Toronto rapper ShaqIsDope is the opposite when on stage compared to being interviewed. On stage, the young emcee, who hails from Toronto’s St. Jamestown neighbourhood, is energetic and isn’t satisfied until everybody in the audience is bouncing with him. During the interview, he is cool and collected, often answering questions with yes, sir. Catching his breath after an energetic set during Canadian Music Week, he opens up and has this to say:

THE FIRST THING I WANTED TO ASK ABOUT WAS STARTING OFF YOUR SET WITH AN A CAPELLA VERSE. Yes sir. Every time I did a show I always promised myself that I would keep doing it for each show I had, just to let the crowd take in my bars just in case they can’t really hear the music or the lyrics. The inspiration behind this one was my recent accomplishments in the past year.

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WHO ARE YOUR BIGGEST INFLUENCES? I love the whole TDE camp. My favourite rapper is Big Pun so I always study his lyricism and incorporate into my music.

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF HIS SON, CHRIS RIVERS? The man is dope. He really reminds me of his father.

IF YOUR CAREER WAS A BOOK AND IT HAD 10 CHAPTERS, WHICH CHAPTER WOULD YOU BE ON RIGHT NOW? I would say I’m on chapter five, because I feel like I’m halfway of where I’m trying to reach and I just gotta keep putting in more work and I’ll get to chapter 10.

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WHEN YOU WERE PERFORMING YOU SAID YOU WANTED TO BE “THE GREATEST THEY’VE EVER SEEN”. I just want to be the greatest. I have a lot of passion for hip-hop and I feel like one day I want the whole world to know who I am and really respect me as an artist, as a lyricist, so they know I’m the greatest and the best in the game hopefully in the future.

WHERE DO YOU FIND INSPIRATION? Just the people around me, my whole area, St. Jamestown, my mom she always pushes me to do music so she is definitely one of my biggest influences.

WAS IT HER THAT PUSHED YOU TO START RAPPING? Nah, it was me pushing myself and I really wanted to do it, so she really supported me and said, “follow your dreams, I got your back.”

I WANTED TO ASK YOU ABOUT TACKLING THE “DEAD PRESIDENTS” BEAT, BECAUSE IT SEEMS LIKE LOTS OF PEOPLE HAVE DONE IT. The only thing that was going through my head while writing it was, I gotta kill this because if I don’t kill it, a lot of people are gonna talk and say this kid’s not nice. When I was working on it, I gotta come with the bars and I gotta come with the sick flow.

I HEARD DURING YOUR SET YOU GAVE A SHOUT OUT TO SLICK RICK AND PETE ROCK. Yes sir, I feel like you gotta respect your forefathers in the game. If you don’t respect it, you can’t really exceed with your art because you really have to study the whole game. I’m from the new school.

Interview By. Cameron Da Silva + Photos By. Janelle Scott-Johnson