Interviews::SJ The Wordburglar

Halifax has always been a town brimming with hip hop talent, some of which has blown up while plenty of other talented folks seen to have trouble moving past local legend status. Well, being the Halifax homer that I am, I try and do something about this in my own little way by giving them some coverage on the hill.

One such artist is Halifax born & bred MC SJ The Wordburglar, who, like all good Maritimers, is currently making his fortune in Toronto. SJ is a funny and charismatic guy, and he makes music accordingly. Music you can check out in the form of his latest album, Burglaritis, which is on sale nationally as we speak so go get your hands on it.

SJ was kind enough to cyber sit down for an email interview with the hill, amd here it is:

Little personal info first, where abouts in Halifax did you grow up? Herohill reps for Halifax West, just thought I'd chuck that in there. How long have you been in T.O.?
- I grew up downtown about 2 minutes from the library – walking distance to donair central. I graduated from St. Pat's High. As for TO, I've been in and out of there for the last 4 years

Seeing Public Enemy at the Dartmouth Sportsplex back in the day was a mindblower, considering almost no one played Haltown, What was the first "big" hip hop show you went to in Halifax?
- Oh man I always hear about that show! Hmm…the first "big, non-local" show I ever saw was I think The Rascalz. It was pretty good.

I believe you've said Buck 65's The Bassment on CKDU was a huge influence on you, and I know you've worked with Jorun, are there any other Haltown cats that helped mold the phenomenon that is the Wordburglar?
- Well pretty much anyone who was rocking shows in the 90s had an influence on me. Of course Hip Club Groove, Universal Soul, Sebutones, Flexxman, Jayo Smooth…I could probably go on for awhile.

Speaking of Haltown's biggest hip hop export, people are kind of polarized where Buck 65 is concerned these days. They either hate his new music and think he's abandoned hip hop, or they appreciate his avant garde nuttiness and think he's kind of a genius. Where do you stand on Buck 65 these days?
- Okay, first off he's a pioneer of Canadian hiphop whether people acknowledge this or not. He did a lot for rapping, producing and DJing in this country that has yet to be credited…I've always had a ton of respect for him and I think what it comes down to is that he's an artist who is constantly changing and evolving and trying to create the things he wants to. He's been in this thing longer than most and it's only natural there's going to be some changes. I like the guy and support him.

Multiple choice: The (non-Haligonian) Canadian MC from back in the day that I was most influenced by is:

a) Maestro (Fresh Wes)
b) Kish
c) Jacky Jasper (nee HDV)
d) Tom Green (Or the other two dudes from Organized Rhyme)
e) King Lou (Dream Warriors)
f) Other:

- A) Maestro Fresh Wes no question.

I haven't heard your entire album yet, but from what I've heard your songs are structured around your sense of humor and skill with the punch lines, which makes sense to me as you're excellent at it (kudos on the Bleu Nuit - Jeudi rhyme by the way). But do you feel any pressure to make other types of songs like a club jam for the ladies, the requisite anti-war song, or the ever-popular "back in the day" jam?
- Haha thanks…there's definitely a "ladies track" and a "back in the day" jam on Burglaritis, but I don't really feel pressure to make any songs, I just write what I'm feeling. Life is filled with all kinds of stuff and hopefully if I have the time I can write songs about everything. I love a good party track just as much as a dope headphone track.

Would you change your style to get signed by a major? Considering things like The Roots signing with Def Jam, do you think anyone in hip hop really sticks to their principles these days? Or rather, if they have the choice ( i.e. major label offer) do you think there's still people staying true to the artform?
- The short answer is no I wouldn't change up for anyone. That's probably why I'm single right now haha...The long answer is hopefully you can find a label that likes what you're doing and wants to take that journey to the top with you, and will help you hone your skills in the process. Which is kind of a false reality. It's a tricky business, and if you're not going to make a label money they don't want you, so the trick is figuring out how you can make them money without changing anything for the worse. Ideally that's by making the best songs you can make. There's still an awful lot of good stuff that comes out from major labels, and they can really help your career no doubt. Right now though I'm perfectly happy with Hand Solo Records, who give me full creative control and believe in my product. It's my job to make it good enough so we can all afford the good kind of Kraft dinner!

I read you've worked in a comic book store in TO and you've even created your own comic book. Are comics where you'd like to make your living or do you see hip hop as a "career".
- I've been making comics pretty much as long as I've been rapping, as well as doing comedy and acting. The way I see it, if I have success in one it will just help me to keep working on all of them. I'm not going to turn down an offer from Marvel Comics but I'm also not going to quit rapping. In my perfect world I'll be doing it all.

Seeing as you're a big Mr. T fan, I assume you've seen his amazing video "Be Somebody, Or Be Somebody's Fool". If so you're no doubt familiar with the "re-couping" section where T gives kids advice on how to recover from embarrassing situations. Does the Wordburglar have any "re-couping" advice of his own for the kids out there?
- Haha…actually I don't think I've seen that one. All I can say to kids is be nice to each other and don't mix Chocolate Milk & Donair Pizza. It always ends horribly, horribly wrong…

One of the big perks of moving back to Haltown was donairs, my wife and I missed them terribly during our time in Toronto. Have you ever had a real donair in Toronto? People have told me you can get them up there, but I've always believed it to be an urban legend.
- There are stories whispered by hobos and pirates in back alleys of Halifax Donairs in Toronto, but to date neither myself or any other Haligonian Donair aficionados have yet to try one. Rumor is there's a place on Ossington that tries to do it. The idea of eating a donair in TO kinda turns me off actually.

To end all our interviews, we always ask people to recommend 3 things our readers might want to check out (music, books, movies, food, anything really)? What does the Wordburglar recommend?
- Well I've been playing far too much Castlevania on Nintendo DS lately, if you like Metroid on the SNES you're gonna love this one. Also really enjoying Brian K. Vaughn's "Y The Last Man" about the last man on earth trying to survive in a world of women, it's from Vertigo Comics and I strongly recommend it. Finally I gotta say my mom's homemade Spinach Lasagna is the best in the country. Good luck getting that last one though suckas!

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