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