10 at 10 Spotlight: T-Bear [Interview]
Calgary, AB – Every month we link up with the folks over at 10 at 10 Hip-Hop Showcase to spotlight one of our favourite performers from the showcase. This month, we caught up with Halifax’s own 27-year-old T-Bear. T-Bear recently moved to Calgary on an impulse-decision, but he’s already settling into the YYC hip-hop community and gearing up to launch a sweet little mixtape. T-Bear hit the stage at Commonwealth Bar & Stage on Jan. 8, and won-over the crowd with his hard bangers, and gimmicky stage-presence.
But despite T-Bear’s signature turn-up tracks, he admittedly prefers writing more serious heartfelt tracks. And his forthcoming Something For The People project is loaded with some heavy-duty lyricism. So we sat down with T-Bear and chopped it up about his Andre 3000 stage presence, the 10 at 10 community, emotions and feelers, and more. Check it all out after the jump.
“It feels like everyone is so together at 10 at 10. It feels like everyone is there for each other.” – T-Bear
Interview conducted by Sarah Sussman for HipHopCanada
HipHopCanada:Tell me about the first time you ever fell in love with hip-hop or music?
T-Bear: Michael Jackson, man. When I was young it was a family thing. Our whole family loved Michael Jackson. So I just grew up loving him and knowing all of his stuff. I used to try and do his dance moves in the mirror in my bedroom. I didn’t really start listening to hip-hop until Coolio— “Gangsta’s Paradise” was the first rap song I really fell in love with. My mom got me the CD but she got me the clean version. All the curse words were edited out. After [Coolio], it just sort of rolled over from there: Snoop, and then Eminem. Joe Budden.
HipHopCanada: When did you decide to start rapping?
T-Bear: I always wrote poetry in highschool. I never really took it seriously until I started showing people and they really liked it. They were like, “You should try putting it on a beat.” At first I would put it on – obviously – Eminem, or somebody else’s beats. It wasn’t really that good. My delivery was terrible. I could write but I couldn’t put it to a beat. I had some friends who were really good at rapping. I listened to them all the time and [I would] go to the studio with them. I would always try to steal things they’d do. And [I] just got better and better. It wasn’t until last March or April that I really became comfortable with what I was doing.
HipHopCanada: And you’re from Halifax, right? Why’d you move to Calgary?
T-Bear: I was working as a personal trainer in Halifax. At a GoodLife. I was the Assistant Manager. One day, me and my boss got into an argument. And my best friend – who lives [in Calgary] – was like, “Yeah man, come out.” I messaged him on a Monday, and ended up here on a Thursday. So it was almost overnight that things happened. When I came out, I had a friend that hit up Beni [Johnson of 10 at 10], and [Beni] was like, “Yeah man. Come out. The [10 at 10] show’s Thursday. Whatever, whatever. Come do it.” I was like, “Alright. Sweet.” I never thought of music seriously until I got out here.
HipHopCanada: You weren’t too involved in the Halifax hip-hop scene, then?
T-Bear: Not really. The hip-hop scene in Halifax isn’t that good because people don’t support their artists. [In Calgary], I’m getting way more support than I was getting in Halifax. I’m getting support from people that don’t even really know me. It’s kind of cool. In Halifax I’m not really known as a rapper. I’m known as a basketball player. I played basketball my whole life. I played for Team Canada. I played pro. So everyone [in Halifax] knows me as a basketball player: T-Bear the basketball player.
HipHopCanada: What do you prefer to be known as?
HipHopCanada: A combination of both?
T-Bear: Yeah. Basketball’s fun. But the music’s fun, too. It’s fun to be known as both.
HipHopCanada: The athletic rapper?
T-Bear: Exactly. Like they say: every basketball player wants to be a rapper and every rapper wants to be a basketball player. So it’s kind of funny the way it worked out for me.
HipHopCanada: Now going back to your 10 at 10 performance, you have very polished stage presence. A lot of cats go up to the mic and are all like, “Yo here are some verses.” But you’re all like, “I’m going to dance for you and stuff. Because that’s what I do.”
T-Bear: You know what’s funny? That comes from me trying to be like Michael Jackson. When I was a kid we had school talent shows and I would always just go up and dance. Every single talent show. All the stuff you see me doing on stage, I’ve practiced for years. I would be home in front of the mirror, in front of my mom [and] my sisters. I was like, “Is this good? Is this good? Is this good?” I watch other acts and I’m like, “Yo they don’t look like they’re having as much fun as I’m having when I’m on stage.”
HipHopCanada: It was funny watching you. It was very reminiscent of Andre 3000.
T-Bear: [laughs] People always reference me to him. They say Andre 3000, or they say KiD CuDi. A lot. I don’t think I look like KiD CuDi – only when my hair’s a little longer. But they say Andre 3000 all the time. I love it. He’s amazing. He’s one of the greatest ever. So I don’t mind that comparison at all.
HipHopCanada: What was the best part about performing at 10 at 10?
T-Bear: It just feels homely. It feels like everyone is so together at 10 at 10. It feels like everyone is there for each other. It’s not like you just go to do your thing—you go to watch and support other acts. People really go in there to watch and support. They don’t just go to drink, or smoke, or whatever. They really go to get to know people. They go to network. And they go to support local hip-hop. That’s the feeling I got. And that made it fun for me. Because everybody [who was] there was supportive. It felt like everyone was really in-tune to what was going on. Calgary gave me this opportunity. Beni [Johnson], actually.
HipHopCanada: Beni Johnson is the man.
T-Bear: The man. He is the man. He’s a legend.
HipHopCanada: So what upcoming projects are you working on right now?
T-Bear: I’m working on releasing my mixtape right now. This one is serious, and I actually put quite a lot of work into it. The title is Something For The People. I feel like I’m a voice for the people who feel like they don’t have a voice. [The tape] is going to be exactly what you’d expect from me if you know me as a person, and if you know my music. There’s some really serious songs. There’s a lot of turn-up songs. And then there’s actually two songs about relationships. People are going to be a little shocked to hear me talk like that and rap like that. I’m going to drop [Something For The People] right before [the] Gyptian [show in Calgary on Feb. 15]. I’m opening for him. It’s the day after Valentines Day. And it’s going to be my first time performing a song for the girls. I’m really really nervous about that. I’m trying to figure out how to perform it.
HipHopCanada: Because you can’t be as goofy. You have to be more…
T-Bear: …serious. Exactly. But it’ll be fun to see how I do.
HipHopCanada: Do you prefer doing the turn-up songs or the more serious ones?
T-Bear: Honestly, I like the more serious ones. I have a lot of emotions. I’ve been through a lot, just like everyone else has. For me to express myself through my music is my life. I’ve made a lot of emotional music. I just don’t play it or show [it to] people. I just keep it to myself. [The turn-up tracks] are way more fun to perform. People react well to both types of music. But the emotional ones are definitely my favourite.
HipHopCanada: So what’s the deal with your dad?
T-Bear: He was with my mom until I was three years old. He was supposed to get me from school one day, and he never came. I was in primary. He told my mom he was going to pick me up and he never came. One of my friends’ parents ended up taking me home. I don’t remember seeing him until I got older. I seen him again and he tried to be all like, “I’m here now. I’m sorry I wasn’t… whatever.” [He] left again. It just hurt so much. My dad made me get my hopes up so much, and let me down on so many things. I just can’t deal with that when it happens to me, anymore. That’s the one thing that gets the best of me. I forgive him for everything that he’s done, but I just don’t want to build a relationship with him. But that adds to my music. All that emotion.
HipHopCanada: You were raised mostly by your mom, then?
T-Bear: My mom was a single-parent. [She] raised me and my two sisters. My sisters pretty much raised me, as well. They gave me everything that my mother couldn’t. I never had a father figure, but my sister’s boyfriend was like a father figure to me. He gave me everything. If I wanted it, he would be iffy. But if I needed it, he would make sure I had it. He was giving me money for lunch. He was giving me like $25 [or] $30 a day for lunch. I was saving it and buying sneakers at the end of the week. I was lucky. I say in one of my songs: my mother raised me, but where I’m from – the drug dealers, and stuff – those are the people that really gave me the opportunity to do what I’m doing now. They made sure that I would never get caught up in that. Never, ever had to [deal drugs]. Some of the worst guys – that people are afraid of – if they ever found out that I was selling drugs, they’d lose it. I’m so grateful that I have that support. That I don’t need to go out and do some kind of things just to make money.
HipHopCanada: Word to that. Any last words or last thoughts you’d like to share with the HipHopCanada community?
T-Bear: Something For The People mixtape is coming out soon. Gyptian is definitely going to be good. I will be performing a slow song for the first time. My first time performing a slow song for the ladies. We major E.N.T. Newboy, what up? [I] love Calgary. Thank you HipHopCanada for giving me this opportunity. 902 to 403, man. This is me. We are major.
Make sure you check out T-Bear on Twitter, SoundCloud and Instagram. And keep up on all things 10 at 10 via Facebook and Twitter. The 10 at 10 team has been grinding hard to bring us the best, lately. They just launched their first 10 at 10 Tape mixtape. If you haven’t given it a listen yet, do it now. Also, the fam is bringing Pusha T to the YYC next week (on Jan. 29). And it’s going to be ridiculous. And by the time that all winds down, it’ll already be that time, again – the time for us to get out to Vol. 29 of 10 at 10.
Interview and photography by Sarah Sussman for HipHopCanada