We kicked off our year with an interview with the musical duo Elijah Woods and Jamie Fine. The pair met in 2014 at Algonquin college and had a six year run that included winning Canadian music reality TV show “The Launch” in 2017 and an iHeartRadio MMVA win in 2018 for their platinum selling single, “Ain’t Easy”. A style best described as pop does not stop at the traditional limits of the genre. Their releases of acoustic covers and genre bending techniques show that Fine’s vocal talent and Woods’ producing abilities are nothing to joke about. They released three singles this year and when we last talked to them were hinting at an album. However, in recent reports it seems that the dynamic duo has parted ways. If this is the case, we can only say we wish both of these young artists a long and prosperous career and hope that one day we get that album they were talking about.
City Fidelia, the uncrowned prince of Ottawa, let us into his kingdom this year, opening us up to a new world of music from the city. He is an artist that knows no boundaries and his sound travels from one pole to the other. A rapper by trade, he’s spent 2020 doing much more than making music. His album “PainKiller” released this year, however his summer was spent opening his downtown Ottawa studio space, “The Real House of Ensemble,” and on activism work in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement that shot through the continent and the world. We first went to Fidelia with the plan to interview him for our podcast, but our relationship evolved into much more as we seemed to bump into him wherever we were. We have it on good authority that he has an incredibly busy year on the horizon filled with music releases, business moves, and mentorship.
Kar33m is a Nigerian born artist who lives in Ottawa and is making some of the most powerful music coming out of the city at the moment. He is an R&B artist with a sound that runs deep into his roots, paired with an incredible twist of soul and heart. We met Kar33m at his listening party at “the Origin” for his new album, and soon after we had him on our show for an interview and then a mid-lockdown concert. Kar33m’s first album dropped this year, titled “Who am I?”, an R&B album filled with soul and the story of his life. It illustrates a narrative of love and family, told through the lyrics of someone who seems to have lived much longer than 20 years. Kar33m ended his 2020 with the release of his single “Souja Man”, an afro-pop-inspired track, quite unlike the rest of his discography. If this is any indication of what he has in store for 2021, we can only anticipate a year of artistic exploration and experimentation, filled with the same soul and heart you hear in every one of his tracks.
NG is a London, Ontario native with a mature understanding of the rap game stemming from his 25 years of age that blends well with the hunger of a young upstart. His sound capitalizes smoothly on this mixture, combining contemplative lyrics with pop-infused vocals and bumping club beats that hit especially hard four shots deep on the way from the pre — God I miss going out. We met NG at Mars Studios in Toronto for our last out-of-house interview of the year and he shared some thoughts on self-expression that betrayed just how serious he is about his art (and you can read more about that in our blog). A perfectionist mindset kept his release schedule to just four singles this past year, but that was enough to leave us craving more. We’re excited to see NG apply his well-developed creative philosophies to what we hope is a more prolific 2021, especially since we’ll be able to party again and his tracks will pair nicely.
If you don’t know Quest, you need to reevaluate your understanding of Ottawa’s music scene. The Gatineau-based producer is behind several of our favourite records to come out of the city this year, including The Soulful Poet’s “Live From the Basement” and his acclaimed Dreamland Sessions tapes. We asked Quest earlier this year to be a part of an upcoming DTTW project and he has been supportive of everything we’ve done since. It’s this attitude that landed him the title of ‘godfather,’ the nickname ‘papa,’ and that garnered the sheer respect on his name. A true kingmaker in the city, you wouldn’t know it from the humility with which he carries himself, but know that everything he touches in the coming year will be quality. We also happen to know that this includes a project from another friend of the show, Bobby Brugal, so keep your eyes wide open.
Teon & IAMTHELIVING
The dynamic duo that is Teon Gibbs & IAMTHELIVING is debatably the hottest matchup coming out of Vancouver right now. Gibbs is a rapper and IATL is a singer and together, they seem to have a chemistry that forces you to your feet. This past year has been tainted by negativity, but these two have brought an electric charge to the music game with their debut single “Between the Grooves”. We linked up with them for our first ever Zoom interview which brought us to the west coast for the first time where we talked about everything from their upcoming project to the whole Vancouver music scene. Their second single of the year, “Puppa,” just dropped and carries the vibes from their first track, paired with spectacular visuals. These two have an image of positivity and love that carries through every piece of work they drop, making us incredibly excited for whatever it is that they drop this year. Particularly, their project “JNGL” which seems to be just on the horizon if our hunch is right.
Babe Ruth is one of our favourite artists out of the city right now. Her style is one that can’t be defined. On one track you’ll hear her spit bars harder than concrete, on others she sings softer than charmin. On some, she’ll do both — she is a true stylistic chameleon. We had the pleasure of interviewing Ruth this year and we dove into her past and stylistic choices, revealing that she is in fact the rap warrior she makes herself out to be. Her EP, “Babe Ruth the Introduction,” dropped this year and we don’t think there could have been a more fitting title. The four track project highlights her versatility and life experience that seems to stretch eons further than any of ours. We can only hope that this year she floods the market with her creativity, especially that album she was hinting at during our interview. She is just getting started but the game best make way for her talent, which seems to be bottomless.
P.S. Babe Ruth, if you are reading this, please, for the love of god, drop the full version to AUDIO-2019-01-26-04-07-09 and give the people what they want.
Bobby Brugal, formerly known as Cashtro Crosby is a rapper originally from Pittsburgh who moved to Ottawa and has established himself as a fixture of the local scene for years. Bobby also hosts half of “The Nutes” podcast which occasionally runs out of The Real House of Ensemble. The artist consistently lends his seemingly endless support and experience to creative projects within the city, and we first met Bobby through Cranium Festival, a virtual hip hop festival hosted in Ottawa this fall. We had him on a special feature of Down to the Beat, where he shared wisdom on uplifting young creatives in the city and spoke about his soon-to-be released album, a collaboration with producer Quest, called NEXTWORLD, which is inspired by many recurring themes of this year. 2020 provided an artistic resurgence for Brugal, with lockdown bringing some much needed time to write and record. He released an album with All Things Hip as well as several singles, and NEXTWORLD is set to drop January 1, 2021. Needless to say, we are expecting it to save us from this nightmare, or at least tide us over until his next new collaboration.
Jessica Pearson & the East Wind
Jessica Pearson with Maddy O’Regan on fiddle make up an energetic folk/bluegrass duo that sound like they’re straight out of a town where they speak English that I can’t understand. The Ottawa-born and based outfit brings it with engaging East coast storytelling, powerful vocals, and hardcore strings. They were a blast to have in the studio for our newest podcast, Down to the City’s first music interview, where we talked about the struggles of lockdown, missing live performances, and their new album which is set to come out next year with a very exciting and unique rollout that you can learn more about by searching Down to the City on your podcast provider of choice ;). Pre-pandemic, Pearson had been travelling to Nashville, collaborating with country artists who were no doubt jealous of her voice, and the duo stayed busy tearing up the local bar scene, where they say they thrive. Hard vouch from us on that one as well, because they gave us a special live performance of their track “Burden to Carry,” which will be on the album and which most definitely slaps. We can’t wait to see what else the new year and the new album brings and we’re dying to be able to see them live again soon.
John Balser & Colman Brown
Instagram: @johnbalsohard & @Lankmun