Rochester aka Juice

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Rochester aka Juice

A new wave of Toronto-based rap talent is positioning itself to make a dent on Canadian music charts. Rochester aka Juice has emerged as one of the leaders of this new school. Don’t believe the hype? You don’t need to. Prominent press outlets, commercial radio and TV stations have already stepped in to cement the hoopla, and the stage is set.

Born Jason Rochester, the tall and noticeably handsome emcee grew up in the Islington/Finch corridor of Toronto and demonstrated a unique artistic gift as a young teen – that of a comic book illustrator. Influenced by the likes of Marvin Gaye, Dennis Brown and Jay-Z, Juice casually dabbled in the art of rhyme slinging in his old neighborhood, at one time joining rap clique The STC (Street Terrorist Clique). Years later when Canada’s first urban radio station (FLOW 93.5 fm) held their inaugural Soul Search talent contest (in 2002), he graduated with honours from occasional ‘hood cipher contributor to centre-stage entertainer. A charismatic performance coupled with an ability to paint candid pictures through his rhymes crowned Juice the Soul Search’s inaugural first prizewinner for his original composition “Young Luv” - an animated ode to early childhood romance – Juice’s career kicked into overdrive.

What exactly was it about his flow, lyrical content and live show that stood out amongst the legions of burgeoning rappers seeking their big break? “I’m the opposite of your typical cliché rapper,” relates Juice, “As rappers continue to spend their time rhyming about hos, and negative situations, I actually use my stage time to show respect to women and talk about bringing hope.”

As music luminaries began to take notice of Juice’s rapid ascent, he continued to crash through music industry barriers with skillful rhymes that garnered unique marketing opportunities. His B-Boy-next-door good looks secured him a gig as the face of Athlete’s World/Bata Canada’s recent The World Is Yours national ad campaign. Juice was also commissioned by MuchMusic to appear in the campaign that launched urban video station MuchVibe. He went on to pen the theme song for “Basketball City” on Sportsnet/Raptors Television and to win Universal Music Canada’s “My Block” remix contest for the song “Too Long” (featuring partners-in-rhyme Mhedikc and Jarod). This would help to create the climate in which to meet both the market and fans’ demand for his music.

Rochester aka Juice’s full-length debut, A New Day (released in Spring 2005 on MapleMusic Recordings) marks a Canadian urban music revolution. Not only is Juice the first hip hop act to be released by MapleMusic Recordings, he is also the first artist to emerge from the much-fêted Foundation Creative Group; a loose Toronto-based collective of renowned producers (Tone Mason), commercial graphic designers/conceptualists (Street Level Imaging), emcee’s (Mhedikc, Drex) and artist managers (Public Management). Simply put, when you have producers in your camp whose credits include Talib Kweli and AZ, you’re well on your way to urban music glory.

While the challenge for most world class Canadian rap talents has been to stylistically set themselves apart from their American rap neighbors, Juice, like Kardinal Offishall before him, is a unique first-generation Canadian emcee. His lyrics speak to distinctly local concerns while carrying universal themes. “Some cats feel because they sell a couple of dime bags that they’re hustlers, gangsters and thug rappers like they see on BET,” relates Juice. “The situation in Canada is different. Sure some people are living that kind of life, but why rap about busting guns when you’re not? I come from a proud Dominican and Jamaican household, grew up with my two parents, and I didn’t live that kind of life…so why am I going to rap about something that I don’t live?” He adds: “Music is expression of self. If that’s not you, don’t express it.”

Seventeen songs deep, A New Day ushers in a new sound in Canadian music with songs like “At the Top”, Juice’s launch party where he boldly anticipates his impending success: “You’ll soon be lovin’ him, just give him a sec”. From there the album jumps to “Young Luv”, his signature hit, then first single (and title track) “A New Day”, a song of uplift that flaunts a clever Juice-y Jamaican patois-infused hook. Over beats that range from R&B to hip-hop to reggae, Juice conjures up new lyrical flows to match whichever beat is thrown his way.

The one characteristic that most would agree sets A New Day apart from most modern day rap recordings is the ease with which Juice captures the complexities of humanity. Rather than employ a dogmatic approach to message-relaying, tracks such as “The Prayer” showcase Juice giving a fresh spin on profound subjects (e.g. abortion, God), all layered over the slickest of Tone Mason beats. “The Awakening” might easily go down as one of the more memorable cuts on the album, as it pits his rap persona Juice versus his alter ego Jason - a distinctively different personality and rhyme style (think Notorious B.I.G.’s “Gimme The Loot”, but with a twist). “Things Are Looking Up” features Juice rocking over some live instrumentation courtesy of flourishing beat miner Simplisik.

As certain strains of contemporary commercial rap music continue to eat themselves, Juice’s resolve to counter that approach is strengthened, with soulful pro-woman numbers like “Priceless” (a song he admits to writing as a response to seeing negative imagery of women all day on TV). A New Day also includes a remix of the dancehall-tinged “Do It (Like We Do It)” with guests Kardinal Offishall, Mayhem Moreaty and Jugganot. In 2003 the release of this single resulted in a heavy rotation MuchMusic video and significant airplay on Flow 93.5 fm. It was released commercially via the Flow 93.5 fm Hot Wax compilation.

Folks who’ve witnessed Juice’s charismatic live show already know that Juice’s musical mission is to deliver straight lyrical goods - whether opening up for Eminem protegé Obie Trice on his cross-Canada tour, or as part of the wildly popular Nike Battlegrounds street ball basketball tournament. “I’m not trying to blend in, I’m trying to change the rap game right now,” he says point blank. “Change is gonna come.”

Mark your calendars. A New Day is coming, for a new music generation.