Ricca Razor Sharp's Causeways and C-Trains release this summer brought a new voice into a budding hip-hop scene in need of another powerful local MC.
Ricca, whose labelmate on Neferiu Records is Calgary-based art-rapper Mantrakid, is an immigrant to the city. Born and raised in Nova Scotia, he finished school at Acadia University and found himself heading to Calgary for work.
"[It was] just random," says Ricca. "I finished university and didn't have enough money to do much, but I got a job at Jasper Park Lodge. Just like, come out here, check out the country, check out Alberta, it seemed like a cool place -- figured I'd stay here a year. That was 10 years ago, so it's home now."
Working with DJ Soleo on Causeways, Ricca found a partner-in-crime in the recording process. Unlike the typical recording sessions -- where producers are paid by the hour and artists try to finish the ordeal as fast as possible -- working with Soleo allowed for sidetracks and diversions. It was a slow-cooker of a process, one that helped Ricca release a better final product.
"We took our time and really thought 'let's stew on this a week and come back next week and do it again,' " says DJ Soleo.
"Me and [Soleo] had a lot of discussions, got sidetracked and listen to some old tunes and get into an hour-long discussion about what we liked about 1993," adds Ricca. "Just things that wouldn't have happened if I was paying by-the-hour with a stranger."
Soleo explains that the album is a connection process between his birth home and adopted home. This connection is found not only in the album, but in Ricca's biography as well, best seen with the emblematic photo of Ricca sitting on a C-train in his Nova Scotia baseball jersey with an ad for his album in the background, which features him in a Calgary Flames jersey.
"That goes with Causeways and C-Trains," says Ricca. "A causeway is a thing back in Nova Scotia that connected my hometown to the mainland. The C-train is Calgary, so the album is dedicated to both towns."
"That poster summed it up nicely," adds Soleo. "The album is a tribute to, I see it, both places. He lives in Calgary now, but he definitely had his roots in his hometown as well."
During one of Ricca's first cross-country tours in support of Causeways, he paid particular attention to the east coast. Returning home to Nova Scotia, with Mantrakid in tow, he was given a warm welcome by friends and family alike.
"[Mantrakid] had a two month-old kid, he couldn't do it when his baby was old enough to know the difference," says Ricca. "It was a good tour, a fun time, I got to take those guys to the East, show them my home."
During the tour, they realized how small but fiercely loyal the Canadian hip-hop crew is. Ricca was able to put faces to the names of numerous forum posters, gaining perspective on the small but powerful community.
"Once you get out and about in the hip-hop scene in Canada, you realize that the dude breakdancing is such-and-such a name on the chatboards, and the guy from this city is the friend of a guy we met yesterday in another city," says Ricca.
Not only that, but during the tour he managed to find himself in Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, home of Sydney Crosby in the aftermath of the Pittsburgh Penguins win over Detroit in the Stanley Cup finals. A huge hockey fan -- he wore a Calgary Flames wristband during the interview -- he waxed about how huge the win must have been for the community.
"We were in Calgary the Friday that the Penguins won the cup," says Ricca. "We flew to Nova Scotia the next day and the very next night we were in Cole Harbour. Driving down the street in Cole Harbour and all the signs in the window say 'Congrats Sydney' or 'Go Pens Go.' . . . It's not the biggest place in the world -- it's like Airdrie would be to Halifax's Calgary -- so obviously with Sydney Crosby winning the cup everyone is on board with that. It's not as good as the Flames, but it's the next best thing."