J.B.: Toronto rapper hoping debut will break new ground for hip-hop music

J.B. has been doing music for over a decade: first doing local shows in his Toronto neighbourhood, and then on a more professional level with hip-hop crew GCP (Guilty Crime Posse). Growing up in Flemingtown Park, he experienced a lot crime, poverty and difficult circumstances, but he never let where he was from stop him from being who he wanted to be.

Now, with the release of his first solo album, My Environment, J.B. is ready to show the world how much he’s matured and grown up as an individual and a musician. “I feel I’ve grown as an artist, just with the bigness of my music now. I make music that’s more universally appealing; my style has gotten more established [to a point] where it’s very distinctive as being mine,” J.B. said. “Over the years when I first started, it wasn’t too significant that that I had a style apart from the rest. But [now] I feel like people recognize my flow as a different kind of flow altogether.”

He’s extremely ambitious and has high hopes for his debut, which he describes as having so far had “a lot of love all across the country from the different street levels.” Especially with the album’s recent American release (My Environment having been dropped in Canada late last year), J.B. expects that the record will put him on the level of success that fellow Canadian urban artists like Deborah Cox have had. “I believe that this album will be a groundbreaking album for Canadian hip-hop and be one of the hottest selling urban music albums sold, period,” he said.

Rapping about everything from partying to the grittiness of the violence that he lives, J.B. is also concerned with helping people to open their minds to the realities outside this world. “I’m trying to make people see bigger pictures of different things. So even if it’s somebody listening to something grimy, if it opens up your ears to something while following that grimy track that might be a little bit more positive or conscious, hopefully people will see what I’m doing and know that they have the options to do bigger things [with their lives than what they’re doing now],” he said.

Having lost several friends in the past, a few of whom were fellow GCP crew members, J.B. feels that he has now gained enough strength and experience to be able to inspire those in need, and try to prevent them from following in his buddies’ footsteps. Canada’s ghetto-inhabiting youth are what influences him to rap about what he does, because he says he sees “that nothing is going to be created for them anytime soon. It’s up to people like me who are going to have to rise up and do something bigger so that we can get everyone out [of these conditions].”

Of course, J.B. isn’t always so serious. His live shows are about giving the crowds as much energy as he can, especially when he’s the opening act. He’s all about boosting audiences to get them ready for whoever may be headlining. “I’m just trying to help out the promotion and make new fans, so I’ll be bigging up the main artist more than myself, just getting the crowd hyped and picking up the city I’m in. It’s just a lot of energy and fun,” he said.

As J.B. has already worked with big name American rappers such as The Game, and plans on eventually promoting his album’s release south of the border, he hopes that it will only be a matter time before the States sit up and take notice.

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