Do It For the Youth: EMP Wants to Reclaim The Sound of New Toronto

The mysterious group want to capture the city's new vibe.
September 2, 2016, 1:00pm

At this very moment, EMP might be Toronto’s biggest musical mystery. What we do know is that their name is an acronym made up of the group’s members: Eestbound, Milly [Manson], and Pree. But not a lick of music has been leaked, which is almost unheard of in the digital age. Brampton’s Eestbound is the group’s producer and mastermind. If his name rings a bell it’s likely because he co-produced Travis Scott’s platinum hit “Antidote” with Wondagurl, who also signed him. Milly Manson is also from Brampton and has been writing raps since the age of seven. He and Eestbound have been collaborating for a while now, largely in part to their proximity: they live one minute away from each other. And Pree… well, she might just be the freshest MC in the city, purely on account of her obscurity. Together EMP represent “the face of a new Toronto,” with lineage that comes from all over the world: Netherlands (Eestbound), Sri Lanka (Pree) and Jamaica (Milly). When they do emerge with their music—debut single “Rebellion” will be out imminently—they look to “successfully capture the vibe of today and tomorrow's youth.”

What is the relationship between your style and your music?
Pree: Our style and music are products of the environment I grew up in and I personally think my part of the city has some of the coolest kids. Eestbound, Milly, and I actually live a couple minutes away from each other and although we didn’t grow up with each other, we grew up in the same environment and it really shows in our music and in the clothes we wear.

Whose style do you admire?
Eestbound: Kanye West, for sure. He’s been so influential through the years.
Pree: Rihanna by far. She can make anything look good, but I really admire youth street style. The youth just always knows how to make everything look ten times better.

What artists helped influence the music of EMP?
Pree: Kanye West, Travis Scott and Kid Cudi.
Eestbound: ScHoolboy Q and Eminem.

When it comes to art and clothing, what does comfort mean to you?
Pree: Comfort means everything to me. I wouldn't decide on an outfit if it wasn't comfortable first. That also applies to music, I wouldn't sing on a song that I wasn't comfortable with. Even if it was an amazing song, if I wasn't comfortable with it, i wouldn't sing it.
Milly Manson: Art and clothing go hand in hand.

I saw an interview with Eestbound where he teased EMP as a group “looking to shift the music a little and bring the rock and roll back." You guys are generally known for hip-hop and R&B. How does rock and roll fit into your music?
Milly: Rock and roll corresponds with our music from the style of guitar Eestbound chooses to put in a lot of EMP records to the way we choose to fashion ourselves. We love to carry ourselves like rock stars and we love the genre.
Eestbound: Growing up I listened to a lot of different music. I started playing guitar when I was six and fell in love with blues and rock and roll. I implement a lot of rock and blues in the music I’m currently making with guitar especially. Rock and roll has a very dope attitude and we are inspired by that vibe.
Pree: Our look and the vibe we give off is so rock and roll. Whenever people asked me what I wanted to be, I'd always tell them “A rock star.” So I think it played out well. I think being a rock star in this day and age isn’t taken as literally. It’s more of an essence or lifestyle.

You all appear to play different roles in the group. Can you each explain what you do in EMP?
Milly: I’m the rapper of the group, so my job is to bring that raw, grimy energy onto the track so that when you hear our singles it’s not just like some corny stuff, it’s more of a masterpiece. Eestbound organizes mixes and creates the instrumental, and tops off with crisp smooth vocals. And Pree is the singer who adds her vibrant vocals to the track so that the song feels more alive. I add that hip-hop feel to it with my bars and flow.
Eestbound: I’m the producer, instrumentalist, engineer, and the singer.

How do incorporate your cultural roots into EMP?
Pree: I love my culture and it’s a big part of me. It's shaped me musically especially since I grew up doing a lot of traditional music so I do value it immensely. But that wasn’t the only thing that shaped me as an artist. I was exposed to a lot of different genres growing up that also impacted my style, so I would want to credit all of it because it made me who I am today.
Eestbound: Europe is very different from North America. Growing up in Europe and the music that they listen to influenced a lot of my production and with EMP we want to show that we're versatile because of our roots. Culture is a perfect example of being proud of you and your origins.
Milly: My cultural heritage is incorporated into EMP from the energy I choose to hop on a track with. I like to just go in the booth and let loose, and sometimes you can really hear the anger in my voice. I think that stuck with me from growing up around a lot of dancehall music when I was younger. I feel like it’s important to bring it into the music because my emotion is what makes me Milly Manson.

How important is the city of Toronto to the music you make?
Milly: We do it for Toronto. This city has so many talented artists that just get swept under the rug. Our job is to let the world know that when it comes to music Toronto is where it’s at.
Eestbound: Toronto is very important, especially because it's our first row audience. Toronto has an insane amount of talent.

What can you tell the world about your debut single "Rebellion"?
Pree: It’s gonna be #lit.
Milly: “Rebellion” is gonna change the lives of a lot of people. It’s gonna make people feel like trashing shit, stand up for [themselves], and do whatever they wanna do without thinking about the consequences.

Cam Lindsay is a writer living in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter.

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