Mister International: Tam reps Edmonton Worldwide [Interview]
Edmonton, AB – Never satisfied with stagnancy, Tam Nsaliwa seems to do it all. From moving to Europe at 16 to play pro soccer to representing his hometown on a global scale as a rapper and community facilitator, Tam’s ambitions span great lengths. He’s a businessman and a star in the making, and working with the likes of Green Lantern, Choclair and Toronto-based producer Snaz sure doesn’t hurt. He’s currently settled in Greece where he plays pro soccer during the day and records tracks at night, all part of his YEG to the World campaign, a way for him to bring it all home and put Canada on the map within the international sports and music circles. HipHopCanada linked with the up and comer to talk about his hometown, his future plans, and what makes him Brand New.
“If you don’t have your business set up properly to “beat the system” or join it…you’re just kickin the ball up against the wall and watching it come back to you.”
HipHopCanada: You’re from Edmonton but you live internationally…how do you maintain your ties with the musical community of your hometown?
Tam: The internet is a beautiful thing these days so that helps a lot. I know people in the game back home that either provide me with info or just keep my ear to the streets but for the most part “If you seek, you shall find”. So every once in a while I just dig in the online crates!
HipHopCanada: What is it about Edmonton that motivated your “YEG to the World” campaign?
Tam: Since I started making music, my objective’s always been to draw attention at home first and make bigger moves any and everywhere else after I have the city behind me. ‘Cause of that my mind is always on new ways to get people’s attention back home while building them up away from the city’s recent negative reputations. At first “YEG To The World” was just a cool name for my next CD featuring some of the city’s most talented “underground” artists. Then it became a T-shirt concept to rock with the music in association with the talented guys at EDMFlavor.com, but now its blown into something much bigger. The brand “Yeg To The World” is getting into the community activities, sponsoring the likes of Taste Of Edmonton Food Festival (One of the biggest in the world). And we now have associations with FC Edmonton Soccer Club, who most recently helped us sponsor a Breast Cancer fundraiser with donations/prizes in the name of my mother, a Breast Cancer survivor. We’re starting to get city-wide recognition on the radio and soon to be TV, and now I’ve branched it into sponsoring local promoters to help bring big/small popular acts of all genres to the city. Any and everything to step my city’s game up back to being “The City of Champions” again.
HipHopCanada: You recently worked with Choclair on the upcoming single “Brand New”; what is the most valuable lesson that you took from working with this Canadian legend?
Tam: That the music business facade of being stuck up or “diva-ish” as an artist really IS a lie. I’ve read in other interviews how it was for people to work with known artists for the first time and most times you hear the same sentiments. It’s just when someone has a bad day or the odd person doesn’t know how to act, it gets magnified so I was happy to meet a legend and realize he was mad cool. He was completely professional about the collaboration, and took it a step further and schooled me to the game as well as introduced me to some people that will help the single and this new career venture take flight like it should.
HipHopCanada: What differences do you see between the Canadian music scene and what you’ve experienced internationally?
Tam: I think the biggest differences are in content and the numberss games honestly. I’ll speak specifically about hip-hop and say a lot of artists in Canada are honest about what they do and what they put out there. I don’t think we have may rappers in Canada that take on a whole new persona and live that life through the music/content that they put out, for example. No disrespect at all to any artists that do that, because the key word here is “Art”. Once you realize and accept that hip-hop is Art, then anything that entertains is fair game. As for the numbers though, simply put, the market is still very small for such a big country. I guess in order to avoid the overexposure of the negative side of hip-hop, the Canadian market marginalizes the amount of hip-hop it’s fed and thus it loses out on the potential fan base size that the US, Germany, UK, France or Japan have for example. So making money in Canada as a hip-hop artists is difficult unless you find a way to cross over to the other markets that’ve just been mentioned for example. And that was even without the fact that digitally it’s almost impossible to make money off records like artists used to be able to back in the 56k telephone line internet days.
HipHopCanada: You’ve played pro soccer for years…what is the transition from the sports industry to the music industry like?
Tam: It’s all business in the end. The deciding factor is the quality of the product, but if you don’t have your business set up properly to “beat the system” or join it, then you can’t say you’re in the game. You’re just kickin the ball up against the wall and watching it come back to you. I learned that the hard way about sports, so Im trying to use those experiences to make the right moves with the music early.
HipHopCanada: Your Green Lantern mixtape has received over 14,000 downloads on datpiff…what are the reactions you’re getting to it, and why do you think people are reacting in that way?
Tam: The deciding factor and the feedback I’m always getting is: Its a damn good mixtape! And I couldn’t be happier about that. But like I said, I learned early about how its the right moves to get Green on the tape for example. Then the set-up on Datpiff, getting the word out, and then letting the quality of the product benefit from the correct business decisions that were made. In the end 14,000 downloads on Datpiff is HUGE. You gotta understand that the likes of Kardinal and JD Era’s latest tapes have 15k / 12k respectively and I’m at 14k yo! One is a legend and the other is in my opinion the next in line to get it in for Canadian hip-hop. This is my first attempt at this and I’m wildin’ over these numbers right now. Now I just plan to build on this. Earn the respect of the hip-hop community and work with people I admire to make good music like Choclair on Brand New.
HipHopCanada: What’s ahead for you? Any plans to move back to Canada?
Tam: As far as music is concerned, I have the YEG To The World album I plan to have ready to release this coming winter with the single featuring Choclair; that’ll be coming out as soon as the dust settles with all the #BeatsAndBurgers mixtape love I’m getting. I’ve made about 2-3 CDs worth of music since I started all this less than 2 years ago so my objective is just to build the fan base to the point that when the music I made all this time, the music that I really love, and really believe in and is most personal is ready to come out…people are waiting and ready to hear my story. Cause thats one thing I can promise anyone about my music. I have a long story to tell regarding the things I’ve since since I moved to Europe alone at the age of 16! Ultimately it’s the reason I decide to take this music seriously in the first place. It became therapeutic for me to feel like I’m telling my stories and sort of releasing my demons so to speak.
HipHopCanada: Give us a quick list of producers you’d like to work with, and what kind of a beat you would want from them.
Tam: “YEG To The World” is about highlighting the unbelievable talents that are coming out of Edmonton in hip-hop although the talent isn’t limited to that at all. This CD is definitely a step up from what I did in #BeatsAndBurgers to me and the core of the production was handled by Edmontonians – including myself. But I’m happy to say I’ve recently started working closely with Snaz out of Toronto on some songs and they’re sounding amazing so far. Then of course out of Toronto you think about the Boi 1da and T Minus sound, then Rich Kidd as well. Those are guys I would love to work with in the future. To me, Boi 1da and T Minus are the current trend setters in hip-hop and I think Snaz, Rich Kidd and my boy BMoney – who’s on the “Brand New” beat – are next to follow. Bottom line is, Canada is getting a firm grip on the international hip-hop industry right now.
HipHopCanada: What’s your biggest strength as an artist, and give us an example of that.
Tam: I’d say artistic intelligence and having a broader view of the things life has to offer or have offered me. I’ve seen it all man. Literally. I’ve had 3 passports in my life already. I like to combine those things to create lyrics that are smart and often have 2, 3 or maybe even more meanings once you listen to them over and over again. I could give you ample examples, but I’d say check out #BeatsAndBurgers, see why 13,000 random people decided to download a CD from an artist they’ve never heard of before! Or wait till Brand New comes out. Then you’ll feel me.
HipHopCanada: What’s been your biggest personal challenge to overcome?
Tam: Wow. Thats a broad question. I’ll say as far as music and soccer are concerned, the transition from trying to establish myself as a “rapper” while balancing the “image” a professional athlete is supposed to have. Being a role model to kids as an “athlete” then becoming a rapper is a just a juxtaposition at first look. No other way to put it. Beyond that, I’d say doing that, all while trying to get over being so close to fulfilling all my life’s goals in soccer, seeing it all come crashing down, then taking the time to rebuild myself and coming back in my opinion, better than I was when I went down. Its been a long road and I’m almost at my final destination. If it doesn’t work out, I’ll just rap about it.
HipHopCanada: Any last words for the Hiphopcanada online community?
Tam: Jay Z said it… Game said it… and the music industry lives by it: Numbers Don’t Lie. They never tell the whole story, but they at least give you a reason to want to find out what all the hype is about. Go check out #BeatsAndBurgers and holla at me when you’re ready to come visit “YEG To The World” this winter!
Twitter | @TamNsaliwa