A conversation with local rapper, Ramsay Almighty
Showcasing a sense of sonic atmosphere, Ramsay’s singles contain trickles of laughter, conversation and clinks of drinks that invite hesitant ears.
I’m not one to dive into the depths of the Internet in hopes of finding underground musicians. It takes me a while to warm up to even the most established artists out there. Consequently, I always hesitate to be patient with someone that isn’t recommended or critically acclaimed.
With Ramsay Almighty, I was surprised to avoid that issue. His music was warm, inviting and easy to listen to. Greeted by the aesthetic appeal of his recent single’s artwork, I found myself bobbing my head to his newly released singles “Ari Ferrari” and “Kola Champagne.”
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Showcasing a sense of sonic atmosphere, his singles contain trickles of laughter, conversation and clinks of drinks that invite hesitant ears. No one likes to walk into a party where the record scratches and everyone turns their heads. Anthony Ramsay’s sound finds a balance between chill and interesting. It’s rare to be accepting without being boring.
I can say the same thing about Ramsay himself. Living, working and creating in Kitchener-Waterloo, we linked up for a conversation on a snowy day. I met a rapper — scratch that — a musician that understood himself, the current music world and the path he was determined to follow.
AD: How do you feel like you generate your best ideas?
RA: Listening to other music and just life situations. You can write a song about almost every situation in your life. I really try and just visualize and appreciate every moment. I see what I can take from that and put it in my music.
So what are the situations you find yourself inspired by?
I like just being risky, just taking slight chances. “Ari Ferrari” is a vibe that I got when I was out in L.A. I made the beat out there too. So we were just driving around the valley and we kept seeing all these hot ass cars.
Everyone just seemed to be having fun. I made this side character for myself and I labeled myself “Ari Ferrari.” You know Ari from Entourage? I just felt like Ari and I was just living that. I wanted to translate that mood into a song.
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That’s interesting because sitting down with you, I found you’re almost the opposite kind of person as an Ari.
When it comes to the music, I really feel like I have two split personalities. There’s one when I’m just talking to people and there’s another that comes out when I’m making music. I really switch when I make music, it’s just a different side of me. Like when I’m on stage I’m a completely different person.
Was music a big part of your family life?
From the very beginning. My father was a DJ, my grandpa was a saxophonist. My dad would play Jamaican music, dancehall and reggae. Even my uncle won a Juno award back in the day, he was a rockstar out here in Kitchener-Waterloo. So I had a bunch of musical influences always in my household.
I remember being younger, my brothers were teenagers and their friends would come over and freestyle in the basement. I was curious. What was this, what is this culture? Even the machines, the beat machines, how it looks, the colours on the pads, it all just sucked me in. When I got the chance to get into it, I never looked back.
Yeah, I definitely pick up some reggae flows in your tracks. I think people are becoming a little reductive when analyzing rap. Every time they hear a melody in rap they automatically think “Drake.”
I get a lot of my influences from reggae. Especially with Kola Champagne, there’s definitely a reggae vibe.
Speaking of Drake, I feel like the large part of his success can be attributed to his singles and one-off tracks rather than his albums. Do you think albums still hold value to people?
Damn, I was just talking about this with my brother. I don’t really feel they still have that much power anymore.
Damn, that makes me a little sad.
I know. Because a full project is such a great thing, because you put so many ideas and thoughts into it. You build a story.
These days, especially with shorter attentions spans, people don’t want to sit and listen to a full project.
They sit and listen to their one favorite song and then skip to the next one they like. The day I release my album, the one for stores and stuff, I feel it’ll be like nine songs. Keep it short.
When was the first time you decided this is what you really want to do?
I was performing at the older location of Maxwell’s … I was on the side-stage right before I was about to go on and I was so nervous. And then I just stopped and decided this is what I wanted to do. Why do I feel nervous about this?
And before that moment. Did you know that was what you wanted to do?
I always knew, but I was just making excuses before.
What were the excuses you found yourself making?
I’m a Canadian artist. I can’t produce. I can’t rap as good as that person.
There are so many rappers out in the world, why should I jump in this pool. Then I just said, “Fuck it.” I was out in L.A. and I just had this moment of realization, “Man I’m out here because of music.” If I didn’t believe in myself this wouldn’t have ever happened. Even when I was in Cleveland, I looked at all my friends and thought that “Here we are, turning up in a city that’s completely foreign, people are turning up with us.” I felt like anything was possible at that moment and it made me want to go even harder.
Do you like making music with your boys, or do you like doing that alone?
My boys don’t even do music. I have boys that are their own people. Like, I have friends that make music but in my circle they’re their own individuals. For example one is a dentist assistant, one wants to be a police man… That inspires me. I like to hear about different takes outside of the music world. If all you’re doing is music everyday, you’re not really living, it gets bland after a while. A lot of people that do music are so deep in it, they don’t actually realize what’s happening in the real world. Their minds start to get commercialized.
Would you say you’re an extrovert or introvert?
I feel like I’m an introvert but when I make music I’m very extroverted.
Hmm, that’s very interesting. I would think most musicians are extroverted but need to become introverted when they want to make a song. So is it that your introversion fuels your extroversion? What you think of when you’re alone is what you project?
Yeah, definitely. I do like being alone sometimes, just closing off, vibing out to music. Then, once I get into that extroverted zone, it just like boom, boom, boom. I used to be very extroverted when I was younger and then I just stepped back and thought, this isn’t me, I need to find me.
For sure. It took me a while to realize that what generates happiness is finding and then doing something you love and are passionate about.
I definitely don’t like being in a comfortable zone because I find it doesn’t encourage personal growth. I like to say jump with the sharks, swim with the sharks.
Is that how you feel about performing?
Everything I try to do. If I’m not swimming with the sharks, I’m not doing something exciting. I’m not doing it right.
So do you search for nervous/exciting feelings? Do you get that feeling before you release a track?
I do. I be sweating buckets before I release a song. Sitting beside my laptop, typing the title in, uploading the graphic card and thinking “Damn, are they gonna like this?” After that, I’ll close my laptop and won’t look at it for a little.
Do you feel like you’ve found your sound yet?
I feel like I’m creating it right now. This vibe I have right now … I just feel something.
Are you more focused than you’ve ever been?
Yeah, definitely. Before I came here I was in my boxers just working on music. Sometimes I’ll work from one to five in the morning.
What are you focusing on right now? Is it releasing a project or continuing to find your sound?
Keep pushing the sound, keep evolving with it. I definitely want to perform more in the [United] States. I’ve had some shows in Toronto. I performed at Manifesto, it’s a rap and hip-hop concert at Dundas Square.
That was great. I want to perform in Vancouver. I want to perform in Montreal. I want to get out of this area. Performing locally has become very comfortable to me, it’s getting familiar. I always want to keep reaching out and continue growing.
While his art is spreading far beyond southern Ontario, Ramsay Almighty spends a considerable amount of his time invested in the place that raised him. He works at the YMCA on a program in which he assists kids that are new to Canada in getting involved with the community. On top of that, he’ll be working with the Ontario Arts Council next month as a juror to help get funding for artistic projects.