If anyone's rap career in Toronto were an embodiment of Frank Sinatra’s 1969 hit, “My Way,” it would be Jazz Cartier’s. In a city he described as hard-pressed to prove itself to a U.S. audience, the 24-year-old artist, born Jaye Adams, decided to abandon the idea of American validation and embraced the culture and capabilities of his home base. Navigating the dog-eat-dog competition of the former “Screwface Capital,” Jazz took his own name by the reigns and got recognition from the mainstream on his own terms. No cosigns. No piggyback rides.
Born to young parents fresh off their teenage years — who would have to navigate adulthood and parenthood simultaneously — Jazz’s silver lining was music. The culture became his saving grace as a youngin, as he was tasked with making new friends with each subsequent move to a new environment. Thanks to the hip-hop stylings of Snoop Dogg, Black Sheep and Naughty By Nature, he always had one constant despite the constant changes.
“I moved around so much growing up that it's like I would always have to leave friends. And the one thing I always had was the memories of certain things and the music just kept me sane throughout everything,” he said. “Changing schools every year as a kid, it's not really ideal. It sucked at the time, but the one thing that always kept me at bay and balanced was the music.”
As the term “rapper” transformed from a facade to a pastime that helped ease his speech impediment to an endeavor he actually wanted to pursue, Jazz Cartier’s city was also undergoing a metamorphosis. The harsher, more cutthroat reputation of Toronto began to dissolve as Drake became the city’s flag-bearer, with a more suave approach in tow. The Weeknd’s XO era also marked a turn for the Ontario capital, as women, drugs and R&B became the playground for the avant-garde. The cultural shift made it possible for Jazz’s multicultural collective, Get Home Safe, to rule the underground from their notorious Kensington Market party house, The Palace. The group would later disband, however.
“Things got so hectic, and I think looking back on it, we were all pretty young. We had Abel shoot the ‘King of the Fall’ video in our house. If you look at the video, you'll see our rooms, you'll see us in the video. It got that crazy,” he recalls. “Ego. Young Black men with ego. That's usually the cause of a lot of fallouts [...] Eventually Get Home Safe, it doesn't exist anymore.”
Faced with the loss of what he believed had the potential to be “biggest” crew in the rap game. Jazz Cartier was forced to stand on his own two feet. With his signature producer, Lantz, still on the roster, the rapper proceeded to stow away for nearly five months, licking his wounds and creating his own sound. The result was his 2015 debut solo mixtape, Marauding in Paradise. A darker counterpart to Drizzy’s decadence, Jazz, also known as Jacuzzi La Fleur, planted himself firmly and unapologetically as the worthy antithesis with tracks such as “The Downtown Cliche.” Further inching himself away from his Toronto counterpart, Jazz would later drop his Juno Award-winning project, Hotel Paranoia, solidifying himself as the leader of the post-Drake era.
So where does one go when they’ve reached peak self-awareness? Further upward. With new horizons, like collaborations with the likes of Mike Will Made-It, Jazz Cartier is looking to shatter the Toronto mold even further with his upcoming album.
“It’s 2017, so it’s like the tides are constantly turning within the city. And, I just happened to be one of the front runners of this current run.”