QUOTA with AYAH , BOOGIE , CALI , DAPHNE NISSANI , FENOM , JENNIE LAWS , KAYSUN , KELLY LEE EVANS , KHANDI , LORI NUIC , MADISON BAKSZA , NIKKI PONTE , PONYTAILZ , SHUGAMAI JOHNSON , TRICIA and VOYCE as part of HONEY JAM at the Mod Club Theatre (722 College), Sunday (August 20). $20. 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
One of the best features of Honey Jam, Ebonnie Rowe's annual showcase of the city's top-notch female musical talent, is that it offers the opportunity for community-building among women working at a number of different levels in Canadian music, from underground to mainstream and everywhere behind the scenes.
Last year around this time, I spoke with Honey Jam host Michee Mee about her position in the game after more than a decade as Canada's foremost female hiphopper. This year, I got to chat with Quota (aka Sobenna Green), an MC who's only been rhyming seriously for 12 months but possesses enough hungry hustle and flow to carry her to the music industry's peaks.
Quota's strong ambition, combined with a prescient understanding of the business, makes her something of a poster child for new talent at the Jam.
"Most female rappers are trying to sell their sexuality," the direct 21-year-old says over the phone from Brampton. "My music is about my hunger, my struggles, my relationship with men, family and the industry, making it in the business and bringing it to a new level where women can take care of business and hold their own."
Though she'd always been writing personal rhymes in her diary, Quota's foray into rap started when the Make-A-Wish Foundation granted her the use of a small studio before she was 18 (she has sickle-cell anemia) to engineer and produce tracks for Entourage, her brothers' rap group.
After putting down some tracks and circulating them through the Toronto mix-tape circuit (a move inspired by Kardinal's fiery Kill Bloodclot Bill underground disc), her group caught the ears of local reggae legend/urban footwear mogul Don Skilachi, who was looking for a cameo for his Born To H.U.S.T.L.E. single (the video is currently in rotation at Much and MuchVibe).
The only catch? Skilachi was more taken with Quota's flows than with those of her bros, and wanted only her cameo for his lead single.
Of course, this drummed up some good ol' fashioned sibling rivalry.
"At the start, yes, there were a lot of arguments, especially about the track with the video. They were like, 'Why can't I do a verse?'" she recounts.
But it's all good now. Quota's always had her brothers' backs. You can catch her rocking with Entourage on their latest street release, the Ill Kidz-hosted Born To Hustle/Always In Motion mix tape (including the MC's flipped version of Rick Ross's Hustlin'), Don Skilachi's upcoming Born To Hustle LP and of course at Honey Jam.
Not bad for just a year in the game. And while this is definitely a tough city for new hiphop talent, Quota stays brazenly hopeful.
"They say Toronto is the city of haters. But if you can make it here, then you're ready for everywhere else."