Jazz Cartier Is Up Next In Toronto

In this week’s GEN F, a shape-shifting rapper turns a stutter into an advantage.

Photographer Reynard Li
Jazz Cartier Is Up Next In Toronto

Jazz Cartier has a speech impediment. When the 22-year-old says certain words, he’s routinely interrupted by a deep stutter, which is a quality you’d imagine would be something of an obstacle for a rapper. Over a drink on a cold Toronto day, he explains that mapping out the patterns of his stammer led him to devise the throaty ad-libs and off-kilter delivery that are now a constant in his music. “That’s why I sound like a fucking weirdo all the time,” says Jazz, a generous smile creeping across his face. “But I just try to do what I can with what I have.”

The stutter isn’t the most unlikely thing about Cartier, though. Thanks to his stepfather’s roving job, he wound up living in nearly a dozen cities by the time he was 17, bouncing between places as diverse as Kuwait, Connecticut, and Idaho. Then he did the east coast prep school circuit, even becoming a high school tennis star in his later teenage years. While visiting his father in Toronto on a break from school, Cartier wrote and recorded ”Her Daddy Don’t Like Me,” a pop-rap declaration of love to a girl whose bourgeois father didn’t approve of him. The glossy video he shot for it quickly ended up in rotation on MuchMusic, a TV network routinely described as “Canada’s MTV.” Cartier has since scrubbed the song from the internet, but he didn't forget the social cache it earned him at boarding school. “All of a sudden it was like I wasn’t this weird black kid anymore," he says of his schoolyard fame. "I was like, the man and shit.”

In defiance of his mom’s wishes, Cartier made an impulsive, last-minute decision to forgo an acceptance at Chicago’s Columbia College to chase his rap dreams in his hometown instead. But adjusting to post-high school adult life back in Toronto wasn’t as easy as he anticipated, and Cartier soon found himself living in a communal apartment in the city’s core, partying and selling hella drugs with his friends. Today, it’s been nearly a year since he washed his hands of the trade and began focusing all his energy on music. “I was living real reckless," he says. "I realized I’m too smart for that so I just stopped, like, kinda cold turkey.”

Jazz Cartier Is Up Next In Toronto
Jazz Cartier Is Up Next In Toronto

The incongruities of that complex life make up the emotional appeal of Marauding In Paradise, the mixtape he dropped to much acclaim this past April. It’s a tough, layered coming of age story stuffed with paranoid retellings of late nights and dark schemes, all braided over gut-punching beats. Distorted, vowel-stretching songs like “New Religion” and “Dead Or Alive” have earned him comparisons to Travi$ Scott, but Cartier is more of a chameleon than his contemporaries. Alongside tracks detailing drug-related run-ins, there are touching, make-a-grown-man-cry ruminations on trusting himself and losing friends—She said you can’t be afraid/ The world is your stage/ Don’t lose your trumpet baby, just play it your way, he sings on pained album closer “See You In Hell.”

Recorded in collaboration with longtime friend and producer Lantz, Marauding crystallized Cartier’s departure from his collective, Get Home Safe, a ragtag band of creatives with whom he began building a following. Despite showing promise as the emerging leaders of downtown Toronto’s Tumblr-cool scene, the crew imploded and Cartier retreated inwards, and it seems to have been a good bet. “It was like, it was gonna be me or them—so I chose me,” he says, his baritone rattling. “Before Drake, everybody wanted to be the first to blow from Toronto. Now, everyone wants to be the first to blow after Drake,” Cartier says. “I’m hoping it’s gonna be me.”

Jazz Cartier Is Up Next In Toronto
July 23, 2015
Jazz Cartier Is Up Next In Toronto