Reintroducing the conventions of Hip Hop, as if her drive is to explain that we have to remember them – Toronto based emcee and producer, Xolisa, pronounced “Koh-Lee-Sah”, has been creating music for the last 3 years- sharing with the rest of the world her approach to the fundamentals of Hip Hop.
With an essence reminiscent of nostalgic Hip Hop icons: A Tribe Called Quest, Mos Def, Talib Kweli and Nas, Xolisa executes a sound that is technical, yet fluid; Boom Bap, yet futuristic; Abstract, yet all the while familiar.
The Trinidadian-Canadian currently holds two self- produced EP’s under her belt: “A Beautiful Mind” (December 2013) and her latest release, “Rhyme Until My Spirit Needs No Words To Fly” (November 2014); A 2015 Black Canadian Awards nomination; 4 music videos and a proud alumni recognition from Coalition Music’s Artist Incubator Program.
Xolisa is steadily building a distinct foundation through her sound and lyrical ability, one that is becoming all the more recognized and celebrated by her following as she continues to unapologetically spread her messages of self love & evolution, political awareness and spirituality.
2015 Black Canadian Awards nominee for best, “Artist on the Rise“
Coalition Music – Artist Incubator Program Alumni
Opening act for international and local artists such as: Denitia & Scene, Young Paris, Nitty Scott MC, Plaitwrights, Talib Kweli
2 self-produced bodies of work independently released: Rhyme Until My Spirit Needs No Words To Fly (2014), A Beautiful Mind (2013)
By Hao Nguyen of Stop The Breaks…
Toronto hip-hop artist Xolisa is on a mission to spread good music. Now in the third year of her music career, Xolisa is more determined than ever to continue pursuing her dream and pushing her art forward.
Rhyme Until My Spirit Needs No Words To Fly is her second EP to date, the follow up to her debut project A Beautiful Mind. The 7-track tape is a short but intense listening experience – Xolisa isn’t just a dope wordsmith with amazing mic skills but also a deeply intelligent thinker. She’s a writer first, a rapper second – her thoughts are fully etched out even before entering the recording process.
Fullyself-produced and featuring no guest appearances, Rhyme Until My Spirit Needs No Words To Fly is simply Xolisa on the mic pouring her heart out, although props do go to her engineer Erik Flowchild who stayed with her side during the entire project.
The most exciting thing about hip-hop right now is the technology that helps consumers discover new and interesting artists like Xolisa. She’s got a lot of things to say and you can bet I’ll be keeping a close eye on her. Shout out to Toronto for all your dope artists! ”
Friday, November 21st marked yet another musical milestone for multitalented Toronto hip-hop artist and producer, Xolisa. The night unveiled more than a masterfully crafted body of work packaged in one 6-track EP. The night unveiled the core substance of Xolisa’s music: true art and genuine expression.
For the select few who gathered downtown from different ends of the city to listen to the “Rhyme Until…” EP, with fresh ears, high expectations, and a strong level of appreciation for Xolisa’s artistic excellence, her intimate listening circle created a temporary escape into a realm infused with dope lyrics, unconceivable rhyme schemes, meaningful messages, and mesmerizing self-produced beats.
Before the night could kick off in the Artscape Youngplace building, guests filled the main hall outside of the event room as Xolisa and her team prepared to share the near-end result of many months of hard work invested in completing her new EP. Surely each noted time mark signified crucial collaborative moments, moments of inspiration, trying moments, and moments of growth and elevation throughout the production of the project.
The crowd was just about ready.
Once 7:30 arrived, the doors were opened and the group filed into the serene candlelit room. Some took their places on chairs, while others comfortably rested on patterned cushions and carpets spread across the floor, forming an intimate listening circle around Xolisa, who was joined by Erik Flow, the force behind the engineering and mastering of the finished EP.
What happened in the minutes that followed can only be described vividly through the lens of each person gathered. Around the circle eyes were closed, heads bobbed steadily, bodies rocked with ease, fingers snapped, toes tapped. Track-after-track, there was the perfect fusion of words, layered with rhymes, alternating rhythms and interchanging tempos, fixed with pulsating beats. The music had an undeniable affect on each person in the room. Despite being present and grounded physically, each song somehow managed to elevate the mind of each listener and connect with everyone in distinct ways.
The EP closed, echoing: “Rhyme until my spirit needs no words to fly, to fly, to fly”.
The response that followed was overwhelming. Loud applauds filled the room for some time before Xolisa softly shared humble words of appreciation for the collective support of the event and her project. Continual praises shot from all corners of the room once Xolisa opened the floor to her audience, who closed the circle with a period of in-depth reflection and forward compliments, which incited both laughter and heartfelt tears.
The turnout was outstanding. Xolisa’s private listening party met, and even surpassed the hopes that were projected for the project. Those following Xolisa from the earliest stages of her career were sure to commend her for her increased level of growth, artistic ownership, and her strong vision and powerful lyrical command, which exuded throughout her EP. As one person noted, “Xolisa understands the power of energy…her energy and her personality…is so in tune and so harmonious to so many different things that…it translates through her music.”
Moreover, the connection between Xolisa and her listeners stays unquestionable. She is an artist who continues to define innovation and authenticity, all the while pushing the boundaries of her creativity. She is a lyricist with an astounding mind and an immeasurable amount of talent.
Her title as “The Fundamental Woman of Dope Music” is quite fitting, even more so, considering that Xolisa conducted every aspect of production and writing on her EP independently. And now with its release, there is no predicting where her craft will take her. Xolisa’s new music is definitely a breath of fresh air for T.O. hip-hop lovers who can only expect her fan base to expand beyond the city’s borders within upcoming years.
Finally, it is worth noting those who worked extremely hard to make the “Rhyme Until…” EP Listening Circle a success. The team includes: Moe Naaman of Can I Live charity, who hosted
Xolisa’s EP release party and assisted with the listening circle’s equipment/room setup, along with photographer Chantal Rose, who photographed the inside album cover for the EP and captured the behind the scenes video and photo images for the EP’s second single and music video, “Dig Me”; Duane Hall of arts collective Spoke N’ Heard, who was the greeter and host for the EP listening circle; Erik Flow, who was the sound person for the listening circle and who continuously worked with Xolisa as her sound engineer and videographer on the project; and last but certainly not least, The Fundamental Woman of Dope Music, Xolisa—the reason and the driving force behind the event!
By Monah Water…
A beautiful mind recognizes a beautiful moment when it is experienced. This was undeniably true for the energetic audience that gathered in the heart of west-end Toronto’s monumental Junction community to share that moment on April 10th, with emerging emcee and producer, Xolisa—who was accompanied by DJ Afroditee on the ones and twos.
As cosmic as it was, A Beautiful Moment was far from being anything less than captivating. Having dropped the official video for “A Beautiful Mind” just days before, Xolisa’s first solo concert only raised more excitement alongside the buzz surrounding her previously released material.
This was an anticipated event for those that gathered to watch and show support. The lounge-like space was welcoming to audience members who occupied the tables spread in the venue. People were connecting. Voices and laughter were high, though the mood was real easy. Everyone seemed to be in the moment. Then, the moment came. Xolisa was ready to lace the mic.
Unlike your ordinary performer’s stage entrance—usually set with concertgoers lined before the stage, awaiting an amped intro from the DJ or hype person, the young lyricist smoothly made her way through the crowd from the opposite end of the room towards the stage. Her set began with “A Beautiful Mind”, the first single off of her debut EP, A Beautiful Mind.
At this point, the crowd gravitated towards the performance area to witness Xolisa take lead and create a musical experience for all in attendance—one that unpacked stories of the emcee’s journey thus far, and one that brought true hip-hop lovers back to the root of the culture and the essentials of good musicality and lyrical artistry.
For some, this was a first time experience. For others, this was another opportunity to watch Xolisa reaffirm her skills on the mic. Nevertheless, for the concert to live up to its title, every instant had to count. The beat of each moment had to resonate with beauty—and indeed it did, as the crowd recited and echoed familiar lines from singles including “Borderlines” and “Be Felt”. Bodies rocked. Hands swayed. The crowd was tight.
“you have to see, hear and feel Xolisa to really know her… there’s something spiritual about her.”
By intermission, the merchandise table that was full of copies of Xolisa’s EP, was down to only two CDs! Surveying the room, there was a lot of love and support for her. A few young rappers belonging to a hip-hop arts collective called the K.N.O.W.N. Project, mentioned specifically being there that night to experience the concert and learn from Xolisa’s performance, in hopes of aspiring to reach her level of showmanship.
Throughout the night, there were recurring thoughts expressed by audience members, some of whom noted that Xolisa was “not typical”. She was described as “a different artist”—very “humble”, with a “distinctive voice” and “flow”. The diversity of her audience reflected something that was beyond the music. In the mix, were members of organizations such as R.I.S.E. Edutainment and Spoke N Heard; media reps from YYZ Hilightz and Omit Limitation were present; and evolving local artists including Enuma Messam, Felicia Guy-Lynch, and rapper Erik Flowchild—a long-time friend and colleague of Xolisa, all attended and showed love.
For Erik Flowchild, having known Xolisa for a decade and worked closely with her as a video director and sound engineer, he was eager to share that Xolisa is “reintroducing the conventions of hip hop as if her drive is to explain that we have to remember them.” Spoken word artist and founder of Spoke N Heard, JV Da Poet, also shared, “you have to see, hear and feel Xolisa to really know her… there’s something spiritual about her.” To say otherwise would be an understatement.
Commanding the spotlight again, Xolisa returned to the stage to resume the concert, performing her single “Indigo”, which was followed by “Montara” and “Quest”. Amongst chants and cheers, there was lots of love pulsing in the moment. The night was still mystic, but the performance portion was winding down, as the music paused for Xolisa to express her love and gratitude for those who helped bring her vision for the concert to life. Family members, close friends, concert coordinators and simply lovers of art and hip-hop were overcome by the moment.
Walking off the stage and into the audience, Xolisa was accompanied by the crowd, who helped close the concert with her final song titled, “Until Then”. The expressions of the audience members helped to bring the night into perspective and further highlight the distinctness and strength Xolisa holds as a multi-talented force in the industry. Particularly in the male-dominated arena of hip-hop, Xolisa gave evidence that there is no room for gender binaries. A true artist has the ability to shatter preconceived labels, while stimulating emotion and thought.
Xolisa allowed the crowd to be a part of an experience that was connected to the core elements of her music and soul. This was what held the attention of those in attendance, and it created a sense of unity throughout the concert. As someone expressed, Xolisa is “very transparent, and shows herself through her music.” During a time when rappers are following trends and relying on beats and image to sell product, it is promising to see independent artists like Xolisa, stay true to the craft and make good quality music.
Concertgoers can attest that mind, body, and spirit were elevated that night. Music, art, love, laughter, dance and unity transcended. Although some said their farewells, some couldn’t help but stay. Occupying the already filled space, the crowd opened circle for dancers to rock out to the sounds played by DJ Afroditee. An array of beats, rhythms, and melodies kept the after party lively, but unfortunately not everyone got to be a part of the event.
It is evident that the moment can never be relived, but it can be recaptured through the vivid recollections, images and stories of those that were truly present during A Beautiful Moment—this is just one of many accounts.
"Dig Me" written & produced by Xolisa.
"Dig Me" music video directed, shot & edited by Mr. Asante of AsanteFilm
Toronto emcee and producer, Xolisa drops the latest music video off of her self-produced sophomore EP, “Rhyme Until My Spirit Needs No Words To Fly” for the EP’s second single, “Dig Me”.
Teaming up with director, videographer and editor, Mr. Asante of AsanteFilm for their 4th music video collaboration, Xolisa launches the beginning of a 6 part visual journey- reflecting a deeper look at the meaning of the EP’s 6 tracks, beginning with the first insight, “I Recognize Me”.
Xolisa explains, “ ‘Dig Me’ is about recognizing myself. Recognizing my potential, my beauty, my strength and choosing to not run away from what I see, especially during my moments of trial. It’s a play on the word ‘Dig’. Right off the bat, you may think I’m rapping about how dope I think I am, or about how much I ‘dig’ or feel myself, which I do and which I am rapping about. But it’s more than that. As you listen, you realize- I am vowing to choose to dig myself out of my holes, my low moments. I’m choosing to learn what it means to not give up on, me.”
"Dig Me" features Xolisa in 3 looks, each a symbol of her in 1. vulnerability 2. confidence and 3. spirit. The video also bares the work of several of Toronto’s artists and entrepreneurs - featuring the body paint artistry of Camille Lauren (artofciel.ca), the styling of Jade Lee Hoy of Hilary & Denise (hilaryanddenise.com), the accessory styling of Wild Moon Jewelry (wildmoonjewelry.com) and the studio space housing of T.O. Studio (to studio.ca) and Number 9 Recording Studios (number9.ca).
Follow along as Xolisa and Mr. Asante continue to unravel the messages of, “Rhyme Until My Spirit Needs No Words To Fly” over the course of the new year.
Take an up close and personal look at the process behind the music video filming of, "Dig Me" by emcee and producer, Xolisa - directed by Mr. Asante of Asante Film.
"Dig Me" is the second single off of the Toronto native's upcoming self-produced sophomore EP entitled, "Rhyme Until My Spirit Needs No Words to Fly" dropping November 28, 2014.
"Yield" written & produced by Xolisa.
"Yield" music video directed & edited by Xolisa.
October 17th, 2014 Toronto emcee and producer, Xolisa, drops the very first single off of her upcoming sophomore project due this November entitled, “Rhyme Until My Spirit Needs No Words To Fly”.
"A Beautiful Moment" Concert
April 10, 2014
Captured by Paul Ohonsi
Edited by Xolisa
"A Beautiful Mind" written & produced by Xolisa.
Directed, shot & edited by Mr. Asante of Asantefilm
"Until Then" written & produced by Xolisa.
Video directed, shot & edited by Mr. Asante of Asantefilm
"Be Felt" written & produced by Xolisa.
Video directed, shot & edited by Mr. Asante of Asantefilm.