Concise: Vancity veteran visits Toronto [Interview]
Toronto, ON – Originally published March 20, 2014 – Let’s take it out to the West Coast. Vancity, to be specific; where a duo, previously known as Defenders of The Faith have been recognized as hip-hop veterans with work in the game for over 10 years. You may also know them by their names, Checkmate and Concise.
With their current real and nothing-less-than-street sound, the pair has ventured into new ground by creating an imprint, Defenders Music, which will soon become home to some of Canada’s finest. I got a chance to speak with Concise while he was in Toronto about the most recent Checkmate and Concise (Defenders of The Faith) album and imprint. We also talked about what Canadian hip-hop needs in order to expand. What began as a family trip stemmed into business, where Concise decided to push the latest record, Love and War. He also got to link up in the studio with long-time friends, Choclair, Rochester and G-Vine, who are staples to us out east. Though I’m sure you can hardly wait to hear the banger they came up with, this is going to have to tie you over for a while!
Continue reading the interview with ‘Cise after the jump.
“If you ain’t making songs – lots of dope songs- then this whole thing is not gonna work.” – Concise
Written by Tia Gordon for HipHopCanada
HipHopCanada: What have you guys [Defenders of The Faith] been up to since your last release?
Concise: Well, our last release, technically, is our latest release, which was April 2013. That’s when our new album, from Checkmate and Concise, Love and War came out. It’s actually the record we’re working right now. The album has features from MCs; Royce Da 5’9”, Evil Ebenezer from the West Coast and a young homie by the name of Fizal Stars from the West Coast. It came out on our own imprint, DefendersMusic.ca, a label that me and Checkmate started up a few years back.
HipHopCanada: You’re not only a duo, but also a label, how many artists do you have signed with you, if any?
Concise: We’re a fairly young label and the flagship artists, obviously, so far have been Checkmate and Concise. We’re now looking into signing artists. This year, definitely, we’re going to pick somebody up- probably somebody from the East Coast, you know, just to mix it up a bit because we’ve got so much love for the East Coast. So far, DefendersMusic is Checkmate and Concise.
HipHopCanada: Being that you’ve been in the game for a minute, and you guys have gone through label situations yourselves, what are you going to try to instil in the artists that you pick up?
Concise: What I’m going to try to instil is, as an artist, you’ve gotta produce. That means you’ve gotta keep making music and it’s important that you can do it on your own without anybody’s help, you know? We’re in an era where artists have to do it themselves, so me being an artist, and a businessman, I’m not gonna have a lot of time to be holding anybody’s hand. They’ve gotta produce lots of music, and that’s one of the most important things as artists. People tend to forget that it all comes back to the songs- you know what I mean? If you ain’t making songs- lots of dope songs- then this whole thing is not gonna work!
HipHopCanada: When they’re recording [the artists], do you think you’re going to have high expectations of how they record or how they carry themselves, being representatives of what’s, now, your brand?
Concise: Definitely, yeah! There’s definitely going to be some standards that have to be upheld. Our name is on this whole thing, and we really protect the Checkmate and Concise brand with all we’ve got. That’s all we’ve got! We basically just lay out some parameters, and within these parameters, you can do whatever you want. Being a label, a lot of times we’ll have final say with the artist on what is going to come out and what is not, so there will definitely be a system in place. We allow freedom of creativity as well! Like I said, there will be certain parameters.
HipHopCanada: Okay, I’m going to take it back to January 17th. There was a tweet on the DefendersMusic Twitter saying: “It’s crazy that hip-hop is the only genre where artists pay to make an album/mixtape and then give it away for free. SMH.”
There have been a lot of artists who’ve seen success from the releases of projects that were free. Do you think that giving away music is a crazy thing to do, or is it just a matter of knowing the line between generosity and financial suicide? Especially since you’ve given away music for free in the past.
Concise: Yes! We all have! The mixtape can be used a promotional tool for artists, but what I’m saying is, if that’s all you’re doing- if you’re just making mixtapes and just giving them away for free, you’re operating on loss there! These mixtapes, as quick as they’re slapped together, they still cost money. You’ve still gotta rent studio time, or work with an engineer or somebody who mixes your stuff. Unless you’re doing it yourself, it’s still costing you time! There’s constantly something. I feel that you should get something in return, but like you said, we’ve put out mixtapes for free as well and we’ve used it as a promotional tool. That tweet might’ve just been a thought in the moment. I definitely can respect giving out the music to promote yourself and get out there, but hopefully people are using the free mixtapes to generate shows and generate interest. If you’re just making something, giving it away and getting nowhere, I don’t see the sense in that.
HipHopCanada: You’re right! What would you say to a first time listener who’s more accustomed to downloading music for free, in order to convince them to purchase a Checkmate and Concise (Defenders of The Faith) project?
Concise: I’d say: Go to iTunes, search Checkmate and Concise- the album’s called Love and War. iTunes allows you to preview the music before you get it… and that’s the beauty of it! Preview the songs! I guarantee you, there’ll be something on there that you’ll like. Go check it out.
HipHopCanada: We’re only a month and a couple of days into 2014. Can you tell me one goal that you have for yourself, for the group, and for your company for the New Year?
Concise: One goal that I have for myself is to put out a solo EP or a full album before the summer. The goal for us as a group is to put out a record, as a group, this year. We’re in the studio all the time and we have lots of songs together. As a company, hopefully we can pick somebody up and sign somebody this year.
HipHopCanada: What will the content be like from your or the group’s project?
Concise: Checkmate and Concise, we make a lot of hip-hop, street records. That’s what people know us for! For a solo project, I might just switch it up a little bit- make it a little more fun, you know what I mean? Maybe infuse a little bit of humour into it, just make it a little bit lighter than the usual Checkmate and Concise projects that people have come, to now, expect and love- which is hardcore hip-hop tracks. With the solo album, mix it up, maybe throw in some of the club friendly tracks, system friendly tracks!
HipHopCanada: What brings you out to Toronto?
Concise: It was supposed to be a family trip, but I decided to make it a little bit longer and turn it into a half business, half family trip. While I’m here, I went down and had a meeting at Flow 93.5. We’re going to be taking out some ads just to promote the record a little bit more on the East Coast. It went really well! I’m trying to get in the studio tonight with an East Coast legend, none other than Choclair, and I’m reaching out to my people, Darryl Riley and Juice Rochester, that’s the family right there. Hopefully get in the studio with those guys!
HipHopCanada: What’s your favourite part about being in Toronto?
Concise: My favourite part about being in Toronto is just the vibe. It’s got a good vibe, a big city vibe here and I respect everybody’s hustle- they’re out there trying to get it. It’s real!
HipHopCanada: I was hoping you could tell me what Vancouver’s hip-hop scene is like- do you see it comparable to Toronto or are we two different extremes?
Concise: Wow, you’re the second person that has asked that within a couple of days! The Vancouver hip-hop scene is thriving, like it always is. It’s not as big as the Toronto scene, because the Toronto scene is humungous. It’s thriving; it’s got a lot of artists and producers doing their thing. It’s not comparable because it’s one-fourth the size, but other than that, there’s some dope MCs out there, some dope producers out there. I want to give a special shout out to my homeboy, hAZEL and I wanna give a shout out to my homeboy, Vago. Vago is going to be on the new solo record- I’m gonna have a few of his beats on there. So, ’nuff MCs, ’nuff producers- Vancouver’s hip-hop is thriving.
HipHopCanada: You have a video out for “Congratulations”, which is off of Love and War. In the song, you’ve got a line where, in short, you say: “The world needs more people like you.”
To play off of that, what do you think hip-hop needs more of, specifically Canadian hip-hop?
Concise: Canadian hip-hop needs more of Checkmate and Concise. [Laughing]
HipHopCanada: That’s a fair answer!
Concise: Yeah! I mean, what else can I say? I can sit here and be all critical and analytical and be like “this is what we’re missing”. I’ve been in the game for over a decade, all I can do is lead by example. What Canadian hip-hop needs is more Checkmate and Concise, so any DJs out there, radio personalities, or anybody who gives a damn about Canadian hip-hop- you need more Checkmate and Concise on your playlist, on your blog list, you know what I mean? Keep an eye out for us. We’re coming! I’m still going hard like the day I started. The funny thing is, a lot of people know us for our older stuff. I did a radio show last night and I bumped into somebody in Mississauga, I was at the liquor store and somebody spotted me like “Yo, Concise, what up?” What they know us for is all our old stuff, and I just want to let people know that we’ve been doing a lot of new music. We put out 2 albums and 4 mixtapes since” R.A.W”, which is what people know us for.
HipHopCanada: As an artist, what do you think you need more of?
Concise: I need more…time. I need more time because now, I’m not just an artist. I’m an artist, and I’m running my own record label with my partner, Checkmate. I feel like, if I had more time, I would make some of that classic hip-hop shit. [Laughs] I’m still doing it, but on very little time. Concise needs time. Time to create.
HipHopCanada: Without that, you can’t really move too far!
Concise: Yeah! Like I said, it all comes back to the songs! It all comes back to the music. None of this would matter if it weren’t for the music. You and I would not be speaking right now if it weren’t for the music.
HipHopCanada: Can Toronto expect to see you guys performing out here any time soon?
Concise: We’d love that! – hint, hint. Wink, wink! We need any Toronto promoters that know us and know how we get down. We’re about the pure hip-hop, lyricism, hard beats, you know what I mean? Stage performance is crazy, so get at us! Get at us at email@example.com for any bookings or anything else.
For more on Defenders of The Faith, check out DefendersMusic.ca.
Written by Tia Gordon for HipHopCanada
Defenders of the Faith (Concise & Checkmate)