As a producer and engineer, Keita Juma is the behind-the-boards talent for a grip of indie artists from Toronto. But over the past couple of years he's fully embraced his flow, creating addictive vocal rhythms that are part-rap, part-chat. British-born of Jamaican descent and now living in the bucolic Toronto suburb of Mississauga (hometown of PARTYNEXTDOOR), Juma knows that the city pulses with artistic traditions from back home that have been remade in a new context.
For the latest FADER Mix, Juma helps us celebrate both the launch of The FADER in Canada and All Star Weekend with a collection of hip-hop and R&B songs from local artists old and new. It's his way of reminding those listening that although Toronto's on a come up, we've always been carrying heat.
Where are you right now? Describe your surroundings.
KEITA JUMA: In my basement in 'Sauga with my girl trying to figure out the next move. Got my air cleaning plants on my desk to remind me to be clean, cactus to remind me shit's not a game when you get close, and a next plant that just reminds me to be free up. There's also a steel pan on my wall that I got in Jamaica from a man named Baba and some eggshell-type shakers I got from [my friend] DJ Bambii that sit on top of it. It's part of this goal to keep instruments around me.
Tell us a bit about this mix—what do you imagine people doing while listening to it?
At first, I was like, "yeah, I'm gonna make a hype mix!" but I decided to come in with the smoothness and play a lot of my favorites from the city. There's a mix of old and new songs; I feel like there's this idea that we just got nice up here and not that we been nice. It starts slow but it's perfect for an afternoon drive, doing the dishes, going for a skate....JUST NOT IN FRONT OF THE COMPUTER. I mean, if you're at work and you can't leave I get it, but if you have the choice, just dim that screen.
Lots of people are excited about the music coming out of Toronto right now. Describe the "Toronto sound," as you experience it.
There's a Toronto vibe, but I personally don't think there's a "Toronto sound." I feel a certain vibe comes through in the music because of the [contrast in] seasons. Also, a lot of our parents weren't born here so we take from that. But I think people who say there's a "Toronto sound" aren't hearing all of what we have to offer. I just don't think cities are going to have sounds in the coming years: we're too connected now.
With that being said, there are a lot of reggae-influenced pop songs that are big right now and if that's the next wave then the Dot really got next. We remember those house parties back in the day and how much reggae we all used to listen to, so the sensibilities are there.
There's a lot of outdoorsy imagery in your photos and videos. How does nature inspire your music?
It's how I listen to music for the most part. I was that kid who was always outside—not in people's houses, just on road with my friends. I feel like I'm able to listen better outdoors. All my senses are active. When I'm around nature I'm constantly reminded of how small and big I am, and that everything is relative. It's where I process my thoughts, then I come back in to write, and go back outside to listen. Repeat.
What's the last book you read that had a big impact on you? And why?
The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge. It was a good reminder that when you choose what you want to learn you're not in control of how you learn. The universe presents us with all the challenges we need to go through to get to the next stage, so we can't get down on ourselves when they come. Just pay attention, so you can learn and advance.
And finally, what's your favorite dish to cook and how do you make it?
I just enjoy making the same things in different ways. Recently I've been making a lot of pho. I'll make the broth and chop up some scallions, cilantro, mint and bean sprouts. Grab some chicken breast, slice it thin, and drop that on top of the noodles and bean sprouts one time. Make sure the broth is hot, pour, then add the scallions, cilantro and mint and that's that. Next on my list is butter chicken—but I'm trying to eat less meat because deep down I think we all should.
Keita Juma - Cheese Bread Skrilla
Rich Kidd - Brick Ft. Gudini
Spek Won - 2nd Chances
Adria Kain - Ocean
Clairmont the Second - Flame Princess
Wolf J McFarlane - Deaf Ears Ft. L.A.
Matthew Progress - Existential
Mathematik - Plastic
JuniaT - My My My Ft. Briskinthehouse
Purple Hearts - Know Go
Purple Hearts - ReMinder Smiles
BizzarH - high power love freestyle by aminata
Keita Juma - Bossed Up
Matthew Progress - I and I (DM4)
Jazz Cartier - Opera
Drew Howard and Birthday Boy - Benny & Lil' Ze
Abstract Random - Mi Nah Wanna
Adria Kain - Honour Roll