Nova Scotia’s Mitchell Bailey talks new album 23, “Flying Cars” video, the Season series & more
As easy as it is to get into recording music these days, it’s arguably harder than ever to really rise to the top with so many artists competing for a spot. It’s even more challenging if you’re coming from a smaller market without a thriving hip-hop/music scene, but thankfully the Internet has really evened the playing field in recent years.
If you’re making good music and know how to engage social media and digital streaming platforms correctly, you could be the next to blow without ever performing one live gig. It’s a drastic shift from the music industry of before, but pretty much the norm for today’s success stories.
Thousands of artists around the world are mastering the art of self-marketing, controlling their image, and dictating the narrative of their story. And while the connections and networking opportunities you can find in major music hubs are priceless, it’s more doable than ever to build a successful career from a small town without ever leaving your home. Platforms like TikTok are regularly creating new stars out of otherwise unknown acts and curated playlists are introducing fans to new artists daily. There’s a lot of new opportunities to get on, without needing to travel anywhere.
Just ask Mitchell Bailey, who has spent the past decade building up his career from Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, which is roughly four and a half hours from Halifax. Bailey has no plans to stay local—and already has a ton of experience performing live in various cities—but is all too familiar with the challenges of coming out of a smaller market.
Glace Bay had less than 20,000 residents at the time of the 2016 Census, and, as you’d expect, has nothing close to a thriving hip-hop scene for an aspiring rapper to mesh with. But since the early 2010’s, Bailey has used the web to his advantage, diligently studying the artists that came before him and absorbing anything that could be applied to his craft.
“I’d find a new artist every week and just try to listen to all of their music, and watch all of their interviews,” Bailey recalled during a recent email exchange.
Bailey started writing his own lyrics at 14, and by age 15 he’d completed and released his first mixtape. You won’t find those early cuts on Spotify but they set the “Oprah Winfrey” rapper up to become the artist he is today.
“I remember one weekend back in tenth grade me and my friends went to Long & McQuade and I bought a $70 USB microphone, and at that point I honestly felt like I could literally do anything.”
In 2017, Bailey released the 10-track project Last Time Introducing Myself, which really showed him finding himself as an artist, and embracing the path he was taking. He’s continued to progress since then with his Season EP series, and this past year has been a true testament to his hard line work ethic. After capping off 2019 with Season 3, Bailey has released seven new singles this year, culminating with yesterday’s release of his brand new album, 23.
“I always wanted to have an album released that was titled after my age so I could look back at my discography as a 60 year old and be like, ‘ahhhhh yes, I remember feeling like this at 23,'” said Bailey.
“I originally was hoping to have it released back on my birthday, August 7th, so it would’ve made even more sense then, but I didn’t want to rush the process with this one. I think all of the records are too special. It’s easily my best project to date throughout when it comes to concepts, lyrical ability, the production matching the song’s feeling etc.”
23 has found early success on the iTunes Canada Hip-Hop/Rap chart, currently sitting at No. 5. It’s been as high as No. 4, and is competing with new projects by Juicy J, Statik Selektah, Montréal’s Lost, and the current No. 1 album, Good News, by Megan Thee Stallion. Bailey has made it clear he has his sights set on the No. 1 spot and has taken to social media to encourage fans to purchase a digital copy. These charts are based on people who actually purchase the music on iTunes, so getting fans to download it is important to make any upward movement.
“If you want to showcase your support to the cause, see it climb higher, and make a lil’ bit of history for the small place I’m from, then there’s never been a better time than now. Just head over to the iTunes store and grab that digital copy. Every purchase counts… we’re not far away from #1, so we might as well go for it here. Let’s do this.”
Along with the new album, Bailey has released the first of several music videos expected to drop in the coming weeks. The new video for the Malikyns-assisted “Flying Cars” was directed by MooseCanFly, and Chris Ross, who took the photos featured in this article.
“I want to pump out at least four to five videos or more from this project alone. A lot of these records are deserving of videos. Starting off with ‘Flying Cars,’ which is dropping today.”
Be sure to check out 23 and the “Flying Cars” video below, as well as our interview with Bailey where he discusses the new project, the future of the Season series, and his come up from a smaller market, among other things.
Q&A: Mitchell Bailey
HipHopCanada: Hey Mitchell, thanks for taking the time to speak with us. I wanted to touch on your come up a bit before we shift over to new music. Wikipedia lists your hometown as having a population of less than 20K people. Did you have to look outwards for inspiration, or were there other people in Glace Bay connected to the rap scene that you could learn from?
Mitchell Bailey: Thanks for having me guys! Yes, I come from and currently still reside in a relatively small town. Therefore, it wasn’t necessarily common to be able to walk down the street and connect with a thriving rap scene or anything, but honestly there’s always been a handful of talented dudes from my neck of the woods. I grew up with the Internet and social media though, so nearly 99% of my exposure and studying of hip-hop came through YouTube, DatPiff, etc. when I first started getting passionate about this back in junior high. I’d find a new artist every week and just try to listen to all of their music, and watch all of their interviews. I’m pretty confident, I’m almost fully informed on anything that happened in hip-hop from 2011 and up. At the end of the day, Cape Breton is an extremely musical place overall with limitless amounts of talent, but we are mostly known for fiddle and more traditional music. I’m hoping somebody like myself can continue to slightly adjust that narrative.
HipHopCanada: What were your earliest musical inspirations?
MB: I started writing when I was 14, which would’ve been in early 2012. At that time, I was listening to a lot of Black Hippy (Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul, Schoolboy Q, Jay Rock), Mac Miller, Odd Future, etc. which honestly all are extremely authentic artists when you think about it. I’ve always enjoyed music that makes you feel something, but I’ve never been entirely one-dimensional to just that, so I can always appreciate anything. I think 2011-2014 is an extremely underrated era, I think some of the best artists in the past decade started making their mark during that time.
HipHopCanada: What inspired you to start recording? Do you remember the very first song you made?
MB: I basically wrote for an entire year before I felt confident enough to actually start recording myself. I remember I occasionally recorded on my iPod just to see how I’d sound back in the day. I remember one weekend back in tenth grade me and my friends went to Long & McQuade and I bought a $70 USB microphone, and at that point I honestly felt like I could literally do anything. It was like a weight lifted off my shoulder that confirmed to me I’m actually going to do this. The very first song I ever released was a remix of “Old School Caddy” by Hit-Boy and Kid Cudi, which honestly wasn’t the greatest quality but enough to show the people locally that I was able to rap. Following that, I linked up with a classmate who had some recording gear and we were able to produce some higher quality stuff. Then eventually I released a mixtape when I was 15, which more so established myself at the time.
HipHopCanada: Canadian hip-hop has come quite a ways since you first stepped onto the scene, including the East Coast. How do you feel things have progressed since you first got in the mix?
MB: I mean, so many artists throughout the country have broken through and successfully created their own lanes independently which is motivating for me to watch and study. I think the bigger artists out of Western Canada are doing some special stuff. We’re getting to the point as a country where I think we can compete with what the south of the border has to offer any day.
HipHopCanada: Let’s jump into your new project. 23 will be out on Nov. 27. What inspired the album’s title and overall concept?
MB: I always wanted to have an album released that was titled after my age so I could look back at my discography as a 60 year old and be like, “ahhhhh yes, I remember feeling like this at 23.” I originally was hoping to have it released back on my birthday, August 7th, so it would’ve made even more sense then, but I didn’t want to rush the process with this one. I think all of the records are too special. It’s easily my best project to date throughout when it comes to concepts, lyrical ability, the production matching the song’s feeling, etc. I want this project to be considered my first classic. I wrote and recorded 90% of it between April-June inside my bedroom during the peak of quarantine. I was just constantly sending files back and forth with my producer, Sean Lewis. The album is just my completely unapologetic two cents of how I feel.
HipHopCanada: You’ve had an impressive run of collaborative singles this year, including your latest Golden BSP-assisted “Y U Gotta Act Like This.” How did you decide which acts to feature on 23?
MB: I became a huge fan of both Eazy Mac and Golden BSP back in January. Do you ever get that feeling when you hear one or two songs from an artist and then you get genuinely excited for yourself because you have the rest of their catalogue to explore and you know you’re going to love everything? That’s how I felt when I came across these guys, which was refreshing because I hadn’t felt like that after discovering an artist in a minute. The only other features on the album are Malikyns (Sean John), and my producer, Sean Lewis. The track my in-house producer Sean Lewis does a hook on is titled “Geico,” and is probably one of the best songs on the album. Malikyns is a Kenyan-born singer-songwriter that’s currently residing in Cape Breton. He’s featured on a handful of songs and turns every one of them into hits.
HipHopCanada: One of my favourite tracks you’ve released this year is “All In.” It’s as catchy as it is inspirational. What inspired you to write the song and how did the record come together?
MB: That song features Malikyns, who was going by Sean John at the time. So like I was saying above, he really can help make something a hit! “All In” is a really special record that I thought was fitting with the whole narrative of 23, so I decided to include it on the album as well. I wrote my verses for that song back in January, I believe. The song covers a variety of topics that I think everybody experiences, but doesn’t always necessarily feel comfortable speaking about. My verses in that song are intended to serve the same purpose as that deep breath you take when you’re feeling overwhelmed by everything, when you listen to the lyrics. “Y’all don’t know what I go through on the daily, don’t know what you go through either, we are equal, not crazy,” is the first line of the second verse. Just never judge people, really.
HipHopCanada: That’s one of the songs I’ve been hoping would receive visual support. Can you speak on the overall visual campaign connected to 23? Will there be new videos dropping in support of the album?
MB: Most definitely. I want to pump out at least four to five videos or more from this project alone. A lot of these records are deserving of videos. Starting off with “Flying Cars,” which is dropping today.
HipHopCanada: Will you be doing any performances (live or virtual) to promote the album?
MB: Back in the spring, I was doing Facebook Live concerts where I’d just perform the most requested songs from my catalogue every Sunday from my living room. People loved it and always tuned in, even if I was doing practically the same set every week. Sometimes I’d end up getting like 200-300 viewers, it was nuts. Everyone’s always asking me to bring it back. I think I might have to. As far as actual in-person live performances, it’s hard to say right now because it’s such a weird time, but as soon as it’s safe to do so, I’m going to perform until I explode.
HipHopCanada: 5-10 years from now when you think back about creating 23, what memory will stick out the most?
MB: The fact the album was entirely written and recorded from my bedroom during the pandemic and that it ended up proving to be an extremely pivotal project in the grand scheme of my career, I’m hoping. There’s such a great story attached to it. During a time of so much uncertainty in the world, this is what I was capable of creating, and I think that’ll be special forever.
HipHopCanada: In your opinion, how does 23 compare to your 2017 project, Last Time Introducing Myself?
MB: That’s an amazing question. I think 23 couldn’t be a more evolved, and mature follow-up album than it already is. When I compare the two side-by-side, I think they both were two honest bodies of work that allowed me to express myself at two different points I was at in my life, and that’s extremely special to me.
HipHopCanada: Do you have plans to continue your Season-based EP series?
MB: Possibly. I might do a collaborative EP with Malikyns and Sean Lewis next, and really experiment with combining all of our sounds together. We’ll see. The Season-based projects are fun though. I think ending it at three could’ve made sense, but then again, it could just be a never-ending series of five song projects throughout my career. I always wanted to have my own project series. So, we’ll see. “Season 4” has a nice ring to it. I’m indecisive.
HipHopCanada: If you had a chance to win over a new fan, but could only pick one song from your extensive catalogue to do it, which one would it be?
MB: I’d definitely show them something off 23. “Flying Cars,” “Geico,” “Coming For It All,” “Can’t Judge You,” “All In,” any of those songs I’d recommend, which are all on the new album. I’d just sit them down and force them to listen to the whole project… politely though.
HipHopCanada: How has the pandemic impacted the way you move as an artist?
MB: If we’re focusing specifically on the positives, then I think it’s led to me being even more engaging with my audience on social media than I already was. Your support-base is everything, if you can continue to develop a genuine ride-or-die base that’ll support you through everything and are proud to claim you as “their” artist, then you’re all set to go. Realistically, that’s what every artist should strive to obtain, everything beyond that is a bonus. The pandemic led me to collaborating with some of my favourite artists and being able to have them on my album, and the pandemic led to me creating the most important album of my career so far.
HipHopCanada: What’s next for Mitchell Bailey?
MB: This album is the entire focus right now. So go stream 23 on Spotify, Apple Music, purchase it on iTunes, etc. and make sure to watch that new music video for “Flying Cars.” We went up in a helicopter in this one… shout out to Breton Air! Looking forward to continuing my journey and taking everything to new heights. The future is bright and I’m willing to put in all the work necessary to make everything come to life. That wasn’t even supposed to rhyme but it low-key was a bar. Thanks for having me guys!
You can follow @MitchellBailey7 on Instagram.
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