety and I could use a lil’ – (coughs) -money.

Mantis: The day you think you have peaked at anything is the day that thing is done, so no point in thinking that way. Even the greatest of what they did, the Miles Davis’, the James Browns, I’m sure until the end they were still finding new ways of listening and interpreting music. There’s no end to music.

Pangea: There’ll never be a Got There.

Justis: A milestone may be quitting our respective jobs and doing [music] full time. Doing this for a living is the goal right now.

Mantis: We’re not try’na fool anybody. No one makes money in Hip Hop unless you’re one of the six or seven dudes that tour nationally and make money. Don’t kid yourself. No one makes money in Hip Hop in Canada unless they’re touring or producing.

HipHopCanada : So what is your day job?

Justis: I work at a record store, Cosmos records.

Mantis: I work at furniture store right now, I manage distribution, but I’ve had a lot of get-by jobs.

Pangea: I’m a race-car driver and a professional astronaut.

HipHopCanada: So when you’re not outta space with Kanye West or doing music, what would you be doing?

Pangea: A baseball player.

Mantis: I could go for being a really respected journalist – write for the Globe and Mail. (Everyone laughs)

Justis: I wanna play X-Box professionally and have Rockstar sponsor me.

HipHopCanada: Any shout outs?

Mantis: Anyone who’s listening, following, everyone on the record,  Thank you!

Check out the first single “Faster” featuring Richie Hennessey, produced by Rich Kidd.  Get the new album Let Go on Itunes, Bandcamp and physical copies at The Get By live shows. Below is the official video for “Lift Off.”

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