Thursday, August 30, 2007

Canadian Hip-Hop Mogul on the Rise

by Monica Joseph-McIntyre

(Photo by Richard Daniel)

Hip-hop artist J.B is achieving musical milestones both artistically and commercially.
His first solo album, “The Environment,” will be released in November; it will include
his lead off single, “Fire in Ya Eyes,” featuring U.S. rap star, The Game. The single is currently playing on radios all over the world, J.B says, and the video debuts this month. The album will be released by J.B’s own company, G.C.P Recording Corp. It will be distributed throughout the U.S., making G.C.P the first independent recording company in Canada to achieve major U.S. distribution, according to J.B.

The Toronto rapper, who often opens for major artists across Canada, has toured with The Game and Juelz Santana, both multi-platinum artists. The rising star, J.B, writes about life situations that he either witnessed or experienced as a black youth of West Indian descent growing up in the Flemingdon Park area of Toronto. “The album is about life and the struggle we go through,” he says “Anyone of black West Indian heritage living in a project or a bad neighborhood, anywhere in the world, can relate to the lyrics.”

The eldest of five brothers and two sisters, J.B, 29 yrs, started rapping when he was just eight years old. His musical influences came from the young men living in Flemingdon Park who started the Canadian hip-hop scene in Toronto. He mentions rappers such as S. Blank and KB from Beats Control, among others. “These are the guys who built Toronto’s hip-hop scene,” J.B says. “I used to watch them because they came from the same area as me.”

Before he founded the company in 1999, G.C.P was a local crew of all the young guys in the area. “We turned it into a record company so that we could focus more on music,” J.B says. His first song, “Ghetto Flow,” hit the air waves when he was just 16 years. At 18, he organized the production of the first album to come out of Flemingdon Park, a compilation featuring 29 local artists. He also released the first EP for reggae singer Blessed, on the G.C.P label. Blessed is now one of Toronto’s leading reggae singers.

In 2005, J.B. released his single “Ey Yo,” it was the top Canadian song on urban radio for 12 weeks. In 2006, he co-founded Keep it Moven Entertainment. He also released his follow-up single, “Whatcha Need” along with the video. Not satisfied with promoting his own career, J.B is also helping young rappers get into the business. “I have 15 or 20 young artists just waiting for any little opportunity that would help to make their lives better,” he says. Sadly, he has seen friends pursuing similar goals lose their lives to gun violence. He names: Oloutobi Johnson, aka Toba Chong; Tate Best, aka Sketch Devious; and his cousin, Chantelle Dunn. “They now inspire me to do more for the rest of the youth,” he says. “I just want to say to them, ‘rest in peace’.”

J.B works closely with Toronto-born NBA star Jamal Magloire, who also grew up in the area, helping the young people in the community. The Canadian hip-hop scene is already having an impact, J.B says. “A lot of singles coming out of the U.S. from people like Fantasia and other big R& B stars are being produced by Canadians,” he says. “So being here and growing with them is a benefit for us.”

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