Kat: We’re gonna go slow into the interview. For starters, could you tell us how you got into music?
High Klassified: I started getting into making music because of my brother, who was a rapper. When I was younger I didn’t have a lot of friends; my brother was my best friend and I chilled a lot with him. I wanted to be involved in what he was doing but I wasn’t a good rapper so I started producing instead. I had zero experience but I ended up learning little by little.
You come from Laval, so you must know that the stereotypes surrounding the city aren’t exactly the best ones. However, you’re the perfect example of someone who doesn’t come from a big city but who succeeded nonetheless. You rep Laval everywhere you go and you give it a new flavour.
My boys and I, all of my friends, we always wanted to break the suburban stereotypes of North-Shore guys who go to the gym and play hockey. We try to break these stereotypes and to show more… I can’t say the “Haitian community” because it’s very varied… But to showcase the culture that surrounds me, which is the complete opposite of Laval’s culture. When we were younger, we used to stay home and play video games and just chill.
What does #LavalOuRien mean?
Laval Ou Rien is kind of slogan that was born when I started going to downtown Montreal to Art Beat’s events. I was the only guy from Laval and everyone was kind of laughing at that, and as a joke I started saying “Laval Ou Rien” (note from editor for y’all non-French speakers: “Laval or nothing”) and it got picked up by my brother. He was our squad’s biggest hype man, and since then it became our slogan. The team from OTH, my favorite store, approached me to do a collab with “Laval Ou Rien.” We made bomber jackets, t-shirts, and pants that are still available in store.
It’s crazy because it became a catchphrase that everyone knows!
Yeah! Even people who don’t know me personally use it. All the big commerces in Laval use it as a hashtag, like the Carrefour Laval does on their Instagram. The Moksha Yoga in Laval over-used and I’m super down with that.
Did they give you the creds?
Shout out to Moksha Yoga, I have free hot yoga classes there now!
Let’s talk about video games because I know they influence you in your work. Why do you like them so much?
I find inspiration in video games indirectly. Whenever I have “producer blocks,” I play video games and right after I can produce. I play Final Fantasy 13, 13-2, 13-3, and after I start working on my project. Video games take my mind off things. But it’s unconscious! I don’t tell myself: “I’m not inspired, I’ll play video games.” It’s my pastime.
We watched your music videos and we were all wondering… Why? What do they mean, is there a message behind them?
All my videos are very caricatured and extra. They’re a representation of my obsessions for some of the things I like in life, but pushed to the very extreme. For instance, 1250 and hair; I take very good care of my hair. Coconut oil at night, I sleep with a durag every night. 1250 is about a bald guy who uses a [hair-growing] product and then it becomes his obsessions. Time In Vain; I love fashion and video games so in the video we see girls who are obsessed with clothes. At the end of the video we can see myself playing and customizing a character, dressing him, which represents my own obsession for clothes. It’s a caricature of everything I like.
Do you have a favorite video?
The video for 1250 is incredible. Even on set when we were filming it was like a real movie; I’ve never witness the creation of a video like that.
At FM2, we think we would never have been able to grow without the endless support of Montreal’s artistic community. As an artist, do you think it’s important to stay connected with the community that surrounds you?
I personally think it’s important, especially because of what I’m trying to represent. I don’t want people to know me only by my music but also by my lifestyle. Mainly only Montrealers can relate to people from Laval because they’re from here. I think I get a lot of support because of that, from people who look at what I’m up to, what I’m doing because they can relate. I always thought it’s important to relate to people who listen to my music so that they can see the person behind it. It’s important to show people what I like. Maybe some of them had the same childhood as me, who played video games and thought they were “wack.”
You’ve travelled a lot. What do you think differentiates Montreal from other cities?
What’s different about Montreal is that it’s a mix of North America and Europe. When you have shows outside of Montreal, I find that people are a bit stuck up. They’ll dance less, unless you’re someone really famous. In Europe, when you have a show, people go nuts. The best shows I’ve had were in Europe. Montreal is also incredible people the audience isn’t shy. They jump everywhere, they have no shame… They’re not stuck up.
On a more personal level, do you think the Montreal community is different?
For sure. We’re known for being the most “cozy” people. When I’m in France, everybody tells me that people in Montreal are super cool, very open-minded, very friendly. Montreal’s community is very kind… Oh, and Laval’s also.
What is success for you?
For me success is eternal comfort, I’ve always said it. It’s being able to not go above your means but not do too much either. If you have the opportunity to make more money but while losing your soul musically, losing your sound… That’s not eternal comfort. Eternal comfort is being comfortable with what you’re doing and being able to make a good living out of it.
Do you feel like you’ve reached that eternal comfort?
Currently I am in the comfort zone, but I’m looking for eternal comfort. I’m 24 years old, will I be as comfortable at 34? I’m looking for longevity.
What advice would you give to young, emerging artists who don’t feel like Montreal is big enough to be successful?
To stay true to yourself. I think right now artists are trying too hard to analyze the game, to listen to what’s popular and recreate it. But people are looking for different things. Even if you don’t believe in what you’re doing because you don’t see or hear it everywhere, stay in that lane because people are always searching for something different.
* Interview was originally conducted in French, although all of us are perfectly fluent in English and it ended up being translated.