Interview: Moka Only

Interview: Moka Only

In the 13+ years since his debut, Moka Only has released more than 40 albums, both solo and collaborative. He records under a variety of aliases, with the most popular being Ron Contour, Flow Torch and The Durable Mammal. Together with We’ve Got The Jazz we talked with the Canadian emcee/producer about more upcoming releases, Hip Hop in Canada and much more.

In the 13+ years since his debut, Moka Only has released more than 40 albums, both solo and collaborative. He records under a variety of aliases, with the most popular being Ron Contour, Flow Torch and The Durable Mammal. Together with We’ve Got The Jazz we talked with the Canadian emcee/producer about more upcoming releases, Hip Hop in Canada and much more.

For those who don’t know, can you tell us a little about yourself and what you bring to Hip Hop?

I am Moka Only, some know me simply as Torch. Depends on how in depth the person is with my music. I’m just a beatmaker/producers/emcee/doctor. I came up in the Vancouver, Victoria BC area. I’d like to think that I bring a sense of adventure and maybe mystery to music. 

What artists, Hip Hop or not, did you grow up listening to and who would you say influenced your style and music?

Somehow I was always interested in piano singer/songwriter types like Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles or Elton John, Billy Joel, etc. Then I started getting into jazz at a young age. Once I had become immersed in Hip Hop, I would gravitate toward the more left-leaning artists like Jungle Brothers, De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, etc…cats that used jazz or progressive textures in they music and abstract raps.  

When did you decide you wanted to become a fulltime musician? Can you describe that particular moment?

I can’t ever think of one moment where I wanted to go full time with music. It was always an unsaid vibration.  As a kid I would show out in grade school and stand on my desk and sing and stuff like that. I was a shy kid but when it came to music I had no problem sharing. There was never one single moment though.  

Do other musicians criticize your work? Who would you say gave you the most import piece of criticism, and what was it?

I’m not too in tune with what artists are saying about my work. I don’t do the research to see what’s on other peoples minds. Usually they actions define how they feel like for instance, cats that reach out and want to collab’ or whatnot, that’s an indicator obviously. I live under a rock in some sense and I avoid a lot of the social scene and status quo-isms of the biz. I definitely get a rush thinking that cats that I look up to admire my work in return but its not fuel that I require. As long as I can blow my own mind, then I’m happy.  

What are your opinions on major labels, and would you ever sign with one?

It seems that major labels have they work cut out for them right now. Most of them are about the bottom line and of course they are. Its business but one advantage of going with a major is the capitol they can put up for promotion where as indie cats dont usually have that advantage therefore it can be a very slow build.  There are advantages to both and I’ve tread water in both sectors. I want the major money but with an indie outlook. I’ve signed with majors before and had my work help up and been dropped ‘cause I didn’t play ball i guess. lol 

How do you think Canadian Hip Hop is currently progressing?

I hope Canadian hip-hop is progressing, haha. I hope hip-hop in general is. Yet at the same time, I don’t feel it affects my endeavors so much. I’m always going to stand out to the left side of this thing. I think hip-hop in general could stand to loosen up a little bit. A lot of cats seem so conservative now in they approach…and the beats that the general public hear on the radio and stuff… bah… too many guys chasing the goose…and there IS no goose to chase.  Just go nuts and enjoy your own mind. That’s how I feel. Don’t ever feel like you have to do what ya don’t want to do, Canada! Sheesh. There are a number of progressive artists in Canada though. Wont name names, they know who they are and the listeners should too.   

Did you encounter any difficulties emceeing Canada; was it widely accepted as it is now?

I don’t think I had too many troubles emceeing in Canada but listen. I never set out to stamp myself as “Canadian rap”. I just do what I do and have lived in both U.S. and Canada for the last 15 years. Travels and all that made me see that its silly to limit yourself with the titles. Sure I’m proud to be Canadian but I’m also the type of dude that never wants to be stuck in a box, so to speak. I think thing may have even been easier before due to the fact that once illegal downloading and the overall dumbing down of North American culture came into effect that people expect everything for nothing therefore it devalues art and it even shows on the tour front as well. I almost can’t wait until the music industry completely crashes and people wake up and start giving back something in exchange for hardworking musicians. You’ll see. 

How do you think people perceive Canadian rappers? And what’s your thought on Canadians being reluctant to listen to Canadians in favor of Americans?

Well I am just not sure. Perhaps my view is that in underground hip-hop culture Americans who are deep in it are always going to show respect to Canadian hip hoppers. Here’s the thing; the longer you keep suggesting there is such divisions then it is going to perpetuate that notion. I wish Canadians would stop making such a deal about it.  As for Canadians supporting Canadians, that’s cool but just support stuff if its dope. Shit, I’m NOT going to support a Canadian rapper just for the fact he or she is also Canadian. That makes no sense whatsoever. THAT’S what I’m talking about as  far as  conservative attitudes. People lowering they standard in what they chose to listen to and I have run into a bunch of people in Canada that DO seem to only support Canadian rap.  That’s redic since it wasn’t even created here.  Let’s just nurture it to the best of our abilities and share it, that’s all.   

What’s your thought on Drake being widely accepted now, when he was rhyming for quite sometime before?

My thoughts about Drake blowing up only now? Shoot, that’s just the nature of the buzz and sometimes the power of the co-sign. Just because you’ve been rapping or whatever for a long time doesn’t automatically mean you are ‘in there’. Skills take a long time to hone and obviously Drake has made good use of his years building raps.  So kudos to him!   

Who is your favorite Canadian emcee?

My favorite Canadian emcee has two thumbs and is doing this interview right now, this guy, me. Thank you.   

You said you made a number of albums and saved them on ADAT tapes, but your ADAT broke. Did you get a working ADAT to get your albums out?

Haha, anybody out there with a working ADAT LX-20 model, hit me up! I got a ton of ADAT tapes filled up and waiting to see the light.  Stuff from 2000 to 2003, some of my fav’ stuff I’ve ever done was from that period. I feel nostalgia when I think of then.  I still have a normal working DAT machine and tons of DAT tapes I’ve been through lately and found some jewels, well, at least stuff that I think are jewels to me. I will definitely get a replacement ADAT machine and some of that stuff will come out for sure!     

Will you ever drop another instrumental album?

I dropped an instrumental album in 2006, it’s called The Station Agent. There will definitely be a lot more instrumental stuff coming, since that’s my fav’ shnit to do! And I like turtles.  

You released your 6th Martian Xmas last year, but ‘Martian Xmas 2005’ seems to be a myth. Did that ever come out? Or were their some issues with the release that prevented it from dropping?

‘Martian Xmas 2005’ is mythical to a degree BUT, it was completed and I cannot find the master. I have most of the songs in ruff form on cassette tapes and some of its good. I may just master off that and throw it out there. I want people to sweat me for it a lil’ more first. LOL.  At the time I just felt it wasn’t strong enough to release. But now listening to the songs from it I feel differently about it. It’ll happen.  

How is your cousin Ron Contour?

Oh, Ron?  Yeah, umm, he is a handful but I’m pleased at his productivity.  He’s been knocking out the jams lately. Only trouble is that it’s more work for me, since he usually only wants to rap on my beats so that’s time consuming to make all his beats plus all my own works. He did an album with Factor that’s out since March called ‘Saffron’ so it’ll be interesting to hear what he has done with that. Factor is dope so I’m sure the results are sweet. Ron got tons of stuff in the cannon waiting to release upon the crack of the world.  

The next Ron Contour album, ‘Rontario’, is set to be done with Crunk Chris (Legendary Entertainment). Chris can also produce, so will you guys split the production? Or will either one of you guys handle all of the production?

Oh, as  far  as  that  ‘Rontario’ project, yeah, I did more than half the beats. My homie Nebz Supreme did a few and Crunk did a couple I think as well. I flew out there to meet up and oversee plus be in the radiant vid’ but Ron gave me the wrong film time and I missed it, well mostly, you can see me complaining in the end of the vid’. 

You’ve worked with many different people before, who would you say is your favorite person to work with?

I don’t like working with anybody, really. Ok, that’s a lie but I like working on my own best.  Psy is a lot of fun to work with though and Ishkan, yeah, that needs to happen again. Bootie Brown and I have the new rap group, The Goolenaires and that’s been fun so far, he’s fresh with it.  It’s going to be popular. Man, too many cats to name here really, (I) done work with a lotta cats where the process was cool. But I’m best alone, under, my rock.   

Will there ever be another song with MF Doom? More Soup seems to be a favorite amongst the fans.

More Soup is a favourite to me too, I don’t know what Doom’s been up to. Probably never happen again. I don’t know if he gives a flying fig Newton. Doesn’t matter to me, we made one lil’ classic joint and that’s fine by me. I’m happy.  

Will you ever work with Ishkan again and release another Nowfolk album?

Like I said, I hope it happens. If Ishkan is interested and motivated in working with me then for SURE! And the album will be called Magnesium Opium.

I heard a rumor about an album with LMNO, is that still in the works?

I have a couple old joints with LMNO, maybe in the  future we will do work again. I’ve spoken with him recently. If he is interested in working with me then cool, sometimes I cant tell if cats give a flying fig Newton or a wooky cookie about doing work with me. It doesn’t matter. If it happens naturally then it’s meant to be. I aint gonna sweat nobody. Let nature take its course.    

Will that album with Mr. Brady ever drop?

Me and Brady‘s album is finally gonna drop sometime in the spring. Gotta find a label that’s willing to give it a decent push first, it’s an interesting project.   

Will the album with Evil, ‘Zzbra’, ever come out? I heard it was done, but Urbnet is holding it back.

Urbnet is not holding back anything; this ‘Zzbra’ thing is a complete fabrication.  It’s a myth.  Evil is a dope emcee but we’ve never worked together yet… I don’t know who started the rumor… I even saw some fake artwork for an album we purportedly made… bah… all myth.  I think, anyhow. Maybe there’s an imposter Moka who made an album with Evil.  Evil has flavor. Maybe Kutmaster Kurt will put out an album called ‘Zzbra’. Who knows, MYTH.  

This decade has now come to a close, is their anything the decade hold for you? What is your favorite project you released this decade?

Im glad this decade is over, I’m looking for a fresh start. Lowdown Suite 1 was a  fav’, as  was Carrots And Eggs and Station Agent. I felt that I stepped it up with those releases.  Lowdown 2 was cool as well. Some I like more than others, naturally. I’m sleepy right now. This tour is draining me. I’m drained. It’s good. 

Any last words?

I never give last words, everything is a continuation. I’m looking forward to this new world of ours and for the backpack to rise again. I’m looking forward to getting that old shit off the ADAT and into your earphones.. I looking forward to good food and working with rock artists that are interesting. I am looking forward to working with Tegan and Sara. I’m looking forward to reading this interview. I’m looking forward to sex, lots of sex.  I’m looking forward to touring hard again. Keeping it all moving and one last thing:  Yaggfu Front is coming back and I’ve been in touch and will hopefully be involved. Peace!

Words by: Osman
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Just an ordinary guy always on the hunt for extraordinary music. Not just as the founder of The Find Magazine & Rucksack Records, but also as a freelance music journalist (bylines at Tracklib, Bandcamp, Wax Poetics, DIG Mag, among others) and—above all—out of love for all kinds of good music.