At just 23 years old, Brenden Hewko has his own promotions company, independent label and a stacked roster of hip-hop talent. And all that, along with his no filter attitude, has earned him the nickname “Suge White” of the Canadian hip-hop scene.
With artists like Dillan Ponders, Jimmy B, Set and The Antiheroes on his team, and shows with Kendrick Lamar, Smoke DZA and Mac Miller under his belt, Hewko is confident enough to speak on matters too sensitive for many in Toronto to touch.
Sitting down at the Pacific Junction Hotel in Toronto surrounded by poutine spring rolls, chicken fingers and good beer, Suge White dives straight into his thoughts on the Smashmouth crew, what’s wrong with the city and what needs to change in order to achieve this ‘unity in Toronto hip-hop’ that so many are looking for.
“I think we have one of the best rosters in the country, by far the best roster in the city, hands down,” he starts.
And so it began…
WHAT IS IT ABOUT YOUR ROSTER THAT YOU BELIEVE MAKES IT THE BEST? It’s genuine and diverse. Every artist on the label has a different sound sonically. I don’t think you can classify any two as sounding the same, which makes it a lot easier for me to manage. Any artist that I work with or any lane that we want to attack, we have someone. I don’t really think anyone can touch us from Toronto when it comes down to it. I think 2014 is going to be our year and you can either fuck with us and join it, or get out the way. I’ve always been one to support Toronto hip-hop from day one.
YOU’VE RECENTLY BEEN NICKNAMED SUGE WHITE FOR YOUR NO FILTER ATTITUDE. WHERE DID THAT COME FROM? It’s not to say that I’m some gangster riding around with guns and I’m going to dangle you off a balcony, but it’s more so that I’m only 23 and what I’ve accomplished and the mentality that I have and that’s the Smashmouth mentality. You don’t wait for something, you take it, because in this industry, no one is going to hold your hand and if you’re too kind, you are just going to get chewed up and spit out. That’s the one thing that I hate about this industry, everyone kind of has to have that screwface side to them and you have to only want yourself to win. If you don’t have that mentality and you think everyone cares about you and wants to be your friend, you’re never going to make it anywhere. Toronto’s hip-hop community is very old and regarded and they don’t want to welcome anybody to the new school, because they are still stuck on the old school. Let the music speak for itself and let the fans speak for themselves. There’s a lot of artists in Toronto that need to retire and hang it up, unless we’re going to start a hip-hop pension plan for them, because there’s nothing respectable about being 30 years old and struggling to provide for yourself and your family.
WHO WOULD THAT BE? I won’t drop names… It’s not about paying your dues. You have to show respect to a certain extent, but if the music is at a level that it needs to be, that’s what we need to be promoting… It takes someone like Rich Kidd or Naturally Born Strangers, who are in essence, a super group, just to pull out 700 people. Yeah, that’s an accomplishment and I’m proud of those guys, but in Atlanta, people would laugh at that. That’s exactly what’s wrong with Toronto. That’s what it takes to bring out 700 people in a city of five million? Too many people are afraid or they don’t want to support someone that they are not friends with and that’s everything that’s wrong with Toronto. Everyone wants Toronto to unify, but everybody wants Toronto to unify on his or her terms. They want to be the one to unify Toronto. The old Toronto supports old Toronto and the old journalists support those artists and they give all those opportunities to those artists, but the new school needs to come together to prove to Toronto and prove to Canada that we’re not to be slept on. That’s not just Smashmouth, that’s everyone. I have supported more artists in Toronto than anyone else in Toronto. I have more ties to Toronto at my age than people that are 30, so I’m allowed to have the opinions that I have.
YOU DON’T FEEL LIKE THE MUTUAL RESPECT IS THERE ON EITHER SIDE? No. I’m not saying you have to retire, but step aside and embrace the youth that is coming up and play your role. Be a mentor, show your co-signs, but Toronto is too afraid to do that, because everyone is still trying to make it.
WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN FOR THERE TO BE UNITY BETWEEN THE NEW AND OLD SCHOOLS OF TORONTO? I don’t know if it ever can. It’s going to take compromise on the young artists and compromise on the old artists. Even the journalists, everyone kind of looks down on the new acts. If you are a Canadian publication, there is no reason why you are not posting every quality submission you get. So many publications and blogs that claim that they are Canadian are so biased that it’s sickening. That is the mentality that is stopping everyone from succeeding.
Interview By. Samantha O’Connor + Main Image By. Janelle Scott-Johnson