Gee, a Toronto born rapper recently released an EP album titled “Fauna Flora” is an artist creating ambient musical soundscapes of different genres, from, Island Vibe music, Hip Hop, to R&B, to House inspired by artists like Kanye West, Dr. Dre, J. Dilla, Pharrell, and The RZA. We got the chance to ask him question and get to know him as an artist. Here’s how our conversation went:
Tell me about you, where you grew up and how you got into the music you are creating now?
I’m a Toronto born Rapper, Singer, Music Producer and DJ. I’m the 1st born of parents that moved from the Philippines to Canada in the 80’s. I was raised in Mississauga, a suburban city just outside of Toronto, in households always filled with music, whether it was R&B and House from my Titas and Titos, Classic Rock from my dad, or Broadway musicals from my mom. I grew up surrounded by different genres of music, gravitating to a lot of Pop as a kid. My 1st major exposure into Hip Hop was through one of my older cousins, that would always play Hip Hop in his car when he took me out, and would burn his albums and mixtapes for me to keep. Through him, I was exposed to golden era Hip Hop, adopting one of his favourite groups, Wu-Tang Clan, as my own.
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Growing up, my initial passion was in illustration, aiming to go into a Visual Arts program in College, yet without knowing, I always had a deeper interest in music. From experimenting with sound in everyday life, to downloading Music Production and DJing programs, to writing raps to recite during recess in elementary school, my writing utensils slowly became less for drawing and more for writing rhymes. When I decided to take my passion for music more seriously, I ended up studying Independent Music Production at Seneca@York College in Toronto, which I graduated with honours in 2012.
I’m also the Musical Director of the Toronto based Filipino Folk Dance group Folklorico Filipino Canada, which has had an impact both in the development of my musicality and learning more about my indigenous Filipinx roots. Being a member since 2006, learning how to play traditional Filipinx songs through instruments such as the Drum, Kulintangan, and Agung has helped feed my knowledge of music production and trained my ear for music. In turn, my deeper knowledge I’ve gained from studying Hip Hop music has given me a better understanding of sound, which feeds my musicality as our group’s lead musician. I wouldn’t be the artist that I am without both aspects of my musical expertise thriving off one other.
In the span of my career thus far, I’ve been blessed with many great opportunities, from performing at the same showcases as Russell (fka D-Pryde) & Majid Jordan, DJing for the Toronto Raptors meet-&-greets and one of Daniel Caesar’s concerts, and performing in festivals worldwide, from notable Canadian ones such as Canadian Music Week and NXNE, to others in the US, Spain, Portugal, Czech Republic, & Mexico.
Has there been any challenges you had to face so far in your pursuit of music?
The most difficult thing for me to overcome is breaking out and levelling up my music career. As talented as you might be, that will only get you so far unless you make the right moves with your career, connect with the right people, and get the right listeners discovering your sound.
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The way I’m trying to master that is by studying the careers of my favourite artists and making similar moves, as well as trying to keep myself on the radar musically and socially as much as I can. I’m always keeping an eye for great opportunities and trying to attract positive energy from the right people.
Is there a philosophy behind your music, if so, what is it about?
On the aspect of music production, I always strive to find ways to innovate my sound and have a different approach to my music. If you listen to every project I’ve released, each album is a different style, theme and concept.
Even if I’m working on genres I haven’t dabbled in much before, I’ll study those genres and dissect how to create drums, progressions and sequences that fit those genres without blatantly copying songs of that sound. In the lyrical aspect, I try to maintain a balance of speaking my truth, showing vulnerability, yet still having fun with wordplay and melodies.
Share with me something you’re working on accomplishing right now.
I find that I often have struggles with promoting my own music to reach more listeners and grow my fan base. A lot of musicians always struggle with the creation process and|or completing music, but we should all realize (as independent artists) that the next important step after that is properly promoting and marketing your music.
All the hard work and time that we put into perfecting our creations will be all for naught if we don’t find ways for others to hear what we have to say. I think that learning how to be better myself on the business side of my music career or connecting with someone who can help me with that will definitely expand my reach to more new listeners and elevate my fan base.
Your music career, what do you want it to become?
The foundation of my career is to be the Dante Basco or Manny Pacquiao of music and make an impact in music in Hip Hop history. I aspire to be remembered as a not the best at one aspect of music, but one of the best multi faceted creatives.
I want my story to inspire the creativity in others to resonate with those that have lived similar tribulations. I also hope to bring more awareness and shed more light on traditional Filipinx culture through my own music career.
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Raphael Tigno is the Founder and Creative Director of the magazine website vibeant.com. VIBEANT is an online magazine bridging global culture in fashion, art, music, culinary, subcultures, and lifestyles across the world. Pronounced as "VIBE" + "ANT", a literal translation of "ANTS ENERGY" a reference to "BAYANIHAN" virtue of Filipinos.