Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Canada can Hip Hop!

Here's a review I wrote for the IODA Marketing Blog of Canadian producer/rapper Mantis' debut album titled "Still Life."

By: Elijah Carroll

Still LifeMantis
"You Don't Know" (mp3)
Album: Still Life
(Brick Records)
More On This Album
Genre: Hip-Hop : Rap
Release Date: 7/21/09
UPC: 765481500233
Territory: World

"Possibly one of Canada's freshest offspring of the love triangle between funk, soul, and hiphop, rapper/producer Mantis is the essence of urban music personified." -from Mantis' Myspace

Highly melodic beats bump as Mantis deftly spits his intelligent yet accessible lyrics with the skill of a seasoned veteran. From the opening bars of Still Life it's clear there's a new force in Hip Hop coming to us from north of the border.

"Born on the 16th of September 1984, Mantis embodies the love of music passed down to him from his father, a guitarist in a local blues outfit and organizer of many celebrated jazz, blues, and funk festivals in the Southern-Ontario city of Kitchener/Waterloo. First picking up the drumsticks, then the microphone, then finally mastering the art of music production at the Trebas Institute in Toronto, Mantis represents the finest in hiphop culture in all that he creates." -from Mantis' Myspace

Having already produced tracks for the likes of JD Era, Shad K and Point Blank, Mantis is no newcomer to the up and coming Canadian hip hop scene. His track "I Don't Like To" was the lead single to Shad K's 2008 Juno Award nominated album - The Old Prince. With guest appearances on Still Life supplied by Rufus John, Justis, Hajah Bug and others there's no doubt that Mantis in the middle of the freshest hip hop coming out of Canada today. Unfortunately for Mantis and his collaborators, Canadian hip hop still faces a huge challenge when breaking into the American market. Only a few Canadian hip hop artists such as Kardinal Offishaal have achieved any success in America.

Though firmly rooted in the present Mantis' sound is more mid-90's new school than current day. His combination of live instrumentation, soulful samples and melodic flow fit more closely with The Roots than Lil' Wayne. His Lyrics are thoughtful and well crafted without becoming overly wordy. Mantis is clearly steeped in hip hop history and has an amazing sense for blending the past and present. Likewise he carefully toes the line between indie and mainstream referencing and even partially quoting Jay-Z while also sampling Common. From the classic soul samples of "You Don't Know" to the musical layering on "Bounce Back" Mantis displays production talent to match the best in the industry. Combine this with his cool melodic flow and you have the best up and coming rapper/producer since Kanye West.

Mantis has already opened up for Canadian hip hop's biggest star Kardinal Offishaal as well as the K-Os, Jeru the Damaja, and CL Smooth. His talent is undeniable and his craft is clearly honed and ready. The question is whether or not the hip hop world is ready for Mantis. The answer is yet to be determined, but one thing is clear: It is time for American hip hop fans to look to the north and embrace our Canadian neighbors.

Here's one more track for the road:

Still LifeMantis
"What? (feat. Justis)" (mp3)
from "Still Life"
(Brick Records)

More On This Album

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