Maintaining Integrity With Producer Frost Gamble

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Legendary Winnipeg-based producer, Frost Gamble, has just blessed us with not one, not two, but three hard-hitting projects due to drop over the next couple of months. We had the privilege of chatting with him last year with Tone Chop following the release of their collaboration EP, Veteran, and we are too excited to hear the outcome of their latest album, Respect Is Earned Not Given. 

Frost has been busy since we last touched base with him. He produced the album Black Beach with ZotheJerk as well as Rare Fabric with Tragedy Khadafi, whilst also working on his own solo project I Missed The Bus. Frost Gamble epitomises the passion of what it means to be an artist. Having been in the game since the '90s, he has never faltered in staying true to himself both as an artist and as a human, and it is evident that he instills a true sense of humility in his work. 

We chat to Frost about his upcoming projects, the difference in producing solo work in comparison to producing for other artists, and the current climate of the hip hop scene in Canada. Ayla Dhyani writes.

 

You’ve been very busy since we last spoke. You’ve got three different projects due to drop over the next few months, tell us a bit about them.

Well, the follow up to 2016’s Veteran with Tone Chop is due to drop September 29th: Respect is Earned Not Given. For anybody who liked Veteran, they should love this album. It continues in the same tradition, but we feel strongly that we made a better album. It's a more full, more complete project, and you won’t have to use the fast forward button. Only time will tell if that’s true (laughs).

How does Respect Is Earned Not Given correlate to Veteran? Does it lead on in any way?

Yeah, it does. Well, Chop name checks all the tracks from the original album. He weaves them into his rhymes. The introduction is really a continuation of the story. He finally got, after all those years, the stage and the opportunity. Now that we’ve got our fans across the globe listening to him, he’s taking advantage of the opportunity. He’s giving more of a story, more personal information, and more of a background. I feel like it’s a great album.

Tell us how the project with Tragedy Khadafi is coming along.

Yeah, we’ve got a project called Rare Fabric, which is dropping in October. The first single has been out for about a month now and it’s doing really well. 'Roses' is the second single, which we just dropped with ZotheJerk and that’s a crazy track. So hopefully that’s going to do just as well.

Zo and I did Black Beach back in May, and of course, it was only natural to have him featured on this album. Both of them did an amazing job on it. Tragedy is a legend and somebody who has influenced two generations of rappers to come after him. To do the project together was a pretty amazing experience.

You've also got a solo project coming up as well. Have you noticed a difference in how you produce on your own solo records versus producing for other artists in any way?

Yeah, completely. With Chop's album, for example, we made almost 30 songs for consideration, and then we picked our favourite 14 to just really paint the best picture. I don't have the same luxury with the collaboration albums. You get a verse from a famous emcee on a particular track, and you're going to have to use that track. You can't swing and miss. I can experiment a bit more with the artists that I have an in-house relationship with, but also with a solo project, I do have the opportunity to use sounds and styles that I like. I do get to show a wider range of my styles and it is definitely a very different process.

What do you find inspires you as a producer?

Man, I tell ya, I wake up happy every day. The past couple of years have been a whirl-wind of progress. I've got music coming out with Horseshoe Gang and Tragedy Khadafi. I've got some joints with Royce Da 5'9" coming through as well. So, it's like I've already hit these thresholds that I had previously thought were unobtainable. I don't wake up going "man, I've got to accomplish more," I wake up going "man, life is great and I just want to maintain this."

So I want to see my team eat. I want to see Chop continue to get the recognition he deserves. I want to see ZotheJerk take his place at the table, and I've got another young cat named White Rhino, who's starting out as well. I just want to see my team grow and focus on those things, but mostly I'm just satisfied.

Absolutely. It sounds like you do have a proper team going and a hip hop family that you've developed. How does that tie in with working with 22 Entertainment and being a part of that label?

22 Entertainment has given me the platform. They allow me to plug into the pipeline that feeds music all over the earth. They don't expect me to compromise. Nobody says "make a record that sounds like the hot stuff going right now." I get to do me and that is such a privilege. I don't take that for granted.

 I've got a super solid team. Nobody is going to succeed, particularly considering how entertainment as whole is these days, without having great team. I've been putting that together for years and trying to break through. Now the platform is here and the team is in place. Everybody is pulling their weight and doing a great job. 

You really have been in the game for so long. Have your goals changed over the years? What were your goals at the beginning and have they changed over time?

Absolutely! I feel like it's taken me at least 15 years to break through and the first half of that I was doing it wrong and the second half I was doing it right. Of course there's a learning process that goes on. When I started out, I had the "old school mentality." I was aiming to get my beats in the hands of somebody who was going to make my dreams a reality, whether it be an artist or A&R or a record label, but it was an outdated mentality.

During that time, I elevated my skills and improved the quality of my mixes, so it wasn't wasted time per se. But I wish I had realised earlier on that the only path today is to treat yourself like an artist and to treat yourself like a record label. As well as to create something of value that's going to draw someone's attention. I got a good couple of mentors; B-Girl, Tony, even my publicist John, they each played a critical role in informing me how the modern music economy works. Now that I get it (laughs), I'm certainly going to do my best to realise those opportunities. 

For sure. The music industry has changed significantly and it must have been so interesting to watch it grow and change over the years.

Yes! I did not now how big and how wide and deep the indepentent music game was. I didn't know how many levels there were. It's something.

How did you come up with the name 'Frost Gamble?' Tell us how that originated.

Well 'Frost' comes from my last name 'Foster.' It was misspelled in the school register in about 6th Grade. It was spelt 'Froster' and that became 'Frosty' or later 'Frost' for short and I like it. I was glad that it stuck. It's been a name since childhood. 'Gamble' comes from 'gambling.' I used to play poker professionally for three years, so that's where the 'Gamble' comes from.

That's awesome. So, you're based in Winnipeg. How do you find the Canadian hip hop scene at the moment?

I love it. Here in Winnipeg, we have a very healthy local scene. There are events going on multiple times every week. Last month, there was a barbecue that a couple of local artists put on and brought a lot of local artists out. There's just a good sense of community here, man. There's some artists who have broken out and done some things nationally. Of course, we get overshadowed by Toronto and Vancouver because of the size of the media markets, but in terms of having a local culture and passion for hip hop, it's a very good place for that.

You've got so much happening already. What do you anticipate for the future? What's next for you?

It's a tough one. I am very focussed on 'stacking' music. Chop and I are constantly making new songs. Zo is a machine. I literally can't keep up with him and 22 Entertainment has done a great job at throwing new opportunities at me. I just finished a really busy stretch. I've been knocking out a lot of time in the studio, and I promised myself that I would take a break. Today was supposed to be the first day of that, but I've spent about 9 hours in the studio. I just love it. 

I don't know exactly what's going to come next, but I think it'll be a continuation of what I've been doing, which is creating hip hop that I want to listen to. To some extent, a traditional-based interpretation, more sample-based and drum machine-based hip hop. How that sounds and where that goes, I don't exactly know, but I know it'll be fun and that's good enough for me right now.

What moves you?

A lot of things. I'm a very passionate person. Politics moves me, social and racial injustice moves me. The world disgusts me for the most part (laughs). It's not a spectacular time to be awake for anybody who pays attention to US politics, global politics, and just the overall temperature of the world... literally and figuratively. So, I'm just trying to channel that and connect on a deeper level.

I like boxing as well, and what boxers go through. Real boxing that does not include Mixed Martial Arts (laughs).

So that's pretty much me. 

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Be sure to check out Respect Is Earned Not Given with Tone Chop due to drop September 29th.

Rare Fabric with Tragedy Khadafi is out October 20th.

His solo project, I Missed The Bus is TBA.

Pre-order now.

Follow Frost Gamble on the links below:

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Altering Perspectives With Jaq Lion

LA-based musician and emcee, Jaq Lion explores the art of story telling through his engaging artistry. He has just dropped his latest EP Inaug(yo)ur)ation and through his clever wordplay and enticing production, Jaq ignites the conversation on the current climate of today's society. Having lived in many countries across the globe and immersing himself amongst various cultures, Jaq instills an insight into the struggles of human kind whilst documenting a voice to rise above. 

We sit down with Jaq Lion and have a chat about his recent EP Inaug(yo)ur)ation, how he first got into creating music, and how living in Germany and South Korea has influenced his sound as an artist. Ayla Dhyani writes.

I hear you're out in Hawaii at the moment, what takes you out there?

Yeah, just a little holiday. I just proposed to my girlfriend yesterday… and she said yes! So, I'm definitely having a lot of fun over here. Hiking, beaches, swimming with the dolphins. I got to see some sea turtles and tropical fish. Lots of fun.

That sounds incredible. Congratulations! So you just dropped your latest EP Inaug(yo)ur)ation, which is spectacular. What does the record mean to you?

Well, the EP is really a statement of where I’m at in my life and where we are as a global community. There’s a little bit of a political statement with the title as well as the release date being connected to my contempt with Donald Trump being elected as President. It also reflects where we've come to as people in relation to technology, whilst sprinkling in sentiments of love and a blend of my views and how I see the world at this point from LA. I’ve travelled a lot, and I’ve been very fortunate to do so. This is kind of the first crack at creating an eclectic sound that would appeal to different folks, while maintaining an authenticity and integrity to my own story. I'm trying to create something that people can vibe with, but also hear a story in some ways.

You touched on having travelled quite a bit in the past. I heard you actually lived in Germany and South Korea for some time. Tell us about that.

I lived in Germany for four years. I actually went to high school there and then after high school, I lived in South Korea for about six months. When I was younger I lived in Portugal as well. There’s an island group called The Azores, and a lot of my early memories are from an island in the Atlantic Ocean with cobble stone streets and not a whole lot of development. I kind of bounced back between the US and living abroad in my coming up, so interesting perspectives developed as a consequence of that.

Do you think that living in those places has made an impact on your musical style?

Absolutely. 100%. I was able to live outside of America and the political landscapes that have been going on here over the past 20 years. Getting outside of that gave me a different perspective and a more globalised view of things as they are. Whenever there is a very specific ethnocentric bubble happening, being able to leave that behind and be challenged on a personal level allows you to engage in music outside of that comfort zone with different world music influences. Also being able to sing in German, French, Italian, and Spanish allowed me to take on different stories from different cultures and attempt an interpretation of those things through music, which really is our Universal Language. You pick up certain things like story elements and emotions that you didn’t even realise you had or could tap into. Music is really a gateway for that. I try to take it all with me as I go with different styles or techniques. In Germany, I felt that I got to sing a lot more of a classical styled music. I was able to carry that back to the States and continue on with that for a little while. 

I can completely relate. Travelling and immersing yourself in other cultures completely alters your perspective in a very positive way.

Exactly. It changes what appreciations you have for little things in life. There’s so much that I feel Americans take for granted and I think to be able to travel and see different cultures - well not only different cultures, but different economic situations as well and peoples’ struggle. It changes you and where that music comes from. Your soul is affected and your heart. It feels weighted.

On the hip hop side of things, what did you witness in terms of music scenes while you were travelling?

Oh yeah! Well in Germany, the drinking age is much lower than in the United States and I went to high school over there, so I was able to drink legally while I was in high school. I feel like that perspective is so different to the traditional American coming up where you could drive before you could drink, but in Germany you could drink before you could drive and we’d have a lot of fun nights going out with different music scenes. There was a lot of techno and house music that they loved in Germany. However, I feel like there was an international flair that was big in the UK or Australia or France that would appear in the charts in Germany. There was a really diverse appreciation of music and where it had come from. But also there was not as much Gospel while I was overseas and I feel like there is a lot more of a Gospel flavour in the States, which I particularly love as well as more RnB than some of the places I lived. I feel like South Korea was more technology-based music, which I definitely got an appreciation for. But then also traditional Korean music, which is worlds a part from the top chart music that we hear here in LA. I was able to draw from many of those elements and creatively, I had a lot to draw from (laughs).

Tell us how you first got into creating music.

I started singing when I was a kid and my Mum would play popular jams on the radio. Anything from Marriah Carey to Boyz II Men. I would sing along and I liked music from a very early age. I didn’t start singing in organised groups until I was in high school, but I didn’t start creating my own music outside of poetry or songs that I had kept personal or private until much later. I didn’t really do anything with those except to develop them for myself and to sharpen some of my own writing skills. It was really when I moved to Los Angeles and had been living there for a few years when I started doing song writing for a band called High Sunday. Then for another band called Genocide Entertainment as well as my own individual music. My fiancee and I - I’m just gonna throw that out there - (laughs) are a singing duo called Jaq-n-Gina, so we started making music together. We just started with some covers and we’re putting those out on iTunes and eventually our long term goal is to not only cover music. We want to get the ball rolling with just arranging popular music as covers in ways that you haven’t really heard before. We try and tell a better story… or more our story.

It’s great that you’re putting it all out there. And it such a short amount of time as well. Tell us about a significant moment that stands out for you. Is there a particular time on stage or in the studio that really spoke to you?

(Laughs), okay yeah definitely. There are a couple of moments that really stand out. One was performing at the Keller Auditorium in Portland, Oregon. I performed in a production where there were thousands of people that went to see the Opera. I think just seeing that many people applauding was one of those moments that was breathtaking and unforgettable. It really inspired me to keep going no matter what. It wasn’t always easy to learn the material or to break through and become a part of the artist committee, but the reward was tremendous. The other one was performing with High Sunday at The House of Blues, which was just another moment of “wow, I can’t believe we’re actually here.” We were in the Viper Room in West Hollywood. It was such an iconic venue, and being there was so humbling. I realised that through those experiences, I love to perform, and love to act and tell stories. But, I think that there’s a challenge in creating my own music and telling my own stories. It can move people. It’s fun to perform what other people have written, but it is wildly engaging to perform your own story and be vulnerable. It’s a wild ride, but I love it.

What do you anticipate for the future?

 I’m working on another album with Genocide Entertainment called Rocket Science & Brain Surgery. The album is dropping this year, as well as another Jaq Lion solo EP. As of yet, it’s untitled, but the music on this new project is some of my favourite music that I’ve created and I’m super excited to release it. Jaq-n-Gina are also moving forward. We have a new Single that’s coming out. It’s a cover of “Like I’m Gonna Lose You” and there’s a music video for that. I’m really excited to see what kind of new projects we take on.

What moves you?

I honestly can say that compassion moves me more than anything else. To see people have compassion for other people and for myself to feel compassion for others. It’s a very moving feeling and it’s hard to describe in total, but I think that there’s something about adversity and we all go through it. When we see people struggling, I feel like no matter where I’ve lived across the globe and no matter how hard the times are, anything at all that’s happening in our world, I feel like it almost always turns out that there are people who will be compassionate. There are always people who will help other people in need. Sometimes that’s been myself being helped by others, and sometimes I’ve been able to be the one showing that compassion and helping others. It’s really humbling and a thing of grace. Then outside of that it’s you know… love. Love and compassion, which is such a cliché (laughs). I think for most musicians, those two concepts are at play within the writing process.

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Understanding Mirrah As The B-Girl, The Soulstress And The Human

Sydney-based artist, Mirrah has blessed us with the first instalment, LIFE, from her forthcoming EP trilogy series. Mirrah embodies pure heart and soul into all that she creates. She narrates her compelling story of her upbringing, and engages deeply with the importance of self-empowerment. Acknowledging the roles that Mirrah has undertaken to shape who she is today, we take a look at how she epitomises what it means to be the B-girl, the soulstress and herself as a human in every aspect of her life.

We chat to Mirrah about how dance has impacted her connection to music as an artist, how soul has empowered her, and what message she is instilling in her listeners in her latest EP LIFE. Ayla Dhyani writes.

The B-Girl

Tell us how the hip hop genre first spoke to you.

I was introduced to hip hop at the age 4 on Venice Beach, California. It was more break-beat and disco funk sounds. That's when I saw pop-lockers and B-boys who spoke through dance moves. I knew then that that was going to be a movement my soul was going to resonate and be apart of. I also was introduced to Public Enemy, Rakim and MC Lyte, and knew that their messages and cadence was what became my early teenage soundtrack.

Has your dance career made an impact on your style and connection to music as an artist? 

My dance movement and clothes style is very much connected and reflects my personal rhythm. Its vibration has an individual language that allows me to converse with it through movement and groove.

How does hip hop influence you in your every day life? 

Metaphorically, music has a inviting rhythm, sound, vibe, and frequency and I feel that it doesn't prejudge nor have a barrier. It is pure freedom for all to enjoy. That is why I feel hip hop culture and its music enables people to connect. I feel I reflect that part of hip hop souls element.

The Soulstress

Tell us a bit about your creative process as an artist.

My process hasn't a barrier. It depends on where my creativity wishes to exit. I either write poems or I may listen to a beat and aim to share my vocal perception of its story. I just love when it glows naturally. I see hip hop as a wider purpose in music, a way to connect with creativity and learn about African American peoples culture and now translating all worldwide communities who share their stories. I have learned to also naturally resonate either positive vibes like a catalyst to empower, realign awareness, strengthen self and strengthen all people (especially females) by building confidence, self respect and cultural pride.

Who has influenced you over the years?

In terms of storytellers and social awareness, Nina Simone and Bob Dylan. For cadence and tonation, it would be Rakim, NAS, and Phife Dawg (for his vocal tone, his fun lyrical, backhanded comical and serious story tone). For mixing singing with rhyming and controlled cadence and lyrical flow, Neneh Cherry, Mary J Blige, MC Lyte, Bahamadia, and Lauryn Hill. Public Enemy and Big Daddy kane has influenced my performance strength. Then the main bands who made an impact to my life as a hip hopper would be The Roots, TLC, The Fugees,Soul II Soul, Pete Rock and CL Smooth, Caberet SOHO: Hot music, ATCQ, De La Soul, Pharcyde, Mobb Deep and Wutang Clan.

How has soul empowered you? 

Self-empowerment takes time. Soul is found once you acknowledge what feels good and relaxes your spirit and vibrates freedom. So it definitely continues to empower me daily in my life happiness and aspirations.

The Human Being

How has your background and upbringing shaped you?

As an adopted child at 4 months old, who has moved and lived in many countries with my beautiful loving multicultural family, I have matured to acknowledge and respect many races, cultures and faiths. Also my parents taught me to work towards my aims and that being spoon fed doesn't teach you to know how to feed self. So I feel I resonate honestly, my inner best as a humble fellow life student, to respect others and to have fun with what I wish to share in the world. 

What is the biggest hurdle you’ve had to overcome? 

I am a survivor of anxiety. 

What is the strongest message you’re sharing with your listeners in your debut EP Life?

It's vibration and undertone is as if you heard it like a classic vinyl on a light breezy, summers day and you feel positively refreshed about life. Each song has a personal meaning to how music makes me feel and the importance of communicating my feelings of each subject. 'So Right' reflects how music gives me life. 'Reasons' is a mixed message of how positive love is as equal as great music, metaphorically, makes one feel. 'We Wanna Know'  declares the importance of life as an ethnic multicultural background, or how the indifferences in our world are. It acknowledges that violence and ignorance needs to stop killing LIFE. 'On My Level' acknowledges that wonderful feeling of finding likeminded people in your life. Then 'Lil Vicki' is about sharing empowerment to young ladies or to those who have become victims to society's false requests of how we are supposed to be seen and accepted in this world. 

What moves you? 

My first EP is called Life. My acronym describes how, what and why 'life' moves me: I Live.Intentionally.Forever.Evolve. It comes from being a grateful adopted child and appreciate being a humble student daily.

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