You know the name Drake. You probably even know names like k-os and Shad. Well by now, if you’ve been paying any sort of attention to Potholes over the past year or so, you should know the name Eternia. The Canadian emcee has been tearing things up for more than a decade. Her 2010 album At Last proved that she’s on a serious mission to wreck any notions that female emcees can’t share a mic with their male counterparts – and then some. I got a chance to meet up with Eternia when she stopped through Boston, and we talked all things hip-hop.
Hit the skip to read what she had to say about touring with hip-hop legends, her background in hip-hop, and why she thinks you need to truly listen to her.
Potholes In My Blog: Thanks for stopping through, how’s life treating you right now?
Eternia: I can’t complain. One day at a time. I have a hard time concentrating on just the day in front of me, but life is good. I have a lot more to smile about than frown about.
PIMB: So are you on an official tour right now? What’s with all the shows?
Eternia: Well, we line up shows, but a lot of them are one-offs. To me touring is having shows every night, consecutively for 10-60 days. We’re not doing that right now. We are lining up tours though. U.S. will be next year; Germany will be this coming November/December. What you’ve been seeing right now is I go and do a show in this city, that city, and then come home. I just came from doing Manifesto in Toronto, which is a huge music festival with a lot of great Canadian artists, then I’ll be doing CMJ in New York. I’m here in Boston now, and I just came back from Puerto Rico. So these are all just things that coincide time-wise.
PIMB: Speaking of Canadian artists, it seems like the scene up there has been really blowing up the past five to ten years. Can you talk a bit about what it’s been like to be part of that?
Eternia: Yeah well, it’s never been a surprise to me because I am born and raised. I take a lot of pride in Canadian acts. For me it’s not a surprise, but to the rest of the world it’s like – okay, now you’re playing catch-up. You know before Drake we had artists getting play on BET in the 90s. I felt like we were at a tipping point, but it just never exploded. Now people are checking for Toronto artists – Canadian artists. There’s great acts coming out of Halifax, Nova Scotia, the East Coast, West Coast, Vancouver; so to me it’s about time. People say hip-hop started in the East, went to the West Coast, went down South, so what inevitably comes next? North; and that includes Detroit.
PIMB: You recently went on tour with a bunch of female artists – Bahamadia, Roxanne Shante, Invincible for a documentary. What was that experience like?
Eternia: That documentary was being put together in 2008. Honestly, we didn’t think about it at the time. Invincible just recorded our tour. So we were just wild’n out and being ourselves on tour and every once in a while, we’d have a couple serious conversations – and that ended up being the meat of the documentary. It was short – just 18-19 minutes. So Invincible was just really our eye on the tour.
So on the tour itself, I didn’t know what to expect because when you get a bunch of ladies together in a bus – who know’s what can happen. But it was the best tour experience of my life. I’ve never felt so at home and able to be myself. Roxanne taught us a lot about ourselves. Bahamadia was the funny one. People don’t know how funny she really is. And Invincible too – she’s very funny. She can be serious too, because she’s so passionate, but it was a lot of laughs the whole time.
It was great because we had all these women representing the different generations of hip-hop – 80s, 90s, and now. It spoke volumes to the fact that women are a legitimate force in hip-hop. And the European crowds – they loved it. I feel like they have more of an appreciation for the roots of hip-hop. In New York it’s all about what’s happening now, who’s next, and they don’t care so much about yesterday. But in Europe that appreciation was there and it was just fantastic.
PIMB: Let’s go ahead and dive into this year’s album, At Last, produced by MoSS. How did you and MoSS meet up to begin with?
Eternia: We first met at a one-off show in Winnipeg, which is in the middle of nowhere in the prairies – very cold. I did my show the day before, and then the next night I opened for MoSS, who was touring with Masta Ace, eMC, Marco Polo & Torae – so it was eMC and a Beat Society thing. So even at sound check, MoSS and I had already heard each other and were fans of each other, but hadn’t met yet. I performed and I rocked it even though there weren’t that many people in attendance. After I performed, MoSS was excited and wanted to do a whole album. But I didn’t know if he was going to be one of those people who would say they want to collaborate, and then I never hear from them again. But we stayed in touch, and November 4 of that year we recorded the first track of the album. And the rest is history.
PIMB: You mentioned how MoSS had heard a lot of your work beforehand. Many people don’t know but you’ve actually been in the hip-hop game for more than a decade. Still at the moment, it seems like you’ve reached a new level of awareness. What’s that been like?
Eternia: It doesn’t feel like that. It doesn’t feel like one plateau to a whole other level – but if it is, that’s awesome! You know I’ve done SXSW, Warped Tour, I was nominated for a Juno, and I’ve recorded for URBNET, which is one of Canada’s best hip-hop labels. It seems like I’m doing five-year increments. Hopefully by 2015 I’ll be doing a track with Lauryn Hill or something. So how does it feel? It feels like due diligence and a lot of hard work. I planted a lot of seeds and now the seeds are growing into trees. I hope to continue planting them and that they continue to blossom so that five or ten years from now, people will be like, this new artist Eternia is great! Because at the moment, I can still understand why some people haven’t heard of me. I get it.
PIMB: Well let’s take it way back. How did you first get into emceeing and who were some of your early influences?
Eternia: When I was eight years old, my brother was the first person who introduced me to hip-hop. We were white kids from Canada, living in Ottawa, which is not even that big of a city. He brought home NWA, 2 Live Crew, Public Enemy, and LL Cool J. He wasn’t really into Big Daddy Kane or Rakim just because he didn’t get his hands on it. So I was rapping since the age of eight, but just mimicking what I heard. Then early 90s came around and I’m buying my own music now. So I’m buying Native Tongues, and all that stuff. I loved Jeru, Tribe, Fugees, Organized Konfusion, all the lyrical cats in the early and mid 90s. Then, you know, it was Def Jux and Arsonists, and these are cats I was hanging out with. You know that’s where I came from. From sounding like Salt-N-Pepa to starting to sound like Pharoahe Monch – not that I sound like Pharoahe, but it’s the aesthetic. I’ve always wanted there to be a female Pharoahe Monch – someone with that much lyrical brilliance. As for me, I still think that I’m my own artist, and I always will be.
PIMB: So is there a certain something that you want people to take away from At Last?
Eternia: This is who Silk Kaya is. Or, this is who Eternia & MoSS is. But it’s the same thing. This is who I am as a human being. We all change and grow. My next project will be very different, but it will also be who I am because I’m growing as a woman and a person. But I want people to walk away feeling intimately connected to me. The heart and soul of what I do is to try and tell stories that other people can relate to.
PIMB: What are you plans for the rest of this year?
Eternia: Promoting At Last. 2010 was the year of At Last, but 2011 will be as well, because we haven’t hit the road. We haven’t done the actual tour. A lot of people are hollering at me all over the world, but especially all over the states. So when we get enough demand from various cities, that’s when we know, okay it’s time to hit the road. So we’ll be out in March, so lookout. Obviously I’ll record some new music along the way too. I have an album in the works with Apathy; we’re more than 75% done, but who’s to say if and when that album will drop at all, because we started back in 2006.
PIMB: Very nice, that sounds great. Any last words for the fans?
Eternia: Listen to the album. If I could say one thing it would be get your hands on the album and listen to it. I don’t want to hear any opinions until people have heard it from beginning to end. But then, I welcome your opinions – give me them all.