Toronto Rapper Diaz Juggles Music & Battling [Interview]
I first discovered DIAZ’s work when living in Canada and watching KOTD battles. At the time, I thought to myself, damn, this guy is tight at battling, and I felt proud of seeing a latino represent us in these type of events up north. Same with his music, I dig it and have grown fond of his chilled out vibe. After contacting him through social media, I had the chance to meet him in Toronto after he invited me to DJ Drama’s Quality Street Music album release. I’m glad I was able to keep contact with him and do this written interview with some things I wanted to know more about him and share with the rest of the heads who follow Elementality. From the beginning, our mission was to connect Spanish speaking heads with the rest of the world, and DIAZ embodies that mentality – interweeving crisp flows in English and Spanish while staying true to Hip Hop’s core values. Here’s a quick Q & A that will help you get to know DIAZ a little better.
E: How were you first exposed to Hip-Hop ?
D: I remember listening to Hip-Hop when I was real young, I have a big family so a lot of my older cousins were always bumping Hip-Hop and making us breakdance. Eventually me and my brother got a Kris Kross tape and wore that shit out (laughs). One day my cousin comes by and tells us Kris Koss is wack and we should listen to Cypress Hill and Wu Tang! I’m pretty sure I was in grade 3 at this time… but as early as I can remember I heard Hip-Hop through my family.
E: When did you move to Canada ?
D: I was actually born in Canada… Scarborough General! My parents came to Canada a couple years before I was born so they knew no English, that’s why spanish is basically my first language.
E: Who are your biggest Latino & Canadian musical influences?
D: My mom used to listen to a big mixture of Latin music – folklore, tango, cumbia – and every Sunday when she was cleaning the house she put on Salsa loud as fuck! So Latin-wise I like a bit of everything as far as artists go people like Celia Cruz, Tito Puente, Sandro, then some more of the urban dudes like Tego Calderon, Tempo, El Roockie, EL General, Cosculluela and so on. Im not a huge fan of reggaeton but dudes like Daddy Yankee and Don Omar had major impact as well and when they had some nice joints at the start.
I think Canada’s Hip-Hop scene has an amazing buzz right now! South of the border really has their eyes on Canada! I’m a big fan of Canadian Hip-Hop. I grew up listening to dudes like Kardi, Maestro, IRS, Rascalz, and even the generation after that was influential to me. The whole Empire/SARS movement and when they had project bounce on 89.5! I even called in and freestyled when I was like 16!
E: How has it been being a Latin rapper in Canada ?
D: Even though I make some Spanish Hip-Hop, the majority of my work is in English so I try not to classify myself as a “latin” rapper, I think it’s extrememly difficult for someone to succeed strictly just as a Spanish rapper in Canada, unless you do more singing or reggaeton stuff like Fito Blanko. I’ll always have a Spanish style to most, the music I make or 1-2 Spanish songs here in there and people seem to like both!
E: What was the feeling of beating Illmac & Thesaurus and winning the 2 vs 2 KOTD championship finals alongside poRICH ? Any lessons learned from the experience?
D: I felt like Craig from the movie Friday after he beat up “Debo”!! It was a crazy experience!! Almost a whole year of tournament style battling and we made it to the finals. poRICH battled them before with Kid Twist so he was out for revenge! I got into battling watching Saurus and Illmac, still to this day I think Illmac is one of the best battlers in the scene, so I was nervous but ready for the challenge. I definitely learned that anything is possible and it also taught me to be confident but humble in battles and even every day situations.
E: Is there a different approach when you write a song versus writing a battle?
D: Yeah, the first big difference is the music lol, with battles being acapella there is no music involved but I like to have some sort of rhythm so I usually write most my battles on beats or parts of them anyways. I feel there are pros and cons to both for example with battles you can have a long ass line as long as it rhymes at the end it will hit, but with music your lines have to fit within the bars. I enjoy doing both, I could never see myself quitting music to strictly battle or vice versa.
E: Any upcoming battles ?
D: I just did one in Vancouver vs Pigsty which turned out really dope! BC was fun as hell too, the battle was promo so the viewers will decide the winner. Me and poRICH should be doing another 2 on 2 at the next Toronto event as well. I’ve also been in talks with a couple of the Spanish leagues that are popping internationally so we’ll see if it that pans out.
E: Which project(s) are you working on now ?
D: I always have lots in the works, right now I have a project with this Hip-Hop/latin producer from Toronto Carlos Martinez, we’ll be dropping an EP later this year. I also have a project with my main producer/engineer Phizzix who has been involved in almost all my projects. I also hope to finish a project with my crew Revo Clik by the end of the year which will be mostly produced by my homie Che BLVD, he’s the artist featured and also produced my latest single “The Ride”
E: Any projects in Spanish in the works or in mind? Do you feel like the approach is the same as English? How’s the Latin Hip-Hop scene in Toronto?
D: I’ve always wanted to do a whole Spanish project so we’ll see if that happens this year as well. I usually put out a few Spanish tracks a year! I just got featured on a salsa track with Orlando Valencia which is fuckin crazy!
Like I mentioned before I don’t really like Reggaeton and I feel it’s extremely squashed on nowadays. Although Spanish is my first language I find it harder to write because I never grew up writing or reading in Spanish, just speaking it with my family. I think in English so words come easier in English. Do you know what I mean? What language do you think or dream in? They say that has a big influence on how well you write and know a language.
There isn’t much of a Latin Hip-Hop scene here, there are a few rappers that perform at the few latin cas and open up for the few Spanish artists that come through. I honestly feel the latin community isn’t as supportive as they could be. To make it as a latin artist in Canada you have to have a broad sound to appeal to more than just Spanish people I feel. Once again Fito Blanko did it properly he does the dance stuff along with more of the urban stuff but he expanded to more countries than just Canada to actually succeed with his music.
E: What is the message you want to send with your music?
D: I feel rappers always classify themselves under one box, like I’m a conscious rapper, or a backpacker, or a gangsta rapper, etc. I just like to make music that feels good, whether it’s got a serious boom bap tone to it or I’m rapping on a salsa joint to get people dancing I just want to feel good when I’m making it and the listeners to perceive it the same way!
E: Which Canadian artists would you like to collaborate with ? International artists?
D: I’ve done a hand full of tracks with a few dope Canadian and international artists. In Canada one artist that I’d love to rap on a track with is Shad! I think he’s one of the nicest in Canada! Internationally there are too many to name lol. I think Tego’s voice on any type of track would be dope to have!!
E: Where do you see yourself in 2 years ? 5 years ?
D: On a private jet touring the world! Nah I’m always realistic about my situation in the industry, I’d love to make it my full time job but the means for that aren’t always there. I got to keep working on my craft, have fun and be creative of how I present it to your audience. Now a days labels are becoming obsolete, you can do a lot on your own and make revenue from different channels independently. Everyone measures success in different ways as long as I’m putting food on my plate I’ll always keep rapping and making music!