Concrete Mob is a seasoned rap group hailing from the Esplanade section of downtown Toronto, Canada. Blackjak and Deuce Deuce are the veteran emcees who make up the critically acclaimed Concrete Mob. Blackjak and Deuce both grew up as childhood friends, beat-boxing and reciting rhymes on their downtown neighborhood streets. They started their duo posse in 1996, making a name for themselves in the Toronto hip-hop scene.
The 'hustle' was never just a cocky play on words for this hip-hop group; it had always been a reality. These skilled word-poets are taking the old school hustle they know and love to a whole new level, and re-defining it with every step.
These ambitious rappers are pushing their talent like true entrepreneurs. Music has simply become their new product for sale.
Blackjak and Deuce Deuce are the veteran emcees who make up the critically acclaimed Concrete Mob. Blackjak and Deuce both grew up as childhood friends, beat-boxing and reciting rhymes on their neighborhood streets of downtown Toronto, Canada. They started their duo posse in 1996, making a name for themselves in the Toronto hip-hop scene.
For almost ten years, fans have been anxiously waiting for new material from these emcees.
From the beginning, Concrete Mob promoted their talent like true hip-hop pioneers. Back in 1996, community radio stations like Ryerson University's CKLN 88.1 FM station and University of Toronto's CIUT 89.5 FM were the only outlets for urban artists, with Flow 93.5 FM debuting in 2001.
Concrete Mob pushed their single Boiling Point on the street and on air until CKLN FM paid attention and their tracks skyrocketed to #1 -- and stayed there for weeks. Concrete Mob became a city-wide hit with hip-hop heads.
They showcased their talent at local club and concert events. Soon, music executives started to take notice and within a couple of months the newest Canadian hip-hip duo was signed to Groove A Lot Records.
With the emergence of Concrete Mob as one of Canada's awaited rap groups, the Toronto hip-hop scene had never been stronger. The city was mesmerized by the lyrics and delivery of Blackjak and Deuce Deuce, and just couldn't get enough. Concrete traveled south of the border where fans started to pay attention. In 1997, Miami welcomed Concrete for the How Can I Be Down tour.
It seemed like after all of their hard work and hustling, Concrete Mob had finally arrived.
Concrete Mob got recognition, but the business side of things began to take a different turn. Shortly after signing with Groove A Lot Records, Concrete Mob signed to EMI Music Publishing. Everything seemed to be falling into place, as Concrete Mob signed a $10,000 contract with EMI for publishing. "We had real mainstream cats cheering for us and we were on our way, but things didn't go as planned,” says Blackjak.
Concrete Mob became hungry for success, and nothing was going to stop them from pushing their talent. With the help of production from childhood friend and long-time producer Scam, they sold over 10, 000 copies of the Boiling Point compilation independently, impressing underground rap cats in Toronto and internationally. They also sold over 5, 000 copies of their self-titled EP in 2000 was also sold, despite run-ins with the law.
“Life holds you back sometimes. We got into problems with the law and got deterred from our music. We managed to support ourselves and other artists on our own,” says Deuce Deuce.
Concrete Mob rhymes about personal experiences. Concrete Mob isn't in the game for profit only. These emcees believe that their music has something that hip hop is lacking -- substance.
"I want people to relate to our music," says Deuce Deuce. "We want to get them inside our heads and our experiences in life. Our music is about real issues."
Concrete Mob is persuading Flow 93.5 FM radio deejays to play their slick new material. The group is also working on an EP for a spring release. Songs like "Katastrope," featuring songstress Shy Love, "Game Is," and "My Pain is Deep," are a few of the tracks to be featured on the EP. Concrete Mob also plans to release a tight-versed full album in Summer 2006, with razor-edged lyrics and smooth production. Scam will lay over most of the album, with auspicious beat producer, Bobby, putting finishing touches on future releases. Anticipated emcee and childhood friend Lucho "Lucky" will also be featured on a number of new tracks by Concrete Mob.
The sky's the limit. Keep your ears and face to the street, Concrete is just around the corner.
Toronto ON - As I drove with my photographer Roxy through the fall-bitten streets of Toronto, towards the home-based recording studio of Concrete Mob, a jolt of nervousness emerged within me. I wasn't exactly sure how to approach these three men, nor sure of how they would respond to my questions and even how I would react to their responses, but I was sure hoping the prospect of ambiguity would be left behind along with the autumn green and brown leaves that fell from the trees surrounding my parked car. My photographer and I met an adorable young boy of about ten, who I eventually learned to be the son of Concrete Mob member Deuce Deuce. We walked into the recording studio and were surrounded by at least 10,000 records plastered on walls and shelved on cases, from artists varying through Marvin Gaye to Curtis Mayfield. The welcoming group, composed of DJ Scam, Deuce Deuce and Black Jack, approached me and we shook hands. After remembering my research and the tracks I previously listened to, I was thrilled. These are men who just left a 10-year hiatus, prepping to make a heavy comeback into the Canadian hip-hop scene, and I'll be one of the first to interview them. Here is how it went down:
HHC: I was checking out your website, and I saw that you guys began about ten years ago during a time when Canadian hip-hop was just booming, can you take us back to 1996, how did Concrete Mob begin?
Scam: We all grew up in the same neighborhood, down in the Esplanade. We grew up right in the St. Lawrence market with nothing to do in our area. I mean no recreation, no community centers, so we just started hanging out. I was a DJ, Deuce Deuce and Black Jack were rappers, so we decided to bring our art forms together; it was a natural thing. I started DJ-ing on the radio, they started rapping, we decided that in order to stay out of trouble, idleness and crime, we should just do what we loved to do, and at the time, that was to create music.
HHC: Where did the name Concrete Mob come from?
Deuce Deuce: Static. Black Jack came up with that name. Black Jack had that vision of a "concrete mob" while I was incarcerated at the time. When I got out, he had the idea of us forming a group; I mean Scam already had his contacts in the music world, it fit like a glove on the hand, so the concept was very accessible to us; equipment, turntables and stuff. But it was Statics' (Black Jack) original idea; you know he loved music he loved to write.
HHC: Being Veterans in this hip-hop world, how do you contribute to the modern Canadian hip-hop scene and the international hip-hop scene as a whole, while remaining true to your traditional identity?
Scam: See I don't even listen to that much hip-hop, I can't speak for them but I mean…they listen to it more than me. When I do music and we hook up, we just do what we do; whatever comes out... We don't have a fixed formula or type of mode to make music. I think we're different from other artists that come out of Canada, because honestly I don't feel like Canada has been represented properly. I feel like we're the voice: Beats, rhymes, lives. We'll rap over anything.
HHC: Tell me about 1996, when your first single "Boiling Point" came out. What inspired you? Who produced it and how'd you promote it?
Deuce Deuce: We recorded the song at the studio of an artist named Frankenstein. When we got it out back then there was a CKLN demo battle, Ryerson Power move show, where people would call in and vote for the best. Out of four groups, there were four champs and they would put the champions of each week against each other and we won the competition.
HHC: What was the prize for that?
Black Jack: Bragging rights. It was a huge thing because there was no such thing in Canada as promotion. That was our only outlet; there was no Flow 93.5. Every Saturday morning that was the only time you could hear hip-hop. On Saturday afternoons at 1 to 4 that's the closest thing you could get to hip-hop, poor signal and all. Through that experience we got signed through Groove-A-Lot records and we also connected with EMI Publishing. They're probably best known for "Ghetto Concept." Virtually society and music between then and now has changed a lot.
HHC: Really, elaborate on how things have changed? What's so different?
Scam: Well we're an independent label; we choose to be this way because nowadays if you go to most labels, especially the major labels, you have to follow a trend, they package you a certain way, tell you what to be and who to target. Concrete Mob does whatever we want on our own time, our own packaging, and our own productions, to us that really is keeping it real.
HHC: What has Concrete Mob been up to for the past decade, to preserve your identity, lyrical genius and spot in the music world?
Deuce Deuce: We've been making music, but we never really put it out based on problems in life that deterred us from pushing our art. The law and stuff came into play, caught up in affairs that separated us; our interests and our responsibilities. It's very difficult to make a living off of hip-hop in Canada; therefore, promotion at the time wasn't a main priority. To me, hip-hop is a black male American art form, so to be from Canada, where the music isn't really prevalent in the communities, there's no real income, and sometimes you have to choose reality over fantasy. But we all love music. We're forever writing music, Scam is forever making beats; we got a love for it like it's our calling, our expression, and our release. We've also shifted gears now…from creative mode to business mode. We're ready to step out of the studio and step into the boardroom, we have the product now is the time for distribution. Our hiatus gave us some time to learn, develop and enhance or motivation, we don't see enough outlets that are willing to take real music serious, but now we've learned the game and we see that the work of music and business is interchangeable.
HHC: Many would say Canadian hip-hop is missing something that the US shows abundance in…what would you…
Deuce Deuce: Concrete Mob. I mean I'm not saying you have to be a gangster to rap and stuff or talk about dope game, but that's what it's missing to me. There is no real voice out here. People are not fully represented here, they're just riddling for the sake of riddling. Even in American music, everything is just washed up and watered down right now. Concrete Mob; we like to approach different topics, hit the home base and the streets.
HHC: Do you guys want to remain Canadian based or would you like to expand into the Global stream.
Black Jack: Global. Obviously, but Toronto is still in our blood. I mean this is where we came from, who we are. No matter what we do it will always be like that. Even if we make it big and have houses in Hawaii and Spain, Toronto is still the home base.
HHC: So your mixtape is slated for a late 2006 - early 2007 release, what will be your first single and have you thought of any titles yet?
Deuce Deuce: Ha, you know what? We haven't even come up with any of the titles for that. The way we do things, we basically make the music, and then at the end we go through our products and add the titles to seal off the package. But we've got our mixtape done, over 20 songs so far. We also have another mixtape coming out that's in the works. It's going to be called from TO to OT featuring Dillyn White as well as other artists from both Toronto and Ottawa.
HHC: Scam are you doing most of the production on this mixtape? Do you have any other contributing artists making their mark on the tape?
Scam: We got Lucho coming out, Lucky Luciano, all based in Toronto. We also got Gizelle Shylove singing some hooks. Trish Campbell is another young, beautiful unbelievably talented artist we have on this. Bobby is another hot producer featured.
HHC: What works best for Concrete Mob in terms of recording? Do you have any specific modes or do you follow your vibe?
Deuce Deuce: Usually, Scam will have a beat and we'll take it into the studio and get to it. I mean sometimes Scam will produce a beat right on the spot to match how we feel.
HHC: Describe the atmosphere of the Concrete Mob studio? What's it like in there? How do you feel when you connect the energy to the music?
Deuce Deuce: If I'm sad or something is stressing me out, it will be reflected in my music. I have been through a lot of crime related and family related problems. A lot of our music is real. Nowadays rapping is fantasy rap. I hear rappers all the time talking about "I'm going to shoot you." I even hear Canadian rappers saying things along those lines.
Scam: Some out there are talking about George Bush and FBI, CIA, and we live in Toronto. You can at least be a little bit creative and talk about Paul Martin and at least 51 Division to sound real, you know. It's cool and appealing, but I mean let's hit something that's closer to home.
HHC: [Still Laughing] What can we expect to hear on the new mixtape? Do you have a mixture of textures and styles or is it pretty much a theme-based production?
Deuce Deuce: It's like hustle rap, with the themes of trial and tribulation incorporated. I'm taking your hand and letting you walk with me, to see how I live; personal stories that just translate over music. We want you to listen to the music but also the lyrics. We also have songs that can be perceived as club bangers, but we're not going out there with a formula or package to make up a dance or a lifestyle based on one song. For example "Lean wit it rock wit it", is just us in the studio doing what we do. The product or the response from that is for the public, not for us to decide. We just want one chance for the world to embrace it.
HHC: So now we see behind the mentality of Concrete Mob as artists, but what about as business men, how do you plan to promote your music this time, to obtain a wider audience? Do you feel anything has changed in terms of promotional outlets in this day and age?
Scam: Yeah, definitely. Digital technology has really advanced. Now we have YouTube, MuchVibe, Flow 93.5's, BlackBerrys and all sorts of forces that we can utilize to get our music across; so many opportunities. We can do a song right now, as soon as you ladies leave and that can be on the Internet in 10 minutes. Someone in Japan could be jamming to Concrete Mob. For sure word of mouth and the streets plays an important role. Sometimes you don't want to be a social butterfly, but you have to. In this game, it's all about networking and whom you know.
Deuce Deuce: HipHopCanada.com is also good. It's so easy and accessible and we give a lot of respect to that organization because of the audience it reaches and the fact that it is out there to glorify the talent within this country. We think that once people hear our music it will be osmosis, infectious and pumped. There will always be haters, because even God has devil worshippers and people who hate him. There will always be people who don't want to appreciate.
HHC: Do you have any lasting words to say, ideas or shout outs to send out? Any closing words for the fans?
Deuce Deuce: Canada's illest original group is coming back, to claim their spot. We gave them a chance and now Deuce Deuce, Black Jack and Scam are back. I could spit you the most game, but it's all about the music; at the end of the day, it's the music that will speak for itself.