Toronto hip-hop artist Muneshine is back with a new album “Status Symbol”. As a member of a few emcee crews, Muneshine has made a name for himself in the hip-hop scene. Check out this exclusive as Muneshine speaks on working with Sean Price, Nature, and the Toronto hip-hop scene.
by Will Hernandez

WHO?MAG: Talk about your new album Status Symbol.
MUNESHINE: Status Symbol is technically my second solo album behind the mic, but it’s my first album released outside of Japan. My goal with the record was to release timeless music. It’s got a traditional sound, but I tried to give it a contemporary feel with careful beat selection and song writing/concepts. The version I’ve released with Domination has a few exclusive tracks not included on the Australian and Japanese versions (and vice versa).

WHO?MAG: How did you get into rhyming?
MUNESHINE: Like most emcees, I started out as a fan of hip hop. I listened to it religiously, and I guess through the process of memorizing my favorite songs I developed the desire to write my own. Being from a small town in rural Saskatchewan I never had a crew to bounce ideas off of, so I basically learned from those I was listening to, and tried to apply those influences to my own expression.

WHO?MAG: I know you were in a group before, can you talk about that?
MUNESHINE: The first group I was officially a part of was Lightheaded. This group was formed when I first connected with an emcee called Braille from Portland, Oregon. We met through the internet and first planned to do a song or two together (my beats, his rhymes), but as I sent him more beats, the situation snow-balled. Before we knew it we had enough beats picked to fill a full length
album. At the same time, Braille had been building a lot with Ohmega Watts and Othello, so everything from there seemed to fall into place. We put out ‘Pure Thoughts’ in 2003 (my first official release). The distance between myself and the group became too difficult to manage as they began touring, so it was only practical to make Lightheaded a 3-man group. It wasn’t bad blood, I’m still down with the crew, and we still work together.

In 2004 I did an album with my boy Emilio Rojas (p.k.a. Raks One). We also met online. Together we were known as Phocus, and we put out ‘A Vision and a Plan’ (my first Japanese exclusive) with Handcuts/Universal Records.

I’m affiliated with 3 few different crews these days:

– Wax Reform (a group of friends who contribute to each other’s projects: myself, Dminor – Los Angeles, Illmind – New Jersey, M-Phazes – Australia, Presto – Holland and Emilio Rojas – New York)

– The Residents (myself and Saint – New York)

– The Birthday Boys (myself and D-Sisive – Toronto) We also work closely with a few other artists based in Canada (Fundament, 9th Uno, Ghettosocks, DJ Grouch, etc.)

WHO?MAG: As far as producers, who handled most of the production work on the album?
MUNESHINE: Most of the production on the album is handled by people I work with regularly: M-Phazes, Illmind, Oddisee, Freddie Joachim, Saint and more.

WHO?MAG: How did you get Nature and Sean Price on the album and how was it working with them in the studio?
MUNESHINE: Both of those collaborations were organized through long distance communication. It was just a matter of getting them my music, coming to an agreement that worked for both parties, and putting the tracks down. It’s business man! It was a pleasure and an honor working with both of those dudes. I’ve been a fan for years.

WHO?MAG: How is the Toronto hip hop scene?
MUNESHINE: I love it. I’ve only been out here for about 5 years, but I’ve seen it grow a lot in that time. It’s all depends on who you deal with. Toronto has a rep for being full of negativity and hate, which on some levels may be true, but I surround myself with positive people doing positive things and in the last year or so I’ve developed a lot of love and optimism for what’s going on here.

WHO?MAG: Who are some of your influences as an emcee?
MUNESHINE: Early on my favorite emcees were cats like Ice Cube and Rakim, but my biggest influences overall would probably be Q-Tip, Pharoahe Monch, Common, J-Live and Jay-Z.

WHO?MAG: Do you feel artists such as Nelly Furtado and K-OS have helped Toronto get more recognized musically?
MUNESHINE: I think they have definitely made great careers for themselves, but I’m not sure their success has done much for Toronto on a greater scale. Same goes for Drake and Kardi. I don’t think any individual artist or group can put a city ‘on the map’. These artists make us proud, but its going to take more than a few acts to establish our city as a hotbed. I use Detroit as an example. They developed their own sound, and appeal to many different hip hop markets. You’ve got Eminem (arguably one of the greatest emcees ever) on the mainstream level, cats like Slum Village, Royce, Guilty Simpson and Black Milk on the middle ground, Athletic Mic League and countless others on the underground and eve dudes like Kid Rock and I.C.P. that are definitely hip hop influenced, but appealing to a whole different crowd. When Toronto establishes its own sound and has definitive artists hitting different markets on that level, I think we’ll be more of a noteable center for hip hop. We’re getting there and those artists you mentioned are a big help.

WHO?MAG: How was the scene back the early to mid 90s in Toronto?
MUNESHINE: I wasn’t out here for it, but from what I’ve heard it was a real exciting place and time for hip hop.

WHO?MAG: Did you guys have a lot of acts from the States do shows over there?
MUNESHINE: Definitely. Over the years I think it’s pretty safe to say anyone who’s anyone has come through Toronto at one point or another. At least artists who received international recognition. I’m sure there’s a lot of acts that haven’t made it, but there’s been no shortage of visits from dope American artists.