By: Tanya Bailey
November 11, 2011
Rocstone‘s live shows, recordings and five music videos – three of which appeared on MuchMusic – have made him a household name in Toronto’s hip hop community. I had the chance to chat with my friend Rocstone about his accomplishments, the hip hop scene and what we can expect from the emcee’s future projects.
Tell me a bit about yourself.
Toronto rapper Rocstone is the genuine article of a real MC that always believed our Northside swag was viable in the Hip Hop music industry. I hit the scene in the mid 90s to make my theory practical and it took about a decade to prove. I love music and I want people to remember before we had black presidents all we have is our music. The power it has only Jah Rastafari know.
Back in 1998 your track “Norpo (ft Tha Smugglaz)” was ahead of its time. How did that track come together?
It was a wake up track. I wanted to show that we could display grimy skills to put Toronto’s true competitiveness out in the Hip Hop marketplace. After we dropped that shit, America knew this music was gonna be a non-stop express. The Smugglaz made it an instant classic. Nuff respect to their effort on the joint. We definitely took it to a higher level. It was a partnership project with my publishing company Yukari Mark Publishing, The Smugglaz, Big Apple, Alkamie Records, and Ryan Lords who did the visuals that made MuchMusic video. Real talk I scrapped a whole album to do that track.
Your first album Thug Dread dropped in 2000 and was an underground gem. When was your secret?
No secret! It is what it is. I wanted to drop a full LP but I wasn’t there yet so I came with the Thug Dread EP. The hood needed something like that and I independently put the whole thing together to prove a point still true today. Toronto belonged in the Hip Hop spectrum way before places through Midwest and Southern America. But like I said it is what it is. Thug Dread was an underground must for Toronto at that time to wait out the dealer so to say.
What do you think of the hip hop industry in Canada now compared to the late 90’s?
If you can’t break a good record in Canada, you don’t stand a chance. You go to music conferences and you see these panelists stuck dumb founded about hip hop in Canada on the radio. All they do is come up with numbers the states have compared to our country. They have that “I’m sorry man” look on their faces and these are the guys they say are the experts. Independency worked best for the last two decades and I don’t think that will change soon. Compared to the 90s independency has grown most. Due to my independent motives our co existence in the hip hop continuum shows up to 3 billion plus projections in business activities for the “north” next 10 years. Its already started with the hip hop artist Drake that Young Money scouted seeing and believing the same projections previously stated. This viability I would only give soul credit to those fallen soldiers in our streets, not the Canadian hip hop “industry.”
If you could describe your music in three words what would it be?
I couldn’t describe my music in three words, but it would be fun to try. So much Jah love is wrapped into my tracks and a picture is worth a thousand words that there is so many to pick from. I believe like you “time will tell” would best describe my music in three words.
What does “Hip Hop” mean to you?
I found a new meaning for hip hop after writing a well studied song call “Jahrastafari” for my Jamaica, Kingston 12 LP. This track is highly significant and regarded as the “new song of Solomon.” Do the research because “world savior ” is what hip hop means to me. We are in 2011 and its either you are a true believer of this music or not. Our fanatism as grown beyond everything and accountability is key to our legacy.
Your track “White Rum” off your Jamaica Kingston 12 album reminds me of a collage of poetic elements, how did this song come together?
Poetic, prophetic all that shit. That track was produced by legendary DJ X. I wanted him to help with my project because for a while he was the culture when it came to Toronto with his Ryerson CKLN radio show. He told me to come thru the studio, we built the track, I created the hook, and we made history. He was the 93.5 resident DJ at the time, so one morning bright and early he and Farley Flex called up my crib telling me to turn on the radio. It felt nice hearing my shit on the radio bright and early in the morning. That “White Rum” track got the buzz happening for the album.
What do live performance’s mean to you?
Live performances should be thee answer for loving what we do. It’s like watering a plant, one of the only times you interact with what you are trying to reach – which is the people. It pays off in so many ways.
You have been on a bit of a musical hiatus…will you be touring this fall?
Touring plans are on hold since I decided to do a new project. I had a son last year and I initially had a tour planned, but my manager Joseph Bramante had a sudden life threatening stroke which made us have to postpone going ahead with respect to my team members unfortunate illness. While Mr. Bramante recovers being transferred from where he was in Italy to his new home in Montreal, its time to bring elements together for my new work to come back out of hiatus and take this shit over again. A release party and listening sessions will be the first type of touring promo I most likely will do mid to late 2011.
Are you working on a new album?
Yes. Call it a new brand of hip hop music. There’s billions to be made up here on the Northside and the World is expecting classic rap records to come from us. My next installment got crazy sick productions on there with some of the most gifted and talented producers coming up in Toronto.
Where do you see Rocstone the emcee in five years?
Rocstone the emcee in five years will most likely be passing the trait to my son if he wants it. I do have major plans for my publishing company though and in this business I’ve learned that publishing is key. Building my music catalog and its value is my grind right now until I round up some potential buyers. In a few years, a couple of classic albums will do me fine. JAH RASTAFARI KNOW.