Cee: The Aussie Emcee Who Is Putting Montréal On The Map [Interview]

It’s been a long time coming for Craig Thorn, also known as Cee, a 33 year-old native of Melbourne, Australian, who has chosen Montréal as his home to jump start his solo rap career. In just over a year active in the Canadian hip hop scene, he’s already toured Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba, released an EP with Dr. MaD on the boards, tasted over 1400 craft beers and now, he’s released an iTunes chart-topping solo album. Cee This is All I knowHe has dealt with all the struggles an immigrant can expect in the land of maple syrup.But all in all, this has been an incredibly positive experience for the 33 year old rap extraordinaire. Though he’s got a slew of mixtapes and projects with his first groups Soul District and Cee & Bekah, This Is All I Know will be remembered as his first official solo release. I kicked it with Cee last week, the day after his birthday, and we had a great exchange which was long anticipated – he is one of the hardest working rappers in the country. He was visibly still under shock – his album peaked at #6 on Canadian Itunes charts and #9 in Australia.

Here’s our interview with a man from a different hemisphere who’s been repping Montreal and Canada to the fullest ever since he got off the plane.

Gab: You began your rap career 10 years ago, and you’ve released a lot of music recently, but this is your first album. How come you waited so long ?

Cee: You can say I’m a late bloomer! Since 2004, I was in a group called Soul District, then with Cee & Bekah. When she left the group, I became a solo artist. This was back in late 2011, after moving to Canada. When she left, we split the beats and I kept some of my favourite ones. All the production was collected over the years from the group. So I’ve been putting it together piece by piece. There was also the Steps To The Peak EP with Dr. MaD, released in 2013, that pushed it back a little. Originally I intended it to be released last year. But I’m really happy to have waited so that Montreal can get familiar with me first. Some people are famous at 18 and are amazing at rap, I was just a bit shier at the time and found myself later on. Now I’m 33 and I could say I’ve got something. Back then I couldn’t have made an album of this level. Looking back to 2006, you can tell there is a difference in the quality and the production, all elements come together now.

Gab: There’s so many producer credits on your album, not to mention the features. Was it a logistical effort to work with so many people?

Cee: To be honest, when I discovered MySpace it changed my life. All these kids who started rapping in 2013 have an amazing toolkit at their disposal from the beginning, with Bandcamp, YouTube, Twitter Soundcloud, Instagram, the list goes on and on. When I started you had to hit the open mic and make real life connections, trade CDs, you had to be there. Thanks to MySpace, I could get in touch with my favorite rappers and pay them a couple of hundred dollars for a verse. There were also amazing producers from all over the world I could work with.

Gab: How did you manage to get Ras Kass on the record?

Cee: It’s fucking insanity to have him on the debut. It’s a pretty cool story, he tweeted he needed a British chick for a hook, and at the time I managed Bekah, who’s Australian. I got in touch with him, and quickly Notion and Bekah recorded the hook for him, and he was so happy with the result he said : “Anything you want, let me know”. So I was like: “Yo, hook me up with a verse!”

Gab: Your latest visual is for “It Ain’t Over” with Hezekiah, how did that happen?

Cee: I was a music journalist in Australia, more actively from 2001 to 2004. I did quite a few album reviews and it got me a bunch of free CDs. I always gave a chance to every record, so I listened to Hezekiah’s “I Predict a Riot”, released in 2007, and that album changed my life. I got in touch with him, negotiated a price for a beat, but when he sent it along with a feature verse, he had lost the parts of the instrumental, so you can still hear the tags in the background saying “Beats Society Crew!”. I still had to put it out, it was so expensive! Notion sort of evened it out so you don’t hear it as much when I’m rapping. It doesn’t really sound out of place, and it was cool to perform next to him, and it’s got a lot of energy and it’s fun. My friend Richard Bastarache filmed that video, where we’re just fucking around and walking into a building. We did a whole bunch of takes in the elevator, and Hezekiah’s got great energy so it worked out perfectly.

Gab: In “Rainy Days”, which features a collaboration with Montréal legend D-Shade, you mention going to LA and having to record all day because it was raining. What’s the story behind that?

Cee: It never rains in LA, but that one time I went to LA in 2004, it poured the whole time I was there. So in 2008, we came back on what we called a ‘networking tour’ across North America and New Zealand. I told the guy in the hotel about it raining and he asked me : “Was that in 2004?” He remembered because it’s so rare! So that’s why we came up with that concept for the track. It was supposed to be with Tunji, a ridiculous emcee we hooked up with in LA, but he never got back to me with the verse. I wrote that verse in 2009, but we eventually recorded the song with D-Shade. We did two tracks together. For me it’s a great look, because he’s a friend, and I don’t buy verses anymore, I’m not really down with that. I prefer to have a relationship, it gets you a better product. Right now I’m reppin’ for Montreal heavy. So that was good to get me on the map, and he hadn’t released stuff in a while, so it was also good to see him get out there.

Gab: I know you’re a big fan of craft beers. Tell us a bit about your track “BrewHeads”, is that your new beer anthem?

Cee: Yeah man, “BrewHeads” was an opportunity to showcase my passion for craft beer. I intend to record a video for this one too, in the summer. My dude Phil from BrewHeads, a clothing design brand in Phoenix, will be in Montreal for the Beer Fest and we’ll hit up some breweries. He’s releasing a box set in conjunction with my blog Beer and Other Shit, and also made a dope custom design for a collab snapback and beer glass. So we’re using this to tap into the beer market.

Gab: Literally. The album is called “This Is All I Know”, was this originally intended as the title for the album?

Cee: It was called that originally because the interlude, All I Know, was over a beat called This Is All I Really Know. The album was called “Work In Progress”, but it changed as the project advanced. One element I felt was lacking was a male vocalist on the chorus, I was tired of the typical collaborations with female vocalists, I already had six tracks with women on the chorus. So it was really difficult to find a dude who’d be down to work. But Jonathan Emile came through, and we changed the name of the song based on the chorus. He made it the title track and tied the whole thing up together. It came out perfectly.

Gab: You cover so many topics, from immigration to craft beer to relationships. Do you feel like this album says it all for now?

Cee: Your first album takes a lifetime to make. It summarizes it for people who haven’t heard of me. I have a beat from 2004, and now the producer’s hating on me because it’s an old beat, but for me that’s kind of a nod to the Kanye West ‘College Dropout’ era. Some of the songs are older. For example the song “Never Be Peace” was written back in 2007, and I had lost the lyrics to my first verse. So I asked my dad back home to find my old rhyme book and look for the verse and scan it. This is a really great snapshot of where we’ve been and where we’re going.

This is All I Know  is available on iTunes and can be streamed on DJ Booth. Cee and The Movement Fam will be touring Canada this summer, alongside The Bodega Brothers and Clarity. Be sure to support their Indiegogo campaign to finance the Blood, Sweat and Beers Tour.

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