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Dr. Ottawa, Defining Jeff Sanon

Dr. Ottawa, Defining Jeff Sanon

by Johnny Blaze

The ‘jack of all trades’ guy is an essential position in the world of hip-hop. Having someone in the room with the ability to alley-oop you the bar you didn’t know you were missing or record background harmonies makes recording processes organic and efficient. If that same person is the one who produced the beat you’re laying lyrics onto and who will serve as the engineer for it after all is said and done, you have worked with none other than the quintessential multi-potentialite* in the music world. A guy, or girl, who can do it all: rap, sing, produce, engineer, write and guide you along the path to a certified banger. Ottawa has one of those guys, and that guy is none other than Jeff Sanon. 

Multi-potentiality is defined as “the state of having many exceptional talents, any one or more of which could make for a great career for that person.” It’s a great word that makes it easier to describe the underground Ottawa legend. 

I say underground in the most literal of designations. Before I had the chance to sit down with Jeff, I had an image of him painted in my mind with strong tones of mystique and charisma. When our paths crossed it was normally only briefly, as I was always low on the list of what seemed like hundreds of daps he would give out at any given function. He’d stoically drift around the room cracking the odd smile. I had heard stories of the man who would spend hours in the basement studio at The Real House of Ensemble, at times walking out at the same time as people out for their morning jog. I had made him out to be a type of cultural doctor in the city. 

Much of this energy followed Jeff into DTTW Headquarters. Intense yet focused, but with a new air of relaxation that I had never gotten to experience in our short exchanges. Or maybe it’s because we knew we were going to have to talk to one another for the next two hours. Or maybe it was both…

Let’s go back to the word ‘multi-potentiality,’ as I would like to twist the definition a little in relation to Dr. Ottawa. There is no ‘could’ when thinking about whether his talents will force him down one career path or the other. Many artists are one dimensional when it comes to how many different realms they can create in. But like I said, Jeff Sanon is a jack of all trades.

Now this isn’t totally uncommon, as industry greats like Kanye West, The Weeknd, Travis Scott and Tyler, The Creator are just a few of the names you can throw around when talking about the apex of musical talent. Now I know these are big names to spout out when comparing an artist to industry titans, that’s why I’m not going to use them lightly.

Jeff Sanon has created a base for his talent so sturdy that category 5 winds wouldn’t be able to shake it. And if you need a visual for how strong that is, here you go. Sanon has spent the past 22 years of his life refining his skills. He described spending his younger years  “pissed off,” but found solace in the notebook, writing every frustration and hardship he endured in it. His passion began as an outlet, as an escape from the world. He was only eight years old.

This explains so much about Jeff though. He serves in Ottawa as the guy you go see when you need some help, almost as if he’s a sketchy dude who works in “waste management” and has a career in “cleaning up messes.” But his career is so much more than that, as he can hop on a microphone with ease and blend into any genre of song as well as compose the beat for the track.

I asked him if it was as easy for him as it looked, after he told me that “this is in my veins.”

“I wanna say yes, but I’m a very humble person. And I feel like I decide to be humble because I never want to be humbled by life or God.” He reluctantly replied after I pried.

This is Jeff Sanon in a nutshell. A tamed beast of the musical world that isn’t afraid to flash its teeth when it proves necessary. A true sonic chameleon who leaves his fans unsure of where or how they’re going to hear him next.

This has been the case for most of Sanon’s career. One of the focus points of our conversation was his aloofness on social media. Something he attributed to “taking his mental health into his own hands.”

This has added another layer of mystery to the long-reaching nature of Jeff Sanon’s influence in the Ottawa music scene. His minimal online presence and sound shifting nature has created one of the most interesting artists I have ever encountered.

I was worried I would have trouble writing this blog as he has no real projects out on streaming platforms and a seemingly shallow catalogue. I was also worried about interviewing him as I felt there was a lack of cohesiveness to his releases. It turns out that that is just who Jeff Sanon is. An anomaly of musical talent that doesn’t need an outline to define it.

His story as he described it is “still writing itself,” and that is exactly the case. It is damn near impossible to put a finger on exactly what Jeff Sanon brings to the table, and that is because he brings a little bit of everything. And when he brings his deep bag of talent to the table, that is when you get the Megazord of musical talent. And the Megazord never loses. 

*No I did not make up the word ‘multi-potentialite’, Emily Wapnick said it back in 2015. Who is Emily Wapnick you may ask? I have no clue because I didn’t need that much information to prove my point.

Listen to the Down to the Beat podcast for more artist interviews and discussions on the music industry on Spotify, Apple Music or YouTube.

Jeff Sanon on Down to the Beat


Written by: John Balser 


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