The first project of the Algerian rapper MTL now established in Canada has just been released and it is called: “Green Disc”; a tribute to his Algerian origins and his family. For the occasion, we spoke with him, a few minutes before the release of this one.
Who is MTL?
MTL is me. A rapper originally from Algeria (Constantine) but moved to Canada when he was 4 years old. So very young, I lived in Montreal and around the age of 18 I had to move to Toronto for work after some adventures (laughs). That’s when people started calling me MTL because I’m from there and there aren’t many people from Montreal to Toronto.
When did you really start music and when did it get serious?
I started by doing freestyles in the school toilets. We wrote during class and in the toilets we had battles. And then, I was really good. At each battle I surprised people, etc. So it motivated me and then I really liked it. At first it was just for fun, it got serious in Toronto when I was 20. I tried and that’s when I understood that there was something serious to do in music.
I would like you to tell me about your childhood and the connection you had with music.
I had an immigrant childhood. Today Montreal is a multicultural city, but it was not the case at the time, it was quite racist to tell the truth. It was difficult, we lived in poverty, living with 5 in a room, etc. But I am grateful to my family because I lived well all the same.
And then as far as music is concerned, at home there was mainly Arabic music.
You talked about your Algerian origins, what place does that have in your music?
I am thoroughly patriotic, I love my country and therefore I represent it in my music. I want people to know where I come from, it’s important.
We feel a musical richness in a good number of your pieces, tell me about your inspirations.
I have a fairly variable style, I can go from pure and hard rap to Afrobeat, dancehall, I’m versatile. And then I can release hits in each of the styles. The same thing in my lyrics, I say anything in my songs.
One of my greatest musical inspirations is Booba, the Duke! I listened to it all my childhood. I also listened to dancehall: Mavado, Vybz Kartel, etc. And then Lil Durk also with the autotune. I knew him before he exploded and that slapped me. He was the one who made me try the autotune.
Exactly, you talked about Booba, what does he represent for you?
For me, Booba is the 2Pac of French rap. I discovered it when I was little, at the beginning.
Was it him who made you want to rap or was it there long before?
I don’t know, it could very well be him, huh! I think he gave me a taste for writing anyway.
Your name is MTL, taking the name of your city is risky because you represent it. You can’t miss it. How do you live it, do you have a certain pressure vis-à-vis that?
I have constant pressure. I am happy to have distinguished myself however thanks to the fame and the visibility that I have. When you type “MTL” on Youtube it’s me who comes out, on Google it’s still a bit complicated though (laughs).
I see it as a challenge, I’m hard-headed and I’m not going to change my name. It is precisely the fact that there is difficulty that motivates me even more. The rewards will be even greater!
You were talking about your visibility, your track “TOOL” with Savage Plug which was released 2 years ago reached one million views. How did the collaboration come about?
It was too fun to do! Sometimes it’s difficult and this success had really boosted my motivation. He was actually the one who contacted me, he was much better known than me and in the end it was done quickly. He asked me if I had a sound they could collaborate on and the same day I sent him one. A few hours later he went straight to the studio. In one day the piece was made and the clip was made in the week too. It was shot with big directors and more!
In Algeria it really created a buzz and people still send me messages every day to tell me about it.
MTL, as we speak, your EP “Disc Vert” is coming out in a few minutes. How are you currently feeling?
I feel great! I have small concerns, questions, but that’s normal. I lost my mother two years ago so for the last two years I haven’t been to the studio too much, I’ve been a bit withdrawn. So for this project, I collected the best songs from the last 4-5 years. I took hits from hits, the best I’ve done. I called the project “Green Disc” to represent my country. There is the gold, platinum, diamond disc, I am now inventing the green disc which is dedicated to Algeria.
Do you have a particular creative process?
It varies but most of the time I sit in my car listening to beats. Sometimes it starts with a topline and as soon as I have something, I write a verse. As soon as that’s done for me, the song is already finished because the choruses I do freestyle in the studio. I want to put time on the verses because that’s what brings the energy of the song.
You are a complete artist especially because you rap in 3 languages: French, English and the Algerian dialect. Does it come naturally to you?
At first no. English is new to me, I only speak it since I arrived in Toronto. When I arrived I didn’t know a word of English, now I’m totally bilingual. But for a freestyle, I would be more comfortable in French; I have better terminology in the French language.
MTL, when we listen to your project “Disc Vert”, we really feel that you have the slab, where does this will to succeed come from?
You know, it’s a lifetime’s work. The love I have for music can’t even compare to the time and money I put into it. The slab that I have comes from the hard life that I have lived and that I still live, I manage but it is always complicated. The family that I want to get out of misery. I know I have a big talent, I can’t let go.
How are you preparing for your future in music?
I don’t have an established plan, I go day by day.
MTL, I would like you to imagine the featuring of your dreams. Who would be the artist who would accompany you and who would be the producer?
Direct Booba. For the producers, I don’t know enough of them so I’d prefer it to be someone from my circle, so that we can edit together.
And how would you imagine this piece?
It would be a summer thing, à la “Blanche”. Something very afro, well summer.
Written by Jules M.