There’s something about youth angst and spirit that anyone outside of that has to admire. As you grow older in life, the energy needed to push yourself, or more importantly push others starts to dwindle. So to see it in others is always refreshing, especially when it’s used for the greater good–we all know someone that unfortunately uses that energy for the wrong reasons, but this feature isn’t about those people. This feature is about Canadian hip hop/R&B trio EMP, a young and burgeoning act that doesn’t need much to convince you that they’re the next face of youth and music, unified in the greater good of creativity and the ethos of being yourself–a mindset all members show equal passion in expressing.
The group is made up of multi-platinum music producer Eestbound, rapper Milly Manson and songstress Pree, three of which have fast become more than just peers and homies, but more importantly a perpetual source of inspiration for both music and life in general. All coming out of Toronto, the trio each hold their own international legacy, with Eestbound coming from Holland with Caribbean roots, Milly, who while born in Canada, has Jamaica running through his veins, and Pree, also born in Canada but hold pride for her family’s Sri Lankan heritage. Music wise, the three are putting their own spin on your classic hip hop/R&B marriage, something we’re used to seeing more of back in the early 2000s, but have been brought back around with a heavy dose of contemporary.
During their first visit as a group to Los Angeles, Eestbound, Milly Manson and Pree stopped by out office for an exclusive interview and photoshoot where we all shot the shit, spoke about life and the ethos of being true to yourself, and what their inevitable rise as unique talents feels like for each of them. Enjoy the incredibly candid conversation we all had below, and make sure you jump on board the Rebel Train, because if you’re anything like us, you’ll like how far it’s going to take us all.
Let’s start off strong: what does it mean to you guys to be a successful music artist? What’s a sign of success to you within the realm of music?
P: Success for us is getting a message across—something meaningful that will stay. Something that has longevity, or is timeless. That’s what we strive for. Even though we’re pretty new, and that we’ve just come together very recently, We’re trying to build that kind of timelessness in our music. So that’s how I think you become successful and how you stay successful. What about you guys?
E: I would say that to also be successful, your number one priority should be to feed your family, and to also be happy with where you are. Not even financially….
M: Being successful would be like changing people’s lives—impacting people’s lives. When people connect with you emotionally rather than just listening to your songs and being like “cool, this is sick.”
E: Or “this is dope” but then they just listen to it for a week and then it’s done.
P: Meaning shit always stays and it resonates with people for ever. It’s emotions that people will always go through and think back on.
E: So all those things that we just mentioned are all things that we strive for.
So who would be the best example of other people—artists and Icons—that have made you guys feel this way. That are successful in these ways to you?
M: Eminem, umm… Jay Z, Kanye West, 2Pac… who else…
E: There’s so many people… I mean like yo, Drake with “Take Care.”
P: Kanye for sure.
E: But with people who we feel are more about just being happy with where they are and aren’t caring about the awards or the money sort of thing, I’d say J Cole—he’s very much just doing his own thing, building his own fan base. And then there’s Common, who’s trying to deliver messages. Kendrick.
P: Yes! Kendrick!
With these people that are successful in your eyes, how else do they inspire you? Is it in style, music approach, personality, success?
P: Can I do Kanye? OK so with Kanye, with him earlier with the “Touch The Sky” stuff… and “The Goodlife…” That early Kanye shit where he’s like “you can fucking do it,” “you can do whatever the fuck you want “ kind of shit. Like that pushed me. That gave me a real confidence boost growing up.
M: With Eminem, I chose him because of his wordplay. I like the way he puts his rhymes together, and he’s just really good at explaining the story on record. When he’s on a record you can really visualize what he’s saying. I feel like it’s magic the way he’s able to do that. He’s an amazing storyteller. Also he doesn’t care what you think of him.
E: I would say the artist I really look up to is completely different to the type of music I make. But I would definitely say I’m very very inspired by PARTYNEXTDOOR. And Drake. Both of them this approach to a song where they’re basically saying very complicated things in a very simple way for you to understand. They’re saying very poetic things in a beautiful way that sounds good. And you get it instantly what they’re saying. You’re able to repeat it and it’s very memorable.
The most surreal thing is just the way that everything has come together. And how perfect it all was.
OK so going into the more humanistic aspect now, you’ve had some success already, and it’s clear you’re going places. What’s been the most surreal aspect of all this so far?
E: To me, and I think the whole group can vouch for this, is that the most surreal thing is just the way that everything has come together. And how perfect it all was. It was kind of like…
E: Yeah… it was almost destined to work out like this. I mean it was like, I didn’t even know Pree could sing. I just vibed with it
P: Yeah, we made “Rebellion” not intentionally wanting to create this level of a song. I mean, I didn’t even know Milly at the time when we went to the studio. E just added him on to the track, and then *claps* here we are.
M: For me, the most surreal thing is actually me being here right now in Los Angeles… I never thought I’d come to LA… I mean, I’ve dreamt about it, but for me to be here now… it’s pretty surreal man…
What about the most challenging things so far?
E: I think the most challenging thing so far would have to be… coming to a conclusion all together that we all agree on. It’s about making sure we’re all on the page. Sometimes you’re super passionate about that one thing that you have, and then Pree will be like “nah man, that’s whack!” and then Milly will be like “I don’t really care either way.” So you want to make sure everyone’s on the same frequency when you’re trying to move forward.
M: I agree. The most challenging is making sure we’re all on the same frequency and having the same emotions. We can’t be all in the studio and Pree’s mad, E is down and I’m happy, know what I mean? Cause the vibe won’t be there. But everyone has their own lives and they go through their own shit, so sometimes it can be hard.
E: And to add to that, together we’re a group. One group
M: Yeah it’s not just you. So you have to deal with their emotions as well as your own emotions.
E: Another thing as well is like, sometimes when you’ve made a record and it sounds so hard and dope, but then we don’t know where to place someone… So it’s figuring out stuff like, ‘should we put Pree here? or when should Milly come in? Who should go in first? But it’s dope to have three pairs of ears on it all though, it helps with the whole creation process.
How was it all for you guys to learn how to work with each other and build that dynamic and working relationship? Have people been giving you pointers or is this all something you’re learning on your own?
P: We just had to build it. When we made “Rebellion,” like I mentioned, I had never met Milly before. I mean, I knew him—we had met maybe a couple of times briefly—so we had to get to know each other and it’s now been over two years and these guys are my brothers. I can be so casual around them now!
M: Even being in LA, we’ve definitely all gotten a lot of gems from a lot of people. A lot of good pointers.
E: Shout out Ray [Daniels]!
M: But at the end of the day, we have to go through this as trials and tribulations on our own.
This actually leads perfectly to my next question, which is to get to know each of you better, can you each describe what one other member is like? So Pree, let’s start off with you describing Milly.
P: Milly! The first thing that comes to my head: stoner.
P: Just, a badass. Yet he’s so quiet and reserved, but when he gets into the booth or on camera, he’s a totally different person. All eyes on him kind of thing. And then getting to know him, it took a while to get to know him, to have him open up as he’s pretty reserved, but the more he opens up… Haha I feel like I’m making him out to be too much of a sweetheart! It’s going to tarnish his image!
E: (laughs hard)
Just say it like it is!
P: Yeah, he’s just such a sweetheart… like genuinely, he’s one of my favorite people to be around.
M: E… E’s just different. He’s humble, he’s genuine, and at the same time E can be real hard at times! It’s not a bad thing! It’s a good thing because he’s very serious about his work. He really likes what he does and we can all tell that. And he’s my brother… I’d do anything for him.
E: OK, so Pree… Let me just explain it like this: Pree is the one who would be like, “Yo shut up! But come here and give me a hug.” She’s like the super dynamic, super outgoing but super serious, yet she’s bad and grimey and then also girly and like, all over the place (laughs). But on top of it all she’s just really cool. She’s very abstract and… she’s never worried. Wherever you go, she’s always just chilling. You’ll never see her stressed about anything. Even if she’s supposed to be stressed about something, she’s just positive about it. She’s a very positive person. And definitely very talented.
There’s a lot of white singers, and black singer, but then there’s almost nobody that I see at least that’s brown, Indian, Sri Lankan…
Coming from different lineage backgrounds, yet at the same time still very Toronto, do you feel that that aspect sets you apart from the current landscape? And why?
P: What I’ve noticed is like being here in LA, when I was asking these kids what they were, they were like “I’m American.” There’s seems to be so much patriotism here. But in Canada it’s more like, I’ll look at Milly and go “what are you?” And he’ll say “I’m Jamaican.” We don’t go “Oh I’m Canadian.” That’s the our first response. We say where our parents are from.
E: Yeah in Canada there’s such a mixture. Like me, coming from Holland before moving to Canada, I would tell people I’m Dutch and Caribbean.
M: What was the question?
P: Wouldn’t you say that our music has influence from where our parents are from, our lineage and all that?
E: Wait was that the question…?
No but that’s better! Let’s go with that.
M: Oh well then yeah it definitely has influence. Like with coming from a Jamaican background, I’d say dancehall has influenced our sound.
E: EDM from me. Synthesizers, the melodies. EMD has the craziest melodies, but you can also find that.
What about this level of diversity within the music industry. Do you find yourselves unique with that?
P: Definitely! There’s definitely a lack of it. There’s a lot of white singers, and black singer, but then there’s almost nobody that I see at least that’s brown, Indian, Sri Lankan…
E: Not many that’s mainstream.
P: There’s like M.I.A., and then there’s Tommy Genesis who’s also from Vancouver.
Delving into the music side of things, can you describe the process of how a song comes about?
E: There’s three different approaches. It’s either where we’re in the studio and I open up my laptop and I say “here’s the beat.” I press play, and then Milly’s like “oh shit, I’ve got a verse for this!” Or “I’ve got something that fits perfectly.” Another time, we’ll be in his garage just vibing out, and then as I’m making the beat, Milly comes up with a hook. And then I’m like “oh shit that’s sick, let me write a verse, and then it starts to get better and I call Pree, she comes over and writes her own shit for it—that approach is all just vibes.
M: Yeah it’s all just how we feel. Pure vibes.
P: There’s no formula to it when it’s like that.
E: Look, I mean, we’re all human, we all go through the same shit. Sometimes we’ll go into the studio and we walk out with nothing. Some days we’ll walk out with like three records. It all depends. But I do have to say that it’s very dope that the producer, the engineer and the writer is all in the same room. So Milly could be like “yo, turn my vocals up more for this bit,” or “tweak this part a bit…” So we don’t have to depend on someone else to do that and trust that it’ll come out sounding good. We’re all here doing that.
What about the current, more underground landscape? Or lesser known talents that inspire you guys?
E: Sean Leon.
P: ABRA from Awful Records—incredible… she’s just incredible. I fuck with her heavy.
E: I said Sean Leon because I just support him so much and I really want his name to be in this interview (laughs). But for real, he’s an amazing performer… an amazing rapper. He’s got a simple approach but complicated wordplay, and he does it all for a really good purpose, so I respect that.
M: I’m also on it with Sean Leon. And A$AP Rocky… even though he’s already big, he still makes me want to dress up an look my best and all that.
Basically the rebel stop is complete happiness with yourself and who you are.
You’ve mentioned in other interviews that you want people to connect to EMP and jump on the ride you guys are embarking on. Where is this ride going? What’s the destination?
P: We’re going to the fucking top! That’s where we’re going!
What’s at the top?
P: The top is that if you want to do something, you’re going the fucking do it because you have that rebel attitude, you know?
E: We’re on the rebel train, and the rebel train has a couple of stops. In fact, it has a whole bunch of stops. This is a journey where there’s a whole bunch of destinations where you can learn from. I want to keep inspiring people, and want to keep making people feel like we’re not above them no matter how big we’ll get. I want people to feel like we’re still one of them, and we’re setting an example, and that example is to do whatever you want because at the end of the day you only live once.
M: Basically the rebel stop is complete happiness with yourself and who you are.
E: Yes! Exactly!
P: That’s the top, yo!
Lastly, you’ve got our reader’s attention, what would you like to share with everyone?
E: Remember EMP.