By Demar Grant
A blue SUV crawls to a stop upon entering the cul-de-sac at Glenway Court, and a shadow slinks out of the passenger seat. It skulks up the driveway to a white slab door with a darkness-dulled brass handle, and eases it open. Just across the street I push open my car door and step into the night. I follow the shadow to the same door and, after a single knock, it swings open. Bathed in light, the shadow is revealed, completely clad in black he answers the door.
“Hey, Revo, right?” I ask.
“Yeah” he responds, with dreadlocks draped over his face à la Madara.
“I’m Demar, I’m here for the interview.”
“Okay, let’s go.”
When Revo initially gave me the address to the townhouses in Glenway Court, I thought he deemed that the interview location. Instead, it’s just the meeting spot.
“We’re going to another place,” Revo croaks.
A lanky man with noir pineapple hair, hoodie and grey skinny jeans saunters down the steps to join us.
“Hey, man what’s your name?”
“I’m Johnny.” He replies, extending his hand. I shake it.
The three of us step out of the house and into the night. The way to the other house means a trek through the snow and down a tobogganer’s dream. At it’s end we meet a path running parallel to the slope; Johnny and Revo take the lead, shuffling through the snow.
Every place is “another place” to Revo. Although he grew up in Mississauga it’s hard to truly define a home for him or his music. “I grew in these ends, I grew up in The Ridge(way). I was there through elementary school and then I moved here to that building right in front of the complex, 2375 The Collegeway. Then I moved into another complex, 2300.” Constant changes of scenery aren’t foreign to Revo, it’s the norm and an inkling to his unplaceable sound. “Bruh, I even lived in Brampton. I did a lot of switching schools. I moved five, six times in five years.”
Revo’s a journeyman at heart and even made the trip all the way from St. Catharines to talk; a small walk to a different house helps stretch the legs. “In St. Catharines I’m not even outside, I’m just in my crib. I’m not really interacting with people and shit.”
At night, the path behind Glenway Court crunches beneath our feet as a single streetlight reveals the tracks of those who’ve walked before us. An easy bend reveals a break in the fence that runs alongside the trail. With that bend a handful of steps illuminated by a single overhead light leads us to another neighbourhood filled with ticky-tacky townhouses. One of them, a dozen steps down the street, features a door, green as leaves, atop a flight of steps. As we reach the summit, Johnny rummages through his pockets for the keys.
“Is this your place?” I ask.
“Nah, it’s my uncle’s” Johnny replies, turning the key in the lock.
The door creaks open revealing a silent, modest kitchen and a cream ornamental dining table with matching chairs. We sit.
The stillness of the house is countered only by the ticking clock overwatching the room. Fishing through both of his pockets, Revo reveals a lighter and a bag of marijuana and rolling papers. “Do you have scissors, Johnny?” When offered a grinder by Johnny and me, he refuses. “I don’t fuck with grinders, still.” Slowly, Revo begins trimming the buds with the patience that he reflects in his creative process. “I have no worries taking my time – no cap – I have no worries,” he says. “That track that I made, ‘Designer on Me,’ that’s a Kaiser beat. I’ve been sitting on the beat for almost a year and then I made the recording bare times because I was just trying to make it proper.”
Kaiser is Revo’s producer; he’s the architect behind Revo’s floating, spacious sound on Death Beyond the Stars that’s so addicting. He has 13,000 subscribers on YouTube, over three million total views and he also happens to live in London, England, studying music and sound design. It’s a combination that could only happen in 2020 and it’s a combination that almost didn’t happen at all. “I messaged him for the ‘Designer on Me’ beat and I got no response.” Revo says while pilling weed into his RAW rolling paper. “I messaged him a couple other times before and after that, and I couldn’t get a hold of him.”
Like Revo, Kaiser is notoriously hard to contact. Emails bounce back when you send them to his listed email address (a novelty in 2020); his Twitter account, although listed in the description of many of his videos, is dormant, and his Instagram handle links to other Instagram handles, has no posts and an obscured profile picture. Kaiser produces totally anonymously; he’s never met anyone who he actually made a beat for physically, but it hasn’t necessarily held him back – it’s propelled him forward.
Kaiser’s beats feature spacey and ethereal atmospheres filled with a lot of plinking keys. It’s Final Fantasy turned hip hop but lacks a home in grime-filled UK: “The beats are a bit alien here,” he says. But the ability for Kaiser to make beats without artists in the room to guide him melds well with Candadian shut-ins looking for a standout sound.
Revo’s Death Beyond the Stars doesn’t sound like anything from the GTA, either. “Batman & Robin” from Death Beyond the Stars shifts gears between chopped and screwed to lightspeed seamlessly while featuring sci-fi synths and rattling high hats. And “St. Laurent”’s Kingdom Hearts atmosphere with raining keys doesn’t harken to anything from the 6ix. Their sound holds roots in New York, Atlanta and Japan. “No one sounds like that” Revo says, bringing the joint to his lips, lighting it. “It bangs, it has a different type of bounce to it. It just rocks different.”
Both Revo and his producer are elusive to the point that contact between each other is scarce. Create, payment, create is the cycle they live in, in search of something unique to the GTA and beyond “I wanna push the limits of music in the GTA, there’s a lack of originality” Revo says, taking a drag of his joint “I just wanna rock with my own sauce.”