Jazz Cartier Talks Toronto, Virtual Reality, and Navigating the Media

Jazz Cartier doesn’t like doing too many interviews. He speaks bluntly — preferring superlatives to subtleties — and sometimes that means saying something in the moment, which he’d later like to reconsider.

But he get’s it: hip-hop is competition. And when you’re the self-proclaimed "Prince of the City” in Toronto, you’ve got a lot to live up to.

Cartier has made a name for himself in Canada. Two of his mixtapes — 2015’s Marauding in Paradise and 2016’s Hotel Paranoia — were longlisted for the prestigious Polaris Music Prize, a grand musical Canadian honor on par with a high-five from Wayne Gretzky. Last year, his song “Dead or Alive” was shortlisted for the SOCAN Songwriting Prize, another Canadian award that aims to recognize emerging musical talent. But even though he didn't win either, he still loves his city. But his eyes are on the horizon, and his sights stretch well past the Great White North. 

Cartier took some time out of his day at the studio to chat with New Times about his inspirations and artistry before he joins us this week for 3 Days in Miami.

New Times: How did you first get into rapping and what attracted you to the craft?
Jazz Cartier: I first got into rapping like many, fooling around not taking it serious at all. But I think it was around 11 or 12 when I first started making songs and taking the craft seriously. I was always into Black Sheep, Busta Rhymes, Ludacris, and Lil Flip — I liked the way they carried themselves and brought expression to every song.

What was your experience the first time you performed in front of other people?
It was pre-season for football, and one of the captains of the team heard that I rapped from my previous school. Three of them came over to my room and dragged me to the dorm where all the football players were staying and they had on the "Cannon" beat by Wayne and that's really how I got my start.

You’re a Toronto native but moved a lot growing up. How did this traveling influence your lyrics and progression as an artist?
I've just seen a lot and been exposed to a lot of cultures, which I never took into account until I got older. A lot of people stay in the same city their whole lives and I was fortunate enough to live all around the world and all the experiences definitely shaped my artistry.

When are you satisfied with your music?
When I get to perform it for people.

Where did the idea originate to shoot the "Red Alert" music video in virtual reality?
Jon Riera came to me with the idea and we sat on it for a couple months to plan it out. The process took three full days and that really opened my eyes to the other side of video production. I just saw the opportunity as a new way to touch the people. It's been out there and it hasn't been done the way we did. Now, hopefully someone takes that and does a better job and keeps the art of VR videos evolving.

What is the biggest misunderstanding people have about Toronto?
I'm not too sure to be honest. I hear so many but none ever register with me cause I don't really take it in cause I'm from here.

Do you worry about being misrepresented in the media?
All the time — that's why I don't like doing too many interviews. But I'm learning along the way to watch what I say or how I say things. But the game is competition. That's what keeps things interesting. I just don't let a lot of things get to me at this point. I see the bigger picture and there's room for everyone to eat.

How do you keep your relationships at home strong when you’re out on the road?
I try my best to keep communication up but sometimes I'm so physically and mentally exhausted that it's hard. Some days I don't even want to look at my phone with Twitter, Instagram, emails, texts, Facebook, WhatsApp — it's just all overwhelming at times but I'm trying. I always keep in touch with the people closest to me though.

You’re young — but how do you want to be remembered?
As a phenom.

Red Bull Sound Select Presents 3 Days in Miami with Jazz Cartier, AlunaGeorge, A$AP Ferg, Cashmere Cat, and others. 9 p.m. Thursday, September 1, through Saturday, September 3, at the Hangar, 60 NE 11th St., Miami; 305-702-3257; Tickets cost $15 per day via
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Dyllan Furness is Miami New Times' "foreign" correspondent. After earning a degree in philosophy from the University of Florida, he crossed the pond and dove into music, science, and technology from Berlin.
Contact: Dyllan Furness