Toronto’s 'Prince Of The City' talks life on the road...

In a time where everything happens on the internet, the hustle of touring the hell out of an album until clubs, college campuses and festivals all over the world are screaming your name, is being lost.

It’s increasingly easy for number-crunching record executives to pick out songs with the right catchphrases, manufacture meme-worthy videos and rake in the big bucks. Making it in the Big Leagues is more about catching on through a series of algorithms, than dedicating blood, sweat and tears to the stage night after night. But when these formulaic hit records are successful, it often leads to a disappointing dive bomb when the rapper with the biggest hit out right now can’t live up to the hype on stage.

Jazz Cartier isn’t afraid of laying the foundations. The 23-year-old Canadian rapper - real name Jaye Adams - has spent the past half-decade banking on the concept that slow and steady wins the race. He’s perfected his craft with a pair of mixtapes - 2015’s ‘Marauding In Paradise’ and last year’s ‘Hotel Paranoia’ - that don’t rely on any names other than his own (“I can do it better myself,” he boasts on ‘Stick & Move’). Along with go-to producer Michael Lantz, he’s created a unique sound and aesthetic; a blend of sublime gothic imagery, with cinematic soundscapes, contemporary trap music and a flair for the dramatic. And like the old guard of independent rappers, he’s more than happy to get his hands dirty, putting in work on stage and controlling crowds night after night.

“No matter how shit looks on the Internet, you still need to do the groundwork,” he advises, taking a rare day out at home as he prepares to hit the road again. “I feel like a lot of people skip that. They just want to post something on the Internet, get a million views and become overnight celebrities.” Last year the Toronto-native spent his Spring in Europe on a headlining tour, then played countless festivals across the summer, before joining Post Malone to spend most of his winter on a mammoth 41-date trip across the US.

And it’s not all about hitting the big cities either. Jazz is happy to take the opportunity to perform wherever there is an audience and regardless of how intimate. “You have to do shows where there’s like ten people in the room,” he enthuses. “Those people will be fans for life because you gave it your all and they appreciate that. Then they watch you grow and they feel like part of the movement.”

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A low-key show last April at Leeds’ Belgrave Music Hall carried the magnitude of a sold out show in the capital. Despite being less than half full, those in attendance knew every word, and weren’t afraid to express their dedication to Cartier’s music. “I feel like that's a lot better for me coming out as an artist because I get to see the true fans that really rock with the music,” he reflects. “The attendance never really phased me. Those half empty rooms are the ones I have to go the hardest in because I have to win those fans over so they can leave and tell everyone that missed out what they missed out on.”

Jazz thrives just as well in these situations as he does in Europe’s capitals, where his disciples show up in droves. He commands the crowd like some cult leader pulled straight from a Stephen King novel, emotions hidden behind his shades as he delivers his bars against the backdrop of imposing visuals that bring ‘Hotel Paranoia’ to life. “I used to be into theatre when I was in school,” he admits. “I think that just trickled off into my adult life. It translates when I’m on stage.”

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I get to see the true fans that really rock with the music...

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When he finally does get to spend some time at home, he invests a lot of it in the studio. It’s something that’s come with maturity. You can’t very well call yourself the Prince Of The City without throwing a few parties in your Downtown loft space, but he’s putting that on hold for the time being. “I’m learning how to balance things,” he says, admitting that time management has been the biggest thing he’s had to overcome since his career took off.

“That time spent going out, or doing nothing I’m trying to spend in the studio as much as possible. That will open more doors for the future, as opposed to partying every night. I’m also trying to spend as little time on the internet as possible - even though it’s super hard! Its all about maturing.”

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On ‘Hotel Paranoia’ opener ‘Talk Of The Town’ he reveals his intention to remain in music for the long run; he isn’t phased by the demands of an online rat race, in which throwing out as many records as possible and seeing which ones stick, is as good a plan as any. “When you put a lot of time into something, you don’t have to worry about it blowing up overnight. It will stand the test of time,” he explains. “Longevity is becoming super important in the music industry. People don’t really value [music] where there’s not real purpose to it.”

Whether his aim is to connect to his fans emotionally, get them dancing or to have them engaging in a live show, every release for Jazz has a distinct purpose. This is the mindset by which he is approaching his latest full-length ‘Fleurever’, for which he released the lead single ‘Tempted’ on January 3rd. “I’m taking my time with it,” he says, of the ambitious project which will incorporate visual and physical accompaniments. “But I can sit here and tell you that that it’s going to be my best project to date.”

Adopting a more “free-spirited” approach, he reveals that he’s been injecting a lot of melodies and harmonies into the ‘Fleurever’, and that he’s been working with producers outside of Lantz, as well as getting into the studio with other artists. He describes it as an “Evolution of Jazz Cartier” before expanding: “You can see how I held down both of my first takes by myself, but the third one they’ll see how I am in a collaborative space. That should be pretty exciting.”

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I can’t settle for mediocrity.

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If nothing else, the one thing that oozes from Jazz Cartier, his dramatic live shows to his grandiose recordings, is ambition. “I just feel like I’ve got this drive to be great,” he concedes. “I can’t settle for mediocrity.” He takes a moment of consideration, then expands: “I hate when people say ‘You have the potential to do something.’ The word ‘potential’ doesn't really sit well with me.”

This is the motivation behind his desire to make real life connections on the road, it’s the reason why he takes time to ensure everything he releases is another win on his track record. “I want people to know that I’m a sure shot,” he declares. “[I’m proud of] the fact that I get to do it. The fact that it’s happening. While a lot of people rap, not a lot of people care. I think a lot of people care about me, and that means a lot. I’ll never take that for granted.”

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Jazz Cartier is performing at KOKO this Friday, tickets available HERE.

Words: Grant Brydon

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