Local Mic: City Fidelia



PHOTO: Amira /  Instagram

PHOTO: Amira / Instagram

City Fidelia is one of the biggest rappers in Ottawa, Canada. He is not to be cornered into the same side of the ring as Drake, The Weeknd, or PARTYNEXTDOOR. City Fidelia's sound and vision as an artist is unique enough to set him apart from these icons and pave the way for his own path of success -- one he has already tasted with his single "Lately," reaching 5 million streams on Spotify.

On your website, you are described as a raw, street poet. Can you explain that title?

Basically, a lot of the lyrics in my songs are about the reality of my life, things I've personally experienced or lived so that's where the raw poet comes in. I don't really hold back on my thoughts. I don't really think twice about "oh, is this really appropriate?" I know someone will resonate with it. It's one of those things where I say things in a way that resonate with myself and I know there are other people who feel the same way I do.

Did you start off as a poet and then find the world of R&B or was it the other way around?

Yeah, it was a very weird transition because I actually started with R&B singing and then in middle school there was a thing called Freestyle Friday on BET. So then I started freestyling and rapping for a good while. During that time is when I hit puberty and I lost my voice so I wasn't singing as much. I just recently got back into singing and found my voice. I started with singing, moved onto rapping, and now I'm doing both.

Can you describe your sound?

Every time someone asks me that question I have a hard time pinpointing exactly what it is. My music always has to include soul in it, whatever I'm doing. I would say I have very honest lyrics. I would say it has some Neo-soul, some R&B and hip hop mixed in as well. Erykah Badu, Mary Mary, those were a lot of my big influences and I'd say I incorporate all that into my music.

Did your time in Brooklyn influence your sound at all?

For sure, especially when I spent my time there, there was a lot of hip hop groups. The Diplomats were really popular at the time. New York really influenced the way I dressed, that was a big thing as a kid. Getting the hottest wardrobe and making sure you had the brand new shirt and pants, that were out at the time. It influenced my attire the most.

How has your upbringing in Ottawa impacted your music and vision?

Ottawa was actually the place that really introduced me to hip hop. I lived in front of these projects where people would just hardcore bump on the playground. Someone would bring a boombox and everyone would just start breakdancing and skateboarding. I got really into hip hop then and doing graffiti then. Graffiti was a big trend in the area. From there, I was doing freestyle battles in the neighborhood. And that just became a thing for me: getting better at rapping.

I really view my city as motivation to continue doing music, especially since a lot of people saw me as the hope of bringing awareness to the hip hop scene in the city. Ottawa is a very big town, small city type of vibe. It really made me modest in terms of the music I made, how I approached the industry, and how I come up with the lyrics. There's a very modest approach to things in this city. There's not that much opportunity, nothing that's really glamorous in the city and I think that's really reflected in my music. I'm not the type to be into chains and stuff like that because where I'm from we don't really see that every day.

Was your move to Toronto inspired by the vivacious music scene there, especially with the great rise of artists like Drake, The Weeknd, PARTYNEXTDOOR?

Right now, I'm back and forth between and Ottawa and Toronto. I moved to Toronto about four years ago. The city definitely inspired what I'm doing. You slowly see underground artists like Jessie Reyez or Daniel Caesar doing big, phenomenal things right now. It does give you hope for yourself that you can also do it and just the creative minds in that city are really great. So it's good to be around people that have great creative ideas because it sharpens your skills and abilities. Toronto really helped me with that. It also helped me to not be as sheltered because it's a city where there's a lot going on and big condos everywhere and a lot of parties… I really broke out of my shell once I moved to Toronto. That's where I met a lot of the people I work with now for my collective, Ensemble.

Can you explain Ensemble and the work you do there?

We started the music and art collective two years ago. Basically, it was in order to make money and stuff like that. We would Airbnb our houses to fund our music. It was a cool little journey. So, we'd do that and eventually we started branching out to include other people to assist us. Now, two years in, it's been going pretty well. Right now in Ensemble, we have a clothing brand. We also do events. For the clothing, we opened a store in Japan for one week in Osaka.

Our approach with the clothes is that we want to bring back that culture where the only way you're able to get the product is if you're physically there. That's why we're doing only pop-ups, no online shops or anything like that. You have to experience that moment and if you don't experience that moment, you have to wait for the next one. Also, City Fidelia is under that umbrella of Ensemble. The group does all my planning and visuals. The goal is for it to become a creative house like Donda one day.

What have you learned since your first project, Blind Spot?

I think that project really taught me that you can infiltrate this industry just by being yourself. I had a whole project before that one that I was working on. I was trying to do everything, every sound, everything I felt was popular. In Blind Spot, I chose my lane and stuck with it and was ready to either receive compliments or some backlash. I think that project really shaped me into the artist I am right now. It really taught me to have integrity and believe in what I do. Not everybody is going to like that, but I think, at the end of the day whether people like or dislike your music, it's all about having people at least respect your integrity for trying something you believe in. I put the project together with producer SaLaam StatuS.

How do you feel you push the boundaries of hip hop?

On my end, it's just about trusting my ear and incorporating little influences of stuff I loved as a little kid into hip hop and R&B. My parents are Haitian, so they played a lot of Haitian music. It's really subtle, but it makes that difference.

There’s a kid named Night Lovell from my city that's doing very well. But we don't see too many artists with 4 million streams on Spotify. I think that's one way I push the hip hop scene in my city just in terms of marketing. As far as quality of music, I always try to compete with the big artists in the world. That's what I continue to preach to people in my city: do your best to try and not just to do music for your friends in your city, look at what people in the world are doing and make sure that what you're doing can compete with that. It's so easy to get caught up in just getting compliments from your friends and thinking you're the best, but there's so much more out there.

What project are you currently working on now?

I'm actually working on my own album, which is going to be my first full-length body of work. It's called Time Heals All Wounds. The concept of the album started with the thought "give things time and it will heal." But as I was writing the songs and re-writing the songs with that title in mind, I started realizing I was more asking the question, "does time heal all wounds?" and wishing that was the case. So, I was just thinking of different things in my surroundings and in my whole life where I see people who haven't healed from their wounds over time.

I'm also working on an EP with this producer, Eva Shaw. She was born in Toronto, but she's been living in New York and L.A. for the last ten years. She's huge in the EDM world and she was signed to Calvin Harris' management. But she's transitioning into hip hop now and this is going to be her first display of hip hop. We performed some of the songs at Ottawa Bluefest. A lot of eyes are on her so it's going to be pretty cool. Especially the kind of beats she makes, I know society and hip-hop culture are not going to expect these kind of beats. She can out produce a lot of people so I'm really excited for everyone to hear what we have coming out.

What has been your hardest challenge on your journey thus far?

I would say the challenges that most artists say, funding is kinda hard. In order to get your freedom, you have to put up your own money. That's definitely a challenge, putting up my own money and taking risks. The other challenge is figuring out who's ethical, who's honest in this industry, and who has positive vibes. A lot of people come across as good people and you end up finding out they just liked you because they feel like your trajectory is a good one for them to be on. Also, it's a challenge keeping your team motivated to do more just as it is to continue being optimistic in this industry.

Anything else you want the world to know?

I want people to know that City Fidelia is going to be a name that everyone is going to know within a year.

You can listen to City Fidelia on Spotify and other streaming services now.

Lead Image Credit: Amira / Instagram