Get Inside the Circle
Former Concordia Student Goes From Journalism Student to Hip-Hop Artist
Few students can say they’ve made the transition from journalism to hip-hop artist, but that’s precisely what Simon Tousignant, better known by his rapper alias ST, has done.
A member of a tight-knit group called Trust the Team, ST has released two projects over the past year with friend and beat-maker Liam Meilleur under the name ST x Liam.
Born and raised in Montreal, ST has had a passion for hip-hop since he was six years old, when a neighbour gave him his first taste of the genre—a cassette tape of Tupac’s Me Against the World album.
“He said, ‘Do you want the cassette where they swear more, or the cassette where they rap faster?’” recalled the now 24-year-old ST. “Obviously, I was six years old—I wanted swears and curse words,” he laughed heartily, sitting in The Link office with Meilleur.
“It blew my mind,” said ST.
Although French is his mother tongue, ST says that when it comes to songwriting, he has a better way with words in English. Part of that is due to studying in Concordia’s journalism program.
“I’m a perfectionist, I’m probably my biggest hater,” says ST.
“For a long time, I felt like my grasp of the spoken English language wasn’t good enough to go with what I was able to write. Then I started journalism at Concordia, which forced me to speak in English.
“To be put in that environment with only English-speaking people, and to be comfortable in front of crowds and cameras really gave me that bump to be fully comfortable with what I was doing,” he continued.
But ST eventually realized journalism wasn’t his calling, and after two years he decided to leave Concordia and dedicate his energy to his true passion of music.
“I’ll come back [to school], but I really want to give this a shot,” he said.
“It’s been a constant rise since I stopped going to school and focused on music. We’ve done about 20 shows now, and we’ve released two full projects for free. I see it as a positive thing; we’ll see how it goes and so far it’s going well.”
Through networking in Montreal’s hip-hop scene, ST met Meilleur in 2012.
The two hit it off right away.
“I really believe that when you’re making music, you have to form genuine bonds with people,” says ST. “If you work with people you don’t have a chemistry with, you’re gonna hear it [in the music].”
Last November, the pair put out their debut album titled Fresh Crops, which features a photo of the infamous former U.S. president Richard Nixon holding a large bundle of cannabis up to his nose.
After releasing singles and collaborations with hip-hop producer and close friend Gabriel Cyr—nicknamed Fruits—the trio coined the term ‘Trust the Team,’ aninside joke that ending up sticking for the group.
“It’s funny because it started as a Twitter hashtag,” said ST. “It’s the rap community—sometimes you have little riffs with people, especially in the culture of Twitter. So I was like, ‘you know what, trust the team.’”
Meilleur added, “We created the term, ‘Trust the Team,’ for trusting the people that we work with,” he said.
“It’s the strength of what we try to do.”
Just Being Real
ST x Liam’s latest effort is Inside the Circle, an EP they released in May.
It begins with an intro of Morgan Freeman’s rich baritone voice describing the wonders of the universe.
“The songs on Inside the Circle have a more philosophical twist,” ST said, explaining the mindset behind the duo’s second EP.
“I talk a lot about how I see life and my opinions on politics and religion. It’s not self-righteous, it’s just letting people know what I believe in,” he continued. “So to say ‘get inside my circle’ means to enter our circle and understand what we mean.”
Lyrics venture fairly deep in terms of meaning and significance—ST raps about Fukushima and food that tastes “like fuel intake,” and songs have an overarching message against war and for humanity to work together “towards a common goal.”
Among them is “Realness,” the EP’s debut single.
“I just wanted to give what I felt was a portrait of society and reality right now,” he said. “We’re fucking up this planet pretty badly—we have nuclear plants that kill the ozone layer, we have food that gives us cancer.
“‘Realness’ is a grim portrait of reality, but I think it’s accurate right now.”
Like the origins of Trust the Team, the song has an unusual backstory.
A team of journalists, doing a story on ST x Liam wanted to get some supplemental footage of Meilleur mixing beats in the studio after filming one of their shows.
“Instead of faking making a beat, he just made an actual beat and in 15 minutes he had made the ‘Realness’ beat,” ST said.
“You could see my eyes light up. That same night, he emails me the beat, and two days later I was just sitting high as hell off Moroccan hash in the French Alps, put my headphones on, and didn’t stop writing until I was done.”
But ST x Liam aren’t only about heavy themes when it comes to their music.
“We’re working on ‘Real Cats,’ it’s a song about cats,” ST laughed.
“People love cats; we love cats. They’re cute and adorable by nature.”
But the ‘Real Cats’ project will be a smaller one—the duo doesn’t want to get labeled as the “cat rappers” if they come up with a full album on the topic.
ST x Liam will be playing at POP Montreal on Sept. 26 at the Royal Phoenix, and are also opening for Oddisee on Sept. 22 at Le Belmont.
ST says they are re-structuring their live show to prepare for the upcoming gigs, as an engaging live performance is crucial for building a fan-base.
“We’re just constantly evolving,” ST said.
ST x Liam and Oddisee // Sept. 22 // Le Belmont sur le Boulevard (4483 St. Laurent Blvd.) // 9 p.m. // $15 advance ($10 first 50 tickets), $20 doors