BY VIKASH DASS
You probably don’t know a whole lot about 22-year old Jazz Cartier, and that’s by design. His presence in music seemingly cumulated at light-speed after the release of his aggressive and poignant debut project, Marauding In Paradise, an intricate and tightly-bound sixteen track free album that explores the ideas of being youthful and comfortably close to death within the confines of Downtown Toronto, and, a record that was brought to life in a festival setting for the first time last weekend in Squamish. Sonically, Jazz is able to find an anomalous balance between poetic, love driven lyrics over electronic sounds as well as maddening words placed upon bass-heavy trap bangers, courtesy of his in house producer, Micheal Lantz. The result is equal parts deafening and touching, as Jazz embraces the schizophrenic tendencies of his true self playing a scorned lover at one moment, and an unhinged street-rat the next.
Although there’s beauty and profoundness in Jazz’s reflective tendencies on Marauding in Paradise, it’s that latter, more ignorant side of Jazz’s music that fans come to see. Squamish Valley Music Festival might have only given him 30 minutes, but there were plenty of people walking away saying it was the best set of the weekend. If multiple pits weren’t organically opening up before the drops on songs, Jazz was orchestrating the crowd himself, and even leaping into the crowd to be apart of it all. “That aggression, that vibe, it all came from the studio,” Jazz explains. “When me and Lantz make songs of that caliber, we just try to capture that vibe first”.
Jazz’s studio process is not one that’s manufactured towards any certain feeling or sound, though. As I ask about what really goes into a regular studio session for him and his right hand, Michael Lantz, he makes it clear that it starts as more of an organic relationship as opposed to a synthetic, work-based one. “We’re usually in the studio everyday, and it starts with him asking me how i’m doing and me asking him how he’s doing,” he says. Jazz then outlines a somewhat unorthodox and interesting method of working between him and Lantz where based on the mood and Jazz’s own specific feelings or emotions, Lantz will cater his production and beat selection towards aligning his own sounds with whatever is going on in Jazz’s head. “That’s where a lot of that aggressiveness comes from, just being inside and being cooped up with these cold ass beats. It almost brings it out of you,” Jazz reveals.
You wouldn’t know it from sitting across from him, but Jazz never had a reason to leave his hometown prior to music. “Before tours, i’d never left Toronto,” he says after i’d asked him if he’d visited Vancouver before. “Now i’m finally becoming a full-Canadian”. Jazz’s extreme devotion to his city is something that is alluded to frequently in his music and is a result of not knowing any other circumstance. He’s also got moments in his music where he questions the credibility and merits of his fellow Toronto artists, most notably on ‘The Downtown Cliche’, where Jazz scorns those within his city who claim the glory and spoils of a downtown lifestyle without actually living it. Jazz raps, “n*ggas created a dream, within a city where I’m never sleeping”, and continually fact-checks those who have to drive into Downtown Toronto to experience it, rather than Jazz who hasn’t left.
This dynamic Jazz plays within his city intrigues me, not just in a personal, living space, but within the music as well. Jazz Cartier is hands down one of the most popular up and coming artists out of Toronto, but is in no way affiliated with the biggest imprint out of that city, OVO Sound. That might not sound like much, but the reality is, when people not from Toronto talk about the city’s uprising and new sound, very few mention an artist that isn’t signed or affiliated with Drake and his label. “I’m not expecting anything from anybody, and when Drake was coming up, he wasn’t expecting anything from anybody as well. When Drake came up, there was no Drake,” says Jazz, revelling in his autonomy. Jazz’s pride and sense of independence in the game is not only a dismissal of the perceived gatekeepers and tastemakers of his city, but it also evokes this emotion and energy that Jazz and his team don’t owe anybody but themselves for their success.
Jazz Cartier is doing pretty damn good on his own, though, as the Polaris Prize-nominated project Marauding in Paradise is without a doubt one of the strongest and boldest releases of 2015 thus far. With the benefits of retrospect, Jazz is able to reflect positively on his first impressions on the world. “It was me being as personal as possible, letting out my frustrations and not hiding anything. There is an art behind it. I’m just trying to not cater to anyone and just make the best music possible,” he says. The music backs it up, too. Nothing on Paradise sounds forced or manufactured, and it’s free-flowing and personable in the best ways. “First impressions are everything. I just feel like personality goes a long way,” reflects Jazz.
But, Jazz also makes it clear to me that we might not have to wait too long for more music, as he passively mentions the existence of a completed, free body of work that he’s sitting on. “The second project is already done. I can press the button whenever, you know what i’m saying?” As I poke and prod, Jazz remains tight-lipped about the sonics and lyrical content of this next project, only using one word to describe it: “progression”. We’ll take it, Jazz.