Interview: Rochester Gives Us The Boost

We chat with Rochester about his city, his new music, and working with Boi-1da.

Toronto has transformed into the hotspot for on-trend hip-hop and R&B. Spearheaded by the usual OVOXO suspects, the scene has also birthed up-and-comers like Jazz Cartier, Sean Leon, Drew Howard, and a plethora of others. For the unacquainted, it may seem like Toronto's rap circle is a fresh and new wave.

Rochester is a Toronto veteran. He's an artist who has lived through the growing pains of his city, and remains active during its come up. He continues to rep his city, and is now preparing for a return to form. Along with new material, the rapper has an abundance of stories to tell.

We caught up with the "Boost" rapper, to chat about his new single, his new ventures, and what makes his live show unique.

You just recently released your latest song, "Boost". Can you tell us a little about what the song means? It's a bit different than your previous work. "Boost" is also produced by DZY, who has worked with Dej Loaf among others. How did that collaboration come about?
I do most of my recording out of my business partner's studio in Mississauga. He renovated a studio space at the Rehearsal Factory, and if you've ever visited, you know just how much talent comes through on a daily basis. Everyone from Rich Kidd to Majid Jordan, Big Pops to Kim Davis. They all have spaces to create.

One day I was heading to Rehearsal Factory, and I saw DZY messing around on a hoverboard. I've never been on one before, so I asked him if I could give it a shot. I'm a quick study, so I got comfortable on it real quick...too quick! I started zooming up and down the hallway until my foot slipped. I flew off of it like a lion pouncing on a gazelle. They laughed, and I got up, brushed myself off, and went on it again.  I guess he liked my resilience or maybe it was the fact that I wasn't afraid to embarrass myself. Either way, he invited me to his studio space and history was made.

Is this new single preparing us for a full-length release? Can we expect more music soon?
A lot more music!  I have an eight-song album called, Cowabunga, on the way. I'm prepping a video shoot this weekend for my next single "Grateful", produced by Boi-1da. That should be dropping in November

You've been around the Toronto scene for a while now. Over that time, the city has really blown up. How have you seen the music culture here change over the last couple of years?
The music culture in Toronto has changed, yes, but it still lacks diversity. We've always been a melting pot of exceptional talent. The only difference, is that people actually care now. I've been to all of the major studios in the city, and I've toured the country multiple times. I've seen a lot of the raw and untapped talent that won't ever get the chance to be heard, just because of our infrastructure.

Related to the Toronto wave - you worked with Boi-1da. How was that experience?
I met 1da at a Kardi Christmas party a couple of years back. 1da tapped me on the shoulder and told me he that he wanted to collaborate again.  I hit him up a few times on Twitter with some concepts for an album. He sent me three beats and the first two that I did - I thought were insane! I thought he was going to flip when he heard these, but when he did, he was like...meh.  The last beat I wasn't too sure about, because it's different from what's out there right now. But I did the song and sent it off, thinking that I might get the same reaction. He replied immediately, and said how much he liked the record.

Who are you listening to right now from Toronto, or just in general? And where do you take your influences from?
PartyNextDoor's "Not Nice" and "Only U" are in heavy rotation right now. I like Jazz Cartier, and I think he's reppin' the city properly. He has remarkable music and clean visuals.  I play Keys n Krates  when I wanna clean my ear palette and Jack White for the same reason. Anderson .Paak always gets played when I'm cooking. Also, J. Cole for motivation, and Weezy for work outs.

You've worked with some of the biggest names in the industry. Any particular stories that stick out to you?
I met Jay Z once and was so wasted off of liquid cocaine shots, that I tried to sell him my album. I met Kanye once when I was opening for him, and actually asked if I could do my version of "Overnight Celebrity". I went on tour with Obie Trice years ago, and got more groupies than he did[laughs]. I saw Timbaland in Miami and found out why they say to never meet your idols, because it ruins the fantasy.  I've seen Akon talk to his little brother Bu about not getting to caught up in the women, and to focus on what's important. I listened while Walshy Fire from Major Lazer​, explained why Toronto has the best Djs, and how watching Starting From Scratch play, changed his life. Yeah, I got stories.

One thing that's always mentioned alongside your name, is your live presence. How do you approach your live performances, and why are they so memorable? 
Every show is different for me. I'm always looking for a way to keep it fresh, and I try and find that one thing that'll make people remember me. Not only with a dope verse or a undeniable beat. It's the way that I can connect with them. I look for the little things between the music that makes a connection with the audience. When I hit 'em with the fire, it's just the icing on the cake.

What can we expect from you for the remainder of the year? Anything else you'd like us to know? 
More music! I'm also working on a cooking show right now that'll change the game! I'm terrible at multitasking, so once my album release is locked in, I'm gonna start production. Oh yeah, there's gonna be a PSA about gun-violence floating around soon, so be on the lookout for that!

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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