montreality cypher

MONTREALITY debuts two cyphers featuring local rap royalty

The hip hop channel’s co-founder Sina Ghiassi reflects on an illustrious 12-year career.

For the past 12 years, MONTREALITY has given the world some of hip hop’s most earnest interviews. Founded by best friends Sina Ghiassi and Daniel Yañez, the two carved a unique lane for themselves in asking out-of-the-box questions. The interviews, which they have reinvented as “inner-views,” explore everything from rappers’ realest lyrics to their favourite Saturday morning cartoons.

Amid globetrotting for content, MONTREALITY always strive to shine a spotlight on their city. This week, the publication debuted two cyphers featuring freestyles from some of the city’s most talented artists in both English and French. Kay Bandz, Nate Husser, Zach Zoya, SLM and Kid Riz rep the anglo side of the city’s scene, while White-B, Lost, Izzy-S, Shreez and the veteran Connaisseur Ticaso paint a portrait of franco rap through the years.

Montreality recruits Kay Bandz, Nate Husser, Zach Zoya, SLM and Kid Riz for their English cypher.

We spoke to MONTREALITY co-founder Sina Ghiassi about his illustrious career, along with his hopes for his hometown’s future in music.

Mr. Wavvy: How’s everything been, I heard you just opened an office?

Sina Ghiassi: We finally got our first office! We were working from home all these years. But now, we got a place on St-Laurent. It’s more organized, it just feels good to have a space.

I don’t even know how I (worked from home) for, like, 12 years. My desk was no more than two metres away from my bed. I couldn’t do it anymore. You know? So now with our own space, it’s amazing.

MW: How was working during the pandemic for you? A lot of what you do with your work is going to different places and meeting people in-person.

SG: It was very different. Everyone started doing these Zoom interviews. And in the beginning, we were still good, we had some leftover videos that hadn’t dropped yet. We dropped our interviews with Polo G, Lil Durk, a few others. We had maybe six, seven interviews left.

When it came to doing Zoom interviews, I didn’t want to get into that too much. But we did Big Sean, Lil Loaded and we did Migos more recently. But I just feel like it’s not the same vibe, right? And I’m sure you can understand that, being a journalist. It’s still cool but it’s just not the same thing.

We took some time off. Last year in January, (MONTREALITY co-founder) Daniel Yanez and I went to Costa Rica for three, four months. We were completely off the grid. It felt good to recharge.

MW: With the winter curfew, we couldn’t go outside both literally and figuratively. You really didn’t miss much here.

SG: It was a good mental health break. Honestly, there was a time that was like, I was already feeling low. Being able to bless myself with that trip for that long was definitely a lifesaver.

MW: You guys deserve it and I’m glad to see you both back on the road! You’re out travelling but you never forget home. Talk to me about how this MONTREALITY cypher came together.

SG: It’s been something that’s been in the works for a long time, ever since about 2015.

We didn’t know like how to (go about making it) because it was kind of a big production. The way we do the interviews is pretty basic, it’s just a sit-down, you know, with two angles. But with the cyphers, we wanted to do something proper, have great visuals and great audio quality. That’s something that’s important to me.

We couldn’t figure it out until like recently. We were able to finally decide on the artists that we want to book and we had the videographer Orazio from Toronto. He is just super gifted. He came down (to Montreal), he’s the one who shot and edited. His style was just really cool — I feel like that also added a lot to it.

MW: Talk to me a bit about the choices for each of the cyphers. What made you want to pick these rappers and pair them together?

SG: For the French cypher, that was really my wish list. That’s the lineup we had in mind, and everyone was available and down. It was just perfect.

I feel like they kind of represent the scene. Ticaso, who is from the old school, being together with the new wave, the guys that have been putting out great music and getting those massive streams, you know, over the years. They all have different styles. Shreez, he has a special flavour that he brings to the table and then Lost and Ticaso are very lyrical. I feel like it was a well-rounded crew.

White-B, Lost, Izzy-S, Shreez and Connaisseur Ticaso put their talent on display for Montreality’s French cypher.

For the English choices, they’re some of the most talented artists in the city. You know, I wish we could have included more. We just chose five, you know? I didn’t want it to be too much.

But this is something that I feel like we can do more episodes of in the future. I would have loved to get on it like Skiifall or Young Troy but their scheduling just didn’t permit.

MW: I feel like these five really worked together. These rappers mesh together, they’re also showing all of their unique styles. It’s really well put together, man. The lighting is great, the two beats are super fun, the verses all really represent them well. I think you guys did a great job.

SG: Thanks! At first we were trying to have one beat. But then I figured that if we give them choices, and everyone’s gonna kind of pick something that they’re more comfortable with. Midway through, you get the beat switch, which isn’t something they typically see in cyphers.

MW: You started in 2009. How do you see the current state of Montreal rap and how it’s evolved since then?

SG: I feel like it’s just getting more and more exciting every year. I mentioned Skiifall before and everyone is looking forward to seeing what he does. It’s very different from artists that came before him. I feel like he’s gonna also open doors for different artists in the anglophone scene to come in.

Also Backxwash, she’s super dope. A very talented artist with a different sound. That’s what’s really cool right now. There’s a lot different sounds coming out.

MW: With all due respect to these guys, it’s funny to think about how different it is since there was Boy6lue with “Hometown” or I.Blast…

SG: Magnum is still around, he’s still killing it.

MW: “Expos Fitted” and that gigantic remix was a huge moment for the city. A huge moment for the city now is very different from what a huge moment in the city was back then.

SG: Definitely.

MW: Where do you see the state of hip hop in the city and Montreal artists going in the next five years?

SG: That’s a good question. I feel like in five years, we’ll find the leader. I’m talking about the English scene because I feel like the French side are already on the map. There’s so many guys on the French side, whether it’s guys like Enima or Jeune Loup, Rest In Peace. People in France and Belgium and other French-speaking countries, they are aware of him and and they understand it. But on the English side, we haven’t had that artist yet. In five years from now, I feel like we’ll have a couple artists, from the anglophone scene poppin’. I can’t wait to see that moment. You know, it’s something we’ve all been waiting for.

MW: Something that happened a little earlier this year that must have been super exciting to you was getting sampled on Drake’s Certified Lover Boy. Congrats on that!

SG: Yeah, that was crazy.

MW: How did that come together?

SG: I was in L.A. doing interviews. We got an email from Drake’s team. They told us about the song and the sample they wanted to use of our Juice WRLD interview.

It felt surreal. That’s a very special interview for us. It was our second interview with Juice WRLD. It was the closing lines, the last thing he said, at the very end of the interview during the “Message to the youth” question. It’s always a special question in every interview. The words that he said had a lot of weight. When I heard the song, you know, I heard it when everyone else heard it, it was just like it was. It was cool, man.

MW: Who’s left for you…Who is the dragon you still want to chase, who is the MONTREALITY interview you still want to get?

SG: There’s a bunch, but I would say three right now: Drake, Frank Ocean and Kanye.

For more Montreal music coverage, please visit the Music section.