At 23, Jeune Rebeu displays stunning lucidity on Business et sentiments 3, the third instalment in a triptych of albums that saw him evolve both on a human and artistic level.

“I don’t see it as a duality, but rather as to things that complete each other,” says the Montréal-based rapper, when asked on the scope and meaning of the title of his trilogy — which started unfolding in 2018. “People tend to put business and feelings in opposition, especially in the rap world. Some will be more revealing of their feelings while the tougher ones will say they’re more business minded… And I’m not talking specifically about the macho rappers, but rather the ones who play a game and hide [a part of themselves]. More to the point, I’m talking to rappers whose masculinity is misplaced. I just try to be as authentic as I can. I’m a sensitive person and I try to rid myself of the shyness about my sensitive side, that others repress.”

Young Rebeu has long been a sensitive one. He remembers hearing two songs that left a lasting mark on him when he arrived in Québec in the early 2000s: “Parce qu’on vient de loin” and “Seul au monde,” by Corneille. “It was a tough period for me,” he says. “Not only was I coming from far away, but there was death in my family back in Tunisia,’ he confides. ‘There was a sensitive side to Corneille’s music that spoke to me. I didn’t speak French that well when I got here, but I felt a connection to his emotion.”

Twenty years later, the young rapper’s destiny intersects with that of Sonny Black, the multi-instrumentalist who composed, arranged, and co-produced Corneille’s brilliant first album, from which these two powerful pieces came. Like a little nudge from fate. “It’s crazy!” admits the young man, who benefited from Black’s expertise and rigour as artistic director and principal music composer of BS3. “I really dig the way he works. He made two of my songs way better than I could even imagine.”

With its warm sonic signature. where acoustic guitar, trap rhythms, and Latin influences reign supreme, Business et sentiments 3 marks a leap forward in Rebeu’s career. Ten years after his introduction to rap, which took place during a rap writing and interpretation workshop at a community centre in Côte-des-Neiges, the artist (based in the borough of Lasalle), has clearly evolved immensely, far beyond his collaboration with Sonny Black.

Somewhere between the spontaneous side of the first part of the trilogy, and the more melancholic one of the second, Business et sentiments 3 strikes a balance between the rapper’s strengths and emotions. The girl he’s been talking about for three years, this “Valentina” whose presence has coloured the writing of a sizable chunk of his trilogy, has now left his life.

The result: Rebeu sees more clearly now.

At least that’s what he shows us on “BS Story,” a striking, five-minute-plus conclusion that sums up the Business et sentiments era. Time to move on. “I was in a cabin to write, last August, and I’d just gotten out of that relationship,” says Rebeu. “I wanted to mark the occasion,” he adds, devoid of any hard feelings. “I had no regrets. I thought it was a shame [that everything ended], but I had no regrets. I just wanted to tell it the way it happened. Some people have a diary. My diary is my songs.”

He was lucky to benefit from another small gesture from the hand of fate: he met Dubmatique’s OTMC (aka Ousmane Traoré). “I met Ousmane at the moment I lost that relationship,” says Rebeu, still a bit shocked. “Life is balance. Everyone needs to find their balance.”

At the time, Traoré was putting together the basis of what would become Yokobok Records, his brand new record label.”‘I played him the demos of BS3, and he really liked them. He said: ‘Let’s go! You’ll be my label’s first contract!'” the young rapper remembers. “We’ve gotten to know each other better, since then. We’re friends, business partners. We’re constantly giggling.”

Now on a solid professional track alongside one of the best-selling rappers in Québec’s history (Dubmatique’s La force de comprendre has sold more than 100,000 copies), Rebeu has grand ambitions. “For the longest time I’ve had a ton of ideas, but no tools. Now, with Ousmane, I have the tools I needed to flesh out the ideas I dreamt of,” he says.

BS3’s opener, “J’suis pas désolé,” embodies the “business” side of the title-cum-mantra of his trilogy. “Je fais ça pour le butin/Pour marquer le but hein ?” (“I do this for the loot / To score the goal, y’know?”) he claims, evoking both his mission and his empathy, hidden somewhere in the cold .

“Money to me is a vector of ambition and dreams. It’s not an end in itself,” says Rebeu. “When I rap about money, it’s not with stars in my eyes. I’m not at all attached to brands or luxury. Unlike others, I understood early on during my childhood that money wasn’t going to save me. But I do know it can help me reach my goals. It’s all a question of knowing how to invest it wisely.”

Edmonton native Darren Fung didn’t need to take home the 2021 Canadian Screen Award for which he was nominated (in the Best Non-Fiction Music category) to feel like he’s won.

He already had two, for The Great Human Odyssey in 2016 and Equus: Story of the Horse in 2019. The latest nod was for A Bee’s Diary, and all three have been CBC co-productions.

“It sounds so cliché,” he says, “but it’s really such an honour to be nominated and, in my mind, the nomination means more than the actual award. The nomination is from a jury of your peers; they’ve taken the time to watch it and say, ‘Hey, this stands out from the rest.’ I mean, we can get into the politics of voting and all of that stuff, but for me, the nomination is really the big thing. I’m obviously very proud, very humbled by it.” The awards will be presented on May 20, 2021.

Fung, a McGill graduate, has more than 100 TV and film scoring credits to his name, including his re-imagining of the nationally treasured “Hockey Theme” for CTV and TSN. While all three of the aforementioned documentaries have been nature-oriented, Fung applies the same exacting criteria for his work on more conventional commissions.

“In my mind, [they’re] not different,” he says, on the phone from his home in Los Angeles. “At the end of the day, you’re telling a story; it’s all about storytelling through music. The tools are the same, whether you’re doing a fiction film, or a documentary, or, quite frankly, a commercial. You’re calling upon that same palette… I’ve always said that I don’t treat the genre of film any different than any other. It’s always a question of, how do we tell the story, and how can my music complement that?”

Writing music to order for someone else’s project is vastly different from writing for yourself. “The screen composer’s job isn’t to write the music that they want for it, it’s to write the music that’s right for the film and for what the filmmakers want,” says Fung.

“That’s one of the big challenges for young screen composers. Everyone has some sort of romantic vision of what a screen composer is, but the reality is that you have to accept the fact that someone else is calling the shots. There’s a lot of people who go into this profession not realizing that, and they get really disenchanted. They don’t get to write what they want to write. You [might] write an amazing piece of music, but it just doesn’t work, and it can be really disheartening at times.”

On the other hand, when you get it right, you might be taking home an award for it.

Streaming Status: Where Composers Stand

(May 30, 2019), Fung had an opinion column published in the Toronto Star advocating for more discussions between various trade organizations and the government about regulating “brutally unfair” subscription services. “In an era of record profits from streaming services and internet service providers, we are seeing the rich get richer and a creative middle class that is shrinking.” Has he seen any progress? “I think that right now, there are people who are on the case, in terms of putting the right pressure on the right people with the new changes to the Broadcast Act,” he says. “I think SOCAN, together with all of the trade organizations – like the Screen Composers Guild of Canada, SPACQ, the Songwriters Association of Canada – I think we’ve played our cards fairly well in terms of advocating to the right people in Ottawa, and saying, ‘Hey, that to sustain the industry in this way, we have to re-imagine it.’ The battle is a long one, right? That’s one of the frustrations that a lot of music creators have. We’re so used to working on quick turnaround times, and from gig to gig, so it’s hard to see the long picture with the amount of time and energy and advocacy we put into it. It’s frustrating that it’s not moving faster. But that’s sort of the way that Ottawa and policy change on that big level works. Is change in the air? Yes. Has change happened? Not quite yet.”

Not a single facet of music creation slips through musician Mélanie Venditti’s fingers. While her album Épitaphes (2019) unfolded like a long, calculated, and precise farewell, her self-produced and self-released EP Projections, released on April 30, 2021, offers six unique pieces that unfold like scattered slices of life, that can be understood together or separately.

Melanie Venditti“These songs came slowly, in no particular order, over the course of two years,” says Venditt. “My album was very cerebral, as if I was writing a book, but this time, I wrote what I was living, no matter what it meant.”

Epitaphs brought us to the heart of Venditti’s mourning of her mother, in a calculated, dutiful remembrance. “This time around, it’s the opposite,” she says. “I let the music come to me.”

Obviously, 2020 was the year of pandemic self-isolation, but the stormy return of the waves of #metoo, in July, is also part of the collective memory of the past year. Regardless of what this movement evokes as a memory, trauma, or vague feeling, we have all, in one way or another, experienced or witnessed significant discomfort. “When I read some of the testimonials, I realized that it stirred a lot of stuff that I had experienced,” says Venditti. “It’s at the very heart of this EP, it truly fed my creativity.”

The result is sensitive, and she delicately underlines important observations that bring us back to the basis of the movement: the incoherence of a victim’s speech is legitimate. “It’s normal for someone who’s been abused or harassed to be unclear,” she says. They’ve experienced a trauma.” There are undeniably things that someone can never explain, understand, or judge unless they’ve experienced it themselves.

In her ethereal interpretation, Venditti addresses our relationships with others through what we love and what we hate about them. “I think that what bothers us in ourselves, we perceive more in others, and it’s the same for the things we love,” says Melanie. “It’s basic human nature to reproduce what we’ve experienced, whether it is good or bad. I was greatly inspired by that creative vibe.”

Even if it’s mainly due to lack of budget, and to benefit from the solitary time offered by COVID, that she chose to self-release her EP, Venditti doesn’t deny that there’s a “this is what I’m capable of” aspect to her decision. Producing is a another task at which she’s very adept, and she hopes to be able to do it for others in the future. “I’m competent enough to do that,” she says. “Women have a hard time saying they’re competent. And as women, we’re not afforded the opportunities to do so very often. I’ve also realized, recently, that I lack role models. There are very few women who do what I love – producing, creating songs for their project, playing on other people’s projects, and arranging.”

Venditti considers herself a musician first, and feels most comfortable in that role; songwriting came later. For “Projections,” she chose a starting point that she considers more “academic”: the piano. “What’s fun about this process is that it’s not the vocal melody that dictates the chords,” she says. “Everything starts with the music. You can see your chords more clearly on a piano. In university classes, we use the piano to understand all kinds of music theory. But if I grab a guitar, it’s often a no-brainer. With the piano, music isn’t just wallpaper for the lyrics: it has its own language.”

And when it’s time to say things and name them with words, Venditti likes little phrases that say a lot. “I’m very inspired by Philémon Cimon, who has complex ideas supported with simple words,” she says. “That way of writing touches me, and that’s what I try to achieve with my writing.”

While all the strands in the complex arc of music-making appeal to her, Venditti believes that there’s still a lot of work to be done so that women have the same opportunities as men. The chance or audacity to try things, to make mistakes, and to change course, isn’t given to women,  and isn’t innate, either. “Early in their careers, guys are much more likely to say ‘yes’ when asked to work on a project, even if they don’t feel they have what it takes,” she says. “I hope that women, in the next few years, will have more confidence in themselves, and that they’ll be given the visibility they don’t have yet. And that’s the responsibility of radio stations, big productions, and festivals, among others, because a woman who dares and speaks loudly is usually perceived as hysterical.”

The leap into the creative zone must become automatic for women, and large projects must, according to Venditti, offer a certain number of opportunities. “We need to stop hiring women to copy notes that a man has recorded,” she says. “Women need to be involved in the creation from the start. The results will be different. The creation will be that much richer. It’s time.” Indeed, it’s time.