A desolate road that ties Flex the Antihero and his hometown homies together from each end of Ajax, Ontario, from North to South, has become not only the concept behind the Canadian artist’s recently released solo project, but much of the inspiration that led the rapid-fire rapper to start his journey into music in the first place.

While many often forget where they came from, Flex is paying homage with his new solo project, which as he tells it, pulled him from one of the darkest times in his life. As Flex so eloquently displays with the 12-track project, there is beauty in dysfunction, a confidence in not caring how a project will be received and inspiration in barren places.

Over pitchers and poutine spring rolls on a cold winter night in downtown Toronto, the Smashmouth spitter confesses to the level of authenticity behind the raw emotion evoked from his work, and why he is ready to leave the dreary winter and dark times behind him.

PAINT THE PICTURE OF SALEM. WHAT’S IT LIKE THERE? The whole concept of it was, when you see that cover and you see the trees, there was nothing there before and that is kind of where we gravitated to, because it was out of the way of everything. That’s where we could go. That’s where I started rapping. I didn’t get into the process of writing a real song until I felt like I was ready.

You can’t put your troubles into everyone’s words, but you can bridge the gap with music. It was a rough process. It had its ups and downs, but I got through it and I’m totally happy with every step that I took with making this project happen. It’s probably my best work that I’ve done so far.

WHAT WAS THE PROCESS OF PIECING THAT TOGETHER? It was rough. You can hear a lot of bullshit and pain. It’s relatable to everybody and that’s what I was trying to do, was take what I was going through and make it relatable to everybody. You can’t put your troubles into everyone’s words, but you can bridge the gap with music. It was a rough process. It had its ups and downs, but I got through it and I’m totally happy with every step that I took with making this project happen. It’s probably my best work that I’ve done so far.

WHAT DID YOU GO THROUGH THAT MADE IT SO PERSONAL? I kind of wrote off everybody. I hit a depression point where I felt like I didn’t need anybody and I didn’t need anything and I just questioned a lot of moves and where I was at mentally. In “Violet”, I mention a lot of drinking. I was literally in the dumps. I was done. The only thing that kept me going was this project and it holds a special place to me.

SO SALEM PULLED YOU OUT OF IT? The project totally pulled me out of it when I heard it together. That’s kind of when I saw it for what it was. This came out better than I expected and this was the way it was meant to come out.

WAS A SOLO PROJECT SOMETHING THAT YOU HAD ORIGINALLY PLANNED? It was intended. We did the two Antiheroes projects and I knew that I could only do so much in the lane that I wanted to, because me and Sha have different tastes in music. So, with Salem, I had complete control over taking it where I wanted it to go.

WHO IS FLEX AS A SOLO ARTIST AS OPPOSED TO AN ANTIHERO? There’s no border for me. There’s no limit to what I want to do. I don’t care if it’s rock or rap or any genres that I’m into. I will add that and I don’t feel like I need to fit in.

WHERE DO YOU SEE THIS PROJECT FITTING INTO THE CURRENT STATE OF CANADIAN HIP-HOP? It’s not and that’s kind of what I like. I feel it doesn’t because I went into it with no borders.

WHO IS IT FOR? It’s for me.

Interview By. Samantha O’Connor + Photo By. Iris Gill