In this day of disposable music and half listened streams the “listening session” as a promotional tool has gone the way of the dinosaur. So when Toronto emcee SepTO took over the ManifesTO HQ to preview his fourth release, Almost NevR, attendees were in for a treat. Generation X was perhaps the last to understand the term “long play” abbreviated as LP. An LP was so named for its playing length. With today’s technology being what it is, few music listeners take in an album from top to bottom. This change in listening habits is what made the experience unique and The Never Project was well tailored to the occasion.
SepTO is a bit of conundrum. Although the 20-something emcee is one of the most gifted technical rappers to come out of Toronto he prefers not to be a labeled a rapper. Since his last release he’s been writing and posting essays, poems and other meandering thoughts that have revealed another side of his artistic accoutrements. However, the siren sound of rap was too hard to ignore.
“I feel like I’ve proved myself on the rappity rap shit. All the categories: the backpack rapper, the conscious rapper, the rapper’s rapper, all that b.s.,” elaborates Sep. “I feel like I’ve proved myself. I can rap. So this one I didn’t focus on the lyrics. We just focused on the music and the lyrics followed. It was much more emotional, which is why, for the first time, I’m presenting it this way.”
He’s right – the album is an emotional rollercoaster. It opens up with the dark “Excursions”, which feels like it could fit on his previous release The Nightmare Project. It moves into the intricate “Miracle Man” and then into the infectious “Dance Around in My Brain”. It’s a good example of his breadth and provides an engaging opening to the album. After every few songs Sep took a few seconds to shout out the producers and answer any questions. The gathering was content to nod its collective heads until “Let It Go” came on. The response was unanimously positive with some asking if the song was a single and if it had an accompanying video.
The growth is evident. Almost NevR is one of Sep’s strongest releases to date and the audience gathered in the basement of the ManifesTO HQ was appreciative of the opportunity to come out.
“We didn’t just blast out (the listening session). I have a show coming up for that,” Sep explains. “This was about who do we care about. Who are we happy to have here that’s in Toronto contributing (to the culture). The way we all contribute to the culture comes first. I’m happy in my personal life. I just happen to not be able to stop contributing to the art of Toronto.”
As the album came to end Sep spoke about briefly about the creation of the album. “The album cover is a lynching. So it was sort of like I was killing Sep of the past,” he says. “My personal life inspired the album. Before it was my passion for music that inspired the album.” Tracks like “You” and “Father” are a perfect example of this newfound inspiration. Brotha J who appears on both hooks provides nostalgic and heartwarming vocals that help carry Sep’s message.
With its ominous cover and sketchy artwork it may seem like this is the end of the road for Sep as a rapper. However, the imagery is not that cut and dry. “If you love this music, if you appreciate it, if you’re happy its playing in your house, if you’re bumping it every other day just remember how close it is to not existing,” he says. “That’s what almost never means.”
SepTO will be performing live tonight inside The Ballet (227 Ossington Ave. Toronto). Doors open at 8:30PM. Tickets are available online at www.SepTo.ca and purchasable at the door.
Words By. Sean Watson