International Spotlight: Canadian Artist VNCHY Talks Life & New EP

19 year old Canadian artist VNCHY has been the talk of the town lately. Locally building his buzz at a steady paste, VNCHY’s music is set to take flight and win the ears of many in North America. After taking in his standout single ‘Broke Dreams’, it is safe to say his creative turn on his carefully composed music very much speaks to young adults directly. Dark yet polished with a hint of lyricism, but sophisticated at the same time. As his fanbase continues to grow and he stays cooking in the studio, he was able to spare few minutes of his time to sit down with us to speak a bit more about his craft and what else can be expected of him musically.

Where are you from?

I was born in Congo but now I live in Canada, which is why I consider it my home. During my time here I’ve moved across the country and through a lot of cities including Montreal, Ottawa and I’m currently living in Mississauga. I’ve always considered myself a piece of the environment since I’ve lived in a lot of different places and it also introduced me to a range of lifestyles. However, It’s easy to lose yourself when you’re constantly on the move so I had to find my own identity opposed to becoming a product of my environments.

What are some of your music influences?

My biggest influences musically would have to be James Blake, Biggie Smalls, Kanye West, and J. Cole. James Blake is probably my favourite of them all as his portraits are the most vivid. Each of these artists has had a major impact on my overall artistry.

What was it like growing up for you? 

A constant struggle for progression.

Whats the story behind your stage name, VNCHY?

VNCHY is more than just a pseudonym; it’s a title – a declaration of ascendance in self-understanding and self worth. As an artist I tend to create alternate realities through the experiences of both myself and my team. To put it one way, these realities feel dream like in a sense, from the lingering emotion of my first love, to the drunk eerie nights cruising around Toronto or even waking up in a Los Angeles penthouse with my closest friends. The power of imagination and communication is the ultimate tool of creation but – at the risk of sounding corny – with great power comes great responsibility. Like Leonardo Da Vinci himself, I have come to understand the world in multiple dimensions and perspectives and it is that complexity that has driven my desire for growth.

How long have you been making music for?

I have been writing music for five years.

What does your latest tape ‘Neverland: 001A_0315‘ present?

Neverland represents a time where people cease to age, where the imagination of the youth roams free, where people can’t be judged by the social expectations of others. Neverland exists in every child’s mind, but differs from one to another. It’s a place that has no boundaries. This idea best represents the tape – it represents us trying to capitalize on our youthfulness. The time we have now can never be gained back and this time is the best time for us to take risks and deal with the consequences that come along with them. We will face daily obstacles of us having to conform to social expectations as young adults, especially in regards to success, women, family, and school, all while trying to achieve this dream of ours. On the contrary, us following our dreams means we will inevitably disappoint others in the process, whether they’re our friends or family members. But at the end of the day, this is our life, our struggle and our grind, and we will not let anyone get in the way of this process. The numbers after the tape title actually represent something as well, but that will be unveiled in the near future.

The production of your tape is very polished. How do you pick your beats?

Thank you, I appreciate that! My team and I have a hands-on process with the production, we aim to find sounds that best represent moments we are trying to create for our audience. Shout out to my manager Mute he has a hell of an ear.

Your previous single “Broke Dreams”. It’s a great song, what’s the process that went behind that single?

Funny enough, I was on my way to Toronto to record the tape and I caught a real quick vibe. Finished it by the time we got to the spot. Broke Dreams was actually the last song I wrote on the tape although it’s placement is midway through the EP.

Were you executing a certain vision when “Broke Dreams” was shot? Tell us a bit more about that.

Most definitely, “Broke Dreams” was a switch in mentality, the place where the hunter becomes the hunted, almost a singular in the fabric of time. The video itself contains various elements that encompass the mentality that is Neverland, however, it was never meant to speak upon the full understanding of it, only a portion. With the content to come our audience will begin to better understand the portrait in it’s entirety.

5 goals in 2015:

The year is coming to an end, but there are a few things I would like to accomplish. For starters, I would like to play my first show in the States and step into my comfort zone. Secondly, finish the rest of the projects I’m currently working on to have them out before the year ends. As well, start to meet more like minded individuals out of my local geographical area. The last few things would be to stay focused and have fun throughout this journey.

Stream his new tape NEVERLAND: 001A_0315 below and check out his soundcloud for more.

Listen To Lil Debbie’s Latest EP Titled “Home Grown”

After releasing the visual for her single “Let’s Get High” about a week ago, Oakland, CA native Lil Debbie finally unveils her “Home Grown EP.” The 8 track project features contributions from Wiz Khalifa, Paul Wall and fellow Cali native Bricc Baby. The project is currently available for purchase on iTunes.

Stream the project HERE and peep the visual for “Let’s Get High” below.

Game Recognize Game: Hip Hop giants finding value in Africa’s elite

In addition to blessing us with tech innovations like social media, the information age has made the world ridiculously smaller. Nowhere is this concept more prevalent, at the moment, than in the entertainment industry. What once was an anomaly (of sorts) is now commonplace in artists looking to improve branding & expand their international presence by reaching new audiences overseas.

Entering in a picture – that was once almost exclusively dominated by collaborations with European & Latin musicians – is the African market. Under the “Afro” umbrella, musicians from “the motherland” are dominating the international music scene. Afro music commences with the historic AfroBeat genre, a traditional/contemporary sound pioneered by legendary Nigerian singer & instrumentalist Fela Kuti. His influence gave birth to hugely popular subcategories in AfroBeats, modern variations of AfroPop and even Afro&B (see OgaSilachi), to name a few.

Not only is this eclectic sound popular within the continent of Africa (and its 1 billion inhabitants), it’s also sending waves through Europe – namely United Kingdom. The advent of social media has allowed for artists like Wizkid and Davido to become less dependent on the ‘mainstream’ route to success; instead allowing them to leverage digital platforms to reach their fans directly and amass huge followings in the process.

Insert North America’s elite.

Contrary to popular opinion, domestic artists – from the fairly new, like Fetty Wap to the fairly established, like Drake – benefit greatly from the association with these international stars. As the opportunities for music monetization continue to dry up, with album revenue at a stand still, touring and merchandise income become an artist’s best bet to cash in! By teaming up with the hottest acts overseas, artists in America put themselves in great situations to become global icons and acquire new audiences that allow them to earn big.

African musicians reap dividends as well, from this unity, in the form of validity and sense of respectability from the masses. Without a certain acceptance from influencers within the states, it’s hard for these musicians to truly break through, realizing global star potential.

I spoke at length with Sarkodie, the Ghana-based hip hop/hip-life star dubbed Africa’s best emcee and a leader of the continent’s ‘new school’ of sound. Sarkodie says the recent cultural fusion is due to artists looking to create beyond their “comfort zone”, in addition to the mutual benefit of discovering new markets.

“.. Of course you see most of the Americans want to tap into the markets on the continent here in Africa, so if you happen to be one of the lead artists – and I thank God for putting me in that position – one of the reps of Africans, you get to be one of the first persons to have a taste of it.”

From a financial/marketing standpoint, Sarkodie said it makes a lot of sense, as well, as “you then double up with numbers since you have [access to] a different territory”.

Ice Prince (center left) meets JAY Z at ROC Nation in NYC

Hip hop moguls, Kanye West and JAY Z, have made valiant efforts to tap into West Africa’s flourishing music market. If you recall, Kanye’s label, G.O.O.D Music, signed Nigeria’s power duo D’Banj and Don Jazzy back in 2011 – before things reportedly went awry. JAY Z, in looking to expand his music/media entities (ROC Nation and TIDAL), has his sights on Nigeria and wants Ice Prince Zamini as his flagship act. Akon was able to pry R&B pairing P-Square away from business independence, en route to a joint deal between Konvict Muzik & UMG. And over the last three years, T.I., Rick Ross, Wale, Akon and Ace Hood – to name a few – have jumped on huge African singles, respectively, meshing styles & cultures.

Despite these mutually beneficial arrangements of the recent past, it seems like 2015 is the start of something special; as the world keeps shrinking and a culture fusion – unifying the two worlds – continues.

In 2015, thus far, we’ve seen this trend take off with no indication of slowing down anytime soon. Last month, Davido (winner of the 2015 MTV Africa Music Awards’ “Best Male Act”) released a monster single featuring Meek Mill, entitled “Fans Mi”.

Davido ft. Meek Mill – “Fans Mi”

DavidoListen Here

From a promotional standpoint the track couldn’t have dropped at a better time for Davido, as Meek’s Dreams Worth More Than Money sophomore studio album has experienced great success to date – including a number 1 ranking on the Billboard 200. The MMG prodigy also boasts the fourth highest selling U.S. album, of any genre, this year (behind Drake, Kendrick Lamar and Mumford & Sons). In addition to “Fans Mi”, Davido will also reportedly have Trey Songz, Akon and Wale on the final cut of The Baddest, his sophomore project set to release early August.

Wizkid ft. Drake & Skepta – “Ojuelegba (Remix)”


Listen Here

The second massive afro-collaboration of the summer comes from the 6 – by way of England. Last week, Drake premiered his version of Wizkid’s hit single, “Ojuelegba”, with help from UK Grime MC, Skeptawho helped make the collaboration possible. The remix was first heard during Drake’s inaugural OVO Sound Radio show, on the globally distributed Beats 1 streaming service. News of the unexpected remix set social media ablaze, with “Ojuelegba” eventually trending worldwide. Wizkid quickly took to Twitter to manage the hype, and alert his fanbase of more in store (three Chris Brown features, to be exact).

Sarkodie ft. Ace Hood – “New Guy”


Listen Here

Sarkodie connected with Florida-native & We The Best signee, Ace Hood, on “New Guy”. The pair swapped clever lines, discussed humble beginnings and identified themselves as new guys – bringing fresh, authentic elements to the culture. Sarkodie described the chemistry between himself and Ace as “too natural”, which he credited to staying true to his foundation.

“New Guy actually is one of the great records I’ve done, not [just] because I have Ace on it, but that’s one of my personal favorites because I was myself – this is the real Sarkodie.”

Ayo Jay ft. Fetty Wap – “Your Number (Remix)”


Listen Here

Ayo Jay, the talented Afro-pop vocalist & songwriter, recently enlisted Fetty Wap to lend his 2013 hit “Your Number” a street-vibe. The NEA Awards nominee for “Best New Act” is said to have three songs with Fetty and could collaborate further, in the near future. Fetty, the New Jersey product taking the industry by storm, has also recently been linked to Davido, Wizkid and Ice Prince Zamini. In an Instagram video from late May, Fetty announced an Afro-Remix of his chart-topping, critically acclaimed “Trap Queen” with the Nigerian acts.

It’s been a huge summer for African sound and the artists that identify with, and embrace, it. This presents great opportunity for continued expansion of both music from the motherland, and American talent on an international level.

“I think music is actually breaking boundaries now, we’re all coming together as one.. [Other countries have] had their fair share… I think its just Africa’s turn”, says Sarkodie.

If smoke from these past partnerships are of any indication, there will be an abundance of fire coming by way of collaboration, both sonically and business-wise, very soon.

Miguel on Frank Ocean: “I Genuinely Believe That I Make Better Music”

The rivalry between two R&B giants heats up.

In a interview with British newspaper Sunday Times, the Miguel says he’s just better then his peer, Frank Ocean. “I wouldn’t say we were friends. To be completely honest — and no disrespect to anyone — I genuinely believe that I make better music, all the way around.” Though the beginnings of their “rivalry” are murky, one could point to the the 2013 Grammy Awards, in which Ocean beat out Miguel and Chris Brown for Best Urban Contemporary R&B Album, as its va

Miguel was also asked about the comparison between his music and that of The Weeknd, who has gained significant mainstream traction this year, with his last 3 singles landing in the Billboard 100 Top 15. Still, Miguel suggests he will last longer in the industry. “It’s interesting,” he starts, “but we’ll see who’s in it for the long haul. It’s like a marathon, you know?”

If the early rumors were true, Frank Ocean is gearing up to release his sophomore album this summer, and The Weeknd is gearing up to drop his sophomore, yet-to-be-titled LP, which reportedly features Kanye West. Perfect timing.

King Jut (@KingJut92)

Video Released Of Tunisia Beach Attacker Shot Dead By Police After Attacking Over 30 Victims

The number of British victims in Friday’s Tunisia Beach attack that have been confirmed dead is expected to rise to more than 30 as the gunman is captured

Over 30 Britons have been shot and killed in a Tunisia beach attack Friday by Isil militant Seifeddine Rezguiand and a new video shows him being chased by hotel staff before getting shot down by police. Two men are being searched for by Tunisian authorities in connection with the attack.

Last night, the Tunisian Interior Ministry launched a public appeal for two “dangerous terrorists” wanted in connection with the attack on 38 tourists. Mohammed Ben Abdullah bin Muhsen Al Sharadi, 24, a student from a northern Tunisian town and Rafique Bin Mohammed Najib Ben Ali Al Tayari, 28, from the capital.

Cheryl Mellor, a British woman who survived the attack by playing dead, says she wishes she had died alongside her husband. Tunisia’s ambassador to the UK Nabil Ammar said the attack reminded him of WW2,

Our blood is now mixed for the second time…This can happen in every part of the world, no one is safe from that… This is not a justification, it’s just to remind that this can happen everywhere.”

Prime Minister David Cameron in a statement warned that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants based in Syria and Iraq were planning specific attacks against Britain and pose an existential threat to the West.

-Infinite Wiz(@InfiniteWiz)

Heckler Gives Kanye West A Taste Of His Own Medicine At Glastonbury

Many music fans were adamant that rap superstar Kanye West not be allowed to headline Glastonbury

More than 15,000 people signed a petition to have Kanye West‘s set axed as the headliner for Glastonbury Festival. The anti-Kanye petition proved futile and British funny man Lee Nelson took justice into his own hands by interrupting The Grammy winner’s performance of “Black Skinhead”.

Armed with a “Lee-Zus” emblazoned t-shirt and a working microphone, Nelson bopped his way across the stage. His stage rushing moment only lasted a few seconds before West’s security pulled Nelson, real name Simon Brodkin, off the stage.

The British comic claimed to have “Kanye’d Kanye” when owning up to the stunt, which calls to mind the countless instances Kanye has bumrushed other celebrities’ on stage, most memorably Taylor Swift.

Nelson posted on Twitter,

Some people were saying Kanye shouldn’t headline Glastonbury so I decided to give him a hand. I Kanye’d Kanye. That was for you @taylorswift13.”

This isn’t the first time Lee Nelson has pulled mess like this. He also photo bombed England’s soccer team right before their World Cup appearance last year.

-Jonathan Hailey(@JaySpeakEasy_)

She Made It: Unsigned Artist Amber-Simone Joins John Legend’s UK Arena Tour

Hard work surely pays off. Continue reading She Made It: Unsigned Artist Amber-Simone Joins John Legend’s UK Arena Tour

Watch Toronto’s Breeze & Teeze’s “4:16” Video

Breeze & Teeze turn up at 4:16.

Whilst young artists like Jimmy Johnson, Derek Wise and so on are getting co-signed by OVO and XO, Toronto’s Breeze & Teeze are proving that the city’s underground is perhaps even deeper. These two are of the FiF creative collective that is steadily permeating the downtown scene right now and hold the attention of many in the city. Since their arrival, the two have interwined the party scene with their music careers very effectively. Their latest video for “4:16” sees them turning up in a friend’s garage successfully flipping it into a rap video. The duo go back and forth over this haunting beat as they roll up some dank in a bible passage. Watch the video above.

Haleema is too busy unlocking the underground. Either way, follow her on twitter. –@LVLPLATINUM

International Spotlight: UK’s Bonkaz Discusses “We Run The Block” Single

Bonkaz is a grime artist residing in South London who is perhaps drawing out new boundaries for the next generation of grime artists. with his latest debut single “We Run The Block”, Bonkaz is ready for the public ear. The song is controversial as much as it is inspiring. Since it’s release the street anthem has been going viral. It’s grimey but like Bonkaz says “it is still organic”. He was able to spare few minutes and discuss everything from his single to what influences his music.

The Source: What’s the story behind Bonkaz (pronounced Bonkers)?

Bonkaz: The story behind someone who is inspired and is from London. Someone who wants to put it in music form and be relatable to people. Bonkaz was just a nick name that I always had since I was young so it just stuck. It doesn’t mean that I’m Bonkaz or anything. Its just a nickname that people know already so I might as well just run with it.

How long have you been making music for?

I started making music ever since I was thirteen. That’s when I was in the studio recording music.

Your from South London right? How does it effect your music?

I think there is a lot to think about here. There is a lot going on here. There is a lot of music and lot of artists that just doesnt get heard. There is this aura about South London at the moment where everybody wants to be successful and everybody wants to get their message across. It’s really dope.

Tell us a bit about your latest track “We Run The Block”.

That is my debut single and it was made out of frustration. I’m saying some controversial lines on the song. I feel like everyone has their own oppresses. We’re trying to be creative and someone is trying to take away your creative freedom. Those are your cops. Everybody has that somebody that wants to take away your freedom. Basically this song is all about over coming those people and taking control of your own life.

Do you have any projects coming out?

Yeah, I’ve got an EP that is coming out, that I’m working on right now. I dont want to set a date for it because I don’t want to start rushing myself. Trying to meet deadlines and stuff like that. Im just waiting for the right balance of music and a story that I want to tell through my project and I want all of my projects to sound that way so when I listen back it’s almost like a diary for me.

In your opinion is Grime evolving since it’s outbreak worldwide?

Yeah definitely it’s evolving. I mean I sing as well as rap so it’s evolving in a sense that people are starting to put their own swing on it. Before grime was something that was like kept in the dark corner and had so many rules and regulations. Where as now, everyone is kind of putting their own touch on it which I think is important in order for grime to grow. No one has to sound exactly the same.

Does grime have a future in the popular music?

Yeah definitely, I think once everyone stays true to themselves and make the music they want to I think it will. Instead of just sticking to one particular style then no one is going to be groundbreaking. When it first started people didn’t understand what it was but once your consistent with it and stay true to yourself there is no way that it won’t be recognized worldwide.

Tell us about the Glastonbury Festival that you just announced.

It is like the largest festival in the UK. It’s really good because this is my first year that I have been releasing music in the public eye so it’s good to be on there this early. I got a good stage and a good time. It’s just really exciting I always wanted to go to Glastonbury festival even as a fan so It’s an honour to be part of it now. The first time I’m getting to go, I’m actually performing.

What’s on your ipod right now?

Tory lanez, Renz, he’s a friend of mine. I listen to a lot of indie stuff as well, Little Simz.

Whats the music scene like these days in UK?

The music scene in UK is pretty much every artist is just trying to stay original. We’re going through this time where everyone just wants to be original and make original sounding music. It’s just a lot of organic sound. The radio just plays whatever they think everyone wants to hear but on the streets there are a lot of organic sounds.

5 goals in 2015:

Continue to make music that I want to make.
Inspire as many people as possible.
Continue elavating
I’ve got a lot of shows in UK all the time so I just want to continue mastering that.

Watch Bonkaz’ latest video for “We Run The Block” below.

Haleema is at NXNE. See You There. –@LVLPLATINUM