The cover art for Hard to Kill, the debut project by the eponymous supergroup of Toronto rappers Teddy Fantum and G Milla, depicts two coffins side-by-side in ominous, monolithic symmetry. It's an extremely heavy metal image, as well as one that could recall any number of horrorcore rap groups from the 90s. But note that the caskets are empty, implying that the duo have risen from their graves to stalk the land again. That spirit of supernatural endurance—not of wallowing in misery—is the running theme behind the mixtape, which is as dark as it is motivating.
Opener "Sounds Like" is a mission statement, old-soul samples serving as a layer under the heavy trap drums as the hook repeats that "this is what it sounds like when I can't sleep at night." "Muddy Water" is as smooth as R&B but doesn't bend fully to the bedroom vibes, instead settling upon the neon-lit night driving grooves of the Spadina street shuffle. Some of the beats, like the "Careless Whisper" keys of "Torino," could possibly classify as adult contemporary, but they're filtered through a kind of gothic sensibility unique to the downtown GTA. Most importantly, they're given life by the tenacious, warped chemistry in Teddy and G's overlapping bars, which veer between slurred Auto-Tune soup and in-your-face truths. Listen to Hard to Kill below and read on for our interview with Teddy and G.
Noisey: How long has this group and project been in the works?
Teddy Fantum: We had a few sessions in like January of 2017 that produced "Cyberia" and "On Me" which were featured on our solo projects Help Me and LFDY. From then on we just kept making music together and it lead to Hard To Kill.
G Milla: Yeah, I guess it's been a bit over a year now. The group idea happened during first sessions we had.
Any challenges along the way?
Teddy: I mean there wasn't really any creative challenges with this project. From a production standpoint I tried to take some risks but it still felt natural. Any challenges we face is in doing all of this shit independently.
How'd you land on the name?
Teddy: It was a phrase that was stuck in my brain for a while and after we made a few songs we found that it suited the themes perfectly, with me coming off a pretty dark and transparent project like Help Me and G's LFDY (Life Fast Die Young) being a crash course into his world. Hard To Kill became the perfect title for our evolution.
G: Both of us have come a long way and had endured a lot to get to this point and that made us Hard To Kill.
I remember the term “vampire trap” being brought up to describe the music that DSTRY makes. Are you guys still a fan of that distinction?
Teddy: I understand that people naturally try to describe music the best they can but I don't really believe in any labels.
G: We could be vampires but we don't only make trap.
Whose great idea was it to use "deaffaz" on "Slime?"
Teddy: Originally "deaffaz" was part of my verse but we were writing the song together and G just came in right after my verse and iconically coined the term "leffaz." "Leffaz" is the real story here.
G: "Leffaz" is a left-handed deaffaz.
What was the production direction behind the sound of this album? I hear lots of tuned percussion and almost Lalo Schifrin-type spy movie stuff like the vibraphones on “Double G’z.”
Teddy: I handled most of the production on this with contributions from Saint Fall, Zepfire, Ikaz Boi, Roam and Geoff Wood. We wanted to mix our sounds in a way that we could make truthful bangers that you could bop to while hearing some real shit. The production had to be aggressive, romantic and accessible. And big up yourself on that Schifrin reference, hahah, but I didn't sample anything for Double G'z.
I’m gonna say it now, the beat on “Torino” sounds like “Careless Whisper.” No disrespect meant either, that song goes. I guess this isn’t really a question, I just wanted to let you guys know that.
Teddy: Thanks? Big up George Michael… I feel like Keegan-Michael Key in Keanu right now. But yeah, thats my favourite beat I made on the album.
G: Who's George Michael?
How do you feel about the “Toronto Sound” as a musical label?
Teddy: I honestly don't know what "Toronto Sound" is. I don't really agree with attaching music to it's geographical location. I don't think anything we've done besides some of the words we use put us under that label.
G: I personally look for diversity in Toronto. The sounds that challenge the status quo inspire me.
Help Me discussed themes of suicide and mental illness pretty openly. What are the topics and themes you’re trying to address on Hard to Kill if any?
Teddy: I think the main theme in this album is endurance. How long can you survive the agony? If you hang in there eventually you'll adapt and evolve. The separate battles that we've survived on our journeys brought us here. We could have quit a hundred times.
G: Feel like we got the sauce right now and a lot of music so we're gonna ride the HTK wave without getting too ahead of ourselves.
Phil is on Twitter.
This article originally appeared on Noisey CA.