A Newfoundlander living in New Brunswick, Lee Pearce – also known as Hotbox – has been making beats for East Coast rappers for years, and has finally released a collection of work.
Featuring a cast Newfoundland rappers Johnny Hardcore, Radar, Lee Fitz and Shiest, Frostbite and is perhaps the closest thing the province has ever seen to a local rap compilation.
Elling Lien caught up with Pearce by phone to talk about it.
So what does Frostbite have to do with you being a Newfoundlander?
[laugh] There are a few reccurring themes on the album, even though I tried not to tell people what to rap about.
The name Frostbite, you hear that come up in a number of songs, like the weather being cold and going outside to shovel snow, and stuff like that. Then you get a few artists talking about the struggle to get heard on the East Coast, where the economy is not great so should we stay or should we move out west. Struggling to get heard in a place where there’s really no industry set up here. It’s not Newfoundland-specific other than the one song on there that’s a bit of a Newfie rap anthem.
“Them Newfie Boyz”?
[laugh] Yeah, saying Newfoundlanders can rap too. Other than that, it’s not really mentioned. But at least it has an East Coast flavour to it.
…One thing about being from Newfoundland is when I started getting involved with this, there really wasn’t anything before us. As far as me making beats, there definitely wasn’t a forefather in the area helping us learn, so it was pretty much trial and error that taught us.
So I wanted to go through the tracks on the album and have you talk about them…
M!racle from Nova Scotia raps on this one, he’s one of these guys that is very talented and has a real cocky swagger goin’ on. I haven’t really heard a whole lot from him. He doesn’t have any albums as far as I know, but I just heard some random tracks and I reached out. It’s a good introduction to the album. I had an incredible beat that I wanted to use as the intro beat and his flow matched it perfectly.
Spit That Murder
The scratch in the chorus was done by this guy Y-Rush, who’s this year’s DMC DJ Champion on the East coast. The battles took place in Moncton last summer, and I was impressed with his skills, so I reached out to him. He agreed to be a part of the project.
Of course, John[ny Hardcore] is on there. I’ve known him for years. A fellow Newfoundlander. Any project that I put out I really want my newfie rapper friends involved. I really want to get their stuff out there.
The Wonder Years remix with MC Lyte
This is one of the non-Atlantic Canadian tracks on there. I’ve always looked out for remix contests where sometimes artists have a-capellas that they provide to do-it-yourself producers, and it just happened that she had one on her Myspace. Someone mentioned it to me and told me to try to work with it. So I did. I was a huge MC Lyte fan when I was younger.
I did the remix and I liked it, so I sent it to her, and maybe a week or two later I got a response saying it was her favourite one and she put it on her Myspace page and made it official.
I like the beat for this one. It’s a real grimy beat. There are some electric guitar samples on there, a little something different. Yeah, Nayles is on there. He’s from Moncton. He’s a good friend of mine. Shiest is on there, he’s originally from St. John’s. He’s out in Edmonton these days, doin’ good out there. Bush is from Cape Breton.
Each rapper on that track touches on some political issue… Mischif from Cape Breton, he takes on organized religion, Bush tackles a few different issues like rising tuition costs. Lee Fitz, of course, a St. John’s local, he starts it off talking about the war in Iraq. It’s a political song, but not limited to just one idea.
I like this one, it’s one of my favourites on the album.
This is a track about how it’s tough to be an Atlantic Canadian hip-hop artist. There’s not a whole lot of scene or industry structure. Quake is on there, he’s a 17-year-old prodigy from Halifax. He’s after winning a few MC battles, and he’s been competing since he was 13 or 14. It’s just a matter of time before he gets an album out there.
Shiest says on there that rap is just a side hobby, much like production is for myself. We’re never going to see any money off it, so I can relate to that verse. Lee Fitz comes in at the end and talks about struggling with being poor, tryin’ to get some milk for his macaroni and cheese. [laugh]
Got it Locked
This one is different from a lot of the other tracks. This one is my experiment with down south Crunk (or whatever you want to call it) flavour. It’s a slower, more intense type of beat, you know. Jofo is originally from Cape Breton, now based in Halifax. He has a lot of flow. You listen to him and you think it’s Chingy [a St. Louis rapper] or something…
Radar has an original style. Lots of times I can’t even figure out what he’s saying, but it sounds good. [laugh]
He has a lot of fans in the underground rap scene, and he needs to get his album out.
Print that! He needs to get his album out. This was recorded on the spot last summer.
Them Newfie Boyz
This one is your all-star Newfie rap track [laugh]. I like this one…
I got a verse from Sean Price, a Brooklyn rapper on Duck Down records who recently put out an album. And then Jay Bizzy, from Halifax, he took that verse and built a song around it.
Make ‘em Holla
Bon-sha is a legend in the east. He’s been around for years and years, like, fifteen or twenty years. He’s from Halifax, but these days he’s based in Fredericton. The other guy Expedyte, he’s from Saint John, New Brunswick, he put a verse on that after and made it a song.
The last one there is a nice breezy song to end off the album. Markit, from Halifax, is part of a crew with Boy-Ill and Spesh-K called Fax 4.
So what are your plans now for this album?
We’re marketing the album across Canada, trying to get as much press and publicity as possible.
I’m not trying to take over the world or anything, I’m just trying to get this stuff heard, get the beats heard, get my favourite rappers from the scene heard. You know.