Notes To Self are an upcoming Canadian quintet comprising members: Swamp Donkey, Roshin, Bronze One, DJ Dopey and Elicser who have their debut set to drop on a UK label, so we thought we had better catch up with them. Find out what they had to say as they spoke to Anna Nathanson…
To those who haven’t heard much of your stuff yet, how would you describe your music? How is it different?
Bronze One: Its differences may not be so revealing from jump as we came up on a very classic North American sound – but the way we create, produce and record, is rather different and could be considered unorthodox. But its good rap music, real, unified in the classic sense – it’s during our creative process is where you might find that we may differ. We don’t want to force differences; we just want to sound refreshing. We’re meticulous, the music is full and layered, sequence heavy, yet we still maintain that Boom Bap consistency.
Swamp Donkey: Hearing an entire album of ours is where our differences start to stand out. Any particular song may not sound that distinct, but listening to a long player of ours, you get an understanding of what we are trying to do as a whole. I think any good album will leave you with that sense. Even our mixtapes, Like “Timbits” our Dilla tribute is constructed in such a specific way that when it’s over you’re like, that’s that Notes sound, even though Bronze didn’t do any of the production.
Roshin: I feel that, we’ll go on a creative tip with a project, but we always start off in that rap mind state. Real Hip-hop was and is the kind of music we’ll be making. No disrespect to anyone rapping over electro or guitars or anything, that’s just probably not what you’ll hear us over.
Give us the basics – where you’re from, how you started out and how long you’ve been doing this now? What level do you feel you’re at now in the game? Is it a full time hustle or do you have any other jobs on the side?
Bronze One: Producer / rapper – Toronto, Canada – quietly borrowed my fathers drum machine at age eleven when he upgraded to a new one, then I finally connected with Donkey nine years later with some heaters made.
Swamp Donkey: Rapper – Toronto, Canada – Bought a Rap Traxx cassette when I was eight and did MC Hammer dances in my living room. Eight years later I forced my brother Rosh to start freestyling with me.
Roshin: Rapper – Toronto, Canada – I started rapping over instrumentals on my brother’s Tec 220s when I was thirteen or so. Kept rapping until I got good. Now I’m rapping over Dopey’s 1200s.
DJ Dopey: DJ / Scratch Extraordinaire – Toronto, Canada – Got introduced to the art through my older brother. Eventually he got a girlfriend and that’s when I took over his equipment.
Bronze One: We’re all from Toronto, Canada. Dopey was born in the Philippines but was raised in Mississauga, just outside of Toronto – so we all call Toronto our homeland, and we are proud to hold Toronto down as such. Our group’s conception was a very natural one, we all recognized each others talents and eventually connected. Donkey and myself formed Notes To Self mid 2000 in university, Roshin and close affiliate Toronto based artist Elicser got on board in 2001, then Dopey reached out in 2003 after his world title win as we were in dire need of a great DJ.
Since our start, I’ve taken our craft seriously, taking the time to develop our sound first hand as a 4 person unit together, and in turn I produce all of our music. Our post production process is of equal importance and I seek the help from my post production partner Bookworm (also based out of Toronto) to help refine our sound.
We’ve all put a good 10 or 15 years into our individual artistry and development but we have existed as a group for almost eight years together. This is good independent rap music, we all hold down part-time jobs obviously, and plan to continue to until we feel realistically that rap can pay our bills 100%, it will become a full time hustle, as we do believe in fulfilling our wants. We have a hell of a lot of respect for those rap artists out there, indie and major, who live directly off of their music or related enterprises. We’re now just starting to make an impression; we really can’t wait to arrive.
If you got granted one special power, what would it be and why?
Swamp Donkey: Invulnerability to bad reviews, or a bionic arm.
DJ Dopey: Mind control like Professor X, so I can project my thoughts to anybody even thinking about writing a bad review about us in order to spare Swamp from using his unique power.
Who or what influences and drives you?
Bronze One: Each other, family, I want this shit so bad it hurts.
Swamp Donkey: Bronze. He really keeps me motivated and focused. Also, like a really good movie. When it’s over, no matter what the subject matter, I feel like I was taken away somewhere, and I love that feeling. I want our music to do that for people, so that is pretty inspiring too.
Roshin: You get inspired by all types of rappers, all types of music even. These days it makes me want to create the same as it did when I was in high school, just in my own individual way. The influence is more from each other.
DJ Dopey: Everyday life inspires me. Whether it be, music, a film, a person (my crew Notes)… anything really at any given time can spark inspiration into my brain.
How was 2007 for you?
Bronze One: For Notes, it was maybe our most recognized year to date, maybe we’ve become more like peers with a few of those we respect within the game, as others we’ve reached out to have taken significant notice – we’re still fans so we geek out a bit when other artists like our shit. We feel 2007 was a successful year for choosing our group’s current direction. We’re hopefully about to release our debut with someone y’all are familiar with as they’re from and primarily based out of the UK. We’ve made some difficult yet respectable leaps in the passed six months, something before all else, we should feel proud of as a group.
Swamp Donkey: Overall it was great. I wish some things could’ve happened quicker for us, but I’m learning that waiting is just part of the game.
What’s in store for 2008?
Bronze One: Our debut full-length, entirely self created, drops on a very credible international label. We do some very notable collaborations. We seek love from those who will support – and we reciprocate with creating more great music for our fans and ourselves – while branching out with other outfits and labels who may also be interested in us – so hit us up.
Roshin: We have way more things on the go this year. So be on the lookout for Notes updates and downloads online.
DJ Dopey: Yeah, I think first and foremost we want to get our music out to the world. Then hopefully get out on the road and really show the world how hype our live show is!
Any shout outs and big ups?
Bronze One: Bookworm (Jigsaaw & Life of the Party), Elicser, Lease, James Reid, Benjamin Young Hart, Kamil Bialous, Lake City Ent. & Kiran, Shafton, Abdominal, D-Sisive, NV, Dilated Peoples, Vast Aire, Yesh, MoSS, attic, and Jake One.
Swamp Donkey: Eric Barnhorst (congratulations), Oddities, Pangea, Lo & Won-by-One.
Roshin: Fundament, Junia-T, Arowbe and Rayhaan.
DJ Dopey: J-Tec, Needillworks, Serious & The QT’s.
- Join the Notes to Self Facebook group “Notes to Notes to Notes to Self!!!”