Devon Tracy: Canadian hip-hop’s next generation means business [Interview]
Toronto, ON – After Drake’s rise to fame, people started wondering what else Toronto had to offer. Many influential industry players set their sights on the rest of Toronto’s bubbling pool of talent. Artists like JD Era, Rich Kidd, Luu Breeze (and more) have been considered by many as being on the cusp of taking their careers to the next level, once again putting on for Toronto. Naturally, those names would be familiar to any real Canadian hip-hop fan as they’ve each been putting in serious work for the last decade, give or take a couple of years.
But while Toronto boasts its fair share of seasoned artists ready to pop, there are a handful of incredibly talented young MCs that are already making their presence known. One artist in particular is 18-year-old Devon Tracy. Almost a year ago, he released his G-Dot-directed “Anti-Freeze” video and the buzz has been building steadily ever since. By August 2011, the YYZ2LAX (Download) mixtape would be released. At the same time, Devon amped up his visual presence, releasing a string of high quality videos for tracks like his renditions of “How To Love” and “Trust Issues” – songs that also made it clear that age plays no factor in his ability to write and connect the audience with his story. [More]
The DreamChase (Download) mixtape was released in December 2011 and Devon’s buzz continued to excel. The growth from one project to the next was very evident and that’s not always the case when you have a young artist releasing mixtapes consecutively, with only a few months separating one from the next.
Aside from the legions of fans expressing their love daily on Twitter and YouTube etc., Devon has been receiving praise from industry peers who are increasingly beginning to recognize his talent and work ethic. Just recently he was asked to be part of one of 3 Stylus Cypher (Watch) videos featuring Toronto rappers and he knocked it out of the park. It’s hard to find someone who can sincerely tell you that they’re not impressed with what Devon has accomplished to date, and/or are excited to see what he’s got coming next. Keep in mind, “Anti-Freeze” was released only 11 months ago and he’s added 3 mixtapes (including today’s release) to his resume since then… 11 months!
So today marks the official release of Devon’s XVIII mixtape and, as such, we’ve got an exclusive one-on-one with him to discuss the release, his growth on the scene and what to expect next. Keep reading for the Q&A below.
HipHopCanada: You’ve got a brand new mixtape to discuss but let’s start with a bit of history to get people familiar. It’s a well-known fact that you started making your presence felt in the scene at a young age, but what triggered setting your sights on becoming an MC?
Devon Tracy: I started making up rhymes in class and I would spit them for my friends at school during lunchtime or recess. I pretty much fell in love with music, its ability to completely change people’s moods and ever since I can remember I’ve always wanted to be an entertainer. Music has always played a huge role in my life and as I grew up I knew that it was something I wanted to make a career out of.
HipHopCanada: No doubt. So in terms of Canadian hip-hop, did you look up to anyone as you were starting to piece your plans together?
Devon Tracy: To be honest I didn’t look up to any Canadian rappers growing up. All of my favourite rappers are from the States.
HipHopCanada: What was your perspective of the challenges and opportunities offered by the Canadian scene?
Devon Tracy: I knew I was going to have to work ten times harder to get where I wanted to go. The Canadian hip-hop scene isn’t as influential and, in Toronto specifically, it is definitely harder to please people. But I knew that being from Canada was a plus because it made me different and it inspired me to put us on even more because we have so much unnoticed talent here.
HipHopCanada: How did you hook up with your manager, Aristo, CEO of the Aristo Music Group?
Devon Tracy: He was performing at my cousin’s 16th birthday party and asked if anyone in the crowd could dance so I jumped up on stage and did my thing. We kept in touch after that and I started sending him tracks that I produced on Fruity Loops and recorded on my computer. Eventually, he brought me to the studio to record and the rest is history. Aside from music though, he’s always been like a big brother to me. He’s been with me through thick and thin so I know that we were meant to meet that day.
HipHopCanada: You’re 3 mixtapes in but some people definitely still need to get familiar. If you had to pick one song to introduce yourself to someone — just one — which track would you select to make that first impression?
Devon Tracy: I would have to say “Trust Issues” which was on YYZ2LAX because every line in it I’ve lived it. That was me venting on the track and using it as an outlet for my pain, my happiness and just a lot of stuff that I needed to get off of my chest.
HipHopCanada: In a short amount of time, you’ve built up an impressive discography of mixtapes that have been reaching downloads in the 100K range. Your first mixtape was Up In The Air, hosted by Toronto’s own DJ Gutta. How did you link with Gutta and what roll is he playing in the movement today?
Devon Tracy: I linked up with Gutta through Aristo. We never actually even met until last summer! Finally got a chance to see the man himself in the flesh! I refuse to take any pictures with him because he’ll make me look like a midget but that’s the big homie right there. He’s part of the AMG family. He put me on a platform that gained me a lot of fans in the mixtape world. He also produced one of the biggest records off of DreamChase entitled “Whats My Name” and “Gossip.” A lot more to come so stay tuned!
HipHopCanada: Big shouts to Gutta. That being said, he’s not the only producer on the team. How did you guys link up with Jazz Feezy, a Toronto producer signed to Boi-1da Productions?
Devon Tracy: I was introduced to Jazzy through Sunny at the Diamond Factory and ever since then we’ve just clicked. He’s the hardest working producer I know. Jazz and I make an amazing team and we still have so much more great music to create!
HipHopCanada: Speaking of Sunny and the Diamond Factory: Sunny Diamonds has been a big part of the Devon Tracy movement. How did he first get connected to the team?
Devon Tracy: I met Sunny aka “Sunny D” through Aristo. Sunny is the epitome of grind. He never stops. Never sleeps. I don’t know how the hell he does it but he does! The one thing about Sunny is that he’s never let me down, not once. Probably the funniest dude I know… always bringing smiles to people’s faces and I wouldn’t be where I’m at today without him.
HipHopCanada: From Up In The Air, to YYZ2LAX, to the latest release DreamChase – what type of blueprint do you approach these projects with?
Devon Tracy: Whatever I’m feeling or going through at that point in time is what comes out through my music. There’s not necessarily a blueprint that I approach each tape with just more of emotion and things that I have experienced or experience every day.
HipHopCanada: Do you feel that each of these releases has reached the targeted amount of growth you set out to achieve before releasing them?
Devon Tracy: Yes. I do. It’s a great feeling too. Hard work definitely pays off!
HipHopCanada: Ok ok, let’s talk about what everyone has on their mind now – XVIII – what do you want to tell your fans and new listeners about this project?
Devon Tracy: I think this is some of my best work to date; from the delivery, to topics, to the flow and just the music in general. I’m certain that everyone will see the improvement compared to my previous tapes.
HipHopCanada: Dope. What’s the main message behind XVIII?
Devon Tracy: Being 18, living life, travelling, meeting new people/females and, ultimately, having fun and making memories that will last forever.
HipHopCanada: What’s your favourite song on the project?
Devon Tracy: “How Sweet It Looks” – my mom cried when she heard that.
HipHopCanada: What kind of visuals should we expect moving forward in support of XVIII – is G-Dot directing all visual support?
Devon Tracy: Expect some crazy visuals for this tape! G isn’t directing all of the visuals but all I can say is look out for something that you’ve never seen from me before.
HipHopCanada: We’ll definitely keep an eye out. You were selected to take part in one of the Stylus Awards Cyphers this year. How did you feel about the whole experience?
Devon Tracy: Yessir. Awesome experience. Super cool being chosen to be a part of the cypher. I think it’s something the city needs to do a lot more of. We often don’t support each other as much as we should and I think if we continue to do things like this it’ll be a really good look for Toronto.
HipHopCanada: In the “Anti-Freeze” video you grabbed people’s attention by not only bringing the swag to match the bars you were spitting, but also showing people some impressive choreography from you and the backup dancers. As your career grows will you continue to embrace the dance side of things in your work? Will TDK continue to be part of who you are?
Devon Tracy: TDK will always be a part of who I am as an artist. I like to work more on the music first to make sure it’s on point and then worry about the dancing, but I am constantly learning new things and studying different styles. Me and my little bro PJ got some big plans for this summer so expect some new dance videos! Dance is something that will die with me. It’s a part of me and allows me to forget about all the bullshit that’s happening at that moment. Sometimes I like to blast the music super loud and just dance by myself for an hour straight.
HipHopCanada: Are there any other new producers we should expect to see you working with in the near future?
Devon Tracy: Expect some music from me and Cardo from Taylor Gang. He’s someone I’ve always wanted to work with so it’s very humbling and exciting to get the chance to.
HipHopCanada: What about other Canadian artists?
Devon Tracy: D-Pryde and I got some heat on the way… Still cooking up so make sure y’all look out for that.
HipHopCanada: Who do you consider Top 5 in the game right now?
Devon Tracy: My top 5 in the game right now are: Kanye, Pusha, Kendrick, Schoolboy Q and Chase N Cashe.
HipHopCanada: Devon, thanks for taking the time to speak with HipHopCanada. Do you have anything you want to add or shout-outs you want to make before we wrap this up?
Devon Tracy: My pleasure. Shout-outs to HipHopCanada for the opportunity! Special thanks to my team (AMG, DFS, LIFE, SNB) and my family, and friends. Also Team Tracy! Can’t forget them.
Written by Jesse “Dutchy” Plunkett for HipHopCanada
Directed by Zac Facts