Waits No More
By Vee Manzerolle
Rising star Shaun Boothe has been busy making his mark. His debut album Waiting Room is fresh on the market. He recently performed alongside Snoop Dogg and even free-styled with Donny Osmond. He’s also responsible for the critically acclaimed Unauthorized Biography Series. And to top it all off he’s been deemed one of Canada’s top three lyricists and rappers of all time by T-RexXx from MuchMusic’s RapCity. SoulMatters was fortunate enough to fire some questions at Shaun Boothe.
SoulMattersMag: I would love to hear about your hip-hop beginnings. At what point in your life did you realize that this was what you wanted to do? And how were you first introduced to the scene?
Shaun Boothe: My first memories of actually rapping was at 10 years old. I’d write little songs making fun of girls in my class and tease them with it at recess. It was fun. Ever since then it’s always been something I did. I had boxes full of lyrics even back then. I don’t know if there was an exact moment when I realized it was something I wanted to do. It was just something I did. Always.
SMM: Lately you’ve been getting a vast amount of attention within the public realm. How are you coping with all the mass interest in your music and all things Shaun Boothe?
SB: That fame stuff has never really fazed me. It was never what I did this for so now that I’m experiencing a bit of it it just feels like more of a bonus. If I can leverage it to do other things then that’s cool. People call me back more. People wanna work with me more. Things happen a bit more easily when you got momentum on your side and you show and prove on your own. Me and my team, we definitely worked hard for this. Sometimes I do get caught off guard though. I don’t realize how many people are taking notice until I really go out there and see it. I’m still in the studio a lot working away. Once you get a little taste of success, especially after working for it for so long, it’s addictive. You never wanna let it go.
SMM: Who do you look up to for guidance in this industry? The music industry is definitely not known for being an easy industry to work in.
SB: When I first started getting out there a guy name David ‘Click’ Cox, an A&R from Universal Canada, was always a believer in me and helped me out a lot with trying to guide me in the industry and steer me in the right direction. I’m fortunate to know good people like Farley Flex (former Canadian Idol Judge, Maestro’s former manager) who have been in the game for years and can give me insight on business stuff. Also, my uncle Barry Boothe is a legend in the game in his own right. He’s the founder of a DJ Crew called TKO sounds. Anyone that’s been around in the Toronto club scene knows how much of a pioneer he is. He was just recently inducted into the Stylus DJ Awards hall of fame with TKO Sounds a couple years back. I go to him with a lot of ideas or looking for insight. I can’t say I’ve had a real mentor though. I had to learn a lot on my own. Early on I’d go to Chapters a lot and just read up on all the music business books I could find. Then I’d just put them back on the shelf. That was my music biz 101. I didn’t get a diploma for it though.
SMM: Recently got the chance to open up for none other than Snoop Dogg in London, Ontario. What was that experience like for you?
SB: It was dope. Doggystyle was one of the first albums I ever bought. Snoop is a legend. To open up for someone like that is an honour. Plus I’ve never seen him live before so I was actually more excited just to watch him do his thing on stage for the first time. I didn’t even stay backstage or anything like that. I actually went into the crowd. I wanted to see it that way. It was crazy cuz he showed up a little late and people were getting really nervous thinking he wasn’t gonna show and all that. I really felt like a riot was gonna break out. But as soon as he hit that stage all the anger and frustration disappeared and the place erupted. It was an ill thing to see.
SMM: You were on CP24 when Donny Osmond was acting as the co-host. Steve Anthony introduced you by saying that you have been called one of the “top three Canadian rappers of all time.” How does a statement like that make you feel?
SB: Man, that’s an honour. I’m gonna be working extra hard just to live up to that statement in my own mind. We got so much talent here. It’s just great to be included in the conversation to be honest. For a long time I felt like the guy on the outside was talented but no one noticed. To be recognized for your work, your passion, your talent, and by people you respect, it’s a beautiful thing.
SMM: I have to ask and I’m sure you’ve been asked this question a bunch of times, but what was it like free-styling with Donny Osmond?
SB: (laughs) That was pretty hilarious. None of that was planned by the way. I gotta give it up to Donny for having the balls to do that on live TV. Things like that is why I love live TV. At its best it’s completely unpredictable. It was a lotta fun. He’s a real down to earth guy. He hit me up on twitter and everything, Steve Anthony too. Such a genuine and stand up guy.
SMM: Let’s talk about your debut album Waiting Room dropped in July. You have numerous guests appearing on the album from Kim Davis to Kardinal Offishall. You even collaborated with Lykke Li who’s an up and coming artist that’s also been receiving a lot of media attention. How did you come to team up with these artists? And what was it like to work with them?
SB: It’s funny to me because I feel like I rarely collaborate but when I looked at my track list, you’re right, it does have a decent amount of collabs on there. Every one of them was a different scenario. But overall I just wanted to showcase talent I believed in. People I’m a fan of. Some reached out to me, and some I reached out to them. Some of us were able to actually get in the studio together, and some others just collaborated with me online, sending files and going back and forth that way. One of the first really significant collabs I’ve ever done was the one with Talib Kweli on my song "Concepts", which is a bonus track on the album. I loved that one so much because it wasn’t just him adding a miscellaneous verse to one of my half finished songs. We actually had a concept to it and went back and forth trading bars, playing off each others previous lyrics. I love that kind of stuff.
SMM: Any specific tracks on Waiting Room that you’re partial towards?
SB: My favorite track on the album I think is the outro. It’s called "Headline". It’s a song that came to me when I was driving home from the last date of this tour that I did with an American hip hop group called Atmosphere. I was their opening act. I was just reflecting on how amazing and also how frustrating the experience was. On the one hand it’s an incredible opportunity to be going all across the country performing for sold out crowds. On the other hand deep down I couldn’t help but be envious. I’ve always wanted that for myself. To have loyal fans who actually know every word to every song. To see how Atmosphere’s music has touched so many people. I want that. And my song "Headline" reflects on those feeling. It gives you a glimpse into the mind of an opening act. “Dreams don’t got deadlines… and next time around imma headline”. That’s the hook. I felt like it was the perfect way to end Waiting Room.
SMM: You’ve toured across Canada opening for Kardinal Offishall and for Talib Kweli + Hi-Tek. You’ve won various competitions. It goes without saying that you’ve experienced quite a bit within your hip-hop career thus far. Do any of these experiences standout for you as an artist? And if so, why?
SB: The touring is always the most fun because that’s when you actually get to connect with the fans. That’s what it’s all about. I love the instant reaction and energy you get back from a live show. But the biggest turning point was still when I won the Much Temp competition along with the 25k towards a new car, downtown condo for the summer and a temp summer job at Much. That’s where it all turned around for me. That’s when I really knew that music was gonna be my full time career from then on. I’ve still never looked back.
SMM: After Waiting Room’s release what’s next for you?
SB: Look out for a lot of new videos, a lotta shows. My next step is to take everything I’ve been doing here in Toronto and present it to the world. Expect to see a lot more stamps on my passport.