Jazz Cartier in his studio. Brian Rankin/THE VARSITY

It takes five years to blow up over night,” Jaye Adams tells me. The Toronto-based rapper, commonly known by the name Jazz Cartier, is talking about ‘overnight success'; it’s a curious contradiction for sure, but one that rings true for the up-and-comer.

After years of building a name for himself over social media and crafting his debut mixtape, Marauding in Paradise, to perfection, Adams is finally making waves in, and beyond, the local hip-hop scene.

Despite his newfound success, Adams’ rising popularity does not come without its peculiarities. In a city that’s been branded by the behemoth Drake, what is it that allows Adams’ music to attract attention in a music scene already so crowded with competition? Perhaps it’s his chemistry with producer and sound engineer Michael Lantz, whose collaborations yield some of the freshest sounds today. Alternatively it’s Adams’ time abroad that shaped the 22-year-old into something that can’t be constructed natively.

The stepson of an American diplomat, a young Adams spent much of his youth on the move. From the U.S. to Kuwait, Adams took with him unique experiences, styles, and perspectives from each country he visited in order to mould his own musical identity. “I feel like a lot of rappers from Toronto don’t leave Toronto, so their perspective on stuff is not as broad as mine,” remarks Adams. “Travelling definitely helped.”

Inching closer to adulthood, Adams met a crossroad in 2012. Adams was accepted to study at Columbia College in Chicago, but declined the offer in favour of returning to Toronto and pursuing music. He describes the decision as, “Mostly me just wanting to connect back with Toronto. I wasn’t really here my formative years, so I figured coming back here and kind of finding myself would help influence the music a lot. And it did.”

“We have a lot more to prove,” says Adams, referring to the Toronto rap scene. “So the music is going to be on a different standard than others.”

In an intimate downtown recording studio, Adams and producer Lantz have spent the last few years working painstakingly to surpass those standards. They settle on “cinematic trap” as a description of the Jazz Cartier sound. The music has an energy to it that compliments big venues, but instrumentally could also serve, perhaps, as a movie score — something that the cinematic vibe of his music videos makes clear.

Given his age, Adams is very much a child of the Internet era, and is well aware of the importance of social media. “Music is a big part of [succeeding], but that’s like half of it. I feel like a lot of it is how you carry yourself on the Internet. Rappers portray themselves the way they want to be perceived, you know? And a lot of the times it’s very tacky. That holds a lot of people back.”

“Self awareness is a very good thing. You have to be self aware of your content and everything you do. That’s just something I use for my formula.”

Adams is always up to something — since the summer, the rapper has become accustomed to the larger venues and crowds found at festival shows like Riot Fest Toronto; he’s been a long-listed nominee for the 2015 Polaris Music Prize, and is now working on the follow-up to his debut mixtape less than a year after its release. “That honeymoon phase is over,” he says about Marauding in Paradise. “I’m on to the next right now.”

At 22, Adams is leading the pack of up-and-comers in the Canadian hip-hop scene. He’s Toronto’s newest rap darling, but thanks to his international past and grasp on online culture, he has the drive and intelligence to attract listeners on a far larger scale. While he’d prefer you didn’t make the comparison, it’s nevertheless become increasingly clear that Adams is claiming his own stake in the 6ix God’s territory.

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