Old School Paved the Way
Montreal Rapper Taigenz Talks Talent Shows, Concordia Classes and Inspiration
“I’m Taigenz. I make art because that’s what’s going to grow my reaches and enable what I’m going to do with my life.”
Taigenz was born Tamfu Terry Ngala in Côte-des-Neiges, the son of Cameroonian immigrants. His childhood was normal, his parents a banker and a government employee.
Reserved but funny, he played basketball and hung out with friends, until music became a focus. Initially, his interest was in techno, and some alternative punk—until he discovered Eminem at age 8.
“[Eminem’s] performance of ‘Forgot About Dre’ with Dr. Dre, that was the first time I really sat down to watch a rap performance,” Ngala said. “From then on I was just on it. Ask any of my friends—when I was eight, nine years old, I was just memorizing all of his lyrics.”
Today, Ngala is a full-fledged rapper. His music plays like a mix of Yung Jock and early Ye; hard gospel influences infused with flowing jazz, contemporary classical, and electronica, with beats alternating between trap bangers and grimey soulful ballads.
His flow is thick with Montreal’s accent, a staccato sense of rhythm that starts and stops without breaking stride. With 5 full-length releases and a litany of videos under his belt, Taigenz is definitively on the cusp. His beginnings, though, were humble.
“I started writing when I was 11. My first performance, I was 13 years old,” he said. “At the end of the year, there was a variety show put together by the school. I figured I’d try my hand and see what it’d give me.”
Ngala says this sentence often: “see what it’d give me.” Throughout his life, the Montreal rapper seems to take what’s on his plate for the sake of the experience.
He’s excited to learn, never trying to put himself into a box as one thing or another. Even when asked to describe himself, he shuns words like “rapper” or even “artist.” Instead, he simply “[makes] art because that’s what’s going to grow my reach.”
So, at age 13, he tried his hand at music, crushing his variety show with an original track he had written just days before. Despite a dodgy opening, punctuated with some awkward silences and forgotten lyrics, he got more comfortable quickly. By the song’s end, he was dancing around, commanding the stage.
“It was a go since then,” he recalled, laughing.
By the time Ngala hit Concordia University, he was hungry for more. Looking for new insight, he enrolled in FFAR 398B, Hip Hop: Past, Present, Future.
Taught by Yassin “Narcy” Alsalman, better known as The Narcicyst, Ngala credits the class, and the professor, as a huge encouragement for his work.
“I took the class, and it engaged me in a way that creatively got me better. He himself is just an amazing artist, out of this world in terms of what he does,” Ngala said of his professor. The class may have allowed Ngala to tap into his own style and energy.
“A lot of artists, when they start off, sort of emulate their influences,” Alsalman explained. “But [Taigenz’s] project resonated as genuine, it was definitely him.”
By 2014, Nagala had joined the Concordia Student Union. Though this form of public service might seem unrelated to an interest in music, for him, it was a natural progression.
“Already what I do is kind of public service, in terms of music. You’re serving the public by helping them escape their world and enjoy what you have to offer,” he said. “[But] I decided to try my hand at the CSU and see how things worked.”
After a year and a half as a councillor, though, Ngala left university to pursue Taigenz full time. Now, making it is his fulltime job.
“In the next year or so, I see myself at a higher level in terms of where my brand and name are perceived, and the art just getting better. It’s a process.”