10 at 10 Spotlight: Enigma [Interview]
Calgary, AB – Every month we team up with our 10 at 10 crew from Calgary to spotlight one artist from the month’s showcase . For Volume 31 we shine the light on Enigma; the MC who just might have the record for most times touching the 10 at 10 stage. Of all the 10 acts to grab the mic in April, you’d recognize Enigma right away by how hype his stage show is. But to understand Enigma – the MC – you need to know a little about Enigma the dude.
1. Ok, almost every month. My bad on that one.↩
“Once I embraced my heritage and found I didn’t have to fit in a musical box, that’s when my music elevated.” – Enigma
Born in Canada as a first generation Canadian of Grenadian and Trinidadian heritage, he comes from a long line of performers. His uncles were successful public speakers and choreographers, and his sisters were ballet and jazz dancers. Coming from that world, he might not have always had the stage presence he has now. But he grew up with the fearlessness he needed to get there. Being the first kid he knew who was big into hip-hop, Enigma didn’t shy away from putting that front-and-centre in people’s faces. He was the kid who got his Smash Williams on at every pep rally for his high school football and basketball teams’ pep rallies; not being shy to share his music and his skills from day one.
Certain themes always come up when talking to Enigma, and his own story is always part of it, too. You don’t have to look further than the name Enigma, itself: “Embracing Negro Inheritance with Great Musical Aspirations” sums him up better than this interview ever could. All that adds in to his growth as an MC and as a performer. “Once I embraced my heritage and found I didn’t have to fit in a musical box, that’s when my music elevated,” he said.
Enigma’s music is more purposeful now, and he feels a responsibility to give back and help build the city’s hip-hop scene. He’s been able to use the 10 at 10 platform for that. He’s been on the bill four times over the almost-three years that 10 at 10 has been going down. He’s also guested on 10 at 10 sets by Xaiv, Red Rock, Princess Rhoda and K-Razie along the way; sometimes serving as hypeman and sometimes covering for acts that’ve blanked on their own sets.
Last month, Enigma’s live show and music culminated in his performance at 10 at 10. Like most things with him, there are layers to it once you take a deeper look into his set. He talks about wanting to tell a story. And each track in his 10 at 10 set led into the next to help explain his mind-state: where he’s at, where he came from and where he’s headed. Starting off with a Stoner Club track to celebrate the month of 4/20, he then jumped into “All You Need is Time”; a track anticipating his rise and success. Afterwards, “Downtime” showed that what Enigma once struggled to find time to put together he can now do naturally. The next three tracks – “Keep It In The Pocket,” “Tyra Banks” and “All You Know” – explore the female end of the rap game; from the girls who’ll always get in the way, to the ones that are too fine that you let them, to a deeper look into relationships. Where exactly he sits right now on that line, who knows? Reality – though – is he’s jumping back-and-forth on all those points still, while keeping his eyes on the prize.
The story Enigma tells in his set and his music isn’t uniquely his, though. Most MCs will find something to relate to, and that’s by design. He sees the Calgary hip-hop landscape representing all types of people with all kinds of stories. His ability to be versatile in both style and topics reflects that. The stories are his and of his peers, and they relate to anyone who feels like a minority in the conservative city.
Interview conducted by Sarosh Rizvi for HipHopCanada
HipHopCanada: How has living in Calgary influenced your sound?
Enigma: I was born and raised in Calgary, at a time when the hip-hop culture wasn’t progressively developing as it is now. In most regions where there is a history of hip-hop, long-lived throughout its urban communities. There is usually a sound that it is renowned for. If I wanted to hear what the South sounds like I can refer to a Dirty South beat, same as if I wanted hear what the West Coast, East Coast and Midwest sound like. There is usually a culture, followed by its breakthrough artists that represent the sound [and] style of that region. Growing up in the North, I felt like we didn’t have such a thing. Living in Calgary motivated me to create a sound [and] style that stays true to who I am and at the same time, represents the culture (which is multiculturalism) in my city.
HipHopCanada: How was your experience with 10 at 10 and how did you set your set? Explain.
Enigma: My experience at 10 at 10 is always pleasant. Whether I attend as a performer or a spectator. In April’s edition, I had one of best experiences as a performer, as I properly executed a set I was highly anticipated to perform. I built my set as if I was telling a short story. I wanted an introduction, rising action, climax, falling action and conclusion. I hand-picked tracks that related to each other, so the story made sense and the transitions were smooth.
HipHopCanada: How do you feel the Calgary scene is growing and where does 10 at 10 fit into your own growth as an artist?
Enigma: I feel like the Calgary scene is growing at a steady consistent pace. It’s only going to get better. Although, I did have previous experience performing in front of decent-sized crowds, 10 at 10 was the first event I have been a part of that creates an atmosphere similar to a concert. The atmosphere 10 at 10 set for me as a performer has helped build my stage presence and confidence to showcase my talent on bigger platforms.
HipHopCanada: Which artists have you worked with that left an impression on you, and why?
Enigma: Krazie. Once Krazie and I decided to collaborate we instantly clicked. We both understand each others’ creative direction. The song we finished has yet to be released but has proven to be a crowd favourite. We performed it at 10 at 10 Vol.23 last summer.
Kid Jay. I’ve known Kid Jay since high school and had the privilege of sitting in on some of his sessions when he recorded at the BM Vibes Studio. Kid Jay and I also had great chemistry in the studio. He has a great ear and an infectious style.
Xaiv. My best experience with Xaiv was having the opportunity to be a part of his first live performance at 10 at 10 Vol.28. He is – hands down – the most talented lyricist I’ve worked with to-date. The imagery in his wordplay and his freestyle ability speaks for itself.
HipHopCanada: Which local and Canadian artists would you most like to collaborate with?
Enigma: Local: Madison Boxa, Yolanda Sargeant, Ayo Angie, New’L, Dan Major, and Dollaz D. Canadian: The Weekend, JD Era, Shad, DL Incognito, and Drake
HipHopCanada: Tell us about past and present successes?
Enigma: For past successes I would consider the first annual Basketball- Cookout and the proper execution of my set at the Vol.23 edition of 10 at 10; both held in July of 2013. We hope to continue our 16 team basketball tournament and cookout this summer. As far as present successes, I would consider my most recent 10 at 10 performance and the completion of my first EP.
HipHopCanada: What new projects are you working on? Any upcoming release dates we should know about?
Enigma: The Bravado EP will be released June 28th! Along with my official website. Also in the month in June my first music video to one of the most memorable singles off of The Bravado EP will be released! Keep up with the movements!