DJ Ricochet talks Made In Toronto, Flow 93.5, advice for new artists & more
Over the past couple of years, Canadian radio has become over-saturated with mainstream pop outlets, while seemingly ignoring the growing pool of talent within the hip-hop community, which continues to grow in stature on the international stage. However, with the emergence of 93.5 The Flow’s segment Made In Toronto,” hip-hop has found a solid outlet to rely on for support.
“Made In Toronto” has taken the airwaves by storm and introduced listeners to a large arsenal of local, budding talent. The segment is aimed at giving a shot to Canadian artists from the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) looking to make a name for themselves. It’s become a key source that Toronto artists are checking for to make sure their new records are heard by residents of the 6ix.
“…now you go around the world and you see cats from the city really doing it because we had to work ten times harder than the cats down south and that hustle is alone is ingrained in us.” – DJ Ricochet
One of the key figures involved with the push is DJ Ricochet. If you’re an avid listener of Toronto radio—or closely follow the scene in the city—then you’ve most likely heard the name. The music industry veteran has built both a respectable reputation and solid brand within Toronto’s hip-hop community over the past twenty years. I recently sat down with Ricochet to tap into his wealth of Canadian music industry experiences and insight, as well as everything in between.
Q&A: DJ Ricochet
HipHopCanada: My first question for you is how did you get your start in music?
Ricochet: Wow, honestly that happened 25 years ago, I think around ’91 or ’92. There was a show on Citytv or MuchMusic called Electric Circus. It was one of those video dance shows, they would be playing records and people would be dancing. I had seen the DJ, and had seen DJs prior to that, but there was something attracting me to this DJ… mainly because all these chicks were digging him, as funny as it sounds. Here I am this 12-year-old kid trying to figure out how I could bag some chicks. I thought to myself, “I want to be a DJ.” Prior to that, we started getting into hip-hop, by tagging, breakdancing and freestyling, but DJing just felt right.
So, I saved up a whole bunch of lunch money, copped some turntables and started to DJ. Couple years after, we were given an opportunity. There was a crew of us; it was me and my partner, we went by the name Ill Kids and we had an opportunity to do a slot on York University’s CHRY. They ended up giving us a weekly show, so at 16 I had a weekly community radio show, not thinking anything further than that. At this point to me it was a dope hobby but after gigs started coming through, I quickly realized, this is an actual hustle. So I decided to dedicate my life to it and fast forward to 25 years later I’m here.
HipHopCanada: Who were some of your musical influences?
Ricochet: When it comes to music in general, I came up on Wu, Hov, Nas, Mobb Deep. I would say that the Infamous album changed my life; for better or for worse, I don’t know. Reason being is, I grew up around the Jane & Finch community, so we were always seeing things go down. Even though there had been other records before them, Mobb Deep’s Infamous really touched on what I was seeing. I ended up going through a little phase as a goonie based on that album, but Hov, Nas, Mobb Deep, Wu, Boot Camp Clik… that Golden Era of hip-hop… I got on and really fell in love with hip-hop right after the Eighties.
So you know, Rakim, Run-DMC didn’t really resonate with me, I just didn’t connect, but as soon as the 90s came around and hip-hop took this turn and evolved, I fell in love. In the city, funny enough because I’m working with dude now, is Mastermind. I remember going to York University and seeing this 16-year-old Indian kid DJing on the radio. I thought to myself right then, that this is possible. It wasn’t some 25-year-old dude—which is what I thought was hip-hop—it was a young Indian kid from the city DJing. As the years went on he was always schooling me on the game. So when the opportunity came for me to come over to Flow and do the Made in Toronto Takeover it was him who really pushed for that to happen, and probably made it happen.
HipHopCanada: During your come up, what were some of your biggest challenges that you overcame and what lessons did you take away from those experiences?
Ricochet: Going back to the 90s, nobody was really fucking with hip-hop. It had this negative connotation to it and as I was getting older, it wasn’t this b-boy thing anymore. Now, for better or for worse, I had taken on this street life. So we might’ve not presented ourselves in the most positive light. That went along with the music. So imagine two kids coming in with triple XL shirts, Timb boots, durags and hats. No one could get over that image, there was still that stereotype like this is something people don’t want to fuck with.
Everywhere we went, we hit walls, there was no sponsorship, corporate culture wasn’t in tune with hip-hop yet. They didn’t see the big picture, there was no digital landscape, so all that together felt like one big hurdle you had to get over. It was always a constant fight to get heard, to get on radio, into clubs, as well as any sort of sponsorship or for any publications to pick you up or anyone to do a piece on you. It was this wall that was always put up and I think that wall is what taught me. That you don’t stop hustling, especially with us being in Canada; due to our scene being different than the US. Because in the US there was some type of infrastructure to support that, where as here our artists weren’t on par as they are now. The sound was still different, the US was still not accepting our sound but all that just gave you that Toronto hustle. It’s funny because now you go around the world and you see cats from the city really doing it because we had to work ten times harder than the cats down south. That hustle alone is ingrained in us, from all those hurdles. That’s what I learned most; the hustle, the grind and to go ten times harder than anyone else.
HipHopCanada: Let’s switch gears for a moment and speak about the Made In Toronto Takeover, what do you think inspired its start?
Ricochet: I mean, there was a need for it. Ten years ago we didn’t have enough music to do the Made in Toronto Takeover or the music wasn’t up to par. I’m sure you’ve noticed we’re in a landscape where there’s rappers coming out of nowhere, you can make music in your bedroom, you don’t need to go to a studio, you don’t need a couple grand to do a video or master a record, so there’s all this music and culture here in the city, yet there was nobody playing the music. It’s like where do these rappers or artists get heard other than maybe some playlists on some streaming services, there was nothing there. This whole idea started out as a way to celebrate Toronto’s birthday, so that’s what it was, it was about doing the city justice and celebrating Toronto, so we took a whole day and played nothing but Toronto artists it was supposed to begin and end there but the reception we got from the city, after in aired on march 6th 2018, was overwhelming, it was special seeing the excitement from artists hearing their songs on the radio, all of that led us to sit down and figure out how we could make this happen everyday.
HipHopCanada: What were some of the challenges getting it off the ground and how difficult was it to get the actual station itself to get behind the idea?
Ricochet: Luckily for us, Flow has been associated with hip-hop from the jump. This station popped off almost 20 years ago, so it really wasn’t that tough to convince the higher ups that this is something that needed to happen because I think everybody’s seen it. I think you look at the music business, especially the urban music business here in Toronto, and you know something special is coming up. Especially when some of the biggest artists in the world are Drake, Tory Lanez, The Weeknd, the list goes on.
So, rather than just waiting for those cats to break and then play them, lets just give them a platform to get to that level. Some of the hurdles that still go on today is there’s a little bit of a disconnect, we’re in a city where let’s say there’s a thousand rappers but five managers, everybody wants to be a rapper, everybody wants to be a producer but nobody wants to get into PR nobody wants to get into Management, so some of the hurdles are communicating with artists, like some artists don’t know what a radio edit is, so as we go along its this whole process of schooling this generation on how to conduct business. If there’s any hurdles, I find that the biggest hurdle is educating these artists.
HipHopCanada: Were there any artists that jumped out at you when you first played their record?
Ricochet: I think the first time I heard AR Paisley, right off the jump. Like I wasn’t aware of him prior to the Made In Toronto Takeover, I was just hearing this dude spit bars. I mean almost everyone who comes through surprises me, Yung Tory, Kevin Rolly (who I think is probably going to be the next biggest producer out of the country), Lil Berete, he was one of the first interviews we did here. He was young, not really polished at that point when he came in here but he came with hit after hit. Tyson Nudge is another artist. I peeped his video somewhere and was like, “wow this kid is crazy.”
HipHopCanada: What advice do you have for any upcoming artist in Toronto who might be struggling with getting their music heard?
Ricochet: It’s called the music business. I hate to say this man but music only plays a small part of it, if you don’t understand the business side of music, you can’t conduct yourself as a musician.
I can’t go in the kitchen if I don’t know to cook. I might like food and like to eat, but I have to know how to prepare the food and that goes beyond the studio. Once you come out of the studio, there’s this whole other world you have to deal with and navigate. So I urge every artist that’s up-and-coming to really understand the business of music, how to approach people in radio, how to approach digital streaming services, licensing. A lot of cats only focus on south of the border. There’s cats who’ve made guape and careers on the rest of the world. There’s Europe, there’s Asia, there’s India, there’s South America… there’s so many markets out there that people don’t really see. So I urge everyone to open their minds to the possibilities; it’s a global thing. Sometimes it doesn’t pop for everybody in New York or LA, but that doesn’t mean you throw in the towel.
I know cats that have just said, “I’m going to focus my energy on the Middle East,” only to have gotten a bag and made a career out there. It’s all about understanding the nature of the business. It’s also about not taking no for an answer. As much times as I wish people didn’t, I’m glad they don’t because even with me on the first listen or first approach I might not fuck with it. That’s just because maybe I’m taking forty to fifty records a day, or maybe somebody needs to be a little bit more persistent. So not taking ‘no’ for an answer, but being respectful of people’s space at the same time. For example, if you see me out with my wife and kids that’s not the time to hit me with your earpods. That’s the time to introduce yourself real quick and be like, “I just wanted to say hi, can I get your email address?” Then keep it moving. It’s just the professionalism and the business of music is what we need to be focusing on. We need to be teaching cats coming up about that, it’s our responsibility, cats like myself, and other cats that you’ve probably interviewed. It is starting to happen now with The Remix Project. I remember the first time I met Gavin [Sheppard], I knew he was going to be the one teaching these kids how to make it happen. And look how much people have come out of The Remix Project. So I think we just need to continue doing that and invest more in the generation coming up.
HipHopCanada: My last question for you is, what can our readers and the rest of the hip-hop community in Canada expect from both yourself and everyone at flow?
Ricochet: As much as Flow goes, we just want to continue to give the city that platform. We want to make sure hip-hop has a voice in the city, it deserves that. Hip-hop is the number one genre in the world, we don’t want to play by the rules. If there’s a new record that might not be charting and we feel the record should be getting played, then it’s our job to do that.
I’ve also been dabbling with the idea of getting the talented artists of this city together to do collab records. I’m also taking a look at the digital online landscape as far as what we can do with podcasts, to show another side of the Made In Toronto Takeover and get more in depth with these artists while giving them another platform to shine on. My focus is to make artists shine. I want to be the dude to break artists and show the world that this is who you need to listen to.
You can follow @RichochetOnAir on Instagram.
Interview conducted by Remi Louis Harris for HipHopCanada