Preview: Jazz Cartier

Toronto's next big thing is ready for his close-up


JAZZ CARTIER with WISH and PLUMES at the Garrison (1197 Dundas West), Friday (November 28), doors 9 pm. $8 advance. TF.


Twenty-one-year-old emcee Jazz Cartier isn’t partying any more.

“Since my music’s been out, I don’t go out much,” he says over tea at a local coffee spot. “I feel like rappers drop songs and go out that same weekend to get instant gratification – to get someone to be like, ‘I love your track.'”

With his deep, raggedly emotional and versatile vocals, and his go-to producer, Michael Lantz, lending menacing industrial-electro beats, Jazz has made some anthem-ready tunes already. People do love Set Fire and Switch/The Downtown Cliché, but he doesn’t need to party to know that.

Instead, the rapper, whose real name is Jaye Adams, spent last weekend with his girlfriend, baby shopping for his expecting pal and falling asleep to movies.

It’s a nice change, especially after two years in the three-floor, five-bedroom Kensington Market abode he shared with his Get Home Safe crew – a notorious party (and after-party) spot somewhat ironically called the Palace. 

“If we were in the States and everybody knew about the Palace like they do now, our house would have been raided by now.”

Jazz was born in downtown Toronto but started moving around the world (Idaho, Barbados, Kuwait) when he was six – his stepdad works for the U.S. government. Eventually he landed in an elite boarding school in Connecticut where he played tennis and snuck into 50 Cent’s estate with his friends on his downtime.

After graduation, he was supposed to go to school in Chicago, but to the chagrin of his mother, came back north.

“Five years of boarding school is like five years of university, and you don’t want to do it any more,” he says. “I wanted that connection to home. So I came back here with music in mind, had all these ideas – and lo and behold, they all came to fruition.”

Well, not all. First of all, Jazz doesn’t have an album out, or even a mixtape. Still, he finds himself at the forefront of a Toronto hip-hop scene – along with his Get Home Safe clique-mates, emcees Derek Wise and Drew Howard – that finally seems to be bubbling beyond our city limits. 

What he does have is a couple of slick music videos circulating on the internet and a few more due in early 2015. One of those unreleased joints shows a different, softer side of the emcee that is way more in line with the guy across the table. The unsmiling Get Home Safe members who appear in his videos, for example, are the same guys Jazz shows me in a staged, sweatered-up Christmas portrait he made everyone take last year.

But he’s set his sights on something bigger than YouTube views. “A lot of rappers are comfortable with being internet celebrities,” he says. “I don’t want to be an internet celebrity I want to be a superstar. When I think of myself and I think about Toronto, I’m Canada’s next superstar.”

This very focused ambition is apparent even in the careful way he handles our interview – he’s honest and unselfconscious, but clearly savvy, too. He’s one of those observant people you feel is two steps ahead of you, something he attributes to those years in Connecticut. “I was this little Canadian black kid soaking everything in. I just feel smarter [because of it]. Not smarter like book smart, but smart about life. Smart about the things I do. More meticulous about my actions.” 

He also has a role model. 

Jazz tells me a story about being in Georgia and hearing a rapper’s freestyle on the internet. “I loved the song so much, but I lost the link to it. The voice got stuck in my head and I could never forget it,” he says. “A few months later, I went on Concrete Loop and saw Replacement Girl, and I was like, ‘This is the guy.'” 

That guy was Drake. Here we are five years later and Drizzy is still Toronto hip-hop’s sole crossover success. 

“Drake said in a song on Comeback Season, ‘If 09 is when I’m a see mine / Being cool ain’t enough homie / I’m a freeze time.’ In 2008 he said that – 2009 came around, Drake’s the biggest in the world,” says Jazz, adding that the line gives him chills.

“It’s great,” he says. “But I want to be the next one. There’s definitely room for another superstar in Toronto.”    

julial@nowtoronto.com | @julialeconte

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