There are not many rappers out there who can say they have done as much at just 22 years-old as what Curtis Hogan, better known as Mellow, has done.
Releasing his first mixtape, “Fly as Can Be”, when he was still only 16, he has followed it up with several other projects over the past 6 years and has been consistently surpassing himself time and time again. He has become a master of challenging expectations, not just of himself, but of what Canadian Rap can and should be.
Mellow’s rough upbringing makes what he has accomplished that much more astonishing. Brought up in turmoil and given next to no support as youngster, he has done it all off his own back, from the content to the music videos, and can happily say that all his success is thanks to own work ethic and killer sounds.
Today, he is easily one of the brightest prospects to come out of Canadian Rap scene since Drizzy himself, and even better, he didn’t need a stint in Degrassi to get there either. Still at such a young age and with the world at his feet, is he ready to snatch the throne and become the next King of the Canadian Rap Scene?
Here at Underground Sound, we were lucky enough to get in contact with him and ask him just that, as well as about his tough childhood, his prospects for the future and what he’s learnt so far with his career in the Rap game.
Hey Man, thanks for talking to us, it’s a real pleasure.
Perhaps you can kick things off by telling us and our readers about yourself?
I’m from the east side of Toronto, born and raised. Growing up in a household where my biological mother was in and out of jail because of stealing and taking and selling drugs since I can remember, plus with a father that worked nights to try and support his three children, it wasn’t the life I’d have imagined for myself. If it weren’t for my music and brother and my sister keeping me sane, I don’t know where I’d be today.
You talk about your mother a lot in your music, would you mind telling us about your relationship now?
I haven’t talked to my biological mother since I was 16. The news footage in my video “Mom Dukes” is actually her, and the house you can see get raided is the one I grew up in before she kicked us all out while she was high her first day out of jail.
Mom Dukes video
What about your father?
He’s still in the picture, we may have our ups and downs but he’s also one of my best friends and he is an extremely supportive father when it comes to my music.
Do think a suffering as a youth has been a crucial to the artistic process in your case? Are you doing it to sort of prove something to your parents?
Maybe; I believe everything happens for a reason, but I’m in no way trying to prove anything to my parents. This is just my way of coping with it and expressing thoughts about how I feel.
As a white dude, who disses your mum in your music, are you not afraid that people are going to write you off as a Canadian Eminem? Especially as your delivery and rhythm isn’t far away from his style either.
People can say whatever they want about me. Eminem was a huge influence in me becoming a rapper. I also never asked for the situations my biological mother has put me & my family through. I’ve just decided to react through my music and not in a physical way. Pass judgment all you want.
You released a mixtape at 16, but what age did you just start rapping? And, what got you into it?
I started writing and rapping at this age as well. I can give you a million reasons what has inspired me, but I’d say mostly, it allowed me to be able to relieve my stress and anxiety as a youth in a non-violent way and just vent.
Who were you influenced by musically growing up?
I was raised listening to old school Hip-Hop/Rap, Reggae, RnB, and Slow Jams, thanks to my father who used to be a DJ. At an early age, I was also introduced to all uncensored Eminem, PAC, Biggie, Kanye West, 50 Cent, Ludacris, and Xzibit growing up. They actually filmed “Get Rich or Die Tryin” movie on the street I grew up on.
Who makes your beats?
I have worked with a bunch of producers worldwide, but to narrow it down I’ve done a lot of work with Jack of Trade (USA), HL8 (UK), Devan Ibiza (USA), VexBlazer (UK), WZ Beats (UKR), and AN4RCHY (AUS). I learned how to produce my own beats just this year, I produced the whole Emoji EP and a few other singles.
I noticed a lot of your older tunes have very old school beats, like Jazz/Blues/Soul vibe, whilst the more recent ones incorporate the Boom Bap style, both old school vibes, whilst others, I’m thinking particularly of those which are on “FHYF”, have a more modern, almost Electronic/Trap music vibe. Why do you keep changing it up?
I started of extremely picky with my beats and my sound and I wasn’t open to much. But “#FHYF” was solely produced by my friend and producer, Jack of Trade. He has been a major influence pushing me past my limit and introducing newer style sounds into our music. I like a variety of music, and I would love to reach fans of different styles. But, for the most part, I definitely love challenging my abilities as an artist.
Would you say generally, the goal of your style is to blend a modern flow with classic beats? If not, what is it?
Yes, to an extent. I am just trying to keep real hip-hop alive. I remember when rap was actually rap and not stupid ass mumble rap.
I don’t think you are alone in that one at all bro.Do you also direct your own videos?
For the most part I do, but I also have a few close friends helping. I get a big help from Mr. Erbie, who does a lot of filming for me. He is also a rapper and has a buzz out in Europe.
Check out Mellow’s “Picture It”, produced by Mr Erbie!
Is it an an important part of the creative process for you to do this?
It definitely helps me to get my vision across better. I really think that any music sounds better while you’re watching visuals with it. That may just be my opinion.
No, I completely agree, I think visuals can really add to tracks.
It seems that you are always alone in your videos though and generally, you don’t have many people featuring on your tracks. Is it important for you to make sure the whole project is on your shoulders or why is this?
Generally, I feel it was me just trying to find my own sound, and I wasn’t trying to be alone or anything as I love working and creating music with other artists. I usually don’t like being alone, but during my videos, I chill with under 3 people. One will be filming, the other one will hold the light and the other keeping the area clear for the most part. I’m extremely low cost, I hate spending unnecessary money when you can create a good quality video at a minimal budget.
You seem to be making more collabs now, especially on the Emoji Ep, why the change?
I produced the whole EP, which encouraged me to work with more artists. I realized it’s a great way to gain a different audience.
You’ve been releasing a lot of new music recently. Is a new album in the works?
I have an album in mind, but right now I’m more focused on growing my fan base and showing everyone how consistent I really am with my music. I plan on dropping a new song every week or so until I start to catch a buzz.
We are all looking forward to that man! You made your first mix tape back in 2014. How would you say you have matured both as an artist and as a person over the last 3-4 years?
Looking back and listening to my old songs and seeing the progression absolutely amazes me. I’ve also been learning how to cope with my anxiety and recklessness much better, which has allowed me to work on more music.
What do know now which you wish you had known then?
Literally that “Patience is a Virtue” and also, that “God gives his hardest battles to his strongest soldiers”. Both quotes I have tattooed.
When most people think of Canadian rap, naturally the first thing that comes to mind is of course, Drake, who is also from Toronto. Is it hard to compete with this concept in people’s minds?
Of course. Drake is a very talented artist. Coming up in the music industry, it is hard, but keeping a positive mindset and continuing to work on my music every day, I know my “come up” will come with time, hard-work and progression.
How does Drake’s success reflect on the rest of the Canadian rap scene?
The contributions he has made to the Canadian Hip Hop scene is phenomenal. Although, I don’t think he is a reflection of the Hip Hop scene in Canada right now because it’s more of a “drug & gang” vibe that’s popping (which I’m not too fond of).
Your style is very different to his, are you actively trying to get as far away from his as possible or is it just natural?
No, I feel my style just comes naturally.
Whose style would you say reflects Canada rap scene more, specifically in Toronto, yours or his?
I’d say with Drake and myself, even considering he is a reputable Canadian rapper, he is more mainstream and can’t be as raw with content as I can be.
Do you think you have got what it takes to take the Canada rap throne?
Do you think the Canada hip-hop scene is underrepresented/underrated? Or what is your perception of it?
100%. Personally, I feel people get “artists” and “rappers” confused as well as sub genres of music. Right now, in Toronto, it’s all the melody auto tune artists (almost mumble rap) catching a buzz. Personally, I wish Hip-Hop in general was more lyrical.
Finally, what’s next for you as an artist?
Constantly growing as a rapper, engineer, producer, writer, GFX editor, and as a human-being. The growing and progress never stops, and it won’t until everyone has heard my name.
Thanks a lot for speaking to us and good luck in the future.
Listen and buy Mellow’s tracks right here at: www.smarturl.it/mellowtdot
We expect to see a lot more of Mellow in the future, so follow him now and stay up to date with his music and his progression by following him on social media here:
Words by: Will Macmaster