Jazz is hip hop. Though his attitude might be more punk. He may also be the closest thing hip hop has to being a genuine millennial maverick outlaw figure. Dubbed “Toronto’s next big thing” and “the new darling of Toronto hip hop” by the global bloggerati, including The Fader (where he was a Gen F feature artist), Billboard (“another rapper blowing up out of Toronto”), Complex (“widely considered to be the next Toronto artist to blow after Drake and the Weeknd”), NME (voted one of “five acts spearheading the Canadian music scene”), Noisey/VICE (“takes the Toronto sound to a new level”), all the way to Pigeons and Planes where his debut mixtape Marauding in Paradise released in April 2015 was voted one of “25 of the best free rap releases from the past five years”. Despite the widespread hype and hoopla, his debut mixtape was just that – a warm up project, a warning shot. “MIP wasn’t even a proper release,” says Jazz. “It was just a mild introduction for what’s to come in 2016.”
Part of the allure of Jazz and his Marauding in Paradise project, a free mixtape cooked up by him and his right hand producer Lantz (who he calls his Siamese Twin), comes from him being a genuine borderless, post rap, millennial emcee, who’s pubescent life journey reads like something out of a Hollywood movie script. Born in Toronto, to Jamaican parents, Jazz attended boarding school in a near dozen cities around the world by the time he was 17. Having lived in places as far and disparate as Kuwait, Maine, Idaho, Connecticut, Houston, Atlanta, Barbados, Virginia, and Houston (where his immediate family still lives) due to his stepfather’s US diplomat work, he even at one point in time became an elite high school tennis star. With his post-secondary school dreams deferred (he was accepted to Chicago’s Columbia College), he has his firm sights set on becoming the new face of rap. And his formula is simple: “Create your own lane. Don’t ride anyone else’s wave. Be your own boss. Don’t succumb to the plague.”
While Jazz proudly bleeds Toronto, he makes no bones about his laser sharp aim for global success. “I was fortunate to live around the world, so I have a global outlook on things,” he explains. “I’m also a pure product of the Internet. Artists used to be confined by their immediate surroundings, but I’m the opposite. I’m post-regional. There are a lot of jokers in my city who spend time comparing different hoods. Nobody cares about that. Toronto is Paradise, but life isn’t all about Toronto.”
From his Brooklyn Vegan lauded show stopping live performance to crowd surfing spots in a Budweiser commercial, Jazz’s performance art which consists of off- kilter rap flows and deep baritone vocal tones, all flexed over cinematic soundscapes, simply sounds like nothing else out there. Whether it was cutting his chops as a direct support act for Joey Badass, Rae Sremmurd and Post Malone, touring with Riot Fest throughout the US Midwest, or headlining his own Paradise Express Tour throughout the US west coast, the word on the street and in the internet ether is that performing after Jazz Cartier is tough because he boasts a live show like no other. Whether he’s barking some carnal call and response hooks, hanging off of rafters, or walking on his audience’s heads and dousing them with fluids, on some nights he makes mosh pit culture seem soft. “I’m trying to evoke a different feeling, because Toronto music can get very moody,” he says. “When my songs are playing, I’m trying to start a riot. Something’s gonna end up broken”.
Jazz has had some time to reflect on very early career highlights during his rapid career ascent that remain permanently etched in his brain. “My SOB’s show in Manhattan with Post Malone was amazing because it was jammed and a bunch of guys I went to school with from NYC came out. I brought at least 40 of my boys on stage, and everybody in the room was like, ‘how does this kid from Toronto know so many people here’? He adds: “Europe was also a trip because I had never experienced a foreign country singing back my lyrics from “Switch” and “New Religion” back to me. Especially in Ghent, Brussels, Paris, the kids knew alot of my lyrics. That’s when I knew this is getting really serious”.
In 2015, pop culture influencers, festival and concert promoters and hard core music enthusiasts looking for something new and ground breaking have clearly taken notice. Jazz has already toured many cities in the US, Europe and Canada off of the strength of his lone free mixtape, nabbing a Polaris Prize Longlist nomination in the process, and capturing the imagination of the widest possible swath of global multicultural youth culture devotees. While some young musicians might’ve been satisfied with this abundance of blog hype, Jazz preferred to stay busy on his down time, putting in the required 10,000 hours to perfect his craft, geeking out watching short films to compliment his storytelling structure, and knuckling down in a Toronto studio with Lantz with an aim to permanently change the rap game. Jazz makes no bones about his aim to be Toronto’s biggest rap export not named Drizzy. “Who else are you gonna listen to?” he proclaims about what’s to come in 2016. “I’m trying to help make Toronto one of those cities like NYC, Atlanta, LA, where you have a few rappers that come to mind when you think of the city. There’s going to be one more name to mention next year when you think about Toronto.”