KEITA JUMA with BIZZARH and DJ BAMBI at the Drake Underground (1150 Queen West), Thursday (July 24), 10 pm. $5. thedrakehotel.ca.
"It doesn't have to be a perfect take, but it has to feel right," says Mississauga emcee/producer Keita Juma about his music, and more specifically about his new project, Chaos Theory. "It depends on the song. Like, on Ancient Body Language I was trying to be sexy and cool, right?"
Juma's laughing as he says it, but the guy is pretty bang-on. The just-released lead track has one of his trademark fluid, high-BPM beats, while his vocals are deliberate and restrained, carefully doling out bars about maple syrup. And sheets. And saying his name.
"The next single is called Peace In, Peace Out, and it's more aggressive," he says citing inspiration from Seattle alt-hip-hop duo Shabazz Palaces.
Diverse in style, the songs are all authentically based in Juma's experience. The artist recently switched monikers from his initials, KJ, to his birth name, and being true to himself is a recurring theme in our conversation as we sip the eponymous spirit at Dundas West's Rhum Corner.
"I can't make a song that sounds like somebody else's song," says the artist, a 2014 SoundClash Music Award finalist. "We're a city that's starting to bubble. Now's the time to create new sounds and do something a little bit different and see what happens. There's no rules.
"It's liberating, because I just listen to myself, and if it goes wrong I have no control over it. You can't try to make a good record for everybody. All you can really do is tell your story and hope it connects with people."
Coming to these conclusions has been a process for the artist, 27, who's been making music since he was 14. He attended St. Joe's high school with 2013 SoundClash winner Brendan Philip (still a close friend and collaborator), rapper Blake Carrington and what he calls "a real music community."
Thursday's Drake Underground show will also feature Juma's frequent collaborators, Toronto experimental soul/rap duo bizZarh. It's a lineup so in-sync that Dollar Paris and Charli Champ happen to stroll by the bar while we're sitting 3 feet from the doorway. "Charli is in my top five emcees," Juma had said about an hour earlier.
A good omen, surely.
"I'm stoked for Thursday," Juma says.
"When I'm performing, I'm trying to tell you my story. And hopefully you get it."