CJ Flemings: Achieved Status

  • Screenshot from CJ Flemings Interview

Notorious B.I.G., Tupac, Jay Z, or Nas are some of the common influences cited by many rappers as their reason for getting into the hip-hop genre. In contrast, Montreal rapper CJ Flemings, who started making music at the age of 13, points to the sounds of Atlanta rapper Young Dro and T.I., specifically their work on one-hit wonder Yung L.A.’s “Ain’t I” from 2008.

“It was a very ATL, Southside kind of record,” he said. “[T.I.’s] verse is what got me into writing.”

Now, six years since Flemings discovered the musical stylings of the Atlanta sound, he’s been trying his hand at being a local success in the Montreal hip-hop scene, using elements of much bigger contemporaries A$AP Rocky and Drake in his music.

At 19, CJ Flemings has already caught the attention of notable Montreal hip-hop voices including producers Kaytranada, and A-Trak. He’s collaborated with various artists from Montreal on his tracks, including rap group Big Dreams, and J.O The Corrupted.

“I like to call myself a musical geek,” he said. “I [have] to hunt and go find these people in my city who have the talent and have the time, find the musical environment for us to connect.”

The young rapper called Montreal producer Lunice “the biggest inspiration” in his career. Flemings and Lunice joined forces at the music festival Fool’s Gold’s DAY OFF in 2014, where Flemings rubbed shoulders with A-Trak.

“I have reached to this status in my career where I [can] do these things,” he said. “Just showing up in front of people that inspire me to go further with my career—it’s the best feeling.”

Despite his brushes with stardom, Flemings has yet to find success outside of Montreal, similar to many other anglophone rappers in the city.

Meanwhile, local rappers and artists in Toronto including PARTYNEXTDOOR, Jimmy Johnson, the late Redway, and P Reign, are slowly beginning to garner attention beyond their shores—likely as a result of an actor-turned-rapper by the name of Drake. Rappers and hip-hop scenes in other Canadian cities haven’t been able to capitalize.

Flemings understands why Toronto has been blowing up and maintains that the “Drake effect” has made it easier for Montreal artists.

“[Toronto’s] next door,” he said. “To go out there and just make the music and connect with these people is nothing for me. I love Toronto. Montreal is just the city where I was born and raised.”

Earlier in 2015, Flemings dropped an EP called Next One to Enjoy. The project features the track “Status,” which has over 13,000 plays on Soundcloud and is easily its most played track. Flemings recently shot the video for “Status” in a textile warehouse back in late September.

“I used music to kind of get me where I wanted to be,” he said. “Even though music was something that I was just doing for my own being. I did it for fun, I did for just the joy of creating my own songs.”

Video by Shaun Michaud and Julian McKenzie

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