Tag Archives: Hip-Hop

Q&A With The Free Label

By Samuel Stevens

What’s the significance to your band name, The Free Label?

When we were thinking of a name for the group, we looked at the kind of music we were making, and all the different genre influences we have. We didn’t want to be confined to a strict sound; we wanted the fluidity to make music the way we wanted. To be free from titles or rules.

Where did the idea of calling yourself a boyband come from?

The boyband name was given to us rather than created by us. When we perform, all four of us sing and dance on stage. People would just call us a boyband, and we just went with the title. There aren’t too many boybands anymore, and we want to continue the art and style. 

You guys originally formed as a funk cover band in 2017, correct? What made you guys move away from covering songs, slightly straying from the genre, and start to write, record, and perform your own material?

We started as a funk cover band to fill the gaps in our set between our originals. We always knew that the covers were our way of cutting our teeth and learning to perform on stage together. As we started playing more frequently, we would play shows with two, three, sometimes four sets, and we needed to extend our setlist.

You all have jazz/funk backgrounds and certainly, display that on M.I.A. and even on your previous EP, Lift You Up. You blur the lines between pop and R&B, also incorporating some funk, jazz, and hip-hop elements throughout it’s eight tracks. Are these just genres you’re all fans of that you decided to blend and incorporate into your sound? How did that all come about in the songwriting process, past and present?

After playing as a cover band for so long, those genres are practically ingrained in the way we function musically. I don’t think we could make it through a full writing session without breaking into a funk jam. We always use our roots to create our original music. Like in the way old funk/soul music, it was meant to be performed live. That’s something we think about with every song we write. How do we go crazy with this on stage or how it fits in our set.

What are your musical influences that shape the group’s sound? For example, I love the vibe on your track, “You Ain’t Got No Reason” that resembles a piece of music from the likes of Justin Timberlake, or even Bruno Mars.

Anderson .Paak is a massive influence on us as a group as well. He embodies old school soul and R&B in the most modern way. That’s where our song “You Ain’t Got No Reason” comes from; It’s our way to pay homage to our roots, and showcase our old school vibe.

Which songs on the album were the most fun to write, and which were the most challenging to write?

M.I.A. was the most fun to write by far. What we sing about on M.I.A. are our personal experiences. In 2019 we spent four months abroad performing on a cruise ship residency, and we lived the life you hear about on the song. We had performances every night, and our job was to throw parties until the bars on the ship closed. Then we’d wake up and do it all over again, travelling the world.

The hardest song to write was, “Let Me Find a Way.” We went through three or four different versions of the song before we landed on what you hear on the album. It started as a 60’s soul song, then transformed into a 90’s R&B style track, and finally ended up with an indie pop vibe. With the previous versions, we felt like we weren’t exploring the range of what we could do. As we started to experiment, all the elements all began to fall into place.

How was it collaborating with fellow Toronto indie-pop artist, Oleyada on your track, “Up in Flames,” could you tell me more about that?

Oleyada is not only a super talented writer, and close friend, but also our bass player Mathew’s girlfriend; they collaborate all the time. “Up in Flames” came about while Mathew and Oleyada were writing together. After they showed us what they had, we all agreed it was an excellent fit for the record. We all love Ariana Grande’s last album, and it influenced “Up in Flames.” The song was written far before COVID-19, but the release lined up in a super weird way. The apocalyptic themes felt very fitting for this peculiar time.

If you could have collaborated with any musician that’s ever existed, past or present on M.I.A. who would it have been and why?

We would love to get Anderson .Paak on a version of “You Ain’t Got No Reason.”

What are your favourite song(s) off the new album?

Our favourite song off the album is “M.I.A.” For so many reasons, the memories and stories that the song is about, plus the music video was so fun to shoot.

Since its release in 2018, your single “All Night” has garnered over 550,000 streams on Spotify, a real monumental achievement, sparking the path you guys are now on. How has the reception for your most recent singles, “Up in Flames” and “M.I.A. (Money Isn’t Available)” been since their releases?

Releasing “All Night” was crazy. The reception we received for our first ever single is incredible. The fact that people have heard our music around the world and that twenty-two thousand of them have saved the single on Spotify is unreal. “M.I.A” is our evolution from “All Night.” It shows how much our songwriting and style has developed since 2018. As for “Up in Flames,” it was a song that felt like it fit in our boyband image, and is just another branch of what The Free Label is.

This past month you guys released a mixtape made entirely from the comfort of your own homes while practicing social distancing in the months of March and April titled, Quarantoonz, Vol. 1, will there be more Quarantoonz mixtapes down the road?

As long as quarantine lasts, we will release more volumes of Quarantoonz. We’re making so much music right now; it would be a shame not to release it. 

Do you have anything else planned for 2020, or are you guys just taking the year day-by-day for the unforeseeable future, before you can solidify touring plans, etc?

As for 2020, we will release another summer single, and the second volume of Quarantoonz, maybe two… We will be playing a few online festivals and streaming performances. We performed for Homebody Festival on May 29th, and the City of Vaughan’s Canada Day stream. We are always looking for more opportunities to perform, so it’s best to check our Instagram or website at thefreelabel.ca, if you want the most updated info on us.

Thanks for the time, guys! With everything going on in the world right now, I hope you’re all staying safe at home in Toronto. Is there anything else you may want to add?

Thank you to everyone for showing us so much support and love right now! Stay home, stay safe, and wash ya’ damn hands!

Check out more from The Free Label:




The Free Label – M.I.A

By Samuel Stevens

Release Date: May 29, 2020

Genre: Pop, R&B, Hip-Hop

Label: Independent

Toronto based, genre defying, and self-described boyband supergroup, The Free Label, have continued to solidify their musical path with the release of their debut album, M.I.A. The album’s eight tracks hit you with numerous amounts of positive vibes, if it’s from The Free Label’s endless catchy lyrics, or their at times melodic, groovy, experimental, genre defying, and electrifying sound leaving you with what might be the soundtrack to your summer. The Free Label originally formed in 2017 as a funk cover band, before evolving into what you may know them as now, a multi-instrumental powerhouse comprised of four charismatic Canadian boys: Josh Daniel (vocals), Mathew Fantini (bass, vocals), Malik Mungo (guitar, vocals), and Cole Méndez (keys, vocals), who all sing and rap, in addition to playing their respective instruments. M.I.A was entirely self-produced by The Free Label, however it was mixed and mastered by Gabe Galluci, who has previously worked on albums from, Shawn Mendes and Francesco Yates to name a few.

Two years ago in the Summer of 2018, The Free Label had an extremely successful single, “All Night,” that lead the band to head out on the road on a four month long tour throughout South America and Europe, which was followed by the release of their three track debut EP, Lift You Up. Within the last few weeks, The Free Label released, Quarantoonz Vol. 1, a mixtape in a series which was created and recorded throughout the months of March and April, while the band and all of us practiced social distancing in the comfort of their own homes. The band used this as an opportunity to flex their creativity and try something new.

M.I.A focuses on the subject of transition, touching on relationships ending, complicated situations changing, and remaining focused on the future. This effort is a reflection of what The Free Label are capable of comprising as artists. The album opens up with it’s melodious title track, “M.I.A (Money Isn’t Available),” a track full with a resonating guitar line, a catchy chorus, and mesmerizing beat. “M.I.A (Money Isn’t Available)” sets itself up as a party, feel good anthem and is just a taste of what’s yet to come on the remaining seven tracks. “We just want to do it for the money / So we can even turn up on a Sunday / Ladies all around us sweet like honey / We don’t need to wake up on a Monday.”

The strident tune, “Oreo,” is the album’s one and only full hip-hop track, while the track, “Up In Flames” also stands out on it’s own as one of the tracks with the slowest tempo. “Up In Flames” also features the sultry vocal performance from bilingual (English, Spanish) Toronto indie pop artist, Oleyada. The two tracks, “Let Me Find A Way” and “Without You” are centered around groovy bass lines and will most certainly make you want to get up and move. However the track, “You Ain’t Got No Reason” while also being centered around a massive bass line and hypnotizing synths, it takes the band back to their musical roots with a funky, and groovy anthem with elements that are something that resemble the likes of Justin Timberlake or Bruno Mars.

The Free Label did not want to leave their successful 2018 celebratory anthem and highly catchy single, “All Night” off the effort. The track suits the entire project extremely well and is the perfect culmination for what the previous seven tracks on M.I.A touched on. M.I.A may have the possibility to be the soundtrack of this upcoming summer and “All Night” itself stands out to be the contender to be part of it, if not the entire album. Since the original release of, “All Night” the song has surpassed the monumental achievement of 550,000 streams on Spotify. “Cause we’re ridin’, we’re drinkin’, we’re smokin’ / And we don’t give a fuck / We elated, sedated, cross faded / And we be keepin’ it up all night.”

Check out more from The Free Label:




Lil Xtra – Taking Up Space

By Samuel Stevens

Release Date: April 24, 2020

Genre: Alternative Hip-Hop, Alternative Rock, Post-Hardcore

Label: Hopeless Records

The Atlanta, Georgia hip-hop artist, Clayton Roney, more famously known as Lil Xtra has returned with his genre bending third album, Taking Up Space. Roney is often referred to as “the La Dispute of emo rap” with a passion for music as a form of self-expression and healing. While using music as his outlet, he continues to share personal experiences through his songs. Lil Xtra is representing a new generation of musicians and fans who were raised knowing no genre-boundary lines. Roney cites artists Juice WRLD, Blink-182, A Day To Remember, and Post Malone as his main musical inspirations. Lil Xtra has rightfully claimed his seat amongst his SoundCloud equals in the likes of similar artists, guardin and nothing,nowhere. Taking Up Space was completely written, produced, and recorded by Clayton Roney in his hometown of Atlanta.

Taking Up Space opens with the melodic track, “Hive,” which leaves you with just a taste of what the album offers by mixing genres throughout the track. “Hive” touches on the subject of being pushed out of a circle of peers and being bullied. “But I’m just your project / You’ll beat me unconscious / Make sure I know I’m better off in the ground / I’ll long for the casket / I’ll put on the mask when you say / Hey you know that no one wants you around right?”

The lead single, “Under The Weather,” tackles mental illness from the perspectives of both the people who suffer as well as the loved ones who are around them. “Cause I just need some time to feel better / I’m bent and too broken / Falling under the pressure / But I think we’ll be fine / Keep it together / It feels like we’re dying / We’re just under the weather.”

The fourth track on Taking Up Space, “HXHXHX,” takes a drastic shift in tone and is indisputably the heaviest track on the record, showcasing Roney’s post-hardcore talents. A song that can’t be argued draws solely from Roney’s heavier influences in his music inspirations. Other tracks on the album such as “Hive,” “Under The Weather,” “Alive” -as well as a few others- take elements from this influence as well.

While Taking Up Space is primarily an emo rap album front to back, it’s also no secret it draws elements from several genres all over the musical spectrum and uses elements of these influences throughout the album. The tracks “Alive” and “Wasted In Paris” mostly from hip-hop, while tracks like “Home” and “Normal” are essentially just Clayton and an acoustic guitar. Lil Xtra has found a way to put his own stamp on the emo rap genre, with his latest release, Taking Up Space.

Check out more from Lil Xtra:




Alone I Walk – Get Up Tour

By Samuel Stevens

Get Up Tour featuring Alone I Walk, Nicolas Rage, Daphne Bleue, and drinkbleachh

September 18, 2019

Bulldog Event Center

drinkbleachh. Photos by Samuel Stevens Photography
Daphne Bleue
Daphne Bleue. Photos by Samuel Stevens Photography.
Nicolas Rage
Nicolas Rage. Photos by Samuel Stevens Photography.
Alone I Walk
Alone I Walk. Photos by Samuel Stevens Photography.