[STOP THE BREAKS] Here: Interview With Independent Toronto Emcee-Producer Xolisa
March 8, 2017
Re-introducing the conventions of Hip Hop, as if it’s her duty to preserve them, Toronto-based emcee and producer, XOLISA, (pronounced “KO-Lee-Sah”) exudes an essence reminiscent of Hip Hop icons, A Tribe Called Quest, Mos Def, Talib Kweli and Nas.
Xolisa has dedicated her career to crafting a sound and executing a lyrical delivery that is technical, yet fluid; Boom Bap, yet futuristic; Abstract, yet all the while familiar as she continues to unapologetically spread her messages of self- love, resilience, political awareness and spirituality.
Kicking off summer 2016 with the release of her debut, full-length, self-produced album, “And Gaps Do Lead To Bridges” (June 1, 2016), The Trinidadian-Canadian is currently undertaking her first international tour where she has already rocked stages within Canada, Australia and the U.S.A and prepares to take over stages in the Caribbean, the Yukon Territories and more for the 2017 leg of the “Gaps To Bridges Tour” – delivering a jolting message on civil rights and her faith in humanity- moving the masses one city at a time!
1. How have you been since we last interviewed you in early 2015? It was around the time you dropped your EP Rhyme Until My Spirit Needs No Words To Fly which was an amazing project.
I’ve been great! Busier than ever and thriving in every way! Thank you by the way, it’s great to connect with you once again, on another project.
A lot has happened since the Rhyme Until project, a lot of travelling, a lot of new music, many different challenges, gains and new adventures to say the least.
[TUNECORE] ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: XOLISA TALKS DEBUT FULL LENGTH, INDIE HIP HOP & MORE
July 11, 2016
"Toronto-based MC Xolisa (pronounced “koh-lee-sah”) just dropped her debut full length album, And Gaps Do Lead To Bridges, and is getting ready to hit her first international tour.
With an inherent ability to spit cool, thoughtful lyrics over dusty boom gap production, Xolisa has used this release as a way of touching on personal, social and global topics such as race and oppression in a new way for her. With a flow like Bahamadia and a sound that truly pays a nod to the earlier days of hip hop, she’s garnering more listeners in her hometown and abroad. Xolisa was kind enough to answer some questions about navigating the Toronto scene, tapping into the masses, and the new album before she takes off for tour..."
[TD MUSIC] THE SPOTLIGHT SESSIONS:
XOLISA "A LONGER WALK"
June 7th, 2016
From TD Music.com...
"Toronto emcee, producer and songwriter Xolisa has a sound decidedly different than the hip-hop her hometown is best known for. Creating music for the last five years, Xolisa (pronounced “Koh-Lee-Sah”) melds qualities of 1990s’ golden era hip-hop – think boom-bap beats paired with social commentary – with futuristic production elements and a fluid, poetic flow.
Xolisa has always been surrounded by music. Her father plays, teaches and manufactures the steel drum, her mother is a massive music lover, and both an aunt and cousin are professional dancers. It’s little wonder Xolisa moved to make music after years of intense listening; what is impressive is just how original her creations are..."
[VIBE 105.5FM]: DJ Mel Boogie SPEAKS WITH XOLISA
December 1st, 2015 - From Mel Boogie Media...
"Tonight I'll be building in the booth with up and coming Toronto artist, XOLISA. She's been making some waves as One to Watch in the city, especially with the release of a video for her recent single, THE FALLEN -- peep it HERE, and get ready for another dope interview on deck for the show tonight! I also have some new heat from Jadakiss, KRS-One and more!!
It all goes down TONIGHT on VIBE105 FM- starting at 8PM!
TELL A FRIEND:
Toronto has a brand NEW radio station -->
Lock it in to STUDIO B w/ DJ MelBoogie
TUESDAY nights at 8PM EST
on VIBE 105.5FM or
Listen LIVE online at www.VIBE1055.fm
[YYZ HILIGHTZ]: "the fallen" feature
From YYZ Hilightz...
In a league of her own, Xolisa is one to look out for in the T.DOT Hip Hop - A smooth voice and rhyme scheme like no other female in the Toronto circuit sets Xolisa a part from your everyday, "ABC" rapper, not just female but artists in general. She breaks down gender barriers and changes the perception of what is "expected" from the ladies of Hip Hop in 2015 with bother her content and visuals.
"The Fallen", the newest project of "And Gaps Do Lead To Bridges" LP (set for release in 2016) is a song that provokes a bitter/sweet response. A story of death, "bring him back, bring him back" speaks to an all too familiar feeling of the denial associated with a loss, something anybody that has dealt with loss can relate to. Being able to relate to this, the listener is given the chance to reflect and revisit periods in their life when someone can articulate personal feelings you didn't know how to.
A hypnotic sound and flow paired with a beat that carries you away and brings everything together. There's an almost unorthodox flawlessness brought to the table in he flow, it's unmistakable. The uptempo, old school sounding production by none other than Xolisa herself gives "The Fallen" an organic and genuine sound. There's a certain chemistry you get from working with yourself.
[PEACE MAGAZINE]: "the fallen" FEATURE
From Peace Magazine...
Toronto based MC/Producer, Xolisa (pronounced Koh-Lee-Sah) releases, “The Fallen” which stands as the first single off of her upcoming 2016 LP release entitled, “And Gaps Do Lead To Bridges”. Built on a heavy boom bap foundation reminiscent of the golden days of Nas' Illmatic yet surrounded by a lush arrangement of strings and stark piano chords, The Trinidad- Canadian delivers a heartfelt story and borderline anthem based on friendship, love, death and legacy all through her nostalgic production and transparent lyricism.
[ILIVE RADIO] THE SPOT INTERVIEWS XOLISA
On Sunday November 15th, 2015 Xolisa sat down with host, Sheresha Mcintyre inside the iLive Radio studio located in Toronto's west end for an in-depth radio interview touching on topics such as Xolisa's production and writing style, her process of "seeing of colours", and her insights on some of Sheresha's personal favourite songs by the emcee.
Below, you can stream the interview and listen in on the engaging discussion had!
Xolisa: 'A People's Performer'
From Urbanology Magazine..
Toronto artist puts forth messages of self-love, equality
Unlike other rap artists, Xolisa (pronounced “Koh-Lee-Sah”) Renee Jerome chooses not to feature any guest appearances on her latest EP. The reason for this, says the multifaceted Toronto-based artist, is she wanted to focus on establishing her voice and style as a relative newcomer in the music scene.
Xolisa released two EPs during her first three years in music including, A Beautiful Mind, and more recently, Rhyme Until My Spirit Needs No Words To Fly.
“For those two projects, I was just in that zone of wanting to execute everything that I wanted to within my mind, my heart and spirit,” Xolisa says. “I’d have to push myself out there and make sure that my sounds, my style, the way that I perform, everything is really just unique to me, and that I’m staying in my own lane.”
XOLISA LIVES HER PURPOSE BEFORE YOUR EYES
By John Samuels of Omit Limitation
From Omit Limitation...
Xolisa is a spectacle to watch and listen to. A very good example of an artist dedicated to her craft, the Toronto lyricist prepares to pull you into her experience opening for New York artist, Nitty Scott MC at Can I Live this Thursday.
Can I Live is a charity that fundraises for medical costs that began from a young bone marrow cancer patient in 2012. Since then, the charity continues to raise money and produce shows that give artists a chance to express the reasons why they live.
We thought we plug into the decorated Fundamental Woman of DOPE herself through our Q & A to see what inspires Xolisa.
OL: Introduce yourself and tell us why you make music?
XO: Peace World! My name is Xolisa – pronounced koh-lee-sah. I am a Toronto based emcee and producer and I make music because I do believe it is the purpose of my creativity, my mind, my energy, power and abilities- to create music that is made to move the masses and spread something positive and honest and help me grow into the woman I was made to be, all the while.
OL: What has had the greatest influence on your art, why do you live?
XO: My own personal journey and the journey of those around me – those have had the greatest influences on my art.
I write and produce music that is a reflection to what I am personally working through in my own life at any given moment and music that is a reflection of what this society is working through and being faced with as a whole.
I’ve said it before, I am an introspective person by nature- always have been. So telling the stories of what I am observing and solving mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically comes natural to me. Telling the stories of what is going on outside of me within my community, my city, my country not to mention the world overall- that is where my influence has been coming from as of late. I know there is a need for me to tell the stories of my surroundings and that is where I’m at.
The 6 to BK: Building TieS
From Urbanology Magazine...
A collective of Toronto-based artists is hard at work raising funds to help them get to Brooklyn, New York.
Aside from networking and connecting with NYC-based artists, one of the main reasons this eclectic mix of 20 musicians, photographers and designers are headed to Brooklyn is for AFROPUNK, a music and arts festival toted on its website as being at the “epicentre of urban culture inspired by alternative music.”
Other performing artists involved include Dynesti Williams, Aria Zenua and Xolisa.
Xolisa says this wasn’t just a ‘regular show’ for her. She is particularly excited by the fact that this group of new-age Toronto artists united to just ‘squad up’ and make something happen for themselves.
“We’re actually coming together to try and go to another city, like go to Brooklyn and some of us, like myself, have never been to Brooklyn, have never travelled with music before. This will be my first time going somewhere on behalf of my music,” she shares. “We’re gathering and we’re just raising money ourselves and we’re going. We’re just doing it. I love that.”
May 24th, 2015
On the evening of Saturday May 24th, 2015 Xolisa visited Toronto's CIUT 89.5fm studios for the weekly Vibe Collective radio show segment with hosts (pictured above left to right): Whitney French, DJ Jamaias "Jams" DaCosta and Kemba King.
Live-To-Air for the masses- the four women spoke candidly on topics of creative process, Hip Hop, inspiration, motivation, work ethic and more.
Listen to the interview stream below!
Listeners can choose between hearing the interview portion alone or the full show segment, which includes an in-depth discussion between The Vibe Collective hosts as they bring to the surface issues surrounding Toronto's involvement in the PanAm games, politics, police brutality and more.
[STOP THE BREAKS] A Beautiful Mind: An Interview With Toronto Hip-Hop Artist Xolisa
Toronto hip-hop artist Xolisa is on a mission to spread good music. Now in the third year of her music career, Xolisa is more determined than ever to continue pursuing her dream and pushing her art forward.
Rhyme Until My Spirit Needs No Words To Fly is her second EP to date, the follow up to her debut project A Beautiful Mind. The 7-track tape is a short but intense listening experience – Xolisa isn’t just a dope wordsmith with amazing mic skills but also a deeply intelligent thinker. She’s a writer first, a rapper second – her thoughts are fully etched out even before entering the recording process.
Fully self-produced and featuring no guest appearances, Rhyme Until My Spirit Needs No Words To Fly is simply Xolisa on the mic pouring her heart out, although props do go to her engineer Erik Flowchild who stayed with her side during the entire project.
The most exciting thing about hip-hop right now is the technology that helps consumers discover new and interesting artists like Xolisa. She’s got a lot of things to say and you can bet I’ll be keeping a close eye on her. Shout out to Toronto for all your dope artists!
[Event Recap]: "Rhyme Until My Spirit Needs No Words To Fly"- EP Listening Circle
By Monah Water
Friday, November 21st marked yet another musical milestone for multitalented Toronto hip-hop artist and producer, Xolisa. The night unveiled more than a masterfully crafted body of work packaged in one 6-track EP. The night unveiled the core substance of Xolisa’s music: true art and genuine expression.
For the select few who gathered downtown from different ends of the city to listen to the "Rhyme Until…" EP, with fresh ears, high expectations, and a strong level of appreciation for Xolisa’s artistic excellence, her intimate listening circle created a temporary escape into a realm infused with dope lyrics, unconceivable rhyme schemes, meaningful messages, and mesmerizing self-produced beats.
Before the night could kick off in the Artscape Youngplace building, guests filled the main hall outside of the event room as Xolisa and her team prepared to share the near-end result of many months of hard work invested in completing her new EP. Surely each noted time mark signified crucial collaborative moments, moments of inspiration, trying moments, and moments of growth and elevation throughout the production of the project.
The crowd was just about ready.
Once 7:30 arrived, the doors were opened and the group filed into the serene candlelit room. Some took their places on chairs, while others comfortably rested on patterned cushions and carpets spread across the floor, forming an intimate listening circle around Xolisa, who was joined by Erik Flow, the force behind the engineering and mastering of the finished EP.
What happened in the minutes that followed can only be described vividly through the lens of each person gathered. Around the circle eyes were closed, heads bobbed steadily, bodies rocked with ease, fingers snapped, toes tapped. Track-after-track, there was the perfect fusion of words, layered with rhymes, alternating rhythms and interchanging tempos, fixed with pulsating beats. The music had an undeniable affect on each person in the room. Despite being present and grounded physically, each song somehow managed to elevate the mind of each listener and connect with everyone in distinct ways.
The EP closed, echoing: “Rhyme until my spirit needs no words to fly, to fly, to fly”.
The response that followed was overwhelming. Loud applauds filled the room for some time before Xolisa softly shared humble words of appreciation for the collective support of the event and her project. Continual praises shot from all corners of the room once Xolisa opened the floor to her audience, who closed the circle with a period of in-depth reflection and forward compliments, which incited both laughter and heartfelt tears.
The turnout was outstanding. Xolisa’s private listening party met, and even surpassed the hopes that were projected for the project. Those following Xolisa from the earliest stages of her career were sure to commend her for her increased level of growth, artistic ownership, and her strong vision and powerful lyrical command, which exuded throughout her EP. As one person noted, “Xolisa understands the power of energy…her energy and her personality…is so in tune and so harmonious to so many different things that…it translates through her music.”
Moreover, the connection between Xolisa and her listeners stays unquestionable. She is an artist who continues to define innovation and authenticity, all the while pushing the boundaries of her creativity. She is a lyricist with an astounding mind and an immeasurable amount of talent.
Her title as “The Fundamental Woman of Dope Music” is quite fitting, even more so, considering that Xolisa conducted every aspect of production and writing on her EP independently. And now with its release, there is no predicting where her craft will take her. Xolisa’s new music is definitely a breath of fresh air for T.O. hip-hop lovers who can only expect her fan base to expand beyond the city’s borders within upcoming years.
Finally, it is worth noting those who worked extremely hard to make the "Rhyme Until…" EP Listening Circle a success. The team includes: Moe Naaman of Can I Live charity, who hosted Xolisa's EP release party and assisted with the listening circle's equipment/room setup, along with photographer Chantal Rose, who photographed the inside album cover for the EP and captured the behind the scenes video and photo images for the EP's second single and music video, "Dig Me"; Duane Hall of arts collective Spoke N’ Heard, who was the greeter and host for the EP listening circle; Erik Flow, who was the sound person for the listening circle and who continuously worked with Xolisa as her sound engineer and videographer on the project; and last but certainly not least, The Fundamental Woman of Dope Music, Xolisa—the reason and the driving force behind the event!
[Event Recap]:"A Beautiful Moment" Concert
By Monah Water
"This moment is all that we have. I'm never going to get this moment back every again...so, i'm glad that we could share it together." - Xolisa
A beautiful mind recognizes a beautiful moment when it is experienced. This was undeniably true for the energetic audience that gathered in the heart of west-end Toronto’s monumental Junction community to share that moment on April 10th, with emerging emcee and producer, Xolisa—who was accompanied by DJ Afroditee on the ones and twos.
As cosmic as it was, A Beautiful Moment was far from being anything less than captivating. Having dropped the official video for “A Beautiful Mind” just days before, Xolisa’s first solo concert only raised more excitement alongside the buzz surrounding her previously released material.
This was an anticipated event for those that gathered to watch and show support. The lounge-like space was welcoming to audience members who occupied the tables spread in the venue. People were connecting. Voices and laughter were high, though the mood was real easy. Everyone seemed to be in the moment. Then, the moment came. Xolisa was ready to lace the mic.
Unlike your ordinary performer’s stage entrance—usually set with concertgoers lined before the stage, awaiting an amped intro from the DJ or hype person, the young lyricist smoothly made her way through the crowd from the opposite end of the room towards the stage. Her set began with “A Beautiful Mind”, the first single off of her debut EP, A Beautiful Mind.
At this point, the crowd gravitated towards the performance area to witness Xolisa take lead and create a musical experience for all in attendance—one that unpacked stories of the emcee’s journey thus far, and one that brought true hip-hop lovers back to the root of the culture and the essentials of good musicality and lyrical artistry.
For some, this was a first time experience. For others, this was another opportunity to watch Xolisa reaffirm her skills on the mic. Nevertheless, for the concert to live up to its title, every instant had to count. The beat of each moment had to resonate with beauty—and indeed it did, as the crowd recited and echoed familiar lines from singles including “Borderlines” and “Be Felt”. Bodies rocked. Hands swayed. The crowd was tight.
“you have to see, hear and feel Xolisa to really know her… there’s something spiritual about her.” - Jordan Veira
By intermission, the merchandise table that was full of copies of Xolisa’s EP, was down to only two CDs! Surveying the room, there was a lot of love and support for her. A few young rappers belonging to a hip-hop arts collective called the K.N.O.W.N. Project, mentioned specifically being there that night to experience the concert and learn from Xolisa’s performance, in hopes of aspiring to reach her level of showmanship.
Throughout the night, there were recurring thoughts expressed by audience members, some of whom noted that Xolisa was “not typical”. She was described as “a different artist”—very “humble”, with a “distinctive voice” and “flow”. The diversity of her audience reflected something that was beyond the music. In the mix, were members of organizations such as R.I.S.E. Edutainment and Spoke N Heard; media reps from YYZ Hilightz and Omit Limitation were present; and evolving local artists including Enuma Messam, Felicia Guy-Lynch, and rapper Erik Flowchild—a long-time friend and colleague of Xolisa, all attended and showed love.
For Erik Flowchild, having known Xolisa for a decade and worked closely with her as a video director and sound engineer, he was eager to share that Xolisa is “reintroducing the conventions of hip hop as if her drive is to explain that we have to remember them.” Spoken word artist and founder of Spoke N Heard, JV Da Poet, also shared, “you have to see, hear and feel Xolisa to really know her… there’s something spiritual about her.” To say otherwise would be an understatement.
Commanding the spotlight again, Xolisa returned to the stage to resume the concert, performing her single “Indigo”, which was followed by “Montara” and “Quest”. Amongst chants and cheers, there was lots of love pulsing in the moment. The night was still mystic, but the performance portion was winding down, as the music paused for Xolisa to express her love and gratitude for those who helped bring her vision for the concert to life. Family members, close friends, concert coordinators and simply lovers of art and hip-hop were overcome by the moment.
Walking off the stage and into the audience, Xolisa was accompanied by the crowd, who helped close the concert with her final song titled, “Until Then”. The expressions of the audience members helped to bring the night into perspective and further highlight the distinctness and strength Xolisa holds as a multi-talented force in the industry. Particularly in the male-dominated arena of hip-hop, Xolisa gave evidence that there is no room for gender binaries. A true artist has the ability to shatter preconceived labels, while stimulating emotion and thought.
Xolisa allowed the crowd to be a part of an experience that was connected to the core elements of her music and soul. This was what held the attention of those in attendance, and it created a sense of unity throughout the concert. As someone expressed, Xolisa is “very transparent, and shows herself through her music.” During a time when rappers are following trends and relying on beats and image to sell product, it is promising to see independent artists like Xolisa, stay true to the craft and make good quality music.
Concertgoers can attest that mind, body, and spirit were elevated that night. Music, art, love, laughter, dance and unity transcended. Although some said their farewells, some couldn’t help but stay. Occupying the already filled space, the crowd opened circle for dancers to rock out to the sounds played by DJ Afroditee. An array of beats, rhythms, and melodies kept the after party lively, but unfortunately not everyone got to be a part of the event.
It is evident that the moment can never be relived, but it can be recaptured through the vivid recollections, images and stories of those that were truly present during A Beautiful Moment—this is just one of many accounts.