It’s easy to fall into the trap of security from past success. Jazz Cartier’s debut album “Fleurever” shows that he doesn’t.
At Majestic Journal, our ‘fresh sounds’ feature aims to showcase not just the latest tracks from our favorite up-and-coming artists, but the paths taken to get there. In our latest offering, we focus on Toronto-based MC Jazz Cartier. To celebrate the drop of his debut album “Fleurever,” we explore Cartier’s unique sound and message as he begins his rise to the top of Toronto trap-rap and hip hop.
Forging a unique sound in an established genre is difficult, but Jazz Cartier (born Jaye Adams), a newcomer making waves in Toronto’s underground hip hop scene, is unfazed.
Cartier has no shortage of inspiration. Born with a speech impediment, and having gone through early adulthood with a blend of family upheaval, relationships, responsibility and false friends, Cartier expertly blends his experiences on his debut album “FLEUREVER” (2018) - a highly-anticipated follow-up from his breakthrough mixtapes “Marauding in Paradise” (2015) and “Hotel Paranoia” (2016), the latter having won a Juno under his other pseudonym “Jacuzzi La Fleur.”
Here, we unpick our favorite tracks and bars from “Fleurever,” and explore Cartier’s new direction: How is he deviating from his previously-established sound, and where is he going?
“Function,” “Fleurever”’s fifth track, explores the value of honesty, love and kinship over a classic trap beat punctuated by a hypnotizing single triangle: a distinct departure from a brasher rap sound, distinguishing itself as the silkiest track on the album. Referencing Martin and Gina, an iconic couple from the American 90’s sitcom “Martin,” Cartier eulogizes the positive influence of substance and security in a relationship, seeking comfort and stability over sexual possession and lust.
This binary clash of loud bravado versus emotional integrity is not Cartier’s first rodeo: He explored a similar theme back in 2016 with fellow Torontonians River Tiber on “Tell Me.”
Finding these blurred lines and heavy ironies is a signature of Cartier’s work and clearly a key topic in his media and social commentary, and “Fleurever” serves up plenty of hard-hitting doses over its 15 tracks.
An antidote - or devil’s advocate, perhaps - to “Function,” “IDWFIL” (I Don’t Wanna Fall In Love) explores cold feet and commitment while keeping with “Fleurever”’s overarching leitmotifs of duality and ambivalence. Featuring atmospheric harmonies and a beautiful piano fade out, “IDWTFIL” examines the suppression of love and its subsequent pain. As he spits bars like “If you give a man the world then it won’t last,” he encourages a poignant self-examination of personal character and sexual stereotypes.
"Before It’s Too Late"
Cartier saved his best for last with “Before It’s Too Late (Outro).” Opening to a simple beat and a distorted synth-organ reminiscent of Jorja Smith’s “Blue Lights,” the track sends Cartier’s strong metaphor game into overdrive. Lyrics such as “Read the bible backwards” conjure a satanic, devil-come-play image, playing on the theme of good versus bad, sinisterism, and rebirth - another common thread throughout “Fleurever.”
On the outro, Cartier also references the late Arthur Ashe: a pioneering African-American tennis player, Apartheid activist and HIV campaigner, who held onto inspiration and direction in the face of physical and social deterrence before his death from AIDs in 1993. Born just weeks after Ashe’s death, Cartier delivers a powerful and poignant swansong to his debut album.
Challenging the rap establishment is always a risk, but “Fleurever” masterfully subverts the status quo, adding a new and robust layer to Cartier’s discography and to the classic Toronto rap-trap sound. Retaining his charisma and message, the formula behind his mixtape success, Cartier is establishing himself as not just one of the biggest names in Toronto rap, but in his genre.