The Canadian Urban Music Conference is jumping off in just over a week, and things are really getting down to business. We’ve been catching up with everyone involved in this year’s festival, and next up is Gee Wunder! This brother is really on the cusp of something huge. That’s not to diminish any of his accomplishments already made. He’s definitely made his mark in the music industry, and with this year’s conference, his brand will surely catapult to greater heights.
Gee Wunder has been working for twenty-plus year in this industry, and releasing music for only the past 8 years. That may seem like a short time for most, but Gee Wunder has done his best to make the most of that time. He just released his 16th album a couple month’s ago, and there’s no sign of him slowing. Running his own label and havingslew of artists under him, he’s got several projects lined up for the fall. Given the things he has going on, along with his history, it’s only sensible that he be a part of CUMC. CUMC is one of the best conferences out there, geared toward providing artists with the tools necessary to make it in this business. With his record, there’s so much that he can teach them all, and in talking with him, he’s more than excited to be taking part.
In our exclusive, we definitely talk about his involvement in this year’s conference, but we also take some time to go through the many things he’s been able to accomplish in the past 8 years. This is your opportunity to get to know who Gee Wunder is!
Urban Grandstand Digital: It's amazing how much you've been able to do since your debut back in 2008. Talk a little bit about how you first got your start in hip hop
Gee Wunder: I’ve been doing hip-hop a long time. It really started when I was in high school when I used to do a lot of shows. I lived down this street called James street, which is like the most caribbean areas in Toronto, so I was able to hook with a lot of rappers in this area. We had a group out of there called Dream Warriors. They were one of the biggest exports at that time, in the late eighties they had a song called “Wash Your Face in My Sink” that did well in the UK. My first delving into music came via them and a couple of other pioneers. In 2005, I got my first record on local radio. In 2007, I put out my first CD via local label here.
Urban Grandstand Digital: How difficult was it to get local radio involved in playing your music?
Gee Wunder: Funny thing is, we’ve been fighting for urban music in Toronto for more than 20 years. We had just gotten our new station called Flow, and they played a lot of homegrown, local artists, and people that were very buzzy. It wasn’t very hard. My angle was they had this artist out of the states called E3, who was an R&B guy. He was signed to Redman. I did a collaboration with him, and through that, it got me on the radio.
Urban Grandstand Digital: Obviously, you've released nearly 20 projects in the past 7 years, which is amazing in itself. What's the biggest thing you feel you've been able to accomplish in that time and through these releases?
Gee Wunder: The biggest thing is just being an example to other artists in the city that you can do it independently and have an ongoing career. Everything that I name around my music and business has to do with Motive. It’s Motive Music as the label, and my movement is called Live Motivators; Set Goals and Achieve. Everything is toward a bigger goal. That will be my lasting legacy, showing people in Toronto that you can do it independently and keep a career going.
Urban Grandstand Digital: What would you say your strategy has been, in regard to having released so much in this short a time? Where do you see things going?
Gee Wunder: My goal also was that I organically started the label. In 2003, I started making beats, because I realized that without a lot of beats, I couldn’t continue my career because it was too expensive to buy beats and pay studio time. In 2006, I established the label. I released my first album in 2007. My main focus is to continue putting out records. That’s my joy, regardless of who says what, it’s like I can do it because I have the label. My bigger goal is to develop the label. It’s like an intermediary label. I want to make it a stronger independent. We take artists who are already releasing full-lengths, and help them get it to market. We don’t start with brand new artists. We started with established artists who are putting albums out already. My aim is to grow the catalog, and in a couple years, be able to exploit the catalog through various licensing. I’ll be able to use any properties under my label.
Urban Grandstand Digital: That’s what stands out the most with you, is that there’s so much that you can teach the average person or artist trying to come out. There’s so much that you know about putting yourself out there, building a label, marketing, and so forth.
Gee Wunder: I appreciate that. Like I said, my biggest forte overall, outside of the records and people liking them, is the example for sure. You can do it, especially now with technology being where it is. For years, it’s been my position. I work in media as well, so it’s always been my position. It’s on me to show others how they can do it.
Urban Grandstand Digital: That’s amazing, and being able to show people that sort of thing, it goes a long way.
Gee Winder: I’m going on my second trip outside of my home area in Ontario. On October 15, they’re doing the Canadian urban Television Awards in Central Canada. It’s their first award show, so it’ll be my first trip to that province. I just came back from The Netherlands in May. That was my first exposure in Europe. I was there as an artist and a speaker. It’s perfect for me to fulfill the artistic side and at the same time share information on how to get traction in our market. The trip I’m going on in October to Winnipeg Manitoba is only for performance. People in the industry, they either only know me for rapping, or for the industry side.
Urban Grandstand Digital: It clearly works because your popularity has grown like wildfire. You've worked with some of my favorite artists as well, like Nas & Busta. You've also shared the stage with MGK who's from right here in Cleveland, and legends like Das Efx. What has that been like for you to connect with artists who you obviously are fans of as well?
Gee Wunder: That’s correct. It’s like this full circle thing. When I was young and coming up, they were some of my biggest influences. For someone to come to me and say that I’m going to be performing with guys that you grew up on, that’s big. For me, especially in Toronto, it’s a hard market. Canada as a whole is a hard market. It’s very big, and not as many people as in the states. It’s hard to gauge your success and popularity. These things help me gauge that.
Urban Grandstand Digital: What’s been the difficulty in building your brand?
Gee Wunder: The main thing is Toronto being a hard market. A lot of artists are insular, and if they don’t look outside of themselves, they’ll be quick to give up. Locals don’t support. They don’t come out to shows. If you go by the feedback you get in Toronto, you’ll be disappointed. I think that’s the biggest thing, getting over the local reaction. When they say local, sometimes it’s people on your Facebook that know you. They just don’t give you the right love and motivation to get to the next level, but you have to be able to ignore that and keep it going.
Urban Grandstand Digital: You're a big part of the CUMC this year. Congrats on that because it’s a big thing to be a part of it. They’re extremely careful about who they choose. How will this take your career to the next level?
Gee Wunder: I think in the past years, they’ve taken the time to grow the conference and make it legit. In Toronto, a lot of times people pop up and then disappear. The fact that I waited this long, it’s going to be big. Anytime there’s anything urban and in Toronto, it’s good for me to be involved. I have over twenty years experience in this. Now that I look back, it’s crazy. Talking sometimes, I realize what I’ve done. It’s been over twenty years, and I’ve been getting money this entire time.
Urban Grandstand Digital: But that’s good because you have a lot of people who put in just as much time, and they don’t get as far. It often has to do with not learning the business
Gee Wunder: Exactly…
Urban Grandstand Digital: But there’s a lot of people who work at it for years. I can even speak to an associate of mine who’s been in this for years, and at one point, he opened for some of the biggest people in the industry, but after a while, it slowed down. I think there’s a lot they didn’t learn about the business.
Gee Wunder: Right. I feel like people who have the passion and dream should just go for it. Just like you asking me where I wanted to see the label. The main thing is me having the freedom and feeling that I can always put out music. We have to get over the ageism in our culture because it’s detrimental. The younger cats need someone to look up to. It shows maturity in the music itself. To your friend, I hope he never stops. I don’t think it always matters where you are in other people’s eyes, but where you are in your own eyes, you know, and how you feel, and that you can count these different accomplishments that you’ve made in life and feel good about it. The younger dudes would come up to me and say they grew up on me, and the music was hot. Those are the things I’m just now feeling like…they are the main highlights for me and I’m now experiencing this. I can say I’m not always chasing this golden thing in the sky. Today, my dude was like “you’re here G, but the way we look at it, you’ve been here”. I think sometimes the artists are harder on themselves. You just have to be happy with where you are and how you feel about where you are at the moment.
Urban Grandstand Digital: It’s funny too, because he and I talked yesterday. He went to the awards with me, and I said the same thing you said. It’s not about what others have to say or what they think. It’s more about who you feel about yourself. He saw some things for himself though, and as the artists were hitting the stage and getting awards and whatnot, it sparked something in him where he was motivated to keep going.
Gee Wunder: The important thing too, is just because hip-hop is a young man’s oriented thing, I advise people to keep younger artists around them, and always consult with them. That’s why it’s a big thing for me to have the label, because I have younger artists who can say that’s hot, or that’s not so hot.
Urban Grandstand Digital: Talk a little more about your particular involvement and what you'll be doing with he conference?
Gee Wunder: On the Saturday, I’ll be an A&R. You can bring your songs through and get them played. I’ll give them advice from there. On Sunday, there’s twenty or more artists, right in the heart of downtown Toronto. I’ll be bringing out my entire label to perform. I’ll be hosting as well.
Urban Grandstand Digital: That’s awesome, especially the A&R component. You have so many people who want their music heard, and this is an opportunity to let someone hear it, and they hear first-hand if it makes the cut, is it polished enough, mixed, mastered, and so forth.
Gee Wunder: Exactly, and the fact that I have a label and I’m always looking for artists. I may find the next artist that I want for my label.
Urban Grandstand Digital: Now when will we hear more music from you?
Gee Wunder: On July 17, I put out my 16th album, “New World”, and it’s my 16th album to chart on Canadian College Radio. That continues the streak. October 13, my artist Mezziah will release his album, titled “Anointed”. In November, we’ll have two releases. I have a producer named Tee Major, and he’s coming out with an instrumental album called the listening session. Then myself and my artist Set 2, we’re coming out with a joint album called “Levitation”.
Urban Grandstand Digital: Websites and social media. Where can we find you at?
Gee Wunder: My website is Geewunder.com, I’m on Facebook.com/GeeWunder. Twitter.com/GeeWunder, and Instagram.com/GeeWunder. On Soundcloud, it’s soundcloud.com/Gee-Wunder and Youtube.com/LiveMotivators
My Youtube is a good way to check me out. At one point, I was the most prolific as far as videos. I think I’m still one of the most prolific artists in Toronto as far as releases.
Urban Grandstand Digital: You’re definitely doing it on a grand scale. Over the past year, I’ve been able to check out a lot of artists from Toronto, and obviously Drake comes from there, but you’ve done some amazing things, and you’re one of the biggest things I’ve seen.
Gee Wunder: I’m definitely trying to get into the states, but not so heavily. I try to make everything happen organically. We performed in Pittsburgh with DJ Afterthought. Now he’s Riff Raff’s DJ. In the states, things move a little faster.
Urban Grandstand Digital: How did you like Pittsburgh?
Gee Wunder: I got a great response. It was a smaller venue. It felt like home, but if it were here, they would not have been so supportive. In Pittsburgh, they were dancing and supportive. They realize we have good music off the jump.
Urban Grandstand Digital: In terms of final comments, is there anything you really want to get out there?
Gee Wunder: The main thing is I want to big-up my label for supporting me and believing in the vision. . When I say my label, that’s Motive Music, and my artists being Set-2, Hype, Tee Major, Mezziah, B-Money out of Edmonton, producer Notestradamus, that’s my core team. I also want to big-up my distribution label, Fontana North, which is an American label. My family as well.