Jazz Cartier is having a hell of a 2016. The Canadian artist put out his electrifying second album, ‘Hotel Paranoia’, in February and has been shutting down shows from SXSW to NYC ever since. His high octane energy will most likely pour over into his upcoming European tour and festivals, lined up for the warmer months. Jazz has made it a point of making himself into something of legend. No co-signs or features need apply.
Before his sold out SOB’s show in February, we had the opportunity to sit down with him to talk about the creative process behind ‘Hotel Paranoia’ and the inspiration to be one of the greatest rappers ever.
When I looked at the Soundcloud description for ‘Hotel Paranoia’, I saw that the art direction was by Dead Dilly. What’s his role with your music, especially the roll out for this project?
In terms of my releases, there are three people involved, mainly. Myself, Lantz and Dilly. Lantz is the beat. I finish a song. And Dilly gives it the whole vision. If you put it out, there’s artwork to it, in terms of the album artwork, track-listing, the overall vibe. That stuff lives forever. People may not even listen to the album but they’ll always see the cover if it’s reposted and tweeted. Dilly plays a very vital part into the evolution of myself as an artist. In regards to the cryptic messages I was doing, we sat down and had a meeting. He did every image for all 13 days. That’s my guy, right there.
How did you meet him?
He used to work for an agency called Young Astronauts out in Toronto. So they were doing a lot of art for people. I met him through my friend Nev. Dilly ended up doing his own thing but we always stayed in contact because he understood the music. Me and him have a good relationship that’s not just based on business. We talk all the time, that’s just how it started naturally. Dilly is the kind of guy… you’ll never see him. Everyone knows about him but if he’s at a party, you won’t know it’s him. He does work for Jaden Smith, Donald Glover… he recently did BJ the Chicago Kid’s album art. Dilly is really out here. But for him to be my right hand man is sick to have.
One of the pictures you tweeted out stuck out in particular to me. It’s definitely not something you’d hear from most rappers these days at your stage in your career. Can you speak on why you chose that lyric as part of this album release?
I think what sets me apart from a lot of people is that they aren’t thinking as themselves. They start rapping, then they start thinking like rappers. Where I’m coming from, I’m channeling real emotions. I’m nowhere as big as where I want to be, yet.
On ‘Hotel Paranoia’, compared to ‘Marauding’, women are at the centre of a lot of your lyrics this time around. When would you say they were consciously entering your songs more?
Women have always been in my fucking life. I went to an all guys school. All I ever thought about was fucking girls. ALL I would think about was girls. I think that’s why I talk about women a lot. I was deprived for four years. At my school, we had four all girls schools around me. Girls were always on campus but living there, sometimes I just needed to hear a female voice. On ‘Marauding’ I fucked up by not letting my true emotions out. I had ‘Too Good To Be True’ and ‘Wake Me Up When It’s Over’ but nothing like this album where I’m touching on it heavy. Because at my shows, I’m seeing too many guys. I’m like, “No, this can’t be happening.” I need to let the real me out. Hearing a girl’s voice soothes my fucking soul. I would prefer to have all girls around me all the time. I don’t want to make music for only you and your niggas to chill to. No. I need girls to listen to my music too. I’m pro-women, all the time. I love my male fans but I need them to bring some more girls. They have songs they can rage to. I have girls at my shows but I need more girls than guys. That’s just a fantasy, so it’s fine. [smiles]
The content on your album is also very personal in a new way. Have you ever written something too personal and decided it can’t go in a song?
No, not really. Whatever I keep to myself will eventually come to the light. Whether it’s now or in the future. As far as recording something, the deepish part on ‘Save Me From Myself’, that was one of the hardest records to record to. That’s just spilling out everything. It was just me and Lantz in the studio. On top of that, I’m talking about Lantz and how his mom left him when he was younger. I tapped into Lantz so people can get a better understanding of him. Nothing is off limits. With ‘Paradise and Paranoia’, it’s a part 1 and a part 2. People think of ‘Paradise’ as a lovely thing but my paradise is dark. And within that paradise, comes paranoia – my paranoia. I’m happy to get that out but now, I must say, with ‘Paranoia’, I did have a lot more fun.
It does sound like you had more fun by taking more risks.
Yeah, risks. A lot more fun with the records like ‘Red Alert’. Lantz and I made that in 30 minutes. That’s the only song in my life that I’ve ever freestyled. Our approach is very serious so we were like, “Let’s just have fun. Let’s make something people in a club would like.” ‘Red alert” was the first thing that came to my mind. I don’t even fucking know what a “red alert” is to this day. It could be a Porsche, it could be something else. “I got that red alert.” And the city was red. I was vibing to it. And ‘How We Do It…’.
Yeah, mad blogs were pointing out that song when they posted this album and referencing Montell Jordan but I was thinking Slick Rick first.
I sampled both.
Who made that decision to sample it?
Both. Lantz hates sampling. He hates it. He hates it. He hates it. But that’s one song we both agreed that we had to do it. Sometimes I’ll give him an RnB record to do but he won’t connect with it. That’s one song we had to do justice and we had to make it dark and new. It’s been flipped before with Montell so why not flip it again for kids our age? And “This is how we do it, ” came in, that’s when I went into the studio like, “I need some weed and some liquor for all of my…” Then the verses, I added some Slick Rick flair to it but also keeping the Montell Jordan to it. So it’s fusing both worlds for kids who don’t know anything about the Slick Rick version.
The album is titled ‘Hotel Paranoia’. Now that you’ve recorded it, do you feel like you’ve relieved that paranoia?
No, the paranoia is sinking in. It’s even worse now. I put myself out there. These are personal qualms that I was dealing with. Now it’s public. Now people know about it. What’s crazy is that there’s the drug side of me I had when I was younger, just addicted to having fun. I wasn’t addicted to drugs, I was addicted to having fun. I pushed my limits so I’d be on fuckin’ eight day benders, staying out, day in and day out. That was my life. It still is my life but now I’m more responsible. That paranoia is just sinking in. Now I’m conditioned to party for a very long time but there’s a lot more risk now. I’m finally at a point where I can send my little brother shit like clothes and stuff. Stuff I never thought I could actually do. My mom’s happy so now the paranoia is vicariously felt through family and friends and Lantz. I gotta make sure that all of these people are good who are rooting for me.
Do you think that you’re the type that’s gonna pull through the pressure?
Yeah man, there’s always been pressure. Even with ‘Dead Or Alive’, it’s a record where I got jumped because I go to a lot of places dolo – I’m very to myself. I don’t like rolling with posses and causing attention. I got jumped, right? So what do I do? Do I retaliate? Which I could have done, or do I make a record that’s so good and so great that every time I perform it and see everyone in the crowd sing those fucking words, they don’t know but in the back of my head, that’s the revenge I need. Look, I’m a little guy. I went to school in Connecticut. I was cool with all the football and basketball players. They were all from New York, Cali, etc. But I was the smaller one so when people would rip jokes, shit would get physical for some guys. I’m not gonna beat someone up. My biggest weapon is my words. Any man can beat me up. It’s fine. But the fact of the matter is that I can drive you to a point where you want to cause physical harm just based on my words–I can puncture your emotions–I’m the winner. That’s where records like ‘Dead Or Alive’ get me going.
When did you start making music?
Fourth, fifth grade. The first time I wrote a rap was to Lil Flip. That was me in detention, not really doing it seriously. But the first time I really wrote a rap was to Rakim ‘Microphone Fiend’.
Do you remember any of those early lines?
It clicks to me
As soon as I hit a beat
I hear the rhyme scheme
And the people in the industry.
I jacked his flow from the song. I started in the fundamental ways like New York hip hop; Black Sheep. A Tribe Called Quest. De La. Beatnuts. Large Professor. When it comes to hip hop, I have my knowledge. A lot of kids these days don’t know the background. I was a big Busta Rhymes fan. I feel like Busta Rhymes is a very under appreciated artist.
People clown on him now.
Busta is very consistent. ODB. Even Ludacris is very under appreciated. Luda’ is hard. T.I. too. My influences ranges from everywhere else. That’s why I’m inclined to do whatever I do. Most rappers can’t do it because they don’t have the personality to do it. Five years from now, when I want to do an indie rock album, it won’t be weird to people. It’s in me.
You’re the oldest, right? How’d you get exposed to all this music?
My mom. She’s the OG. I’m 22. My mom’s 42. She’s 20 years older than me. She had me when she was a baby. She had everything from RnB to jazz. She was a cool bitch when she was young. She was a cool nigga. She raised me to be who I am.
I want to wrap up with a short quick-fire questions. I’ll say something so you fill in the blank.
I just listened to ____ on my iPod.
SWV [immediately]. I just tweeted it actually.
My music sounds like ___ and ____ had a kid.
Sounds like Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey had a kid… but they don’t know who the baby daddy is. They both had a kid and they don’t know who the baby daddy is so there’s a dark side and a bright side.
If I were prime minister of Canada, my first order is _____
Fuck being prime minister. I would not be prime minister. I’m actually dual citizen.
If you were president…
If I was president, my first order of business is free all my niggas. Free all my niggas.
Free Gucci. Free Max B. Free the Wave. Free B.G. too.
If 2015 was practice, 2016 is ____
Game time. 2017, over time. 2018, double OT. Never gonna retire. You know you on fire, before you retire, they gotta retire your jersey. BARS. Shout out to Viper. My name is Jazz Jacuzzi Lafleur.
Photos by Louis Mora
Interview by Bryan Hahn