Jane and Finch rapper Duvy has a Los Angeles trip coming up in a day. Unlike most Canadian snowbirds seeking a little sunshine during the dreary winter months, Duvy couldn’t care less about the weather.
His time is in Los Angeles will be all business. He plans to gauge label interest, and he also intends to meet up with compatriot and frequent collaborator Murda Beatz.
Come to think of it, Duvy’s time in Toronto is entirely consumed by business, too. It’s how he’s wired.
“It’s going to be 100 percent work,” Duvy says of his L.A. trip. The headstrong 19-year-old speaks in percentages often. In his world, things are 100 percent, 200 percent, or even 1,000 percent. Tafari Minott’s brain is constantly crunching outcomes, equations, numbers, or anything that gets him closer to his ultimate goals in rap.
He’s assured, but he’s also thinking a step ahead.
“When you grow up struggling, you have to keep grinding,” he says. “That’s why I don’t stop.”
It’s as if the only place where he allows for spontaneity in his life is on the mic. His most recognizable catchphrase is introducing songs by saying “this shit off the top,” and he says it’s about saying something that satisfies him in the end.
“(Grassways) is a lot like every other neighborhood. It’s dangerous. There’s a lot of ups and downs. You see a lot of people change. But if you’re not from there, the only thing I would tell you is not to come here.”
His music has followed a steady cadence befitting a numbers man, with singles dropping at a pretty regular clip, but today, Duvy released his first studio album, Grasswayz, which has given him a chance to open up a little.
With more songs and more runtime, the rapper didn’t feel as compelled to go for the jugular with every bar. Duvy’s got melodic chops he wanted to expand upon following the success of 2019’s Jane Babies. Grasswayz was originally set for a 2021 release, but the importance of the release meant taking extra time to get the details right.
“To be honest, it took a while for me to drop my first project. I had too many songs to choose from,” he says. “That’s just my life. It’s easy to talk about your life but it’s harder to put it in a different way, right? I just tried to put it in a different way as possible. I wanted every song to be unique on it.
“People are going to get different sides. They’re going to get my hype side, my artist side, and my melodic side. If you can hear something in my voice that makes you think I was experiencing something in that moment, then I probably was.”
“Hearing people talk makes me know I’m relevant, and to be honest, hearing my name out there is motivating. The truth is, I must be doing something good if people are talking.”
Grasswayz is an elegy to his neighbourhood, including the recently razed building he grew up in. On “Phrases” he says “Safe to say, ain’t going back to the old days.” While he pays tribute to his Grassways upbringing, the movement in Duvy’s music is palpable. There’s no direction in his world other than forward.
“(Grassways) is a lot like every other neighborhood,” Duvy explains. “It’s dangerous. There’s a lot of ups and downs. You see a lot of people change. But if you’re not from there, the only thing I would tell you is not to come here. You know what I mean?”
There’s another line that cuts to the heart of Duvy’s craft, this time from new single “Clear the Spot”: “You was never there, how you gonna judge the way we living?”
Duvy doesn’t shy away from the gunplay and gang life that surrounds him, although he’s quick to say don’t believe everything you hear. Specifically, he cautions: “Don’t believe the blogs.”
Deep dive his sobriquet on Google and you’ll even find rumours of his demise. He might only be 19, but Duvy carries himself like a grizzled vet of the scene. Perhaps out of a sense of self-preservation, he says he’s kept his personal life close to the vest and hasn’t opened himself up too much outside of his music.
“You can’t let what those people are saying get to your head,” he says. “Hearing people talk makes me know I’m relevant, and to be honest, hearing my name out there is motivating. The truth is, I must be doing something good if people are talking.”
His name also comes up in equally cryptic ways within rap circles. He says he’s tight with Drake and they FaceTime, and Drake has listened to Grasswayz. There were also rumours a year ago that Duvy was being eyed by Meek Mill for his label Dream Chasers.
“No, nothing like that,” Duvy admits. “But Meek showed me love.”
At the moment, he’s proud to release Grasswayz independently and is looking to promote rappers from his community.
“I just didn’t want to wait on anyone,” he adds. “I’m going to go hard regardless. I hope it goes viral, but I can only speak for myself.”
With restrictions in Canada gradually lifting, Duvy’s plotting some Canadian concert dates, with an eye down south as well. In a career consumed by numbers, there’s also the unavoidable population difference between Canada and the United States that sticks out to Duvy.
Thanks to Meek’s support and Grasswayz track “Love My Life” featuring Grammy winner (and Dream Chaser) Vory, Duvy’s already got his foot in the door in rap’s biggest market. He’s always looking for that next step, and expanding beyond his hometown appears inevitable.
In a lot of ways, Duvy has no choice to move forward, because the Toronto he grew up in won’t stop changing.
“I think they’re going to make condos, but I’m not sure,” Duvy says of his now-demolished former home. “I don’t know what they’re doing, but I know it won’t be the same.”