Story by Widney Bonfils | Tuesday February 13th, 2018
Paris & Simo are a DJ/production duo of international stature, but who are, first and foremost, Montréalers. From Vegas, to New York, to Hyderabad, and Istanbul via Nagoya, they’ve quickly built a solid reputation for themselves on the international EDM scene, performing at some of the world’s premier events. So how did they achieve world recognition, while still being able to walk down Sainte-Catherine Street incognito? How did their success come about?
It started in 2011, after they won a remix contest for the Tiestö single “Work Hard Play Hard.” Besting thousands of submissions, the EDM ecosystem identified them as new producers to watch. Tiestö himself took them under his wing, and their bond solidified over lunch at Montréal restaurant t Rosalie. Tiestö started championing their tracks during his sets (“Nova,” “Tundra,”“Wait,”“Not Alone,” etc.), and he’s not the only one. Star DJs like Martin Garrix, Nicky Romero, and Hardwell have played several of their tracks, thus cementing the Paris & Simo name in numerous territories. Aware of their prodigious potential, Hardwell signed them to his label (Revealed Records, distributed by Sony). Several of their singles, including their latest, “Glow,” feature a Toronto-based guest called Nikon.
With millions of streams on Spotify, and collaborations with singers such as Karen Harding, Paris & Simo are not only on the radar of important EDM players, but also a multitude of dance music aficionados who follow their every move. To wit, 200,000 Facebook fans are anxiously awaiting the release of their next EP. Distributed by Kobalt, and combining R&B sounds with electronic atmospheres – including both a female (Sara Diamond) and male (Yeah Boy) voice over British rhythms, the EP promises some pleasant surprises. That should be plenty to feel confident in a future that’s built, as Paris & Simo say, “one song at a time.”
Photo by Marie-Claude Meilleur
Better Together: Séba & Horg
Story by Philippe Renaud | Thursday February 15th, 2018
Here’s the latest edition in our series about creative meetings between two songwriters. This time, we dissect the successful reunion of rapper Séba and composer-producer DJ Horg, who, together, wrote the hit “Vintage à l’os” (“Vintage to Death”). To their astonishment, the song currently sits atop of the chart of one of Montréal’s commercial radio stations. Their first album, Grosso Modo, is a project that germinated 20 years ago, but materialized only recently – as a kind of homage to the boom-bap sound typical of ‘90s hip-hop.
But first, a bit of history: while New York DJ Premier (Gang Starr) is considered the architect of the boom-bap sound, we’d be remiss to not mention the composer-producers of Boogie Down Productions, laucnhed with the first solo album of legendary rapper KRS One. And what was the title of that 1993 classic? Return of the Boom Bap. Boom as in the sound of a fat kick drum. Bap as the sharp, crisp sound of a snare drum. These are the two main ingredients in this irressistibly danceable version of the rap rhythm.
As is probably clear by now, boom-bap is rap’s ancient history, and its second Golden Age, the first one being the old-school explosion, circa Run DMC. Now a dominating musical force in Western culture, rap has changed a lot since then.
“If I was 15 or 20 today, I’d most likely be totally immersed in the whole trap thing,” says Horg, mentioning Migos, Gucci Mane, Future, 2 Chainz, and so on. “Except I’m not 20, I’m 43, and that’s that. Like I told Séba: if you want to do a rap album today, it has to be trap. Thing is, neither of us are really into that sound. Not to say it’s not good, but the beats, the lyrics, the message, it’s just not us.”
Apparently you can’t teach new tricks to these old hip-hop dogs, who met about two decades ago at Cégep du Vieux-Montréal. “During the first week of classes!” says Séba. “I hosted a radio show during the morning and Horg was right after me. When I saw him arrive with his machines and his vinyl, I thought, ‘Oh shit!’ and we immediately started talking about rap. The scene was just picking up speed in Montréal, that was 1995, and the movie La Haine had just come out. . . We recognized each other. There weren’t a lot of people into it, then.”
Once Cégep was done, they lost track of each other. Horg stayed behind the decks, composing and producing beats for Québec’s underground scene – “vintage to death” fans will remember projects such as Cavaliers Noirs and KZ Kombination – before becoming the shining light behind Samian. As for Séba, he became the spark plug of the punk-rap trio Gatineau.
They met again at the 2008 ADISQ Gala. “You sat behind me with your manager,” Horg reminds his partner-in-crime. That was the year Gatineau won the Félix for the best hip-hop album of the year, beating Samian, Sans Pression, Imposs and Radio Radio. “It was more punk than anything else and live, it was almost metal. Let’s just say we sounded more closely related to The Breastfeeders than to Biggie Smalls,” says Séba, who’s a rapper deep down, even though he looked goth at the time.
Third time’s a charm, as they say, and a few months ago, Séba decided to attend the taping of Horg’s radio show, Sur le corner, and took the opportunity to tell him about his dream: recording a rap album over Horg’s beats. “What’s cool about Séba is that I feel like all I’ve accomplished since I started in rap, everything I realized I wanted to do and say in this scene, converged with his experience and his journey,” says Horg. “It became obvious very quickly that we had a project on our hands.”
The first demos were made with Séba’s “depressing lyrics written after a breakup, it just didn’t work,” Horg explains. They started over, inspired by their common passion for rap. “We wanted to make an album like we would’ve done it 20 years ago, no compromises. To me, it was almost therapeutic; I would constantly ask myself, if I grab the mic to rap, what would people like to hear me talk about? And the answer was always: How was it, being in Watatatow?”
Yes, dear young (or too old) readers: in his old life, Horg was an actor in a TV series for tweens and teens. “Yes, I was a comedian, but I stopped, mainly because I didn’t like being centre stage. It’s also why I’ve never been a solo rapper,” says the man who’s perfectly comfortable sharing the mic with Séba on Grosso Modo. “We made that record for ourselves, Horg says. “Unabashedly, honestly, we figured we’d tell all – Horg played the character of Bérubé in Watatatow!”
Séba adds, “To be honest, I think I also did this record so that people will stop saying I’m that guy from Gatineau,” just as Horg is no longer Bérubé. The lyrics were written four-handed, dug up from their memories of being young rap aficionados, along with a healthy dose of nostalgia and ‘90s cultural references, which they drop with humour and tenderness.
And it works: At press time, Vintage à l’os sits at the top of CKOI’s 6 à 6 chart. Iit also sat in first place, for awhile, of iTunes’ Francophone songs chart, over Patrice Michaud, Cœur de pirate and 2Frères! “Unbelievable,” says Séba. They literally couldn’t believe it. “Even in our wildest dreams. Québec rap on such heavy rotation? It looks like we hit the spot, in people’s hearts, with that song…”
Story by Olivier Boisvert-Magnen | Thursday February 8th, 2018
Nate Husser doesn’t like talking for no reason. Voluble on the mic, tireless onstage, the 26-year-old rapper is, paradoxically, discreet in an interview context. “I concentrate entirely on music,” he says unapologetically.
We meet in a café on Montréal’s Sainte-Catherine Street, a location he documents with a barely contained, explosive rage on his blazing rap-rock album Catherine. The Montréal-born artist talks with iron-clad precision and not a trace of confession. “I have very mixed feelings about that street. It’s both light and dark,” says the young man who grew up “10 minutes’walk” from the heart of downtown.
Explicit, but not in-your-face, the violence that imbues the dark lyrics of Catherine is rooted in the tumultuous journey of his life. The rough experiences that young Nate Husser survived in the city’s Little Burgundy neighbourhood have marked him deeply. “I had to grow up much faster than most people,” he says. “I witnessed a lot of stuff on the streets. I’ve seen violence, corruption, people turning against each other… And that was before I was a teen,” he says, with a rare openness.
The stories of young Husser would become the canvas for things to come. To survive between school, work and shenanigans – “grindin’ and hustlin’” – the young man who lived in his mom’s basement turned to his passion for rap. At the tail end of his teens, he met his future Posterz partners, Joey Sherrett and Kris The $pirit. “Our paths crossed in a Little Burgundy community centre. There was a studio at the bottom of the stairs,” says.
Between 2013 and 2016, The Posterz recorded three EPs that were critically acclaimed in Québec, and found promising traction abroad. Satisfied with his band’s œuvre, Husser felt it was time to pick up the pace and let his creativity run free on a solo project. Launched last fall on the Cult Nation imprint, and lauded by several major media outlets such as Noisey and The Source, Geto Rock for the Youth is emblematic of the contradictions that inhabit its creator: aloof yet incisive; scattered, yet dense.
Peppered with references to the turn of the century – think Eminem and American nu metal – the music on this EP is somewhat nostalgic. “I wasn’t exposed to hip-hop radio stations when I was a kid,” says Husser. “What I was exposed to was mainly pop, rock, and alternative. It all stayed with me, and influenced my music.” Husser tapped his producer friends Joey Sherrett, Mike Shabb, Maky Lavender, Ajust and Jay Century for his first solo recording, which has racked up more than 300,000 streams on Spotify so far.
An devotee of freestyle – “Paid to Party,” for example, is an entirely improvised song – Nate Husser speaks frankly when he’s on the mic. Without going so far as to label his style “protest rap,” he readily admits the importance of being authentic, hip-hop’s ultimate value. “I’d rather inform people of my reality than brag or try to look cool,” says Husser. “I believe a song should always have a message, regardless of the message’s weight or depth. If your topic is popping molly, you need to incarnate it and tell it like it is, with authenticity. The same goes for politics.”
This sincere approach is the driving force of Like It Doesn’t Hurt, a collaboration with label-mate Charlotte Cardin, whose striking video has already garnered more than five million plays. Husser didn’t have to look very far to write this piece about a tortuous and failing relationship. “It’s totally based on my own life experience, because that’s easy for me to do,” he says. “I’ve lived [through] a lot of totally crazy situations and, in any case, I’m no good at imagining things.”
At the other end of the spectrum, a track like “KillaKop” is just as striking, with its intense, straight-to-the point narrative, one that leaves no doubt about his past history of violence. “In 2014, I was facing two charges of assault against a police officer,” says Husser. “For a year-and-a-half, I had to go back and forth to court for absolutely nothing. Nothing but lies and bullshit! So I figured, if I’m gonna end up behind bars, might as well have actually done something wrong.”
Thankfully, such dark thoughts have since fled the rapper’s mind. As a matter of fact, he’s after a new, more wholesome lifestyle now. “I’m trying to be more normal, calmer,” he says. “Obviously, it has an impact on my lyrics, because for the first time in my life, I’m happy.”
With upcoming, even more potentially bright projects on the horizon, Husser wants to prove his relevance and his worth beyond Montréal’s rap scene. “I don’t want people to see me just as a rapper, but as a complete artist,” says the man who won the Anglophone Artist of the Year Award at the last Dynastie Gala, a ceremony that celebrates Québec’s Black personalities. “Rap is something I can do, but I can also do a lot of other things, like writing and producing songs.”