It’s roughly seven o'clock in the morning in Barrhaven, Ottawa. City Fidelia is tired, as evident by the bloodshot eyes that droop behind his retro horn-rimmed glasses. Pizza Pizza boxes and soft drinks cans are scattered haphazardly across the studio, as the hook from his latest track blares from the speakers and out into the quiet neighbourhood. After numerous days of singing melodies and spitting verses, City and his engineer celebrate the completion of his newest song. It’s a special moment, as this song is the hallmark of his new sound. City, holding a can of Red Bull, does a tw-step and sings along with the newly crafted hook. The only thing keeping him awake now is the relief and excitement of finishing the track and releasing it to the public. However, he knows that the jubilee will be short-lived and sleep isn’t coming his way anytime soon. City has work in an hour, and after work, a 3 hour lecture.
Born in Montreal, raised in Brooklyn, and now residing in Ottawa, music has been in Luigi Fidelia’s genes since birth. His father was a bassist who left him a love and passion for jazz, funk, and Haitian zouk. Luigi first fostered his own musicality through singing. As a pre-teen, his obsession with Usher and The Fugees led him to emulate their sound, an inspiration that would force him to develop his own vocal ability. As he grew older, things began to change when a young Fidelia started watching his older brother try his hand at rapping. As any twelve year old boy would, Luigi began following in his brother’s footsteps. “In elementary school, my big brother got me into battle rapping. I went by City Boy, that’s where it all started.”
City’s talents grew exponentially as he progressed through school. It was in high school where he made a name for himself through the amateur battle rap circuit. He ditched the sobriquet City Boy and adopted the moniker of City Fidelia. His new name would encompass two things he cherishes most - his city and his family.
Through judging City from first impressions, one would deduct that he’s stuck in the 80s or early 90s. Fidelia prides himself on his uniqueness, which he tries to impose upon both his style and music. With one of his biggest influences being Kanye West, the parallels between the two are evident. “I was raised near the Chinatown area in Ottawa, which is pretty rough. But I never got into drugs and gangs. I was doing me, I was on my school and music grind. People also say I have a 'weird' sense of style. Kanye on the other hand was rocking clothes that were 'weird' to his fellow artists, and also making music that was unique and different.”
The rise of big artists in the industry stemming from Toronto such as Drake, The Weeknd, and now PARTYNEXTDOOR has ushered in hope for other Canadian artists looking for their own break into an industry which dwells primarily below the border in America. Ottawa has lacked a musical essence, which City expresses in the hardships of attaining success in his own city. Despite all the hype, he doesn’t want to move to Toronto in hopes of blowing up, just as many of Ottawa's local artists have done in the past. “Here in Ottawa, people interpret that if you’re an artistic person and you think out of the box, you’re crazy. In a conservative government city, there aren’t many people who are serious with their artistic abilities and who are willing to share or collaborate.” Despite that fact, City adores Ottawa, “even though it’s hard being an artist here, the city rides with me and I love it, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. My hard work will push me around the world.”
At a Christmas dinner in 2012, City was blessed with the greatest gift to his musical career. Showcasing his work ethic and his hunger as he saturated himself with music, he was introduced to Salaam Statu$. At the time, Salaam was an enthusiastic producer on the search for more projects. They clicked effortlessly. “Me and Salaam meeting each other had to be fate. He showed me his beats, I spat him some verses, and we went from there. You make your own opportunities.” The duo would be separated when Salaam was forced to move to Detroit to attend college. Nevertheless, the two would continue to perfect their craft thanks to technology. “Now, whenever I go to the studio, I Skype Salaam, and that’s how we chop it up.” Seven months of Skype calls went by, and after a lot of deliberation, City’s first project, The Blindspot, was complete. “Man, The Blindspot was a hustle for real. That shit was stressful, but we got it done. We had to rent speakers, and it was pure trial and error to get the right sound. Salaam and I are perfectionists, so everything had to sound clean. The dude pushed me like never before, that’s why he’s my man”
It was that mixtape, The Blindspot, that elevated the two to another level. They both gained respect in Ottawa, and through Fidelia’s relationships in Montreal, he pushed the tape over for exposure. It didn’t take long for him to start opening for major artists like Fabolous, ASAP Rocky, and Casey Veggies. Through his persistence, City landed a position to perform last summer at the Ottawa Bluesfest, one of Canada’s biggest music festivals. “Bluesfest was huge. It was the first time that they put a local rapper like me in a main event, that was a life changing moment. It motivated to another degree.”
Last month, approximately a year after his Blindspot mixtape, City released a new single titled "Stress Free," the track that was going to show City’s talent as a full fledged artist, and not just a rapper. The track was released to showcase his new sound and to serve as a preview for the up and coming EP, OldNewFashion: A Pisces World. The single was released on February 22nd. Three days later it totaled 16k plays on Soundcloud, was featured on HotNewHipHop’s Soundcloud channel, and created absolute pandemonium across Ottawa. City was stunned by the reaction he got from the standalone track. “I mean, I knew it was good, but I was really just excited to show people my new sound, because before, people would describe me as the dude who raps over mellow beats. I put that song out to show that I can’t be put in a box, and that I can actually sing”. City describes the song as alternative hip-hop where it embodies classic hip hop, but also incorporates other genres such as jazz, pop, and funk. “Me and Salaam are trying to push hip-hop to another level. We let the audience describe the music as unique, but what we make sure of is that the quality is on point and that always evolve the sound.” From just listening to the song for the first thirty seconds it is evident to hear the boundaries of traditional hip-hop being pushed.
Aside from the sound of his music, people relate to the moments in life that City so accurately depicts. Staying away from drugs and crime, his father’s absence, his older brother going to jail, and combining full-time work with being a full-time university student are just some of the topics that are woven into his hooks and verses. “I keep it real in my music and people relate to it, everyone has struggles and hard times. I want my music to motivate people.” Ambition is something that he does not lack and Fidelia has big plans for his career. “I got Bluesfest, and that was huge. Now I want a Juno, seriously. Also there’s so many people in the world who haven’t heard my music. I just want to give them the opportunity to hear it.”
As City propels onwards through the barriers of his conservative environment, his positivity, humility and patience are the keys to accumulating the respect towards his image as a rap artist. With a decisive attitude to attain goals, whether it's winning a Juno award, or playing at other renowned music festivals, City continues to work towards, and beyond, being the biggest rapper Ottawa has ever seen.
Ini Udoeyop gets it in like pockets - @king_uddy
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