A reflection throws back light, heat and sound. It refracts the image and reveals the surface of its subject. At times, the content beyond the surface is even more enlightening then the initial image may appear to infer. Stefan Tochev aka Introspect (or Intro) is a new, Canadian, Hip Hop awakening. Creating his talent from pure passion and dedication there are no fallacious smoke and mirrors to Intro’s skills. His name was given to him based on his reputation to create consistently deliberate and thoughtfully centred rhymes. His content is his core, and not commercially created for any sense of gain. “Hip Hop to me is an artistic impression, it’s a way of life, it’s a movement.”
Predisposed to rhyme from childhood and drawn to Hip Hop as his personal form of expression, Intro has built his music career and his life on intelligence and expression and he has always remained incredibly focused. Now, 24 years old, an honours graduate in Sociology from the University of Guelph and poised to attain his Masters degree, Intro is also concurrently, the 2005 “Rhythm of The Future Talent Search” winner (for song, The Sacrifice). 91.5 The Beat sponsored the event, and the win snagged Intro 20$k in recording time which he used to help craft his debut full length album, Reflect – set to drop in Canada on March 21, 2006 via Addictive Records/Fontana North (formerly Maple Music)/Universal Music Canada. He has also held the #1 ranking on goldmic.com as battle champion – retaining back-to-back tournament wins. His name and reputation yield limitless praise from various internet postings, to Ian Steaman, former GM of Tommy Boy Music’s Urban division who declared; "Stefan, I've been playing this CD on repeat for the last couple of weeks and I've gotta say that there's a lot of good things to be said about your music"
Intro is still a man and a musician who charts his own path. Flying in the face of what is easily accessible and commercially attainable with most Hip Hop artists, and who would be considered his competition, Intro doesn’t waste timing comparing himself to other mc’s. Rather, as he focuses on his own goals and ventures and through his level of conscious expression, Intro gives equal respect to women and all races. He also aligns himself with positivity and employs highly intelligent lyrical rhymes in completely unpretentious ways. He never misses an opportunity to challenge stereotypes and construe his point loud and clear. “My music brings forth a positive vibe that encourages hard work and determination in order to succeed and achieve. This vibe can be sensed through my voice, lyrics, presence, flow, concepts, delivery and so much more. There isn’t enough of that in the music industry today.”
The title track of the 20 song strong album, Reflect kicks off “The hate is so great, but the love is even greater…” It is an album-opening freight train of pure flow and emotion from the first note of the acoustic guitar lines. The song grows into a fully orchestrated arrangement and lyrically it doesn’t stop to make room for a chorus and doesn’t miss having one. It just builds and builds, setting the pace, and the expanse of possibilities for the songs to follow it.
Another track, Recognize, keeps an emphatic orchestrated tempo throughout. Intro’s lyrics are frenetically paced and are personal freestyle musings on what it takes to get record labels to notice and take a chance on a young struggling artist that doesn’t fit the mold of what is considered commercially viable in music today. Intro comments, “If I changed myself completely in order to make it in the music industry and didn’t – it would be a very hard lesson to swallow. But, the Canadian music scene today is so unique; we have many diverse artists (k-os, Kardinal Offishall, Knaan) who bring something new to the table. That is exactly what I am doing with my music– bringing something new and fresh.”
The Sacrifice (feat. Rebecca Valdez) is the song that wrapped up the competition on 91.5 The Beat for Intro. It is a balanced viewpoint rhyme about the toil success can take on a relationship noting that, “...you gotta make a sacrifice in order to gain something.” Winning the 91.5 The Beat competition was a huge gateway of opportunity for Intro, giving him the means, as Intro states himself ‘the vital component’ to making the album with the $20,000 top prize in studio time. The moment that he heard about the contest Intro knew The Sacrifice would be the song that was going to win it. Still, he waited and finally entered the song in the contest the day before the deadline closed. He made the top 3, then, he took the win. Intro met Rebecca (as well as the other female collaborators on the disc: Jenna G and Robyn Newman) through chance encounters in the studio, but immediately felt connections with each of them regarding the tracks and where the song at hand needed to go.
Aside from the direct and strong lyrical content, unique concepts and vibrant ideas combine with lush orchestration and unparalleled instrumentation to fill out the entire Reflect experience. At one point, a full on, power chord laden guitar riff rips along as Intro fills in the lyric lines. Intro, by just being himself, defies categorization to anyone else making Hip Hop today in Canada or Internationally, and has made an album that demonstrates his ability and strong skills. He tells it like it is, wielding intelligence and instrumental intuition with deft application and announces himself as a true force to contend with. The track 52 Cards is another example. A hyper-intellectual, lyrical explosion. It’s a creation that needs to be heard, to be believed. Then put on repeat. A truly original song concept.
Intro is constantly creating, writing and revising. He warehouses hundreds of verses, chorus’s and creatives just patiently waiting for the proper outlet and way to utilize them. His unlimited capacity for songs and constant creation is likely one of the reasons Intro showcased an unprecedented 20 tracks on his Reflect debut.
Destiny, opportunity and great timing have a way of rewarding and finding true vision and talent. Intro has encountered all of the above in his career to date. But, that’s not to say that Intro hasn’t expected this to happen. In fact he’s seen all of this for himself already with great patience. “ I definitely believe you have to manifest your goals before they happen. The ultimate goal for me, career wise, is to do something that I enjoy and more importantly something that will help others.” Intro concludes, “My music/vibe brings forth a consciously fresh and positive movement that is greatly needed today; in order to create an equilibrium within a game that is outweighed heavily by its negative content.”
And now, Introspect is ready to share it all with you…