Is there a "Toronto sound"? And if so, what does it sound like?
It’s a question that comes up a lot when talking about rap from Toronto. Regardless of whether it’s even a thing or not, it’s just the new reality of a post-Drake Toronto (or, as he’s dubbed it, the Six), in which mostly American-based websites are looking to characterize the music coming from the city’s vibrant rap scene. When talking about the "Toronto sound," phrases like "aquatic beats, punctuated by heavy drums and rapid snares" and "atmospheric, icy, bedroom confessional aesthetic" are used — essentially, any other adjectives that would describe the sound Drake and his producer, Noah "40" Shebib, pioneered. The drums sound like Houston, the synths favour minor keys and the narrator is both confident and vulnerable.
Jazz Cartier is the latest Toronto rapper to enter into this soundscape. He does so on his own terms, and, as a result, has made one of the most promising debuts this year. On his full-length mixtape, Marauding in Paradise, Jazz Cartier pays respect to the Toronto sound while at the same time moving it forward and putting his own "downtown" stamp on it.
"Toronto is finding its identity slowly," the 21-year-old says over the phone. "The more we all grow as artists, the more we start to define ourselves. For the longest time, we didn’t have a face, and then definitely when Drake came out, that gave us a new way of thinking and a new way to create music. ... When it comes to us kids and trying to make our way, the best way to make a name for yourself is to appreciate the sound that [Drake and 40] made but understand that when they were coming up, they were trying to make new sounds as well. That's what me and Lantz [the Toronto producer behind the beats onMarauding] are doing."
Lantz has described it as "cinematic trap" music, which is a good blanket phrase to describe the overall feel to Marauding, even if it fails to encompass the complex and diverse range of songs on it: there are slowed-down, heart-on-sleeve ballads ("Too Good to Be True," "Feel Something,") uptempo bangers ("Dead or Alive," "The Downtown Cliche") and radio-ready singles ("New Religion," the Toro Y Moi-sampling "Rose Quartz/Like Crazy").
"I feel like with this album, I’ve set myself up for the future so that if I do something very poppy or more laid back or just experimental, it won’t be a surprise to people because I exhibited this on my first big project," he says. "After this project, it's going to change the soundscape of all the rap coming out of this city, for sure. A lot of rappers in Toronto are going to take heed of it and definitely there is going to be a change in the title coming up soon."