As hip hop continues to evolve to encompass an ever-increasing variety of styles, subject matter and viewpoints, the torch of success is also passed along — whether it’s from artist to artist, borough to borough, coast to coast or from city to city. This continuous evolution not only expands the audience and artistry of rap music but it is also reveals places and people who, for a long time, would have been otherwise dismissed or overlooked. These so-called unlikely people and places are slowly becoming legitimized.
For instance, Victoria may not seem like a hotbed location out of which a hip hop artist can develop and break out — and a potential career is made even more unlikely with a move to Calgary, not exactly known as a hip hop destination — but that is the path Transit has taken. Some have said that his dedication to respect and promote his roots and his adopted hometown are clumsy and verge on being embarrassing, but Transit takes it in stride. “This is how I feel, this is who I am. I am being truthful and if that is rejected or criticized, I can accept that as long as I am being honest and authentic. People can take it however they want. That’s the beauty of music. You put it out there and see if it resonates.” This authenticity is ringing true to a lot of people. With each release, he is gaining momentum and building a wider fan base. His last two albums have both charted in the top 5 releases on iTunes hip hop and his latest effort, Stale, is on pace to surpass sales of all his past releases.
I caught up with Transit at the Beltline Community Centre. We met there because that is where Transit works. For the past two years, he has been working with the Boys and Girls Club of Calgary helping give opportunities to at-risk youth. By the time I get there, he was just finishing up recording with a 13-year-old rapper that goes by the name of Notebook. The young rapper definitely is evidence that the future of hip hop in Calgary is bright.
“It’s amazing we have 20 to 30 rappers a day come to our studio.” Transit is quick to rep the skills of the kids that come to his studio. He clearly is invested in advocating and encouraging those drawn to hip hop. “When I was trying to break in, I got a lot of cold shoulders from guys who were established — no one was really willing to bring anyone along or share their knowledge. So, I try to give opportunities to the kids that are interested, I try to help them record, book shows, give them what insight I have gained.”
Transit is unabashed in conversation: he isn’t guarded, he doesn’t try to actively shape a persona or attitude. “If my opinions, my beliefs, my music are received positively or negatively or put into categories, I cannot control it. I can only be myself. For a long time, I was struggling with that; with what I should or shouldn’t do or sound like, or if I should try to write in certain ways. But, I have now come through that and that personal process is a lot of what the new record is about.” This is particularly highlighted by the standout track, “Hiatus,” where Transit contemplates inertia and its causes with a bulletproof hook. Even the title of his latest album, Stale, is a nod to this internal conflict. “I think it can be very easy to be sucked into being motivated by success and popularity, but I think that is ultimately foolish, because you get further from the truth with each concession you make.” The most recent album is a strong reflection of an artist defining himself and finding acceptance in this development.
“I was worried about the reception of the new album, but, so far, it’s been extremely humbling to have people respond to such degree.” The album has been another step on what looks like a chain reaction. The success of the new music has opened many doors, one of which is an upcoming Western Canadian tour with Zion I this spring, followed by a European tour with Apathy and Celph Titled.
“Each opportunity seems to be flowing into the next and I feel very fortunate for the momentum. You dream of recording an album, collaborating with your idols, touring and to see it emerging is invigorating.” This energy is visibly translated into his live shows where it is apparent Transit is committed to putting forth the best performance for his audience. “People used to ask me where my music was going to take me, I used to really fumble with that question, but now it feels good to be able to respond, ‘Athens.’”
Be a romantic and catch up with Transit on Valentine’s Day, February 14, at the Ship and Anchor.
By Graham MacKenzieAB, Alberta