Widely considered one of Toronto’s Hip Hop legends, Solitair’s many contributions have made an indelible impact on the Canadian urban music landscape, and the music industry as a whole. As Solitair came into prominence as a highly sought after producer, he worked on albums by a number of Canadian heavyweights, including Choclair, Kardinal Offishall, Jully Black, k-os, Maestro Fresh Wes’ and The Rascalz.

Hip Hop MC & Producer Solitair on his 20-Year Career & The Forgiveness Project

Hello and welcome to episode 35 of Sing! Dance! Act! Thrive!

Today’s guest is widely considered one of Toronto’s Hip Hop legends, Solitair’s many contributions have made an indelible impact on the Canadian urban music landscape, and the music industry as a whole.

In 1999, at the age of 23, Solitair made his mainstream musical debut on Choclair’s first major-label album, ‘Ice Cold’, producing 4 songs and featured on several others. The album went Gold (50,000 units sold) in less than 30 days. Though he saw great success in his previous releases, Solitair’s breakout came in 2001 when he released two iconic Canadian Hip Hop songs: “Bakardi Slang” by Kardinal Offishall – produced by Solitair with his unique style combining island music sensibilities with Hip Hop’s gritty urban soundscape and ‘Easy to Slip’ by Solitair – a song he wrote as an ode to fallen friends, which continues to be hailed as one of Canada’s greatest Hip Hop songs and received a Juno nomination for Best Rap Recording.

As Solitair came into prominence as a highly sought after producer, he worked on albums by a number of Canadian heavyweights, including Choclair, Kardinal Offishall, Jully Black, k-os, Maestro Fresh Wes’ and The Rascalz. With Kardinal, he has traveled the world performing as part of his world-renowned stage show.

In 2014 Soliair and three other producers partnered up on the recording studio, 4Sound Media. Since taking the reins, he’s been recording, mixing, mentoring, and collaborating with many of Hip Hop’s most talented emerging artists, and continues to work on adding more great songs to his musical legacy.

After 20-years in the music industry, Solitair gives back to the community of Toronto by speaking to at-risk youth in high schools and has recently been working with F-You: The Forgiveness Project who are working with young men currently serving time in the Canadian prison system. With the founder of the F-You project, Tara Muldoon, Solitair is working on a podcast and that is how I came to meet this wonderful talent and invited him on the show.

Hello, hello.

Solitair 3:24

Diane Foy 3:26
How are you?

Solitair 3:27
I’m good. I’m good.

Diane Foy 3:28
We met at the Hot Docs Podcast Festival.

Solitair 3:31
Indeed we did.

Diane Foy 3:33
Yes. And you won the pitch competition.

Solitair 3:36
Yes. How surprising that was, that was quite surprising, some really good podcasts that we were up against.

Diane Foy 3:42
Yeah, it was really cool to watch all the presentations.

Solitair 3:44

Diane Foy 3:47
So was it a course that you took to be a part of that?

Solitair 3:51
Yes. It was called the Podcast Night School. And it was a week-long course and they gave some background as to, what is involved in the creating of a podcast from the marketing to the recording to the interviews. And it was actually quite an informative class. I think it could have really gone on to be a lot longer than it was.

Diane Foy 4:15
Cool. And then what are some of the things that you won? Because you won like, stuff from CBC?

Solitair 4:21
Yes. So we got some studio time from Rogers. We won a consultation from a branding and marketing consultants. We won some legal counsel, some voice training, know, these are quite a bit of stuff that we won.

Diane Foy 4:42
Wow, that’s really cool. So have you looked into what this podcast is, but it’s mostly for performing artists.

Solitair 4:50

Diane Foy 4:51
I interview successful performing artists and also some industry people. I do some solo shows. And it’s all just to motivate and educate up and coming artists.

Solitair 5:01
Very cool.

Diane Foy 5:02
Yeah. So I want to do a little bit of “This Is Your Life”.

Solitair 5:06
Okay, I’m ready.

Diane Foy 5:09
Tell me your life from beginning to end go. So, when you were growing up, what drew you to music?

Solitair 5:17
You know, I was always kind of, I was always a fan of music I used to grow up listening to, you know, to the stuff that my brother listen to Huey Lewis and the News and The Police and Whitney Houston and pretty much what was on commercial radio. And then when I got a little bit older, and I met one of my oldest friends at the time, he introduced me what I mean, my brother actually introduced me to hip hop and my friends that I had met through his name is Marvel. He’s a rapper from Toronto. He introduced me to some other guys one of them was Kardinal at the time he was Kool Aid and through them, I learned that there was actually an opportunity to, to create this music from a production standpoint and write rhymes and that’s I guess that was pretty much the inception of my hobby at the time of making hip hop. beats and writing rhymes and then it kind of really just grew from there. It really was born out of as a hobby to be honest with you, and then it kind of just manifest itself. The first guy that got a record deal was Choclair from our from our crew, The Circle. And then that’s pretty much where it went from hobby to actual calling slash profession because he came to me and he had wanted this piece of music that I created. And he’s like, you know, I basically had to run me down was like, you know, I could pay for this. I want this and I have money. I was like, Oh, you paid me for this? Like Yeah, sure. And I think it was like for $3,000 or something like that, which was a million dollars at the time and yeah, everything kind of went from there.

Diane Foy 7:10
And you were more producing other artists at that time?

Solitair 7:13
I was doing yeah doing production. I was also an artist myself, but so I did rap on his album and I also produce like five songs on his first album called Ice Cold that went, that was it went gold in 30 days at the time.

Diane Foy 7:32
Wow. And so how did you learn all this?

Solitair 7:37
Pretty much through osmosis, I’m a visual learner. So we just kind of you know, we were part of a community initiative at the time. I don’t know how old you are. If you remember a program in Ontario by Premier Bob Rae called the Joy Program, Jobs Ontario Youth it was a program created, it was actually after the the infamous Toronto riots that were in support of the LA riots after the Rodney King verdict and, you know, anyway, long story short, they, you know, after the young street riots, they wanted to get kids off the streets so they created this Jobs Ontario Youth Program and from Jobs Ontario Youth was born this organization called Fresh Arts. Fresh arts was a collective of mentors who taught young people about feeder and, and hip hop and, and all different disciplines of the arts. And that’s kind of where we got a lot of learning about how to, you know, how to sample records where these samples came from, how to use, you know, go to a studio on creating a song with the processes involved in that. So and then prior to that, you know, we just learned just basically by investing, you know, saving our lunch money, had a friend that had a studio, so we spend our money coin there and just basically learning on the fly, a lot of it was just, you know, just taking the initiative and just, you know, what I think anybody will vouch for if it’s something that you love to do, you’ll always find a way to do it. It might not even be like the quote unquote, right path or whatever. But you know, you’ll find a way to personalize it and make it your own way. And I think in a lot of ways that’s more rewarding than, you know, following the school path and just following the steps that like they’re supposed to be.

Diane Foy 9:39
Yeah, yeah. Like, I think sometimes young artists make a lot of excuses of why they can’t.

Solitair 9:45
Yeah, for sure.

Diane Foy 9:47
And it’s like, if you want something bad enough, you will find the way.

Solitair 9:50
Yeah, I think that’s the main thing. I think that’s whether you say you can or you can’t, you’re right,

Diane Foy 9:59

Solitair 9:59
You know, you’ll find a reason you’ll find a way to do it or you’ll find an excuse.

Diane Foy 10:04
Yeah. And you’ve worked with like pretty much. You know, anyone who’s anyone in Canadian hip hop, so Kardinal, Choclair, Maestro, Razcals, K-os I saw. What was it like working with some of those artists and how did you connect with them?

Solitair 10:23
Oh man that it was amazing to work with all of them because I have a personal relationship with all of them in various capacities. So it’s always a pleasure. I like to be in the room and creating and kind of having a conversation about you know what, when you’re creating a song, I find the best word comes from when you’re working with somebody that you have a rapport with. So I always try to start there and figuring out you know, what is it that you want to say, what do you want to say with the song and what’s in your mind right now? What’s, where’s your head at? Or what do you not want to say? Or how do you not want to be seen just kind of going through that whole process and, and then, you know, just getting down to the music and figuring out what their tastes are. It’s like a real journey, a labor of love, so to speak. And it’s been great like I like being in they were all this was at the time when you actually had to be in the space to create together it wasn’t as much online collaboration.

Diane Foy 11:25

Solitair 11:28
So yeah, it’s always as you can imagine, it’s always fun to get into studio know some guys you’re drinking or either smoking, and we’re all just collaborating and having a good time. So it was really, really amazing. And fun times, just creating and pretty much with all of them. I remember one that stands out for me was Rascalz actually flew me out to LA to work on a project. So that was really the time when we got a chance to really bond.

Diane Foy 11:59

Solitair 12:00
Because we were out there for like a week and had their studio set up in their hotel room and you know just kind of hang out, they took me to the shooting range and you know just kind of like just vibe as brothers and then create it from there so that was dope but they were all memorable in their own ways.

Diane Foy 12:20
Yeah. And you went on a world tour with Kardinal?

Solitair 12:23
With Kardi and with Choclair, yeah, we toured.

Diane Foy 12:27

Solitair 12:27
Yeah, we toured a lot I’ve been to a lot of places I’m definitely blessed for that.

Diane Foy 12:33
What was your favorite place?

Solitair 12:36
Oh man, favorite place? Europe was always a good time I mean when you’re on the road actually, Europe was your was a good time, but I think my favorite place was the first time we went to India. We did, we went to like four cities Pune, Mumbai, Hyderabad, and I can’t remember the name of the last day I think it’s in the northern part but it was just you know that I think that was the really the first time that we went somewhere completely out of our element as far as like the culture and, you know, the living conditions and really being on the crowd and feeling that energy was it was a new experience for us. So that was, that’s always the most memorable but we’ve also done crazy shows in like Shanghai, France, we’ve actually went to like wine country and did like the smaller or a southern like South of France and stuff like that. But I think my favorite place is favorite shows have been in probably in South of France and India.

Diane Foy 13:44
Wow. And so at what point did you release your own music? So you were producing for other artists and also, collaborating with them on their albums, but when did it transition to, you creating your own music and releasing it?

Solitair 14:00
Well I had been, I’ve released music pretty much sporadically throughout the whole time so I but not like I’ve released a couple of mixtapes, I’ve released a lot of singles. So I’ve been like my first single that was out on vinyl is a song called Silver Surfer. And that was I want to say like 1996 so I’d always been releasing music on my own but I’d never had a publishing deal. I know Kardi got a publishing deal, which allowed him to have a budget to record more stuff, buy equipment, Choclair where he got a record deal, Socrates, he had a record deal so because they were in these situations where they had a budget, and they were artists, and they, you know, they were looking for music. It was just an easier role for me to fill in. So, but yeah, I always been working on like, my own music. I just didn’t have the same platform at the time to release it as all independent releases. But they were, you know, the one big, the biggest song that ever put out is a song called Easy to Slip and that was nominated for a Juno. So that was really great.

Diane Foy 15:17
Yeah, that’s really cool.

Solitair 15:19

Diane Foy 15:20
And so how has the Canadian hip hop industry changed over the last 20 some odd years?

Solitair 15:28
You know, in many ways, it’s changed and in many ways, it’s stayed exactly the same. I think one thing that stayed the same is is always been a depth of talent in this city, as far as like whether you know, contemporary, or even back in the quote unquote, golden age of hip hop. The talent pool has not decreased whatsoever what has changed is obviously, you know, now there is an appetite an actual legitimate appetite around the world for music coming out of Toronto. I know a lot of people will attribute that to the phenomenon of Drake but you know digging a little deeper and more people who are in tune with the scene and and it’s evolution will say that it you know a lot of a lot of things have been done like Kardinal touring in the States and getting played on B.E.T. and Choclair releasing his album and for through Virgin US are sort of priority at the time. A lot of groundwork was laid breaking down those doors to gain that acceptance particularly in America. But I think like what’s changed now is, I think the the rise of the independent artists the ability to be able to, you know, produce and distribute your music without, you know, literally from the comfort of your own home has kind of taken away a little bit of the mystery behind, you know how music is produced. And it used to be, you know, artists were revered a little bit more, but now it’s like, I think the value from, you know, the technology of being able to compose music has made it a lot more accessible, which I think has removed a lot of artists development and taking the time to master your craft because it seems so easy, especially with a lot of the hip hop that’s coming out today. Not trying to throw shade at that specifically, but, it’s a lot more accessible, which means there’s a lot more trash that you have to sort through to get to the really, really good stuff.

Diane Foy 17:50
Yeah, I see that in every genre that I work with.

Solitair 17:53

Diane Foy 17:54
You know, artists are eager and because you can release it yourself now. They’re like okay, it’s done. Let’s put it out. And I’m like, wait, wait, hold, hold on.

Solitair 18:03

Diane Foy 18:04
Like, there’s some things that you could do that will make this a more successful launch. I’m like the marketing girl. So,

Solitair 18:11
Yeah, yeah, exactly. I think that you know, looking at the grind of it, it just seems it’s easy, it’s easy to look away or ignore the grind of what it takes to build a fan base because it seems so easy when you’re looking at online. Oh, I just got to post there and get a create an Instagram account, create a YouTube account, upload it and then watch the numbers go up and it’s like no there’s a lot more to it than that. And I think that there’s a lot more turnover of artists as well too I find like because it seems so accessible and they invest to whatever their thousand dollars and buy the equipment and produce whatever horrible music that they’re producing. And then they realize it’s like hey this is not as easy as looks at it.

Diane Foy 19:01
Yeah. And they wonder what’s up? Why didn’t that happen?

Solitair 19:03

Diane Foy 19:04
It’s a lot harder than I thought. Yeah, that’s part of why I like to talk to people on this podcast because, you know, especially if you talk to people that you know, are big names or have had that huge success, it’s like, let’s hear about the struggle. Let’s hear how hard you work to get there. You know, yeah, nobody gets there overnight.

Solitair 19:25
Nobody there’s it we call it a 10 year overnight success. Yes, overnight success 10 years in the making.

Diane Foy 19:33

Solitair 19:35
But yeah, definitely I think that you know, it’s easy and Instagram and social media has made it so easy to curate, your social feed that it makes it look like it’s effortless and it’s, it’s such a deset like a deception. And a lot of artists nowadays, you’ll find that they’re more focused on the presentation of their image, than the content of the music that they’re putting out.

Diane Foy 20:07

Solitair 20:07
It’s just a sign of the times I think that you know, music is has suffered, I think because of it, but not just music. I think just like people in general are just putting up these facades because they want to be perceived a certain way. But then you know,

Diane Foy 20:22
Yeah. I teach a lot of like, personal branding in the sense that try to not putting a brand on you. Let’s figure out what are your skills, your personality, your interests, your passions, and how to communicate that through your branding. And for artists that are reluctant to do that. I say, Look at all those artists that are not as talented as you, but they’re more successful.

Solitair 20:48

Diane Foy 20:48
Look what they’re doing.

Solitair 20:49
They say, hard, hard work trumps talent and nine times out of 10.

Diane Foy 21:00

Solitair 21:01
For sure.

Diane Foy 21:02
Yeah. So what is your relationship with social media? Do you love it? Do you hate it?

Solitair 21:07
No, it’s horrendous. I don’t know if you’ve got enough you’ve perused my social media but I post like maybe I think I’ve posted the most frequently I have in months and I think that’s been like a couple of weeks between posts I’m definitely not you know, for me it was it’s a love hate thing I think when it was fresh and new and innocent and there wasn’t such thing as social media influencers and you know, people who, you know, like are becoming fanatics of curating their feed and all that kind of stuff like when it was just Hey, you have cool pictures and you follow your friends and you share like funny stuff and it was like, less pressure to, to perform, so to speak on social media is when I enjoyed it the most, but like as soon as it started to your point, like I’m in the matrix in the sense of I know, and understand my marketing and branding, like I’ve lived it through, you know, when we were coming up. And it was obviously way more involves because it was real world real time. You know, I mean couldn’t really fast forward it so I’ve seen how it works but I’ve never really seen myself as a brand or like, considered branding myself as an artist that was something that you know, from from how we came up it was like that was what the label did you just be an artist, and somebody will take care of it. So now that it’s kind of fallen on the artist to oversee their old branding, it’s like to your point, I would rather be like, Listen, you’re the marketing brain. I can answer your questions in terms of like, you know who I am and what I want to say but curating that, is not something that is exciting. So I’ve kind of really fallen back from it it’s unnecessary, it’s a necessary annoyance so but I literally like the last for the last little while I’ve been kind of agonizing over, will I have to I have to post something content is king I got to put up a picture and see what I look like today you know so it’s definitely understanding. I understand the necessity of it but I’m not at all it suits.

Diane Foy 23:26
Yeah well like with what you do people want to see that behind the scenes stuff so like if you’re just you’re just in the studio. Yeah I want to see a picture of you in the studio.

Solitair 23:37
Yeah, and the problem is I’m introverted. I’m an introverted extrovert so I can I love I have, you know, very comfortable and confident on stage as you as you witness, but the process to me has always been, you know, I like to be behind the army work. If I’m working with the artists and working with the artists or whatever the case is. But I like it to be a mystery. I like to have that be like, I wonder what his processes and, you know, maybe let people in at your you know, in a way that you can control. So it’s a little bit of a challenge, but you know,

Diane Foy 24:16
Yeah, it works differently now because that was the thing back in the day where, you know, you didn’t know every single thing about the artists.

Solitair 24:23
Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Now they want to know everything. What color socks are you wearing today?

Diane Foy 24:29
I need to know.

Solitair 24:33
But yeah, I’m on it. That’s the thing. Like I even I know people are like, I don’t like Facebook. But I think that the way that I’ve curated and kind of organize my social media feeds, is I enjoy scrolling. I just don’t enjoy my own participation, or I like I enjoy it in doses.

Diane Foy 24:58
Yeah, yeah. I think I’m the same even though I teach this stuff I’m introvert and it’s hard to kind of put yourself out there in certain ways. And, and sometimes when I’m at an event, I just want to enjoy the event.

Solitair 25:09

Diane Foy 25:11
So I’ll take that one photo. Okay, we’re done now. But yeah, it is you have to keep kind of pushing yourself or try to figure out ways that you can post more often like you plan ahead on things.

Solitair 25:22
Yeah, I’ve been dragged through the wringer by pretty much everybody. All of my friends, especially the ones who are like in marketing and branding, they’re like, post on Think about it. Yeah, I know.

Diane Foy 25:39

Solitair 25:42
That’s cool. It’s cool, though.

Diane Foy 25:45
So you release new music this year?

Solitair 25:48
I did. I did. I released a couple of singles independent, more so that was motivated by you know, a lot of my artist friends and producer friends who have come by the studio and heard me like, I’ve definitely got a lot of unreleased music. My girlfriend teases me about that sometimes too. She like, you should put it up babe. I’m like, yeah, you know, I will but it’s you know, it’s just one of my one of those things in terms of like I’m a little bit of old g in hip hop. So it’s kind of like I don’t want to try to compete with these younger artists I want to just create a platform for myself but I because of all the other stuff that I’m involved with like the F-You Project and I also manage and produce for a couple of artists and I own a recording studio and music school so I have a lot of stuff that keeps me busy and but people who are fans of your music they’re just like, why aren’t you putting out new music is like Oh.

Diane Foy 26:49
I’m trying to see why,

Solitair 26:51
Yeah, you know, but it’s still there. I definitely plan on putting out music but it’s not you know, it’s not that high of a priority for me right now my priorities putting out is working on the artists that I work with and my other businesses.

Diane Foy 27:11
Yeah. So everyone else will have to bug you.

Solitair 27:15
That’s fine. I’m cool with that.

Diane Foy 27:17
Yeah. So the other stuff that you do, you produce for other artists and you manage and develop artists?

Solitair 27:24
Yes, yes, I do consultations for artists who are, you know, trying to figure out who they want to be as an artist and what kind of music they want to release. I have people coming up to me all the time asking for advice and stuff like that. So I do consultations. I manage I was manage two artists one a little bit more hands on the other one is more so as like, engine as like studio engineer to his because he’s pretty self contained in terms of the stuff that he does. His name is Drew James. And then there’s another artist, r&b artist that I work with Indiana. So those are those are my artists that I work with on a consistent basis but I’ve got a bunch of clients that I’ll do studio work for recording and mixing and all the backend stuff.

Diane Foy 28:15
Right right. And what do you look for in a an artist that you that would make you want to work with them?

Solitair 28:22
Oh, well, you know, I guess not talent but I think that style and that, I guess, you know, the French would say je ne sais quoi that intangible quality is very subjective for me. I have to like, thoroughly enjoy listening to that artists, music, whatever it is, I don’t like whatever genre because I get artists that are pitching me all the time and everybody supremely confident and like, you know where, this is the hit and all this kind of stuff and those send it to me. And I’m like, I don’t like this at all. So I think that’s rule number one is it has to move me it has to make me say, Who is this? And then from there, it’s like, you know, what is your work ethic like? Is there something is there like, would me joining the project, joining the team working on your project? Can I bring something additional to the table? I’m not, you know, I’m not just in the opportunities that just wants to jump on a, on a rising ship, you know, I’d want to feel like there’s something that I can do to make this better. So I kind of look at it like that. And then temperament is a huge thing, because if you know, doesn’t matter how talented the person is, if they can’t take constructive criticism, or they can’t work with people, then you know, I’m definitely not at I’m too far gone in my life to to try to accommodate for people that are going to steal your spirit.

Diane Foy 29:59
Yeah exactly.

Solitair 30:00
Make the way you know, we’re in the creative field, it’s supposed to be enjoyable. Yeah, there’s struggles and there’s hard times, but, you know, when you’re doing something you love, you can, you know, make it through the hard times because you find happiness in the creation. So that’s, those are kind of the most important factors for me. I like the diamond in the rough too. So it doesn’t have to be something that’s like fully ready to go or polish, super polished or anything like that. But there’s got to be like, an element either if it’s a singer, like as a unique quality to their voice, or if it’s, if it’s a rapper, there’s, you know, a diversity of styles that he can or lanes that he can write he or she can write too, you know, those are the things that move me the most.

Diane Foy 30:51
Right. And so you’ve a music school, what’s that about?

Solitair 30:56
Yeah, it’s a music school. It was one of those things that we inherited in a lot of ways the space that our studio is at. We started off there by subleasing the space from, from this engineer for the previous owners who were looking to transition on to traveling and doing music on the road. So we took over we sublease the studio from him. And then he had wanted to get rid of the whole space and get rid of his obligations. So he sold us the rights to the music school, we changed the name and now we operate for sound music, which teachers can no drums hand drumming guitar, we have private DJ classes with world renowned turntable is DJ Crouch. And yeah, we also offer programs in recording arts, mixing everything to do with music production. And that’s been five years since we started that.

Diane Foy 32:07
That’s cool. And so do you get involved in teaching the music business and marketing and all that? Or is that for someone else?

Solitair 32:14
That is no,we do that on a consultation basis but primarily our demographic for students is much younger and they’re pretty much just at the beginning stages. We have a more mature students who are a lot further along in their music lessons, but for the most part, it’s beginners learning at a piano like grade one or you know, there’s are the most of the consultation for and discussions around the music business are associated with the studio aspect. So as artists that come to record with us or or do like consultations for production and stuff like that, that’s right.

Diane Foy 32:57
They’re more ready to really,

Solitair 32:58
Oh yeah, for sure.

Diane Foy 33:01
And so you volunteer to speak at high schools for at-risk students what got you into that?

Solitair 33:09
Just a sense of, of giving back I’ve always believed that mentorship, I’m definitely proud recipient of having great mentors in music and in life, and that have steered me off the wrong path and encouraged me to pursue my dreams and stay focused on becoming a better person. So I feel like it’s important. When you’re into, you know, when you’re an artist or if you’re an athlete, you have people looking up to you and looking to you for guidance. And, you know, I think it’s important that you take some time and give back to those kids and show them that there is other possibilities, other alternatives to what it a lot of them are facing, which is some pretty dire circumstances. So yeah, I’ve been doing that pretty much as long as I’ve been doing music in various capacities, mostly as an independent because when you are working with organizations, there’s a lot of politics because everybody’s kind of fighting for the same pool of money to keep their programs going. So it’s a really, it’s a really difficult space to be in where you’re work is super challenging, but like just staying afloat as an organization is wears on a lot of people who are in that sector, there’s a lot of very high rate of burnout. So me being busy obviously in doing music and on that capacity, I would I kind of am able to, I was able to kind of go in and out at my leisure and convenience in terms of like what fits into my schedule, but I always had to do it as often as I can.

Diane Foy 35:08
Right. And then you’re involved in the Forgiveness Project, what is that?

Solitair 35:11
F-You The Forgiveness project is an incredible organization that was founded by Tara Muldoon. So my partner in both ways podcast, though, as an organization, they’re 2020 is their 10 year anniversary. So it’s been it’s been in existence for 10 years. It started off as a series of events where they can provide safe spaces for people who have been victims of assault, trauma, anxiety, violence. It started off as, like I said, a safe space for primarily females, but then obviously there’s a lot of other people who would come to the events and share their stories about and most of the come anytime We start a panel discussion or, or even the work of the jail the conversation always starts with the question, what does forgiveness look like? And it’s kind of, it’s really just like, opening Pandora’s box for discussion around anxiety and PTSD and, you know, anger management, conflict resolution, restorative justice, and all these themes that a lot of people are facing, which are with our demographic, especially in the jail is gang identified youth. So those are definitely significant themes in their lives. And forgiveness is we don’t offer it as the ultimate solution but more so as a tool that you can use to kind of, you know, forgive yourself for the mistakes that you made. You know, a lot of us as a society, we kind of hold everybody to this the standards of like, well, once you’ve made a mistake, especially with you know, young men in the criminal justice system is like you become defined by that. And no, you were a whole entire person before you got into custody. You know, focusing on the humanity of it. And forgiveness, the discussions that we have around that really gives a lot of insight into how people deal with conflict and deal with difficult circumstances, like we’ll ask at the beginning of the workshop, beginning of the group will say, you know, who here believes that they’re old and about like, someone owes them an apology and everybody will put their hands up. And how many people here feel like you yourself owe somebody an apology? And people put their hands up too but there’s a lot more reflecting on like, let me think about that. You don’t really you know, in other words, you always thinking about well, so and so wrong me and, you know, the society and the system, but like how much accountability are we taking within ourselves to people that we all apologies to it, you know, for everybody’s walking around feeling like they deserve or they’re owed an apology, but they don’t owe anybody apology. There’s a lot of people walking around, really frustrated with, you know, getting what they feel they deserve. And how much is that affecting everybody’s outlook and interactions and decision making. So it’s really kind of like a gateway into a broader discussion about all those issues.

Diane Foy 35:14
That’s cool. And do you bring like other experts in or is it just more?

Solitair 38:30
Well, Tara? Tara has a background and in doing therapy work, we don’t call it therapy because music therapy is a very specific discipline. But because we’re both in the music industry, we use music as a way to open up these conversations. You know, it’s more peer support that we would define it as what we do bring in experts that we can get into the jail. That’s the most important part to facilitate these discussions on a deeper level.

Diane Foy 39:03
Cool. And then is it from that, that you’re building the podcast?

Solitair 39:08
Yeah, yeah. So the podcast was born out of this idea of telling these guys stories, because like I said, a lot of times, you know, you read the headline, oh, there was a police raid in, you know, in rexdale. In the in the sweep, they arrested 40 guys. Well, guess what those guys that’s 40 guys that are now caught up in a criminal justice case. Some of their names have been published, they’re incarcerated, and they’re innocent, but they now have that stigma placed on them. And now they are just defined by their crime. Whereas, you know, what was your life like? What was your family life like? Do you have brothers and sisters? Did you go to school? What was your favorite subject in school? You know what I mean? Like giving, showing empathy to the fact that they’ve had a story they live life prior to being, you know, arrested or, you know, being charged or what have you. So the folk the focus of that podcast is born out of the stories that we’ve been witnessed to in custody from the guys in custody. And the five episodes that we’ve recorded so far have been former participants in our jail program that are now out. And they’re in the, you know, in the process of trying to better their lives.

Diane Foy 40:34
Right. That’s amazing. It’s inspiration.

Solitair 40:38
Yeah, yeah, there it is. It’s funny, you find the inspiration from these guys in these most troubling circumstances. So it’s kind of like, you know, what what’s our excuse to not be motivated.

Diane Foy 40:52
Yeah, and probably they don’t get asked a lot of these questions. It’s like you’re the guilty guy, go to jail. Whatever. Whereas, you know, everyone has a story. Everyone has experiences that led them to that.

Solitair 41:06
That’s right. That’s right.

Diane Foy 41:09
Cool. Is there anything else you want to share?

Solitair 41:17
I guess just, you know, plug my, inconsistent social media @solitairmusic. Oh, I, you know what, I actually have a radio show as well.

Diane Foy 41:33

Solitair 41:34
On Saturday mornings, from 10am to 12 noon, it’s called hashtag it’s more of a, you know, an opinion based show where we discuss, you know, stories that move us or that are, you know, discussed amongst our friends and stuff like that that we really want to talk about. We have interviews we have, I have a small music segment where I’ve, you know, highlight like my favorite song of the week, but we have like music news, but it’s primarily a discussion show, we talk about different opinions about what’s going on. And that’s on Vibe 105 every Saturday from 10 to 12.

Diane Foy 42:16
Oh, that’s cool. I’ll check that out. And I think it’s funny that it’s called hashtag on your social media. Reluctant. Such as social media word hashtag.

Solitair 42:28
I I know. That was kind of it. We use the because obviously, like the popular hashtags. I mean, the popular topics of the day, when they’re trending, they use the hashtag to talk about it. That’s where the name came from. I know, it’s not the most original and I know there’s a few other around the world like in the states and stuff like that to have shows called by that. There’s nothing like our show.

Diane Foy 42:53
Cool. I’ll include links to all of that in the show notes and yeah so your Instagram and Twitter, you’re all the same @solitairmusic.

Solitair 43:05
@solitairmusic S O L I T A I R music there’s no I don’t spell my name with the E like the car G.

Diane Foy 43:14
Right. Wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences.

Solitair 43:20
Oh, no problem. Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

Diane Foy 43:24

It was so great to talk to Solitair, he is so nice and humble. Canadian, it’s a Canadian thing. I’m a big fan of our Canadian hip hop pioneers. And Kardinal and Maestro… you’re on my list of artists to have on the podcast this year. I’ve met Kardinal quite a few times. He’s also very nice and humble. Oh, and Michee Me, we gotta get our queens, Michee Me. I met her before too. Maybe this is my new thing. I’ll just call out people that I want on the show on the show. So, if anyone has a connection to Questlove, Jimmy Jam or Ice-T, hook me up. I have a ton of others, but I’ll stick with hip hop for this episode. Oh and Doodlebug, Doodlebug from Digable Planets. I already have the hook up on that, I meant to have him on the show before the show even started, we were going to have a chat, but somehow 2019 got away from us. So I will reach out and make that happen very soon. So that’s it for this week.