2009 American Music Awards - Arrivals
Singer Drake arrives at the 2009 American Music Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on November 22, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.
Jason Merritt

What Toronto's Music Scene Thinks Of Drake’s 2009 Breakout Mixtape “So Far Gone”

A decade after the release of Drake's So Far Gone, VIBE spoke to contributors to the Toronto music scene about its impact.

One of hip-hop's foundational principles is repping your city, but it means something more when you have a hometown that is rarely recognized in the landscape. When Drake released his breakout mixtape So Far Gone in 2009, his hometown of Toronto had already been a hotbed for hip-hop talent, but despite the success of acts like Kardinal Offishall and K'naan, no acts had reached true superstardom in the United States. That all ended with Drake: "Best I Ever Had" peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, and he had star power from Lil Wayne  in his corner. Just like that, Drake had become the most popular rapper in Canada's history.

"Best I Ever Had" launched a record-breaking, unprecedented streak of 431 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100. Since his 2009 classic, Drake has become the biggest international hip-hop star ever - and with his annual OVO Fest, a nickname like 6 God (Toronto is often referred to as "The Six," because of the city's 416 area code and the six municipalities that combined to make up Toronto in 1998), and the success of other Torontonians, he's brought his city with him.

VIBE spoke to six people involved in, or who evolved with, Toronto’s music scene about what the project means for the city a decade later.

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When they ask for free beats 🤨

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T-Minus

Producer of Nicki Minaj’s “Moment For Life,” Kendrick Lamar’s “Swimming Pools,” and Drake’s “HYFR”
“I remember appreciating the sonic value of the project. Everything felt like a solid body of work. The records felt seamless. Records on that album even inspired my production, even a couple years later. There was definitely something special about the album. It's really one of the first tapes that brought a lot of attention to Toronto. It really molded an identity that the city still holds.”

 

Gavin Sheppard

Founder of The Remix Project, a Toronto-based program to help level the playing field for young people from disadvantaged, marginalized and underserved communities who are trying to enter into the creative industries or further their formal education

“I feel like So Far Gone was received with open arms by the city. People were looking for something to rally behind and identify with. Everything was changing. Methods of distribution and sharing information were further opening up and people were trying to find/describe an identity for Toronto. So Far Gone helped do that in a way that was inclusive.

I feel the entire city was listening to that project when it dropped. Anyone that knew music, knew that that body of work was special, because it was special as a body of work. It was a cohesive project that welcomed people into an intimate world that hadn’t yet been explored in pop culture.

“Best I Ever Had” helped propel Drake to stardom. The ease and fun of the record had such an irrepressible energy. Production was brilliant and Drake was flawless there in delivering vulnerability with an unfiltered confidence. That said, to me, “Brand New” is really what opened the floodgates for Drake and changed everything, though. That’s the record I remember Toronto first really truly embracing and championing, then “Best I Ever Had” took it global. That speaks to Drake’s career a lot since. Confidently walking a line between brutal honesty and tongue in cheek fun, dominating pop culture while maintaining just enough “outsider” status and incisive personal commentary to remain cool and stay relevant.

Drake’s music has always felt very human to me. And that’s about the highest compliment I can pay an artist. ‘Cause what are we doing if not trying to express who we are, what we are doing here and explain the maelstrom or emotions we all have to navigate without a real map? Music is our compass and Drake’s courage allowed for us to honestly examine ourselves, and we love him for that.

It expanded Toronto’s urban cultural identity from being heavily Caribbean-influenced to encompassing the Caribbean identity while also becoming inclusive of so many different experiences. And that allowed so many new voices to participate authentically in this new emerging movement that before were trying to find their footing. It allowed for a city to stop rocking NY fitteds and to start rocking Blue Jays or the Owl. So Far Gone helped give identity and pride. It made people from here, proud to be Torontonian. It made others want to visit and see what the city was all about. Musically it influenced so many of North America’s top creatives today. Culturally, it put Toronto on the map and cracked America (and the world’s) curiosity enough to start a trickle and then a flood of deserving Canadian talent streaming into the global market today.”

 

 

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Something from Nothing. Appreciate all the love and support from everyone I love and support ✨

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Neenyo

Producer of PARTYNEXTDOOR’s “Sex On The Beach,” “Things And Such / Kehlani’s Freestyle,” “Freak In You,” and Drake and Future’s “Plastic Bag” 

“I’d met and known Drake a little earlier from when he had just left Degrassi and that’s when we started working together. So, for me, I was always eager for people to discover how great he is, I just had no idea how big and monumental that intro would be. The hour it dropped I remember Solange and Kid Cudi tweeting it and that’s when I knew his reach and path. We all knew it was special, the world knew it was special. He took risks singing and making songs like no one was to stand out and prove he was creatively more forward than everyone. Before this project, I felt like he was proving he could out rap everyone at a time when everyone was listening to Little Brother. Now he was just proving he could make songs at the level of the best out and have fun while doing it.

Fortunately, our city isn’t swayed by how popular or how much money someone makes; it’s just about how good you are. Everyone took notice very quick that a shift just happened. He also skipped past all the politics and did everything outside the traditional industry system which was a big deal. Drake was the first big artist that might not need a label, which was unheard of at the time.

I remember Boi-1da hitting me on MSN messenger the first week “Best I Ever Had” entered the Top 200 Billboard charts. It must’ve been around No. 80, same time I had a my first No. 1 album on the charts. We were so young and just so hyped and congratulating each other for these “milestones.” Seems crazy now to think of Drake not on the charts.

I feel like what has it done for music, for how people put together rollouts, for songwriting and storytelling? It was pivotal in giving way to Partynextdoor and The Weeknd, and what would music sound like without those three?”

 

 

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Jazz Cartier

Recording artist
“I remember being in school in Connecticut when it dropped, refreshing OVO’s Blogspot and it was late by like an hour or something. Had me trippin’. (Laughs) The cover alone let me know this was gonna be something different. “Love and Money” was almost like you can’t have both and find happiness. The moment I heard “Lust for Life,” it felt like Toronto.

If you had any sense in your body you knew what was about to happen. For a lot of people So Far Gone was their introduction to Drake. For me, seeing the growth from Room For Improvement to Comeback Season then So Far Gone, it just felt like he honed in on his sound. N***as were putting out mixtapes, but Drake presented a mixtape that sounded better than any album out. What he did is bridged all sides of the blog era on one project—Lykke Li, Santigold, Lil Wayne, Omarion, Lloyd and Bun B. (Laughs) Like, how does that happen and not come off forced? That’s also Toronto in nutshell.

I can’t speak for everybody, but as an aspiring artist I think it meant the world to a lot of us. When I finally went back in March you couldn’t escape it. So Far Gone is the blueprint to the Toronto sound. I modeled my first mixtape, Marauding in Paradise, after it. It gave kids like myself hope that somebody who did the same sh*t as us can take things to the next level. We always had it harder coming from Toronto and breaking into America. Fast forward 10 years later and a lot of the biggest records, artists and producers have come from Toronto. It was bound to happen eventually, but SFG changed the way the world saw Toronto as a city.”

 

 

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Lola Plaku

Owner of Lola Media Group, a full service digital, artist management, and artist marketing agency
“I think we all live in bubbles at times, work, school, family, etc. and the Toronto music industry was its own bubble. People made music and moves within that bubble and that felt like enough. Drake burst that bubble. So speaking strictly from the perspective of someone who was not just a fan or a regular consumer, I saw it both ways. I saw the dismay it caused among people who were not expecting this type of support for him, but I also saw how excited people were of the ceilings Drake was about to break. Once the tape dropped, it engulfed Toronto and music fans everywhere really. Everyone became a Drake fan.

From 2004 until about 2009 I used to write for HipHopCanada. I was the editor during that time as well, so I was very much aware of all the music coming out of the city and other parts of Canada. There were a few artists that had already created a wave for Canadian rap, ones that we all respected and admired. Then was a new group of artists; we were all in the scene together, coming up together in a way. Drake was just coming up then (2005-2007). He was focusing on his music career outside of his TV work, and he was a part of this new group as well. By the time So Far Gone dropped, he had already gained the support of local media, radio, tastemakers, but the drop of that project was like a tsunami hit the city (musically) and changed the landscape forever. What was coming across my desk at that point was mainly rap, just rap. Artists imitating the sound of what was coming out of New York or Atlanta or whatever, which didn’t really break south of the border. Drake offered something different, something everyone could bop their heads to, or relate to. He wasn’t just a “Toronto rapper.” I remember traveling outside of the country and hearing songs like “Houstalantavegas” or “Uptown,” or “Best I Ever Had” or “Successful” and thinking, “this is someone from my city these people are all listening to.” It felt like an extension of all of us. Honestly, it was an unparalleled feeling.

There was something special about it. People were playing the project in its entirety, not just one song or two songs. Kids everywhere wanted to be a part of the movement, wear the gear, etc. That’s when you know someone is not just making great music, they are creating a legacy.

This project allowed Drake to soar. Drake not only as an individual, but as a business, created incredible opportunities for Canadian artists. He sparked a conversation, and that conversation was, “Where did this sound come from? Who was a part of it? Are there others like him? Who else have we overlooked from this city?” And so, Toronto got on the map. People were checking for our artists and it felt good. Because now, Canadian artists can finally direct the conversation not just aspire to be a part of it.

This is not about So Far Gone but about “Replacement Girl,” the song Drake dropped with Trey Songz in 2007 from Comeback Season. I remember I was in Atlanta with a few other friends from Toronto when the video dropped. And I remember it came on BET in the middle of the day, I think it was Joint of the Day or something like that. And we all screamed like it was our video on TV. We recognized the people in the video. My friend Neeks was a dancer in it, we were like, “Yooooo, that’s our people!” It was the first time a Canadian artist of my era had been on BET, or just any U.S. media platform, and I was in the U.S. watching this, with my Canadian friends. I think we all called our friends like, “Oh my God, you’re on TV in America!!” How crazy is that? Now Canadian artists make up for a huge percentage of Billboard and Top 40 charts and No. 1 hits.”

 

 

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Jessie Reyez

Recording artist
“A lot of people f**ked with it but there were also a lot of haters that underestimated Drake because of his career as an actor. Screwface capital. It was something that was coming out of the city that was able to achieve global attention. I remember hearing “Best I Ever Had” on the radio when I was living out in Florida and thinking, “Damn, a Toronto kid on the radio out here. Dope.”

I think it’s done a lot [for the city]. The Drake effect is something that’s very real. There were artists before him that laid down the foundation in the city; artists that were and are incredibly talented, that built this early hip-hop culture in Toronto. I think what Drake did was be able to grow beyond that and solidify a foundation for a long career, not just in Canada, but worldwide. A career that’s obviously stood the test of time. So Far Gone was the beginning in many ways for the rest of the world to embrace a part of our culture and city.”

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Don Cheadle On The Good Insanity Of 'Black Monday' And Battling Twitter Trolls

Don Cheadle isn’t insane; he just acts like he is, really well, on Showtime’s Black Monday. On the Wall Street dramedy about the 1987 stock market collapse, Cheadle has made fun of the AIDS epidemic and snorted cocaine off of a video game accessory as Maurice “Mo” Monroe, star trader on the show. As offensive as Mo is, Cheadle joined the cast after he “read the pilot, it made me laugh and I thought it was insane...in a good way,” according to the actor speaking with VIBE.

The 54-year-old Grammy-nominated director wasn’t rocking the Jheri curl and polyester threads like his character does in the show when the actual 1987 stock market crash occurred. At that time, he was a broke, struggling actor who admittedly could fit all of his worldly possessions in his car. Black Monday lets Cheadle experience the cocaine binges, robot butlers, and Jheri curl juice he never had in his past. But, fake or not, Cheadle doesn’t want to be on camera saying all of the absurdities Black Monday creators Jordan Cahan and David Caspe think up.

“Jordan and David are always pushing it and it's often up to us to say, 'Yeah, that's a bit too far. If you're going to say the line on camera, that's fine. I'm not going to say that on camera' (Laughs).”

With VIBE, Cheadle recasts Black Monday’s lead roles with rappers, talks smuggling blackness into a show about Wall Street, and why he doesn’t back down from Twitter exchanges with trolls.

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VIBE: What are some things you share with your character Mo?

Don Cheadle: That's a good question. I don't know. I know I'm nowhere near as intense as he is. I'm not as ambitious at all costs as he is. My sense of humor can kind of be on that level. But, never in public. You know how you could go in with your friends and be like, 'Please don't ever tape this' (Laughs).

One of the characteristics you two share is being confrontational. Do you ever worry that your personal opinions on Twitter could affect TV ratings?

Naaaahhhh. I've never had anybody of any position come to me and say, “You're really risking something and you got to knock that off.” No employer has ever said anything to me. There's a lot of bots on there, for one. A lot of people -- presumably people -- that come at me and say stuff like, “You just lost a fan.” I’m just like, “You were never a fan. Let's be real.”

On the show, Mo and Regina Hall’s character, Dawn, are the only prominent Black characters, yet their blackness has yet to be the focal point of an episode since the series’ premiere. Was that intentional and will the show explore blackness in the ‘80s?

It comes up in the second episode when they're in the store. Mo is telling her, “Those white boys will f**k you, they'll date you, but they won't give you a spot.” We want to pepper that stuff in, kind of smuggle it in and not lead with it. That's not something the characters talk about every day. They know who they are, they know what they're dealing with, and it comes in and out of the show. It's not the focal point of the show, which I like. They are black and it is front and center, but it isn't the subject matter.

The second episode has the classic back and forth negotiation scene between you and Dawn. Were there ever scenes where you and Regina couldn't get through it because y'all kept making each other laugh?

We would crack each other up a lot. Both of our desire was to always get it on camera, so we never really lost it during a shot. Maybe once or twice. But, most of the time we would get the take and then we would crack up. I'd always be like, “When you said this line.” She would be like, “When you said this.” We kind of improv a lot on the show and some stuff gets in there. When she said, “Who wants to titty f**k Keith” [in the series premiere], Regina just improv’d that.

So it was all Regina Hall's idea to mount Paul Scheer and thrust in the air as if she was titty f**king him?

Yes, that was her (Laughs).

The third episode starts with the most ‘80s scene we'll probably see on television this year: you snorting coke off of a Nintendo Duck Hunt gun while talking about Michael Jackson and Brooke Shields dating.

(Laughs) Yeah.

Are those moments intentionally put into the show to show that Black Monday is set in the ‘80s?

I think, absolutely, we're trying to juxtapose that time period to now and see the things that remain and the things that change, and see how far we've come in some instances and how far we still have to go. Absolutely, all of that cultural stuff is very fun to play with. We always want to make it a part of the show. We don't want to full out do something that has no bearing on anything just to make fun of the ‘80s.

The music for the show has been great. Knowing what you know about Mo and the ‘80s, what would be his morning playlist before a day of kicking a** on Wall Street?

Oh, he would definitely listen to Run-DMC. I think he's into all of that early hip-hop with [Big Daddy] Kane and LL Cool J. He's deep into that. He probably also listens to some of the stuff that was coming out of Europe at that time. Stuff like the Eurythmics, Annie Lennox, a lot of that stuff. UB40 (Laughs). At one point in the show, he's like, “Don Henley's coming to play. I don't really f**k with his music, but he's number one, so I'm listening to it.” He likes what's popular.

You once said you wanted to cast Kendrick Lamar for the role of Junior in the film Miles Ahead.

Yes.

If you had to cast the roles for Dawn, Mo, Blair, and Keith with rappers, who would they be?

Oh, wow. Who would Dawn be? I think Dawn might be Queen Latifah. I like Dawn as Queen Latifah. I don't think Keith and Blair would be any rappers (laughs). I can't think of any rappers Keith and Blair would be. Not that there aren't some. I mean, they might be 3rd Bass. Who would Mo be? That's a good question. Who do you think Mo would be?

Mo is so out there I was thinking…

Ol’ Dirty Bastard?

Or a really animated Leaders of the New School Busta Rhymes.

Yeah. Definitely, a young Busta Rhymes. Kool G Rap also.

If they're going to be doing as much cocaine as Mo does on the show then it has to be someone from Wu-Tang.

(Laughs) It has to be O.D.B.

I did a little bit of IMDB digging and saw that Kevin Arnold is listed as your stunt double for 5 episodes of the second half of the season. Is Mo about to get crazier in the second half of the season?

No comment (Laughs). Things get crazy.

With a show titled after and centered around an event that it appears will be reached by the season finale, is there any way this show could come back for a second season?

Fingers crossed. I think the jumpoff is Black Monday, and the show is still going to still be about the stock market, Wall Street. That one day was just what started a lot of stuff. Things kept going on from then and are still going on.

Catch 'Black Monday' on Sunday nights at 10p/9c on Showtime.

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Stacy-Ann Ellis

Meet Koffee, The Rising Jamaican Star Who Is Hot Like A Thermos

Back in 1962, a 17-year-old Jamaican singer/songwriter named Robert Marley recorded a song called “One Cup of Coffee” and went on to take reggae music around the world. Fast forward 55 years to 2017, when a 17-year-old Jamaican singer/songwriter named Koffee dropped her first record, “Burning,” setting her on a path to become the most talked-about new artist in dancehall reggae right now.

Koffee got her big break when veteran singer Cocoa Tea invited her onstage at the January 2018 edition of Rebel Salute, Jamaica’s biggest roots reggae festival. “She name Koffee and me name Tea,” he quipped, calling her the “next female sensation out of Jamaica.” The artist born Mikayla Simpson doesn’t actually like coffee though—she prefers hot chocolate.

After graduating from Ardenne High, the same school dancehall star Alkaline attended, Koffee turned her focus to music. She shot a live video with new roots superstar Chronixx at Marley’s Tuff Gong Studios, then dropped her breakout single “Toast,” produced by Walshy Fire of Major Lazer fame. That video has racked up 10 million+ views and made the artist, who stands just over five feet tall, a very big name on the island. Now signed to Columbia UK, Koffee will release her debut EP Rapture next month.

“Mi only spit lyrics, don't really talk a lot,” she states on the track “Raggamuffin.” But when Koffee turned up to VIBE’s Times Square headquarters, bundled up against NYC’s February chill in a hoodie, thermals, and Nike x Off-White sneakers, she opened up about her musical journey, the power of gratitude, her surprising inspirations, and how she plans to spend her birthday.

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VIBE: I haven’t seen you since your EP listening in Kingston. Congratulations on an impressive body of work. Koffee: Thank you. I feel humble and proud at the same time. I really put a lot of thought into the EP, the way I structured it, and the content, the lyrics. It really means a lot to me, so I appreciate you saying that.

It’s amazing how much you’ve accomplished since Cocoa Tea brought you out on Rebel Salute. Yeah, and that was only a year and a month ago!

So how did the link with Cocoa happen? Actually, it happened through Walshy Fire. After my very first single “Burning,” Walshy reached out and sent me some riddims, in hopes of us working together, which we ended up doing. We were supposed to meet up at a studio in Florida and when we went there Cocoa Tea was already in the building. We were like, “Wow, Cocoa Tea!” Because Cocoa Tea is a reggae legend for us in Jamaica. Walshy actually introduced Cocoa to some of my music, and Cocoa was like, “Wha? Mi gonna bring her out on Rebel Salute next month!” This was in December, and Rebel Salute was in January.

Timing is everything. Rebel Salute made a huge difference. It opened me up to a lot of opportunities. Even today a lot of places that I go, people remember me from there. I was doing music before. I’d done a few shows here and there, but the audience at Rebel Salute is very important. It’s an epic stage to present yourself.

Were you nervous? Just before going out on the stage I was backstage pacing back and forth. I was trying to keep warm as well because it was chilly that night. But I was really nervous because it was my first time being in such a light.

Do you think being so young has helped you? Like, you may not overthink everything. I think you have a point. Because I’m young, my mind is a bit more pure, or uncorrupted. Experiences do have a way of taking away your mental space and the things you’re willing to try. Staying in “the comfort zone” is the most comfortable thing, but sometimes pushing yourself to step outside of that will help you overcome your fears. That, and just the drive and motivation. I definitely try to keep challenging myself.

Reggae has always been a male-dominated industry, but female artists are definitely on the rise. How do feel getting catapulted into that category? I feel like it’s a big responsibility, and “to whom much is given, much is expected.” So I don't look at it as, “Oh, I’ve made it.” But I acknowledge that I’m in a position where I have a responsibility now to fulfill and to pull through. It just pushes me to work harder, make more things happen, and just keep it going.

I love the line in your song “Raggamuffin” where you say, “Mi give them heart attack inna mi halter back.” Was that inspired by Althea & Donna’s “Uptown Top Rankin’” from the ‘70s? Yeah, I love that song. That’s the thing, I would say that every artist is an influence to me. Growing up, I would hear these songs being played by people next door, down the road, all around. Just in the Jamaican environment on a whole. So those songs definitely do have an influence on me, the messages from those times. Once you hear it, it’s in your head. You know it now and it really makes a difference in how you think, how you speak, and everything.

When people think of a female dancehall artist they usually think of colorful hair, long nails… But you seem to have your own swag. How would you describe your style? I would definitely say unique, but at the same time, it is natural to me and not calculated. I don't put a name to it and say, “I’m gonna be this way.” I just kind of flow and whatever you see is me doing what I feel. Like, I’m not sure what these pants are, but I bought them in Berlin. I got this hoodie in the UK—I’m not sure what brand this is either. I was just trying to keep warm. My friend Ayesha from the UK styled me with this top recently for a shoot.

There’s a line on “Burning” where you talk about “Koffee pon di street, tank top inna di heat / Jeans pants an’ Crocs / No socks pon mi feet / Knapsack mi a beat / Well pack up an’ it neat.” Was that your real-life dress code in 2017? Yeah, I remember at that time that’s how I used to roll. You know in Jamaica it’s hot, so I probably had my tank top and my jeans on, or my shorts. And I had this one pair of grey Crocs that I just wore everywhere. And I always have my knapsack. So yeah, that was my reality at that moment.

How far away does that feel, now that you have a stylist and travel the world? That’s amazing. It’s a transition that’s really beautiful and something I really appreciate.

I have a feeling you’re going to re-introduce words like “appreciate” and “give thanks” into pop culture. I hope to start a wave of gratitude. Even by writing that song “Toast,” when I say “We haffi give thanks like we really supposed to,” it reminds me to be grateful. I aspire to be humble and I pray and ask God to help me be grateful. I try to maintain it and I hope that will inspire other people to do the same.

Let’s talk about “Toast.” On the chorus, you say “We nah rise and boast.” But then again, a lot of reggae and dancehall artists are very “boasy.” That’s part of the culture. When I say “Wi nah rise and boast” it means that no matter what happens along the journey, we’re still gonna remain the same. We gonna big up we friend and hold a vibes. I’m just making it clear that we never come fe hype.

You can spit pretty fast, but I feel like some people may be missing some of the things you say. But if you listen carefully you’re talking about real things. Thank you for noticing that. When I wrote “Raggamuffin,” a lot of my musical influence came from artists like Protoje and Chronixx. Chronixx has basically been an advocate for the youths, so his message had an impact on me. When I was vibing to the beat, I wanted to cover myself, cover my country where I come from, good things and bad things, and the music, reggae itself.

Growing up, did you see inner city kids not being looked after by their own government and their own people? Most definitely. I wouldn't say that the government is responsible for the lives of everybody as citizens. But there are some general things that need the government’s attention and they don't pay the attention that they should. They'd rather focus on things that can garner income. There are roads that need to be fixed in places that tourists don't necessarily visit. And nobody cares about those roads. Minor injustices, major injustices—just things that really need to be spoken about so that people can think about it and look into it.

BDP used the term Edutainment—education and entertainment. Is that something you present in your music? Yes, it’s definitely something I aim for. I think that it’s important to keep people interested enough to want to absorb what you are saying. And then it’s equally important to present something that is worth absorbing. Something productive, something inspiring, motivating. Just mixing both so that you have their attention and you’re also delivering something that’s worth their attention.

You were still in school when you did your song “Burning.” As a new artist did you have to convince the producers to work with you? Gratefully, no I didn't have to convince them. Because I did a tribute to Usain Bolt before that. I wrote a song with my guitar titled “Legend” and posted a video of me performing it with my guitar on Instagram.

Usain came across it and reposted it, so that garnered a lot of attention. People from the music industry reached out to me, and in that group of people was Upsetta records with their Ouji Riddim. They sent it to my first manager like, “Let’s see what she can do” and so forth.

There’s this thing in Jamaica called Sixth Form. It’s like you graduate high school and there’s an extra two years that you can do as like a pre-college. I applied for it and didn’t get through. Right after that, I did the tribute to Usain Bolt and then Upsetta sent me the Ouji Riddim. I was in a state of mind where I felt disappointed. I felt the need to motivate myself, so I was like “Come with the fire the city burning!”

How does your mom feel about all of this? I started writing lyrics at 14 years old, but she didn't find out until I was 16, when she saw me perform at a competition in school. I invited her there and she was taken aback, like, “Wow! So this what you've been doing?” (Laughs) She wanted me to do academics like every parent wants. And she was little disappointed when I didn't get through to Sixth Form. But over time, as I wrote more and performed more, she began to trust my talent and just trust the process. So she started appreciating the music and now she's fully on board.

What did your mother think of “dancehall pon the street,” like you sing about in your song “Raggamuffin”? As you know I’ve been living with mommy since I was a baby up until I was 17, so being under her roof I didn't go out much. I was always in the house just chilling and stuff. I know that there’s a dance on like every corner. lf you are driving, you always hear music playing. You have the oldies dancehall, you have the new dancehall—everybody just hold a vibe. That’s basically where that line comes from.

Do you go to dances now? I’ve been going to a few parties and getting out, but I haven't been to like a dance dance. I’ve been to Dub Club, you get some really good music there. But Dub Club is like a relaxed kinda vibe.

You recently performed at Bob Marley’s 74th birthday celebration in Kingston. Do you still listen to his music? Most definitely! Bob has set such a great and amazing foundation for the music, the industry, the genre itself, the country, the youth... He’s set such a great example that you haffi really learn from it and take a lot from it so that you know where you’re coming from. You haffi understand how to execute in honor of such people.

What are some of your favorite Bob songs? Well, I performed “Who the Cap Fit” that night, so that’s one of my favorites. And I like “Is This Love” and “Natural Mystic.” That’s just a few.

I know that’s a hard question. What about a dancehall legend like Super Cat? Hmm… “Mud Up” woulda be my favorite Super Cat.

Really?! Yeah, because of the flow he has on it, not necessarily the content. See, I’m from Spanish Town. Jamaicans on a whole, we like vibes. We like lyrics that, as we would say, “it slap!” It touches you, and really hits that spot. So I listen to a lot of different things, and the lyrics that I listen to aren't always conscious. But what I derive from music is not necessarily the message. Sometimes the flow that you’re hearing, that’s the wave for the moment. It may not be the best for the youth, but that’s what people like to vibe to. So you take that vibe, put a positive message to it, and that’s the spin. So I listen very widely.

One of my favorite songs on your new EP is the “Rapture” remix. It was dope that you got together with Govana on that. When I first wrote “Rapture,” Govana had recently done a song called “Bake Bean” that took off in Jamaica. When him drop that, it’s like the flow really resonate with me. I was like, “This is dope.” So when I did “Rapture” I was listening back to it and thought I should probably try to get Govana on this track. And it turned out so sick!

That’s cool to have the credibility where other artists respond to you like that. Because I'm sure it’s not always that easy. No, it’s not always easy. Me haffi give thanks for the way people have been responding.

So no one has kissed their teeth and said, “Nah man”? (Laughs) No, not yet. (Laughs) But what I have to appreciate is just when another artist really listens and pays attention. Sometimes an artist can be good and they don't get the response or the attention that they deserve. Some people don't want to listen, so I give a lot of respect to who is willing to listen.

Well Govana has given you that “crown” in his verse, which reminds me—how did the song “Throne” come about? I remember Walshy sent me that riddim in the first batch of riddims that he sent me. The riddim for “Toast” was also in that batch, but I started with “Throne.” It was basically like a challenge for me. I was like “How am I gonna spit on this?” Because the riddim sounded so dynamic. I was like “mi haffi mash this up!” Hence the fast spit-fire kind of vibe.

What music are you currently listening to on your phone? I don’t listen to my own songs that much. I’m vibing to Mr Eazi. I’ve been going in on the Afrobeats. Burna Boy. Smino the rapper. And I’ve been going in even more on Bob Marley.

Well, it’s reggae month right now. So there’s lots of legendary birthdays—Bob Marley, Dennis Brown. That makes the month even more significant! By the way, I’m born in February also. (Laughs) February 16th.

Happy Earthstrong! Were you keeping that quiet? I just remembered. I’ll be 19!

Wow—you’re gonna be out of the teens soon. What you gonna do on your 19th birthday? Wowwwww—I dunno. I’m gonna see when I get to Jamaica which party. I’ll probably just try and go to a dance or something. That ah go be mad!

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Solitary Alignment: 5 Self-Affirming Reads For Single Ladies On Valentine’s Day

Ahh, the Feast of Saint Valentine—the Hallmark holiday that strikes us with its arrow each year, for better or for worse, depending on your bae status. While the romantic holiday is adored and celebrated by many, if you’re still reeling over, say, your ex’s refusal to commit, chances are Feb. 14 is more of a heartache for you than anything.

But as a wise woman once said, “If they liked it then they should’ve put a ring on it.” So whether V-Day has you scared of lonely or sulking over a lost love, as another wise woman once said, they “would be SUPER lucky to even set eyes on you this Valentine’s Day. That’s it. That’s the gift.” Shout out to The Slumflower.

Sure, having a bae on Valentine’s Day is cool, but so is reminding yourself why you’re just fine without one (cue Webbie’s “Independent”). In fact, single folks have better relationships overall, according to the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. You know how the old adage goes: love yourself before loving someone else.

For this Valentine’s Day, VIBE Vixen rounds up a nourishing list of books for our sisters doin’ it for themselves. Consider this your reminder of how badass you are—because you are! Oh, oh, oh. *Beyoncé voice*

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