If there’s any CD title that doesn’t need artwork it’s Grand Analog’s latest, Metropolis Is Burning. The Winnipeg-turned-Toronto group may have come up with one of the most vivid album names — and that was the point.
“Man, do I love the term burning,” says Odario Williams, as he chows down a steak sandwich at a Toronto pub. “Partly because of it’s reggae connotations — them reggae cats want to burn everything — and if anything should be burning its metropolis.”
Still, despite the fiery visions the name conjures up, Williams won’t disclose exactly what he was thinking when he came up with the title — “I wanted something that could be left to interpretation,” he says — though he does admit that his sophomore album, and his first disc, Calligraffiti, are about cities.
And if this hip-hop artist knows anything, it’s what makes different towns tick.
Williams grew up in Winnipeg and made a name from himself under the moniker Mood Ruff.
He came to Toronto five years ago in the hopes of playing some music, though he launched Grand Analog as an experiment.
Soon enough he became a staple of the Toronto hip-hop scene.
But this isn’t just a tale of two cities; he has also toured Canada numerous times, spending time in Canadian locales big and small. “Cities have a character to them, a personality,” he says.
“It usually takes leaving to really get it. Whenever I go to the next city I think about the one I left.”
Like the complex makeup of his various Metropolises, Williams’ music is a dense mixture of sounds and genres. Take It Slow melds reggae, some electro and dub. Magnifico, with its distorted riffs and funk groove, recalls Lenny Kravitz, while others throw in some jazz and melodic hip-hop beats into the mix.
Williams likes to think the world is ready for genre-bending artists, though on his MySpace page he called out people who were upset that a rap track from his hip-hop cohort Shad was an iTunes song of the week.
“That’s the high school way of thinking. I’m prep so this what I listen to, I’m goth so this is what I listen to,” he says. “The goth kids can’t confess that there’s a hip-hop song they actually like. We’re still in a world where everything is compartmentalized. You go to a record store and everything is in its section. Rap? I’m going to categorize that under 50 Cent. If it doesn’t sound like that people are off balance.
“But there’s more and more acceptance for people who are outside of that box,” he adds. “It used to be uncool to be alternative of anything. Now it’s not like that.”
Even though more people are accepting of acts that combine disparate styles, Williams admits he still has a long road ahead of him before he can be a fixture on both the Canadian and U.S. music scenes.
“But I’m not worried,” he says. “Eventually people will catch onto the sounds that we’re doing because it’s genuine.”
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