On the fringe of Montreal’s music scene: Badly Xtraa
Keep your radio on for a chance to hear some Xtraa good music
Bilingual artist Badly Xtraa is representing the city of Montreal and his generation by using his unique voice and distinct sense of style; one might say that it’s even badly extra.
Sarven-David Raymond, his given name, is a queer Haitian artist based in Montreal and Repentigny. The 20-year-old musician has produced memorable songs and visuals since 2020, a path that he hopes will take him out of his current mundane lifestyle. Xtraa independently writes, sings, and raps over the instrumentals he produces, making him a local talent worth checking out.
Badly Xtraa, a name he chose due to his extravagant personality, has gone to the Flyaway Studio for the past few months, working on his songs while also studying music at school. The name Badly Xtraa is a play on words that came from the tagline of his songs. It’s the artist’s name and also describes the music being “Badly” extra. Xtraa recalls how and why such a name came to be: “I don't like to be simple, I like to add my personal touch to everything, and for the majority of my entourage it comes down to being extra,” Xtraa said with a laugh.
Xtraa studied fashion merchandising at Cégep Marie Victorin for two semesters before switching to the school’s music program where he began to learn rapidly. Xtraa ended up pursuing music, but the fashion merchandising influences can be seen in Xtraa’s impeccable sense of fashion in both his everyday life and musical expression.
Since 2019, Xtraa has posted numerous songs and visuals on his YouTube channel. He also uploads his music on all streaming platforms.
His YouTube comment section features tons of support, accompanied by the excitement from fans when Xtraa drops a new song. “I feel like you are going to be big one day !!” wrote one user. Further praise like, “The fact that he made the clip himself,” and “French rap, there's just something about it,” are just some of the comments that can be seen under the artist's projects.
Although Xtraa sings primarily in French, songs like For the fam, Haut you, and Midnight, are entirely in English. The artist also makes use of Franglais in his songs, something unique to Montreal-based artists.
Listening to Xtraa’s discography, one can discern influences of Pop, R&B, Rap, and more. When asked about his musical style, he had this to say: “My music is just kinda chaotic. My style is always evolving. If you listen to the songs you’ll notice it’s never the same. I don’t want one song to be like the previous ones [...] I try to experiment a lot.”
Xtraa’s music is objectively catchy, as it fits within today’s musical trends, while also bringing an old-school energy to the different tracks. One can genuinely enjoy the different upbeat rhythms in juxtaposition with Xtraa’s silky vocals.
Xtraa’s latest song Celebron la vie was his first attempt at producing, something he says scared him at first. In the end, he was glad to take the leap, taking to Instagram to boast about his accomplishments and saying he was proud of himself.
The song, as the title suggests, is a celebration of life: “I’m 20 years old and I really don’t have a lot figured out, I am at that point in my life where I don’t know what’s next, I’m just embracing whatever comes,” Xtraa said.
Celebron la vie, Haunt you, and On retrouvera nos ailes are all songs that Xtraa produced video clips for. His creativity and artistic individuality stem from the images of those visuals; each having a distinct theme, choreography, and great attention to detail. The videos have influences from Pop music divas like Beyonce and Rihanna, as well as some horror-esque elements. In the Haunt you music video, Xtraa puts on a theatrical performance of someone obsessed with the one who broke their heart. The video features notable close-up shots of him suffocating but still somehow singing with a plastic bag over his head. In another shot, Xtraa is dressed in a clown outfit, dragging a bat, and singing about how he will have his revenge.
When it comes to the artistic direction of his videos, Xtraa can count on his videographer Jimmy “Jay” Luu to help him make his vision a reality. The 21-year-old studied photography at Dawson College for two semesters. He’s glad he did, as he learned to navigate the camera well and acquired cool new camera techniques.
The two met each other one sunny afternoon while Jay was out taking pictures: “There's a park next to my house and he bumped into me, asking questions about my camera and how it worked. We exchanged numbers and kept in contact ever since,” Jay said.
Both Xtraa and Jay explained that one of their combined strong suits is being able to incorporate both of their visions together, resulting in original ideas and visuals for Xtraas songs, “Xtraa knows cool locations to shoot at, I keep him on the agenda pertaining to the sun and the light that will inevitably go down, and we get it done!” Jay said.
Xtraa’s YouTube channel’s aesthetics are not something to joke about. The shots, the mise-en-scene, and the themes, all look very professional. The stylistic choices can be attributed to both Xtraa and Jay’s ingenuity.
Both creators may not have top-quality equipment, but they make it work regardless: “At first we just worked with what we had, like our phones, and as time went by and more income came in we bought better equipment that still fit within our budget,” Jay explained.
Both Xtraa and Jay work part-time jobs and attend CÉGEP while still taking the time to produce and release art together. The two artists have grown into friends, not just coworkers, with plans to collaborate on future projects: “Xtraa is a very welcoming person to be around, I really like his energy,” said Jay. “He’s an older soul for sure.”
When asked which one of his songs listeners should play first, Xtraa said his song Midnight might be a good place to start. The slower-paced ballad, layered harmonies, and vulnerable lyrics showcase Xtraa’s honed skills. He considers it to be one of his best works.
Regarding the mainstream music scene in Quebec, Xtraa said he would like to break into it, but that, even if he never does, he plans on creating his own space.
Xtraa will be dropping a new project somewhere in the month of September called Lonely.
This article originally appeared in Volume 44, Issue 1, published September 5, 2023.