Working on hip hop since high school, rapper/producer Timbuktu came up in the creatively fertile London, Ontario hip hop scene that produced artists like Fritz the Cat, Governor Bolts, Thesis Sahib and Selfhelp, the latter two closely associated with the crew that would become Toolshed. Timbuktu, Choke and Psybo would self-release five Toolshed albums (plus another from just Choke and Tim as Sequestrians) before beginning work on a series of solo albums. With nearly a decade and a half of rap experience, Tim's contribution, his solo debut Stranger Danger, finally dropped in 2010 on Urbnet to critical acclaim. Currently he's finishing up work on a new Toolshed album (The Lost), spearheading a Backburner posse album (Heatwave) and collaborating with a variety of Canuck rappers and producers for a bunch of other albums and EPs, many set to come out this year. Urbnet took some time to talk to Timbuktu about his beginnings in rap, moving to Toronto, and his various collab projects before the 2011 Timbuk onslaught begins. Get familiar...
URBNET: How did Toolshed come together? Where did the name come from?|
TIMBUKTU: Psybo and I had been friends since grade 4, and I met Choke when we moved on to high school. Around '96 or so I really got interested in making beats and Psybo and Choke were the guys I was making them for. Just a natural progression really, from freestyling in parks or at parties to wanting to put something down on tape. The name just happened. Home Improvement was on TV at the time and since I'm Tim, Tim the Tool Man, we just started calling the studio the tool shed and eventually we were just Toolshed.
Timbuktu was just a nickname, not something that I chose. All my buddies just called me Bucktu all the time and it stuck. Choke's the only guy in the crew that chose his own name, and that was just so he had better letters to bomb with.
Do you ever regret using that name?
Not really... After a while it just becomes your name. I can remember maybe thinking I would come up with something super clever for a mic name at some point, but eventually it's just what you are.
There's another Timbuktu in Sweden. Has this ever caused confusion?
Yeah, I think it was DJ Chwial from Poland who dropped that on me a couple of years back. Until then I'd never heard of 'em. It has never caused any confusion in North America, but it could be a different story when I get over there.
You rap and produce. Which came first? And how did the other come to follow?
I was a producer first. I think when I started out that was as far as my ambition reached. A lot of DJ's / producers are equipped to rhyme, though. You really get a feel for rhythm and how you can play with it. I just heard what cats were doing, and thought I could put my own spin on it.
Which do you prefer, rapping on your own beats or over others?
That really depends on who's beats, ha ha... Hearing a beat for the first time and just goin' in on it can really work, especially if it's a Jorun beat! Sometimes, if I made the beat I'm too familiar with it and can't get as excited to write. Other times, if I've made a banger and I know it, I'll hold onto it till I have something dope in the chamber. It really is amazing how much of what I write comes from the beat itself. Sometimes you need a fluffer beat to get the job done.
What was the London hip hop scene like when you first started out? Are you happy with where it's at now?
When I first started out it was amazing. You couldn't download music back then, you had to actually physically acquire it, but we got turned on to a lot of, at the time, obscure underground shit. One of the older cats would get a tape of Freestyle Fellowship or something and we would all dub a copy off of the copy until the guy at the bottom of the chain had a terrible piece of shit recording you could barely even hear. It meant more to have it back then. If your tape broke you re-spooled it and taped it back together.
Then there were guys like Fritz [the Cat, of OK Cobra] actually bringing those west coast acts to London. I saw a lot of amazing act back then at the all ages shows and really think that was important. Wu Tang is for the kids, right? Governor Bolts, Albino Zebras, the Inside Project guys, Matt Labatt, Self Help, Thesis Sahib. All those guys were around. The graff writers and the rappers and the b-boys all knew each other, at least at Beal where we attended High School. That was an exciting time.
I'm not really sure what its like now. I've been in Toronto for 4 years or so, and I'm a little out of touch. I know that there are some dope groups coming out of London still: MC Moore, my boy Waffle, Soundmindz.
Why did you make the move to Toronto?
It was way past time I broke out. I don't think we could have continued to progress if we hadn't left. You kinda settle into a comfort zone and it was really positive to shake things up. In a place like Toronto there are so many more collaborations to be had, like-minded individuals. And more happening faster. We joke about how we need things to happen on "Toronto time.” Right away.
Choke moved here, too, presumably for the same reasons. Why did Psybo move to Vancouver?
You'd probably have to ask Psybo to be sure. And I don't think he's actually in Vancouver. "Parts Unknown" somewhere in BC. I really miss that fool, though...
You and Choke have both released solo albums, and one is due from Psybo in the near future. Why all the solo releases?
Well, I think it got started back in 2004 when Psybo spent some time in BC... Maybe 6 months or something, I can't remember exactly. But while he was gone, Choke and I had to keep the train moving so we wrote and recorded the Sequestrians album. I think we suggested that Psybo start writing a solo while he was out there, and then we would all take turns crankin' one out. Psybo's was actually supposed to come first. Later on, Choke actually moved to Montreal for a time and I was here alone in Toronto, so eventually it became a necessity. I couldn't go on tour in the States and just perform snippets of Toolshed songs.
With all the solo albums, it's been a while since the last Toolshed album. Will there be more Toolshed?
That's a good question. [The Lost] could be the last, but I hope not... With Psybo out in BC it's tough to really collaborate, but I'd like nothing more than to get the band back together, seclude ourselves at the Cabin for a few weeks, and bang out another one. Those Cabin missions are the most fun you can have making a record. Actually, I think we will... A lot of The Lost was recorded up there in the summers of 06/07, and you can hear the fun all over it.
You're part of the Backburner collective. How did you get down with them?
The credit's gotta go to Thesis 'cause he went out east and made the initial connections. Then in 2001, the Shed went on tour with a gang of the Burner cats and the rest is history. That was when we met a lot of the key players, Fresh Kils, Jesse Dangerously, Uncle Fester, Dex. I think Bleubird was on that one too. It wasn't until 2005 or so that we officially joined Backburner.
After self-releasing numerous albums, you went with Urbnet for your solo album. Why Urbnet? Are you happy with the results?
I think Urbnet was the natural choice. They put out some of my homie's stuff, we had a relationship already, and I thought it could help the record get exposure. Also, I'd been backing up D-Sisive at a few concerts and we were working on a few projects together so it was all kind of a family thing. I definitely think the Urbnet name has helped push it along.
Why call the album Stranger Danger?
Haha. It was actually Wordburglar who suggested it. We had been recording a track at my place, and we were headed out for beer and wings, just throwin' names around. I think it started as a joke, but then again, most of what I think is good I also think is funny. Also, I kinda look like I should be driving a cube van around your neighborhood.
As you know, I was a little disappointed that the album was censored. Why did you go that route? Looking back, was it the right decision?
We went that route at the suggestion of Darryl at Urbnet. At first I wasn't sure, it was a lot of extra work (I never realized how much I curse until I was asked to clean it up) and I was worried about how certain listeners would react. In the long run, though, its been almost all positive. Radio stations are more inclined to play it and we don't have to make clean versions for videos, etc.
You're working on a lot of different collaboration projects recently. Why so many projects all of a sudden?
I just love to work, I love to make new shit. That's why I started in the first place. Getting creative in the studio might be my favourite part of the whole gig. I love shows and touring and showin' it off, but I really, really love goin' into the studio with nothing and leaving with something that really works.
One of these is Swamp Thing. What's that project about?
Swamp Thing is our b-movie themed album. Savilion, Choke and I, entirely produced by Savilion. I like the records that I'm making to have a unifying theme or thread running through them. We still get to have fun, do our thing and make the music we want to make, but it adds a cohesiveness to the project that, I think, a lot of rap music in particular lacks.
How did you get Savilion back into rapping mode?
That's funny actually... I was always running into Sav at the Beat Lounge producer showcases, and we'd always end up kickin' it and drinkin' together. We know each other from a ways back, and I'd start tryin' to score beats off of him. So he agreed to come through one day and bring some beats for Choke and I to make a track over, and I said, “Why don't you rock on this first one with us?” He said he doesn't really rap that much anymore, then he goes in the booth and completely melts our faces. Me and Choke are sittin there with our mouths hangin' open. I said, “Fuck that, Sav, you're re-enlisted.”
There's also Postapocalypto. What's this one about? Why with MC Frank Deluxe?
That one started when Choke was still in Montreal. Frankie and I just met up to make one track and it ended up being about some post apocalyptic fallout type shit. Then when we finished the song we thought, hey there's a lot here to work with, let's do an EP. Then Choke moved to Toronto and joined the fray and we just knocked it out.
How did you hook up with Ghettosocks and Jorun for Teenburger? What's with the name?
Ha ha, yeah the name... Socks came up with that one; fuckin' brilliant, isn't it? Originally we were toying with calling it Ridgemont High or Weird Science. It was inspired by 80s teen movies. Teenburger is the masterpiece, I feel like it's the closest I've ever been to making the perfect album for me, that I wanted to make. If I would have heard this album when I was a teenager or just getting into rap it would have been life changing.
Socks and I met back in the fall of '07 when I flew out to Hali with Kils to work on music. Right away we hit it off and by the time I left a week later we'd recorded 3 or 4 tracks (including “Ballz In Yo Stomach”), performed improvised sets at several shows, and made the kind of bond you can only achieve through abusing alcohol. Socks and I continued to collaborate, and about a year later when he invited me to tour with him and El da Sensei I finally got to "meet" Jorun. I say "meet" because we had met several times before when I was touring with Toolshed, but it wasn't until then that he would actually remember who I was. At the end of that tour we shot the video for "Ballz in Yo Stomach" and a few months later, when I returned to Hali for the video release party, Jorun said, "Hey, you, me and Socks should make an album". Damn right we should. Teenburger.
Any other projects I might have missed?Are you doing any work with D-Sisive?
Yeah, D-Sisive just finished recording Jonestown 2 at my place (FUN, Toronto), and he, Ghettosocks, Muneshine, Bix and I are in a crew called Wolves. We should have an EP coming out soon.
Toolshed has an awesome live show. What's the secret?
We just have fun and entertain. When you're enjoying yourself up there it's hard for the audience not too as well. Also, you have to be awesome. I've also realized just recently that we have a kind of punk rock sensibility. We love rowdy.
Are there any plans to take the show on the road?
Ghettosocks and I are touring as Teenburger this March with dates in Toronto, Ottawa, Portland, NYC, Boston and Chicago as well as SXSW in Austin, Texas.