Stay Out Late Is The Toronto Rap Clique That Isn’t

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“If you really love Toronto, you’re going to set it up so that Toronto is always going to be the mecca that it’s becoming.” – Tremayne

Toronto. The Screwface Capital. The city and title have been synonymous among the Canadian hub’s budding rap scene since before the SkyDome became the Rogers Centre, before Caribana was re-branded as the Scotiabank Toronto Caribbean Carvinal and before Aubrey Graham was Drake. But with time, the clichéd headline has certainly proved to be a greater hindrance to the growth of Toronto’s arts community rather than an endearing identity for which the city’s hip-hop pioneers once printed the words in block letters on cotton t-shirts and snapbacks, as the self-deprecating cycle continues decades later. Today, that once empowering Screwface title has faded into nothing more than decorated insecurity and a culture bred from jealousy rather than an initial call of strength. And like the playground bullies who use their lack of confidence as a shield, the jig is up for the cliques.

Enter Stay Out Late, the Toronto rap clique that isn’t. It’s a Friday night in Toronto and Scott Free, Tremayne, Jape and their manager Jei Parks could be anywhere, but one thing is certain – they’re mobbing together. From a blurry night of what they call “unpretentious fun” along the College St. bar strip to King St’s more ostentatious Bloke, the hip-hop group and longtime crew, are late-night Toronto staples in the city’s various hotspots, when they’re not in the studio working on their forthcoming fall releases. And while not everyone can differentiate the various pockets and scenes within the metropolis with ease, the Stay Out Late ensemble unequivocally pride themselves on accessibility. A beat within the city’s flow of things.

“We as a collective are a group of rappers that move together that do business together, do shows together, do parties together and we’re always together. We have guys that have been together for like 8 to 10 years. That tightness and that history, people sense that when they come around us, like “oh you guys are really a clique.” We’re a movement. We’re a squad. We’re a family,” crew manager Jei Parks says.

Like many millennial rap groups, it all started in high school. It’s a late summer day in Toronto as Stay Out Late’s Tremayne and Jei sit side by side on a cushioned couch at the crew’s headquarters to share insight into their humble beginnings. “We were in school and we had this thing called the Murder Mixtape that everyone was putting out and it was basically everybody going around and talking about it. We went from that shit, where I used to write poems and short stories and it translated to me writing my first rhymes. We got into the studio and got to learn how to record and basically, my homeboy Prezident Jeff, we’d skip every class and learn the mechanics of recording,” Tremayne shares, laughing at the nostalgia.

“It was terrible,” Jei interjects. “We were all terrible but it was a lot of fun. We used to burn our CDs one at a time. Eventually, it became a thing and everyone liked it, so we started recording more together.”

“Then it bubbled mad quick. Prezident Jeff, he’ll kill me for saying this, but he has an extensive catalogue of rap songs that I have to unleash on mans one day. He was actually the best rapper in the camp. Him and Scotty,” Tre adds. The two dribble the story and pass to the other with ease, giddy off the united reflection.11403235_10153396450142980_1852369990242491577_n

Soon after high school, the crew starting working with Waffles and Beatz, the GTA-ensemble, through production and video collaborations, which quickly formed a local buzz and reflected in the collective’s numbers, as they soon went from distributing mixtapes hand-to-hand to making videos, which started at 300 views, leaped to 4000 and eventually went viral. “Working with Waffles & Beatz taught us the business side of it directly. They had an idea with what they were doing. But the image and the direction wasn’t really us. So after two or three years of doing that, we sat down and talked about what we sound like, what is it that represents us? We hit Stay Out Late. It made sense and it clicked and the ball hasn’t stopped rolling since,” Jei says.

Beyond their individual come-up and sonic endeavors since their formation, the pinnacle separation between the Stay Out Late collective from their Canadian rap peers are threefold: The disintegration of the Screwface. The replacement of ego with collaboration. And the aim to support art and community foremost. “A lot of these collectives are very exclusive and wanted to be inclusive,” Jei ensures. “We wanted Stay Out Late to be, not some cool kid club that you had to have a membership for. We wanted people to feel like, if you like to party, if you have an intelligent thought, if work a 9-5, you can still get down with stay out late. We have day jobs. We party hard. We have guys in our camp that are bankers. We have guys in our camp that are out here working in the streets. We have people that do everything. It’s not one type of person in the camp. We’re inclusive. And anybody that wants to feel like they belong to something that’s cool, that kind of represents them, that’s us.”

And Treymayne chimes in on cue: “We just fucking love art. We’ve thrown an art show and we want to continue to throw art shows and support every avenue of Toronto to the greatest extent that we can. I don’t want it to be, we’re a music squad. It’s never going to just be about the music. We want to be known in different avenues and for being artists ourselves, through and through.”stayoutlate party

Fandom, of art, culture and most importantly each other, has always been a large part of what’s missing within the Toronto music scene when everyone is looking for their own chance to shine. Tremayne, Jei and Co. are focused on changing the narrative. “Everyone in Toronto is all about the praise. They want the attention on them at all times. It doesn’t work like that. Not when you’re trying to create a scene. There’s a lot of artists in the scene and not enough curators. Not enough people who are trying to push the culture forward. Everyone wants to be the centre of it,” Jei states, citing DillanPonders, Derek Wise and Sean Leon as artists and peers he respects.

“I like the music coming out of here. A lot of people are embarrassed to say they like artists from Toronto when you are in the Toronto scene. It’s weird. How do you expect it to flourish if you don’t support it? If everyone is all about themselves, who’s going to support each other?”

The questions still stands.

But now that the Toronto hip-hop collective has continued to support the local music community, Stay Out Late is ready to make their own lasting impression on the Toronto market with their multiple forthcoming releases this fall, including a solo project from Tremayne.

For now, check out Tremayne & Jape’s Right There, produced by Prezident Jeff and Daniel Worthy.

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