has to be said for those artists North of the Border, they put the work in.
Vying for radio love on Canadas only urban station is a battle in itself, but
getting the folks down south and across the water to open their ears to your
product can make even the strongest man falter.
when you put JD Era under the spotlight, you conclude that this disciple of
Hip-Hop is determined to make sure those doors opened by the likes of Kardinal
Offishall, KoS, Swollen Members and his home-boy Drake stay open. This is not
a passing phase for JD, he isnt doing this because he cant do anything else,
repping Toronto and creating music is simply what he enjoys the most.
recognizing that this was the path he was going to take, JD ERA set to
infiltrating the streets with a collection of mixtapes. His most recent Th1rt3en has been welcomed by fans and
critics a1like. It gives folks a chance to gravitate to the consistency he
exudes and at the same time anticipate the as of yet untitled album which he
will be releasing later this year through his own imprint.
competent in the boardroom as he is in the booth, JD Era is proof that the
crème de la crème from T-Town doesnt necessarily need that major label love.
AllHipHop.com: Was rapping always the plan?
JD Era: Well as a kid I always used to do MC
battles and was always good at it. So it took over because it was what I was
What was it that made you realize it was going to be more of a
profession as opposed to a hobby?
When I was doing more music stuff than anything else. I mean I played
ball too and when it started taking over everything it took over my life and it
was all I was focusing on.
Were you parents supportive?
Yeah they were. I have Ghanaian parents so their focus is school, school
and school. So at first it was like they were saying there was no future in it.
But they are definitely 100% behind it now and I have a good family.
Were you born in Toronto or Ghana?
I was born in Toronto.
There is quite a big Ghanaian population in Toronto isnt there?
Yeah, there is a big community in Toronto. It is such a multi-cultural
place Toronto and for my parents there was just so much opportunity here.
Now you have just released your new mixtape, Th1rt3en, what has the response been so far?
So far it has been crazy and I have been pleased that all the feedback
has been positive. The haters have been quiet [laughs]. Yeah they have been
silent. I am feeling blessed right now and I am enjoying this and building off
Is there a lot resting on this tape?
Not so much because I have a lot of music tucked away as I am in the
studio a lot and its a case with this tape that people know there is a
movement happening. There is talent in Toronto that people need to hear and we
chose to go hard with it and show the world.
It came out through Black Market Music Group right?
Yes thats my organization, me and my cousin Fase.
Are you looking to do what Drake did by signing an out of country deal?
We are independent, so it is more about looking for distribution. The
mixtapes have opened a lot of doors already and I am open to everything right
now and just looking to see what is out there for us.
Has the indie route always been the plan for you?
Yeah because we come from a mixtape background, so our mentality is do
it yourself . If you are doing it on your own, you make sure the people hear
it and thats how weve always operated. No point in changing it now, thats
the way to go.
So if someone waved a big check at you from a major, what then?
Of course I am not a fool, but at the same time if it doesnt happen it
isnt going to slow my grind.
Weve watched the decline of big deals over the last ten years, is this
why you chose to do it your way?
That and the Internet changed the game. I am definitely one of the
people who have seen the changes and Drakes mixtape being so big, it wasnt a
surprise to me; I saw all the signs for that to happen. I have a bit of a
different perspective being from Toronto and seeing all the groundwork we were
putting in. I love the fact that I can use the Internet as a tool to reach a
bunch of different people and places. You know youre interviewing me from the
UK for a US site; the Internet makes it so much easier for the music to
communicate as well as us.
Was the mixtape route you keeping you in tune with the streets?
Yeah and thats how it started. We came up in the streets and I actually
remember coming out to the UK to push my first mixtape, Black Market Volume 1 and that was six years ago. I met Shortee
Blitz and was on his show, so I have always been a person who is out pushing
their music; my team is always out with the people as that is how we started
Was it understanding how important a global fan base was that encouraged
you to travel to places like England?
What I love about the UK is that you were open to listening to the
music. Its a little different in the US in terms of getting people to take a
good listen to your music and give you an actual chance. You are open to music
plus you do so much different stuff. I love the Drum n Bass and the Garage.
Has the US been a hard market for you to tap into?
Yes, its been a gradual thing and it has been like the UK in the sense
that you have to put in your work into breaking into markets. Plus they are
open to the music a lot more nowadays, which is good. I think that is part of a
generation change as well. With my generation of music we have the Kid Cudis,
the B.o.Bs; they are doing Hip-Hop a bit different to the traditional style
and I think people appreciate that.
You have a BG alum on your tape and a long time fave of mine Freddy
Gibbs. How did you hook up with Freddy?
Gibbs is crazy. I hooked up with him through the kid who does my
artwork, Heinze, he is a huge fan of Freddie Gibbs. When he first him me up
about him he told me there was another rapper that looked like me, because
theres not that many dark rappers. So I was like whatever and that was how
it started out. He asked Gibbs management if he could jump on the record and he
did and he killed it. Gibbs verse on that track is crazy.
And on Don Cannon beat.
Yeah had to go big with that one [laughs]. Shout out to the kid. I
connected with Cannon through someone else who works for me. He got me some
beats and when Cannon heard the record he co-signed it.
Have you faced many obstacles thus far in your career?
Every day is an obstacle until everyone else has heard the music and
that is how it is going to be. But I guess one of the challenges has been
breaking into the US market. Everything comes in good time and with work. I am
just going to keep on working over here, nothing stops.
Coming from the mixtape era but with a strong Internet presence, how
influential have the blogs been on breaking you, as some say they have
literally replaced the DJs?
They definitely helped a lot but you cant deny the importance and
relevance of the DJ playing your record in a club. As much as people are
getting it and putting it on their IPods, a big record is a record that is
being played everywhere. So you need the DJ just as much as you need the blogs.
They are both good ways to get the music out but you cant cut the DJ out.
Securing airplay in Toronto is pretty tough right?
Yes for some people but the issue is that we dont have many Hip-Hop
stations. There is only one urban station in all of Canada and if you are on it
youre on it and if you are not on it, then you have to make some Top 40 music.
Was it easy for you to make those hits to get you airplay?
I think because I came into the game really young, I got to see a lot of
things and understand the music business while I was getting better with the
music. So from early on I got to see how radio works and because of that I took
it upon myself to figure out how that all works. I mean its still a grind.
They are receptive to new artists and new music which is why I have been
blessed. There could be a lot more radio stations, which would encourage out
scene a lot. There is a good energy going on right now in Toronto and people
are putting in work right now and it is good to see the results. Kardinal has
opened the door and set the pace for us but not we are seeing it a little
He is on the new Estelle joint, is that something we can see you doing
on your impending album, a few collabos?
I got a couple of joints, the Bobby Valentino joint Cover Girl, which
I am holding on to. But some things will start to surface soon.
When is the album scheduled?
Looking at summertime. We are just working over the plan for the album
right now. You know we push the tape out to a great response and now we are
going to breathe for a minute, then get back into the studio and it will all be
AllHipHop.com: Like you said there is a great energy in
Toronto now, so egos havent kicked in yet?
JD Era: Yeah definitely; everyone sees the
potential and no one wants to be the idiot that ruined it [Laughs]. I hope no
one is dumb enough to do that. Thats a warning [laughs].