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Interview: Q&A

Dhamiri breaks down the state of grime in Canada

A few weeks ago I was putting together one of my weekly Spotify playlists when I came across an artist out of Mississauga named Dhamiri. Dhamiri is Canadian, part-Lebanese, part-British, and has quietly been honing in on his own breed of Canadian grime for a few years now.

As the UK begins to infiltrate Canada, we’ve seen several Canadian artists (not naming names, here) try their hand at replicating the grime genre… which honestly usually just results in some guy trying to spit his usual flows over some 140 BPM beat. It’s an effort – sure. But all too often, it comes off as a quick-stunt hype attempt.

Grime is a culture and a way of life. And without that understanding or background, attempting to replicate grime is disastrous. So of course after my first listen to Dhamiri’s SoundCloud, I had to find out what his deal was. Because “Run Up” was a meticulously executed track.

In turn, Dhamiri wound up giving me the breakdown of the grime culture within Canada (far beyond the scope of “Shut Down” by Skepta, the BBK hype, and Giggs’ surprise appearance on More Life).

“Run Up” is Dhamiri’s most recent release, and is an anthem directed at all the haters. “My music is genuine to my experiences and what I have seen and what I do see on a daily basis,” explains Dhamiri. “There is this front a lot of people put on to justify their ego or status, even the power they wish to have…but not really genuinely earning any respect or attention in a proper manner. I have always called the fake out of people, and this song is me emphasizing that.”

In 2015 Dhamiri released a mixtape titled Pay Up, followed by a video release titled “With It” in collaboration with ASAP Mob affiliates Black Wax (Hiko Momoji and Kamil Boguski). In June 2016, Dhamiri dropped another mixtape titled Grime & Glory which furthered his footing in the Canadian-grime crossover. 2017 has been much less consistent for Dhamiri, but he’s started to make some major waves with the release of three singles: “Shawty”, “Cool and Calm”, and “Run Up.”

HipHopCanada recently caught up with Dhamiri to pick his brain about the rise and progression of grime within Canada. He gave us his perspective on the whole scope of the scene, the lack of support within the scene, as well as how he’s been finding his own lane as a Canadian grime artist.

Q&A: Dhamiri

HipHopCanada: What’s your perspective on the state of grime in Canada – both in terms of the actual “grime” music being made by Canadians, as well as the reach of the genre among listeners.

Dhamiri: There is a small community in Toronto that enjoys grime music. Probably more than what meets the eye. I do see people coming out to events held by organizers such as Last Planet, who really support U.K. acts coming to Toronto. But there is a huge shift in turn-out when we have Skepta, Stormzy or AJ Tracey and Dave visit… which is fantastic in its own right for the genre. However… say it was a Tre Mission show. You would have a great turn-out but not the same as a UK artist would. And that’s mainly because of the culture here of following what the flock is following, and not genuinely rating something for being wicked even though you are the first person to have heard it. The days it was “cool” to be the first one to hear or wear something nowadays seems the complete opposite. Moreover, support for local talent seems slim unless there is a bigger association tied with the act. Toronto has people who ride for the culture. There is Freeza Chin who definitely deserves more local and national credit than he gets, in my opinion. Freeza is probably the best selecta for grime in the country, and is truly knowledgeable in the craft and genre and actually followed it from its roots; and not just since 2016. There is a crew named The British Mandem who are regularly involved. They are British originally. There are a few other DJs that play the sound; one I started seeing popping up over the last year, she goes by the name Jayemkayem. Her and Freeza Chin constantly play gigs and do radio sets for UK stations and Canadian. For me, that is the in Toronto. In terms of reach [grime] has a huge reach. But in North America only certain songs and certain artists inspire new listeners from what I see. It has definitely got a long way to go in Canada. I feel people don’t really dig into the genre. I think it can be as big as any Migos song right now but the mentality has to be there. And right now the mentality is to not support and go out and support grime from Canada. They are still taking in the UK. And most – I am certain – haven’t even noticed what has been going on under their noses in Toronto for years now. It’s easy to find and everything is only a Google away. But the scene hasn’t reached that point just yet. Even when I have done sets in the past… the crowd seemed dead until the set was over. And then I will be getting a drink and have people coming up saying my sound is dope and where to find more. But getting them involved to something other than what the general Toronto sound is, is still a mission.

HipHopCanada: I think one of the most frustrating things to see is when Canadian (or American) guys take a grime beat and just rap over it and call it grime. Because they don’t understand that grime is not actually just UK rap, and that it is a completely different musical sub-genre.

Dhamiri: I think it’s great they give it a go. It may inspire some to explore it or create it full-time. I haven’t heard too many emcees. But there was a point in time I had people show me one off grime songs around the time after “Shutdown” came out, and nothing I heard was even close to what I consider grime except the beat. But I don’t watch too much from people unless it captures my attention for the right reasons. And for the most part – in terms of Canadian grime – I don’t see that much or at all for that matter. So I just focus on my own sound and what I am doing and what I want to do in the future.

HipHopCanada: Talk to me about how your own personal history and upbringing has moulded the brand of grime you make. And how does being Lebanese factor into everything? Or does it?

Dhamiri: Being Lebanese doesn’t have much to do with me doing grime. It’s just my heritage and I like to express where I am from and what it’s taught me. I grew up in Kuwait; a typical third culture kid. My mum and dad are from opposite sides of the world. My dad is British and my mum, Lebanese. And I grew up in a country that would never see me as equal or local. My high school years were really me going against the grain and I was heavily involved in the underworld of where I grew up. Which is not typical and was very risky. Metaphorically speaking, I played with fire everyday. I got into things I was raised not to do. I went through it, got through a lot of things that many never get to experience especially growing up in a place like Mississauga. It’s a different world, and I reference it a lot in my music. I rebelled against the society I was in [and] the rules I was given, in interesting ways. And for the most part my experiences were given and not chased. I just didn’t follow the straight path set that plenty of my peers followed and plenty more did not. There was a lot of fighting, a lot of backstabbing, and unnecessary loss of life. I could write a novel on how my life experiences affects me and my music and why it is the main reason for my sound. But what I have just described is pretty much the jist of it all.

Interview conducted by Sarah Jay for HipHopCanada

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