At NECTalk, we have seen many dope New Era collaboration caps from hip hop artists. One group that has always impressed us with their hat drops is Toronto-based Notes To Self, a crew which consists of rappers Swamp Donkey & Roshin, producer/rapper Bronze One, DJ Dopey and illustrator Eliscer. Notes To Self have worked and toured with many legendary hip hop artists, including De La Soul, Talib Kweli and Dilated Peoples. On February 26th 2013, they released their latest project ‘Target Market RECOIL.’ In support of the album, the group dropped their New Era Cap collection entitled “OFFSAFETY OFFSEASON,” due to demand from their fans. We recently caught up with Notes To Self – who are well-known to rock “A fresh 59FIFTY with the hat brim flat” – to see what’s on their mind.
Who is Notes To Self and whats the meaning behind the name?
Notes to Self are a rap group from Toronto – 4.5 members, Haha; Bronze, Roshin, DJ Dopey, Swamp… and sometimes Elicser — the name; it’s meaning, well the name sorta stemmed from a natural self directed sense of making rap music ourselves – no mentor at the time, wanting to share our honest thoughts on record together, like one would do with a personal tape recorder etc. (as the metaphor) – we didn’t count on it sticking the way it did, but knew it was a great name from jump when people responded so well to it. Easy to repeat back at shows on beat, and largely had great branding potential. But the name really came from a first year University project, branding and naming a now obsolete idea of a physical ‘record store’, of all things.
Where are you guys from and how did it all start?
How do you feel about the Canadian government’s plan to impose a high tax on venues for booking international artists with a charge of $425.00 per artists per performance in Canada? Do you think it’s fair? What effect do you think it will have on the Canadian live music scene?
No, we’re obviously not for it, high costs of doing business can hinder an artists exposure 10fold – we build with many international artists by bringing them to Toronto – but we do understand the motive – Canada is a great place to live, and we try and see its pros behind taxes like this, in the sense that America doesn’t want international artists taking jobs and opps away from the average American anymore than any other place right, so one aquires a legal work Visa – Canada is a lot smaller, perhaps less opportunity to grow as fast as you would from city to city in the US, tho just as much a melting pot of opps, so we think it’s an attempt to level the playing field, pay the price to do business in our country, but really in the end it just sounds like a cash grab doesn’t it? We ain’t for it, cus at the end of the day artists are not making money off record sales anymore, they’re making their money off of touring – so the harder it is to do international shows, the harder it is to feed your family from that larger ever-expanding international fan base melting pot that successful indie artists have always counted on and grown with.
What’s the groups biggest accomplishment to date?
No particular accomplishment we’d say is the biggest, each one adds and increases our credibility as artists in order to achieve the next accomplishment. Releasing great product(s) with labels like BBE & DECON – building and touring with our Big Bros Dilated Peoples, in the beginning on our first record and having them introduce us to people like Fash & Blu with whom we all did small tours with later – having a number 1 single on indie rap college radio in the US w Dilated – meeting & opening for hero’s of ours like De La Soul & Dave West, Kweli, Souls of Mischief etc – headlining small CDN music festivals – having our video for NOBODY go viral in one weekend and being nominated for a Vimeo award in NYC – receiving praise from Goldwatch at DECON/Hypebeast – being sponsored & partnering with New Era – having our “When I First Heard” concept & printables take off as well as they have, with co-signs from our Big Bro Maseo himself, of De La. It’s a culmination, can’t achieve one without the other, chicken and the egg concept.
You have worked and toured with many well known hip hop artists, including De La Soul, Talib Kweli and Dilated Peoples. Who have been some of your favorites to work with? and what artists would you like to work with in the future?
Evidence & Alchemist, Maseo of De La, Fashawn, Rittz, Arowbe, D-Sisive, RUFFMERCY etc, so many great favourites & experiences. All these Dudes are some of the best people you will ever meet in your life, that’s why they’re great artists & personalities. So much to learn. Lots more artists out there we’d like to build, create & learn from for sure – we can dream big, and say Spike Jonze, Chromeo, Yelawolf, Goldwatch, No Pattern, Tava, Chace Infinite & Khalil, De La, Roc Marci, Mad Cobra, the beast that is Teddy Riley, real talk, to name a few…
Who are some artists that you are influenced by and look up to?
Everyone we have mentioned up until now pretty much, whether they are mentors or peers, we’re not afraid to seek advice, we just wanna soak up as much of this career & creativity as possible.
You have released three different drops of Notes To Self New Era caps? How do you feel about the New Era brand, and what do you think it means to hip hop music and culture?
6 Official Releases so far, in 4 drops:
We love New Era and the relationship we have with them – and the kinda support they have given creatives like us – we are very grateful of the relationship and the opportunity – they have been nothing but helpful in realizing our growth in our brand. The New Era history & heritage is deep, and as small as our link & brand is to them in the bigger picture as we continue to grow, it means a whole lot to us we continue to build with such a brand of class & prestige, and the mutual respect and support they give back. We’re big sports fans, baseball in particular, teams and family are everything to us, and for example; when you give that finely crafted black Notes to Self 59Fifty to your Pop, and he wears it proud, that’s that feeling, nothing else like it. Nicely designed well made wool original. You can’t mess with a classic design like that. Nothing like a good fitted. Nothing.
As far as the culture beyond what ball players have been wearing and winning in for years, it’s the artists that rock these caps that mean everything. It’s the artist that wears & creates in it, that athlete that trains & wins in it, its that meaning that links it and us to the culture, the uniform, the team mentality – as well as the designer behind the crest, insignia & colour scheme you stand so stern for. That Detroit D, or that deep yankee blue. Part of your uniform, your team, that priceless comraderie it creates and stands for.
What can fans expect from your latest ” OFFSAFETY” New Era cap drop released in support of your latest project Target Market RECOIL?
They can expect the exact opposite flip colourway of our Offseason cap, which was premoted at the project pre-release earlier in the year. They gotta get their head right for our latest project, Hahaha… expect to spot someone on the subway or streetcar rocking the same cap, headphones on bumping that new RECOIL record, with that melton wool grey under visor you ain’t seen too many brands ever pull off before, against that deep Oxblood dome. Code of the streets!
How can people get your latest New Era Collaborative?
Our online e-store will launch this coming Christmas as we increase stock for the first time. For now we sell-out with pre-orders before our caps even hit the streets. Email your size & colorway to firstname.lastname@example.org and someone will reply with the details.
What style of cap does Notes To Self prefer Snapback or Fitted? Why?
We all grew up with both – our New Era’s were always strictly all-backs, officials, or fitteds growing up. We all wore Starter brand for their SnapBacks or jerseys, cotton crews & hoodys. Nowadays New Era makes the staple quality cap across the board – and we still prefer their fitted. We’ve sampled our NTS cap in lots of styles and models, but have only released the 59Fifty product to the public so far. Room to build, room to grow, and we will eventually drop some variation with New Era, but for now the 59Fifty is our choice cap for our brand to evolve with – we can’t expand too quickly as our music is still our anchor, using the cap to draw our fan base back to our music, and that’s our bottom line.
We released Target Market [RECOIL] as a full-length tape/project with Decon Records in February of this year, and it became available to the rest of the world this past June – released on all platforms both physically and digitally. Some consider it our sophomore effort or a complete second album, we don’t mind calling it either – it was more of a collection of songs recorded together in a short period of time initially thought to be released as a free tape, coming off the strength of our debut with BBE, but later became expanded upon, turning in to a more serious effort when Decon stepped in – and then we waited on it to get our business right, to make sure we could seek the best exposure possible for it, with a well crafted roll-out as a small artist can – we added bonus materials – and shot a video for every song on the long-player – with 2 more yet to be released – created and directed entirely by the same camp of people from Notes to Self. The project features collaborations with our Big Homie Evidence of Dilated Peoples, our gee Fashawn from Fresno CA, our Brother Lee Gaul, and of course Homeboy, Arowbe. With Roshin, Bronze & Swamp rapidly growing as strong songwriters with this particular project, it was entirely produced by Bronze from Notes to Self, with his production partner Book – with Dopey on the cuts as usual – this 5-man team created an extremely eclectic yet cohesive long player that we’re incredibly proud of.
Where can someone hook up with your music?
STREAMING SINGLES: www.soundcloud.com/notestoself
DIGITAL PRODUCT: iTunes: Target Market [Recoil] by Notes to Self https://itun.es/ca/huKCJ
or any Mom & Pop shop or any commercial music retailer, we have worldwide distro (if they aren’t stocking it, they can order in to the store)…
What’s the future have in store for Notes to self?
Right now we’re riding out this new TM[R] project with DECON, gonna tour it while writing our next tape for a Fall release, as well as finish up these next couple of videos as the last to drop in the TM[R] series. And come out the gate strong with another new tape first quarter 2014, accompanied by 2 more cap releases in collaboration with its concept. Momentum is everything, we’ve always found that out the hard way, so we’re slowly learning and changing that with consistent product for the people at a slightly faster rate.
Any final words?
Peace to our Families, Friends and Fans – without y’all, we dont grow – its bcus of y’all we are still at it, crafting the finest music we can and releasing caps to match – we’ll stay at it, as long as y’all continue to show us that love, Thank you.