Toronto has seen its share of rappers come and go. Many of these artists are prophesied as not only the next up-and-coming rapper from the city, but as a sort of saviour for it. Despite the fact that many of these new acts receive co-signs from more established artists who claim that this young gun “has next,” many fledgling careers end up falling short or being stretched out for years without any progress. The end result of all this posturing sees a bunch of hungry young rappers going for the same prize, some attempting new ways, but still ending up in the “fallen off” category.
Still, everyday, yet another rapper is doing some sort of release off their next album, many with the same hunger and determination as their predecessors. History in Toronto has now repeated itself often enough that these new rappers have enough mistakes and careers to look back on and use as a guide for what not to do. Among this class is 22-year old G Milla, a rapper surrounded by both fresh and frayed rappers. He, as well as other young rappers in Toronto should be turned off by the idea of becoming a rapper by now. But in spite of this, G Milla is anything but depressed. In fact, he’s excited and emotional, and with what he’s got in store with his most recent projects, he couldn’t be more optimistic.
Speaking to him is like sitting down with a psychopath who has managed to channel his demons into music in ways that have attracted a cult following. He’s motivated by both the desperation to succeed and the knowledge that there’s a fateful ending ahead of him that appears pre-determined. He’s in literal reach of another artist who is still trying to make it in the industry, yet struggling. The way he gets on stage and resembles a literal mental patient in a straight jacket while he moves erratically on stage in his crop-top sweaters might just be enough to get him to that point in his career that the rest haven’t reached, assuming he doesn’t run out of steam by then.
Photo courtesy of Devon Little
Noisey: You’ve been around for a couple of years now but never really been the topic of conversation. What has changed between last year and now that is going to get you to that place?
G Milla: Consistency, it’s in being consistent and sticking to the plan. For example, last year was all about building and this year is about getting bigger. I’m consistent, the team is consistent, my manager is consistent and we all stick to the plan.
So if your strategy of succeeding is based on being consistent, what exactly are you being consistent about?
Everything. Putting music out. Talking to fans. Doing shows. Being in places, you know, just showing up at parties because even that is a part of being an artist. So after I first started working doing more shows, I started linking up with more people to help get my name out there and establish connections that would help me grow.
What’s something that you were doing last year that you’re no longer doing now in order to help advance your career?
This year I am friendlier. More positive. Last year I was more crew oriented, but I got myself out of that mind state because it’s also about being social and the connections you establish after being social. To me, that’s how you grow. Stop being strictly crew-oriented. Once I let that mentality go I started connecting with a lot of people and saw progress.
Just even within the last few years Toronto has seen rappers come and go, you hear about them a lot during the build up and then not at all. Yet you still seem not only so happy to be here, but also excited to be taking this career on. What’s it like for you to watch other rappers fall off or continue after years and years of no success?
It’s scary. It scares me because it puts you in a position where you’re like “Shit, is that what’s going to happen to me?” But I just realized, while talking to those people that fall or don’t reach any success, that that is not my motive. If it gets bad I’m going to work even harder and find a different way. Most of them just stop. Shit gets hard and they just stop. And for me it’s about going on even when it gets bad, being consistent and continuing to work hard. If the opportunity is in New York and I can’t fly there then I’m going to drive all the way there and get it instead of just stopping. If I have to record by myself in the basement, I’ll do it.
Do you think these other rappers stop because they’ve been doing it for so long with no success?
Yeah. It’s dedication. You have to be dedicated to be doing something like this. There’s going to be so many ups and downs and yeah you get kicked down, but what are you going to do about it? When you get kicked down that’s when something bigger is going to happen once you get past it. For me, even if I do fall down I know I’m going to get up and get ready to go again.
What was a time that you were down and had to get back up for the sake of your career as a rapper?
When I got kicked out off my crib and I was homeless for a few months. Once I got kicked out off home, things just started falling apart and I lost my job that I was using to pay for studio time and just to get by.
So how do you keep positive when dealing with the downs of the career?
My mentality is that if I’m going through some bad shit and you put me on the stage you’re still going to get a great show, even more so if I’m going through some bad shit, because it makes me work even harder. I get on stage and it’s going to be on my mind but it also what’s going to push me to do better. That’s how I deal with everything. That’s how I approach it, especially when I’m writing songs. I put myself into deep meditative states and channel those emotions into lyrics.
You and Luu Breeze are under the same management, what’s it like to be working side by side to someone whose career has been arguably stretched out while remaining in the same place?
He and others like him look at me and they tell me I’m young right away. And they tell me, ‘I wasn’t doing it when you were doing it, so the fact that you’re still young and going hard, stick to it.” And because I see where they are I say to myself—shit, and nothing against them, but I don’t want to be where they are, I’m trying to be bigger than that. So guys like Luu Breeze and Rich Kidd they give me advice all the time, they tell me to stay focused and it’s helped me a lot. I think if I didn’t even meet Luu Breeze, I don’t even know how my work ethic would actually be, he doesn’t even know how much he’s helped me, but he has said a few words here and there that have just helped me make the right moves.
When you perform “Psycho” you generate a memorable reaction from the crowd, do you think it has to do with the lyrics?
Yeah, when I’m writing I just go in my vault of pain and I try to come up with some dope concepts. And specifically with that song I was actually really depressed. The story behind it is a female, and breaking up, that usual story, but the difference is that I was seriously suicidal at that point. It had to do with me being in so much mental pain and not progressing. But I learned to surpass all of that through writing. I go in my vault. And I just start writing down that pain and it helps me get over it.
So do you take that same route when making your projects?
Yeah each song within the project has to do something with my own story. Basically it’s going to that new height. And I finally feel like I am advancing and going to that new height. People even say that when someone’s dealing with something like an addiction, when you get money the addiction doesn’t go away you just end up spending more money on that, so with NLND you’re taking those problems and addictions with you and adding onto them, and for me it’s more of an addiction with females. Before it was a drug thing and going through the suicidal mind state, but now that I’ve reached a new level in my life it’s more of an addiction to females. My weakness. Each song will tell you that I’m addicted to women and that’s my true form.
What are you doing in between shows and releases that helps fans still remember you and to keep you from falling off?
I’m keeping myself educated with what I’m doing, and I’m not just rapping. You have to do more than that. You have to let yourself grow and do new things at all times. You can’t just stop at rapping and doing shows. It’s also in sharing with the team. If you know something, share. You have to have an open mind and cut out the ego so you can grow with the connections you’ve established.
Tania Peralta is a writer living in Toronto - @juelzsantania