Rymz rarely has any downtime, lately. On top of his ongoing tour of Québec and his job as an educator in a children’s group home, the 28-year-old rapper is working on his third album.
When we meet the Montrealer at home on his only day off of the week, we expect to find him chilling on the couch, relaxing before leaving for Woodstock en Beauce for the weekend. Lo and behold, he’s hands-deep in paint, directing a major worksite alongside his roommates. “I’m not someone who likes being idle,” he says, smiling, after putting his paint brush down. “It’s always been that way.”
Ever since he launched Petit prince in the spring of 2016, time hasn’t stopped flying by. Already well established in the Québec rap scene, Rymz has become one of its most notable ambassadors over the past few months. This second solo album went well beyond his own expectations, and attracted a lot of attention from the media and festival programmers, notably M for Montréal, the FrancoFolies and Festival d’été de Québec. “People kinda discovered me,” he observes, not knowing to exactly what this success might be attributed.
It certainly isn’t because he’s toned down his music, or suddenly gone somewhat pop. Although Petit prince has a resolutely more modern musical backdrop than the rest of his catalogue – thanks to the collective contributions of producers Gary Wide, Shash’U, Farfadet, NeoMaestro, and Ruffsound – it still features the same carefree and vulnerable Rymz who’s always more than willing to succumb to his vices, burdensome though they may be.
“I told myself than before long, all that would be left of me would be my songs. I was convinced I was going to die at 27…”
At the core of his preferred themes, a good-versus-evil duality is highlighted by a score of contradictions. “Some fans try to corner me by asking me, for example, why I say I want a ton of cash on one song, and on the next I say money is the root of all evil,” says Rymz. “I simply tell them that my lyrics don’t pretend to have answers, they just raise questions. And it’s typical of who I am. I’m filled with contradictions: I work with children during the day, and at night I’m on stage and doing shots. I’ve got a lot of love to give, but also a lot of violence to get out… It’s actually quite surprising that I turned out OK.”
Born in Saint-Hyacinthe (a town of about 56,000 people, an hour’s drive east of Montréal), Rymz had a troubled youth. Now well behind him, that era of delinquency has, to this day, left deep marks on his personal life, and his music. “Toi, t’as regardé La Haine, moi j’ai grandi avec,” he raps on “Ma Zone,” from his latest album. (La Haine is a classic movie in the realm of French hip-hop, its title literally meaning “the hatred,” hence the word play that translates freely as “You watched The Hatred, I grew up with it”.)
His whole output with Mauvais Acte, a duo he co-founded in the mid-2000s with his fellow rapper O-Lit, bears witness to a troubled era, where his outlook on the world was much more fatalistic. “I was very productive during that period, because in my mind I was recording a posthumous album,” says Rymz. “I told myself than before long, all that would be left of me would be my songs. I was convinced I was going to die at 27…
“It truly is my career path that changed me,” he says. “The further I progressed in my studies, the less attracted I was to playing the fool. In hindsight, I can see that not a single larceny I’ve committed brought me as much as the well-paid work I’ve done for kids.”
With that career well underway, music now becomes an essential outlet for the rapper, who’s signed with Joyride Records. However, the newfound interest in his work also comes with a certain level of nervousness. “There’s a lot of pressure right now. It’s exhausting,” says Rymz, talking about the creation of his third album, the release of which is planned for later this year. “I’m apprehensive of people’s reactions, even though I don’t think about that when I’m writing.”
Far from aiming for a “mature album,” Rymz still says it will be a less melancholy and less aggressive album. “It’ll be an album to chill to, and turn up while smoking huge spliffs,” he adds. “You’ll get that my life is much better now just by listening to it. Themes such as travelling and escapism are also recurrent. It’s as if, now that I’ve made it past 27, I’m trying to figure out what the future holds for me.”