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Interview w/ Vince The Messenger


Vince The Messenger is a hip-hop artist hailing from Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. His musical style mixes boom-bap with golden-era hip-hop. When I noticed he was in Toronto, and reached out for an interview, I half expected to meet someone enigmatic and stoic as his uniquely cutting, introspective, dose-of-reality lyricism often feel - however, in-person he radiated with a strong positive outward energy like an old friend.

We met at my favourite local cafe, First & Last Coffee Shop, for a caffeine fix and a glimpse into the artist’s life. 

Who are you?

I’m Vince The Messenger. I'm a rap artist, hip-hop artist, producer, performer, writer - a bit of everything. Originally from Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island but recently relocated to Toronto.

Of all those hats that you wear, do you have a favourite one?

I would say probably writing and recording is my favourite thing. I find that's the medium I feel like I'm the most creative and expressive with. It's pretty neck and neck between writing, recording, and performing because they're all like very free and expressing mediums, so it’s hard to nail it down to one. With a performance you’re experiencing something with an audience and other people on stage with you, so it's more of a shared experience, for sure. Whereas, my recording and writing process is a lot more individualistic. It's a lot more reflective. Just like, by myself and my own thoughts and feelings. 

How did you get started in music?

I’ve pretty much always been making music, and I know a lot of musicians say that, but it’s really true. My earliest memories are making songs with my dad. My dad was a drummer, a guitar player, singer and stuff - so growing up he was always playing music around me. And I remember when I was really, really young like, maybe even before primary school, around that age, we used to make songs together and record them on cassette tapes. He would play guitar and I would write lyrics and sing and stuff. Those are like my very, very first, early memories. 

Fast forward to taking things a little more seriously, like developing myself as an artist, that probably started for me when I was in junior high. I started dabbling, getting beats off of youtube, making remixes, slowly putting things out on Soundcloud.

That’s how I got my start, but then, eventually after years of doing shows like that and putting out material here and there, I met a guy who was a producer and a DJ who goes by the name Niimo. We made my first full-length project together, Self Sabotage, and made a handful of singles together, and then my most recent album, Trustfall, we also made that together, we've done some tours together, played festivals and things like that. So yeah, since meeting Niimo and working with him and really refining things, I think that's what has gotten me to propel and become more comfortable as an artist.

What are some of your influences?

Coming up, I was very into The Fugees, later on, Earl Sweatshirt, Odd Future, Joey Badass, and Kendrick Lamar. I liked that style of conscious rap, as it was once termed.

Tell us about your performance at Echo Beach last August.

Yeah, that was for Manifesto! That was fun! Saukrates was the headliner for the stage I played at, the block party stage.That's probably one of the biggest festivals I've gotten the chance to play so far, so that was a big milestone for me, for sure.

How did you get involved with that?

I actually had met some of the people who work for Manifesto in PEI. This organization called Music PEI, which supports local artists and helps them develop, well I was involved in one of their programs and I met Tanisha Richards, who works for Manifesto, and we just kept in touch. She had come out for the east coast music awards and I had a showcase there. I think based on my performance she kind of saw the potential in me to perform at Manifesto, and it kind of just went from there.

It’s good to do showcases and industry events because you never know who you’re going to meet and where it can take you!

What is PEI’s hip-hop community like?

There isn't a huge hip-hop scene there. Like there's definitely, you know, people who have been making hip-hop for a minute but I think the scene isn't quite as big and the crowds aren't quite as lively as you would expect from a bigger city. I started getting my performance footing in the all-ages underground scene, so a lot of my earlier shows in PEI were mixed in at all-ages punk shows, which was cool. It was a cool genre and a cool scene. So, I kind of come up neck and neck with punk artists and being in that environment.

Later, once I had met people like Niimo, and my friend Slime da Garbage Mane, we did a bunch of shows together at bars and kind of just made our own hip-hop scene, performing and forming our own identities. Baba’s Lounge, we made that our home base.

You adapted to the opportunities a smaller city provided.

Yeah, and honestly, in a way I feel like being a smaller artist from a smaller town has kind of benefited me in certain parts of my career. I think if you’re in a bigger city it’s harder for organizations like Music PEI to notice you as an individual, and it’s harder to get one-on-one time with industry delegates. 

You just moved to Toronto, what was your relationship with Toronto like before that?

Funny enough, I’m actually technically from Toronto. I was born in Etobicoke and we moved to PEI when I was super young, like 3 years old. So I grew up in PEI but I would always come back to Toronto in the summer to visit family and stuff, so I’m familiar with this city and always wanted to come back eventually to pursue music full-time.

Honestly, moving to this city has definitely inspired me. I feel like anyone who makes a big life change or a big move, would probably relate to that, but just having a fresh and new environment has been inspiring me. I get to breathe a new life into my creativity. I’m a very visual person so when I sit down to write I like having something going on in the background to inspire me a bit. Sometimes something as simple as having a cup of tea inspires me, I don’t know, but it works. 

Tell us about your single, “If These Walls Could Talk”.

Yeah, so that song has been out for a little bit now, but I just recently filmed and released a music video for it. It's filmed by Griffin O'Toole who's a video director based in Halifax. Super talented. It was really cool to get to work with them.

But yeah, that song is a production by Niimo. We made that song a few years back, actually it kind of came out of the whole covid era. Niimo was sending me the beats, and since we were isolated at the time it was just something that came through that. He sent it my way and I wrote the verse. It's kind of a stream of consciousness, it's not a song where there's a hook or any like, real, repeatable part - just straight through verse. And everything that was in my head, just kind of spewing it out. I don't want to call it a depressing song, but it has that dark, dragging, warbly, bendy, kind of feeling as if someone is stuck in their head. The whole theme of being stuck inside of a room with nothing to interact with but your thoughts. Introspective.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out with music?

My biggest advice would be: stay consistent. Trust the people around you who have helped you or have given you advice, or guidance, or support. Lean on that sense of community. 

And some advice for anyone in general is stay genuine to whatever you're doing. I think it's the  worst when people feel like they have to portray a specific image, or to be perceived a certain way. It’s easy to get caught up in that to the point where you're almost tricking yourself. You’ll find your authentic audience that way, like engaging with you will come naturally if you're being natural.

Any shout outs?

Yeah, I always shout out Niimo! He’s my day one. Shout out to Slime. Shout out my step brother, Tyler, he actually films a lot of content for me. He does a lot of my videography and he has even stepped in to be my DJ. He’s a very dedicated and multi-talented guy to have on your team, so I appreciate him. Shout out to my mom [laughs] and shout out my grandma, and my girlfriend. Everyone who supports me!

What’s on the horizon?

I've actually been working on a project for the last, like, maybe six months or so, I’ve been working on this project with another artist from PEI - um, Nigerian born but moved to PEI. His name is Tigwe. We have a joint EP we are working on right now. Fully produced by the both of us. We both kind of have a bit of production credits. It’s probably going to be a 10 track EP. I'm really looking forward to that. Aside from that I have a handful of singles scheduled to come out this year at some point. And yeah, hoping just to perform as much as I can and get more integrated into the scene in Toronto. Also,I'll be at the ECMAs this year. No nominations but I'll be performing which will be fun!

If you follow me, get ready to see a lot more music and more videos coming soon!

You can see Vince The Messenger live in Toronto on May 9th at BSMT254 ---> TICKETS HERE

Learn more about him, hear his music, and follow him online:

Instagram: @vincethemessenger


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