By Quincy Jones
I first crossed paths with Evren a couple years back at a friend’s place — a low-key Friday night of spinning records. He was passing through on a mission: to walk around Queen West with a bottle of Jack Daniel’s and a camera, trying to get people to reveal their most embarrassing moments. He got mine.
Evren’s rhymes are often politically charged; his beats and melodies often incorporate his Turkish roots. His work as an artist, writer, and producer has led to the release of two independent albums — Conflict of Interest (2002) and Unknown MC (2004) — earning him credits on many international compilations including with MGM Australia, Sony, and Universal Music Canada. He has also had enormous success writing and producing music for national advertising campaigns by Telus, Nike and Toyota, as well as developing original tracks for TV shows such as Instant Star, Degrassi: The Next Generation, and Billable Hours.
We caught up recently and he couldn’t resist the chance for an interview.
MONDO: So E, let’s just start at the beginning: what got you into music in the first place?
Evren: Definitely my mom. She had a vast collection of LPs: funk, soul, jazz, rock, and pretty much every genre available at the time.
MONDO: How long have you been at this, then?
E: I first started rhyming at the age of 13. I remember a DJ friend of mine who lived in our building at the time told me that he was gonna start making beats. He was almost seven years older than me, and had been spinning records for quite some time. I was a hip hop dancer then, dancin’ at parties and events and such, and I told him, if he starts makin’ beats, then I would start rhymin’ and soon enough he had bought a sampler, and shortly after that I wrote my first song called “Sad Song.” I made my first beat using his gear within two years of that, and have been writing lyrics and music ever since.
MONDO: So describe your style/vibe?
E: It depends. It’s kind of a hard thing to define as I do a lot of different types of music and projects. I write songs for other artists as well as for myself — but for my own songs, the ones I perform, I would describe it as hip hop for the masses. Music for all people — a bit of party, a bit of deep thought, a bit of humor —kind of a well-rounded style that remains true to who I am as a person and artist.
MONDO: How has your Turkish background influence your music?
E: I was born in the city of Istanbul, but came to Canada when I was ten-months old, so I pretty much grew up here. Musically, I’d say it has influenced me in a big way. Rhythmically and melodically, Turkish music has always been a big part of my life, lending itself to play a big role in a sound I would later define as my own. I used to sample my parents’ records, finding the best samples that no one else had access to. My friends used to be, like, “Lemme guess — another Turkish sample!”
MONDO: What’s you favorite place to perform in Toronto?
E: I’ve played at a number of places in the city. The Reverb, the Kathedral, Healey’s, Lee’s Palace, Super Market, the Gladstone and many more — to date, though it’s not one of my favorite venues, I’d say the sound, both on and off stage, at The Drake Underground was one of the best places I’ve played. I’ve had a number of great shows at all kinds of venues, but for T.O. I’d have to stick to the Minority/Rhymestone show at the Drake Underground.
MONDO: And who are your biggest musical influences?
E: Naturally hip hop — everything from ‘91 to ‘94 had a huge impact on me in regards to hip hop. I’m a huge Tupac fan — but there were so many wicked artists from the time. Tribe Called Quest, NWA, the Ghetto Boys, Eric B and Rakim, Busta Rhymes, Dr. Dre, Snoop, Souls of Mischief, the Fugees, and the list goes on and on. My favorite artist of all time, hands down, would have to be Bob Marley. Musically, his songs are complete to me. So to answer the question, anything with a happenin’ groove, including Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, Led Zeppelin, the Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, the Meters, Gloria Gaynor.
MONDO: What annoys you the most about the Toronto scene?
E: I’d say what troubles me most with the hip hop scene in Toronto is how disconnected we all are as artists and producers. People are into reppin’ one part of the city and not the other, and that can only keep us divided as a unified music scene. There is so much talent here, yet crowds at shows can be so standoffish when it comes to supporting local talent. It seems people here only support there own once they’ve been validated in another city, like New York, or LA, or London — that will always be an issue that hinders our growth as a scene. Once we learn to support our own, only then will we begin to grow as a scene and create enough of an environment that makes people wanna stay here and become successful. That’s what bugs me the most about The Toronto hip hop scene.
MONDO: What do you love about rap?
E: I love all of it! The beats, the samples, the grooves, the rhyme and flows! All of it! I love the amount of info you can jam-pack into the lyrics and the way you can take any ordinary topic and make it sound awesome with the right rhymes. I love the attitude and energy you can express with it — the passion, the power, the anger, the love — I love how I can understand the lyrics to every rap song I’ve ever heard, like it’s another language. Seriously, I really do love it all.
MONDO: What projects do you have on the go?
E: I currently have a record what has just been completed entitled I Think Not, which will be available in the fall of 2008. Two of the songs on this album have already been featured in advertising campaigns, the song “The One” for a Telus spot, and the other song, “Do I Go,” which was featured on a Toyota Matrix spot. I’m really excited about this record and I hope that people dig it as much as we do. Many more records to make and I hope to keep working with artists as talented as the ones I’ve had the pleasure to work with.
MONDO: Cheers ya E!
E: Peace, Q!