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[MP3] #DK11 Project Interview with Emay – Dash

Emay - Dash artwork

In my books, the homie, Emay is one of the most underrated rappers in Canada. Why his incredibly creative music and rhymes aren’t being talked about more in both hip-hop and alternative circles is completely beyond me but artists like him are part of the reason I even still keep doing this blog 11 years on.

The whole purpose of originally starting Different Kitchen was to champion and shine the spotlight on talent I thought was being unheralded and/or criminally overlooked by other outlets. In 2014, the hive mentality of much of that passes for music writing or journalism online and on social media has made that mission even more important. Suffice is to say, as with all the artists on the This One Goes To Eleven… compilation album project, I think Emay is dope and someone you should be paying attention to. Starting right here with this interview I conducted with him a few days ago…

DK: Hey Emay, good to finally connect. So my first question is: you’re still pretty under the radar on the scene even though you’ve been around for a while now. Even though your home town of Hamilton is super close to Toronto, can you talk about the pluses and negatives of being a rapper living there.

Emay: This is actually quite weird because I seem to be somebody that a handful of people know or have heard of, yet at the same time I’m somebody that nobody has heard of. I’ve been at some pretty random shows and other places where people have actually known who I was. Or friends have told me stories where they were talking about my stuff to other people and the other person had actually listened to one of my random releases. This is funny to me because I kind of like the idea of being a ghost. My goal is to be a very influential ghost though, so we’ll see how that goes. So far I think I’m doing a pretty good job of existing in non-existence.

DK: What about life in Hamilton?

Emay: In terms of my living in Hamilton, I actually love it here. The music scene here has been flourishing quite a bit over the past few years. We might not have the numbers, but the array of talent and diversity is pretty amazing. Artists and bands such as Lee Reed, Mother Tareka, Haolin Munk, and Canadian Winter that are situated here are great examples of that. It’s also a very welcoming scene. I’m not a Hamilton native, but I most certainly feel like one these days. I think it’s a perfect scene for me because it’s a great opportunity to generate a fresh sound that can be associated with such a unique, underrated, and misunderstood city. People tell me I relate to those adjectives.

DK: I first got up on your music via James from Hi-scores and your music treads a line between traditional underground hip-hop (that some might term ‘backpack)’ and what some would call alternative rap. Can you talk about your musical influences and how they inform the style of music you make?

Emay: In regards to rap, two of my biggest influences have to be AZ and MF DOOM. Listening to those two forced me to be really technical in terms of my flow. AZ’s style stuck to me just because of how smoothly the words flow when he lays them down. All you have to do is listen to the first few bars on “The Format” and you’ll see what I mean. The patterns he uses are just so goddamn crisp. ‘You know the chronicles, the shit that if mama knew, the stress the drama do, the tech’s phenomenal’. If I wrote that sh-t I’d have to put the pen down for a minute. The funny thing with DOOM though is that he’s more unorthodox with it, but still very technical. I actually never liked DOOM the first time I heard one of his tracks. I had never heard anything like it, in terms of his overall sound, so it took some adjusting. But once I got it, I got it. I think I converted after I heard “Accordion” and “One Beer.” Some other major influences are One Be Lo and O.C.

Now, when it comes to production there’s Lord Finesse, Prince Paul, Dilla, Kev Brown, Kanye West, El-P, Just Blaze, Stoupe the Enemy of Mankind, Flying Lotus, DJ Premier and the list goes on. I really stuck to producers that were able to create their own signature styles while still being very diverse in terms of what they sampled, the drums they chose and such. My goal on the production and rap tip is to be blatantly influenced by my favorites, but still fully original at the same time. When I create I don’t consciously attempt to do this, but it’s certainly something I strive to accomplish.

DK: Well, you’ve definitely done some really creative, original things musically, like the Karen O and the Kids EP which sampled songs from Where the Wild Things Are soundtrack and “Racist on Purpose” where you wrote from the perspective of a white supremacist. Where does that kind of creative inspiration come from?

Emay: I think it just comes from everything around me. I think that every “original” idea derives from older ideas that take newer forms. I mean, if you listen to early Rock music I’m sure you’ll hear remnants of what we now call Punk, Hip-Hop, Metal, and so on. Whether it comes to ideas for songs or concepts for entire projects, I think there’s a similar process of the mind taking what it wants and discarding what it doesn’t deem useful. Sometimes I make beats where an entire bass line is directly influenced by one that I heard from another song, but because it’s in the midst of different sounds, it takes on a new feel. Or it brings the same feel but just interacts differently with its new surroundings.

DK: Out of all your mixtapes and EP projects, which is your favorite and why?

Emay: I think that Adam was my favorite one because it was the hardest for me to make. Choosing to do all the production, writing and rapping took boatloads of time, but it was more than beneficial. I learned a lot about what it takes to create a full length project, and I think it helped me develop as an artist the most out of my projects. Adam, and everything before it was my attempt at finding my sound, or myself. Adam in particular was like the fusion of my rap self and production self. Now I feel a lot more comfortable making beats for myself and writing for those beats.

DK: “Dash” from the This One Goes To Eleven… album is a really good track, can you tell me what it’s about from your point of view and the process behind making it?

Emay: “Dash” was an interesting track for me because it was the first beat and song I made in Ableton. To me the song was just about an artist’s dreams being crushed. I wanted to depict that the persistence of individualism in our society puts a lot of pressure on people. There’s this notion that a person’s goals not being reached is entirely their fault, and it kind of blinds us from recognizing the societal factors at hand. For example I was having a conversation with somebody the other day about how a lot of what we call “conscious” rap can actually be very narrow-minded in that we see a lot of rappers blaming other rappers for not being as “righteous” as they are and such. This idea is also inherited by the listeners of said artists as well. This is narrow-minded because it blames the one individual for perpetuating a certain ideology but doesn’t look at the bigger picture. The bigger picture being that we live in a capitalist world, so the labels/businesses will only be concerned in what sells. The amorality of such a system is really what generates a lot of generic and formulaic art. A lot of artists feel the need to follow a certain format to be “successful” and then the emulation spreads like a virus. But yeah, the song is pretty much me depicting an artist or creator in a very depressed state.

DK: It’s not from your next full length project though, right which is the Sinner, Songwriter EP? Can you talk about what we can expect from that project?

Emay: Sinner, Songwriter EP is a project that I’ve been sitting on since late 2012 I would say. I had some of the beats since then and wrote for them as well but just wasn’t ready to do anything with them yet. Eventually I chose to go back and refurbish a lot of the verses and added a few more beats that I couldn’t turn down. This project is really different given that I’m working with a different producer for every track and only really had to write the lyrics for the songs. I also made some minor mixing adjustments, but all the beats were created by others. The lineup includes Giraffage, Star Slinger, Hut (who is also the drummer for Haolin Munk), RD (or Resolved Dissonance), and my dude, Hollow Pigeons from Toronto. I love this lineup because they’re all some of my favorite producers that I’ve known for quite a while, so I feel honoured to be flexing over their tracks on this project. I think this project will also cause people to focus a little more on my bars for a change. I know I’m not the only producer/rapper that gets a lot of compliments in regards to their production but gets their raps ignored at times. Although the people that really listen to bars know what’s good.

DK: Thanks for contributing “Dash” for the #DK11 comp. Before we wrap, is there anything else you’d like to add or share about what’s coming up for you or that you haven’t had a chance to let the world know via your music or previous interviews?

Emay: I have a couple of things in the works right now. My next LP being the most important, but I’m also working on some very interesting collabs as well. One is with my dude, l-spex who is somewhat of a jack of all trades and a really talented dude. Another one is with my friend Erynne who is an amazing soul and singer. We did a little EP late last year that I will get to focus on a little more now that Sinner, Songwriter is finally complete. Other than that, I have the tendency to make random projects here and there, so we’ll see what happens.

DK: Thanks again, Emay.

Emay: Much love for putting me on the compilation and it was truly my pleasure!

Follow Emay Online:
Website | Facebook | Twitter

Haven’t heard it yet? LISTEN to the Different Kitchen presents This One Goes To Eleven… album HERE

Bonus: hit the jump for Emay‘s latest release, a remix of the track, “Congo” by Bear Mountain.



  1. […] track by #DK11 album alum and Hamilton, ON-based MC, Emay with Star Slinger. Solid as […]

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#DK11: The album, This One Goes To Eleven… OUT NOW



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