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Toronto, Ontario, Canada | Established. Jan 01, 2008 | SELF

Toronto, Ontario, Canada | SELF
Established on Jan, 2008
Solo Hip Hop Alternative




"PREMIERE: Toronto's Crossword Is Grinding Overtime"

Today, Toronto emcee Crossword debuts his new single “Overtime,” along with the visuals for his latest offering off the upcoming album XW, out later this spring. Continuing to add to his already established repertoire of witty wordplay and passionate delivery, Crossword celebrates the highs and lows of the Canadian artist’s journey on “Overtime”, with the help of his in-house producer Justunlimited on the boards and Rusholme Productions behind the camera credits.

Whether you are aware of it or not, Crossword has been neck-deep in the Toronto community for years, establishing himself as a staple character among the inner-city’s hip-hop scene as a solo artist, promoter, member of the award-winning hip-hop-funk-rock band Vibonics and as just a fan of what Toronto is capable of. But after years of helping build the community into what it is today, the notable artist is ready to release his solo work, constructed by the lessons the industry has taught him.

XW, a self-titled play on Crossword, is produced entirely by the Toronto artist’s in-house producer Justunlimited, mixed in Toronto by Fresh Kils, and mastered in Los Angeles by Mike Bozzi, known as the mastering engineer for Kendrick, ScHoolboy, YG, etc. Watch the video for “Overtime,” prepare for XW out later this spring and read Crossword’s exclusive interview with One Woman Army.

On Skype, over a bowl of Fruit Loops, Crossword opens up about taking risks, what he’s learned and what’s to come from XW. And it’s something to pay attention to.

Recently you made the decision to quit your job and focus on music full-time. That’s a big change and huge risk for any creative. Tell me about that decision.

I was working full time construction last year and I was making good money. I was doing music on the side and funneling all my money into music and I was hating it. I was depressed and questioning everything. I didn’t want to be there and it wasn’t what I wanted to do. So I just said, fuck it. What I want to do is be on the road. As soon as my two weeks were up, the next day I was on the road. I went on a road trip and linked up with a bunch of people I know in the States and made some music. I’m just focused on my music and myself. Since I’ve come back, that’s what I do now. I work on music. I put on shows. And this is me now.

So what does being a fulltime musician now look and feel like to you?

It literally feels like everything I do is productive. It feels like everything I do is a piece of the puzzle and a step in the right direction. Even making a phone call is productive. The other day, I was on the phone with my boy from Montreal and at the very end, we started talking about what we can do for each other and we started talking about options of running a tour through Montreal. Everything is an option now. I love the feeling that my life is going somewhere. Because that’s what we do music for. And that’s why we’re around music. We want to feel like we’ve made a difference. Because that’s what music does. It makes a difference in people’s lives at the end of the day. Music is way more than a job. You can’t quantify it. You can’t measure it and say “oh, we yielded more music than corn this year.” It’s all intangible but it makes a difference. That feeling is more than any hourly rate that anyone could pay me to help them fulfill their dream.

Speaking of making a difference, let’s start at the beginning. A lot of people may not know that you’ve been neck deep in this industry for years as a solo artist, you were in a band, you’ve helped put on shows and were involved in The Cypher. Do you want to talk about that journey and what has led you here as you get ready to drop your XW album?

I started writing when I was 13. I know it sounds stereotypical, but I had a run-in with the law and that really pissed me off. It showed me how unjust the system is. I was in trouble, but at the same time, all I was thinking about was how bullshit it was. I started writing about that and other things. I was in college and I started going to open mics and hosting open mics and I was like, “you know what? I can do this shit” I then started performing. My entire first year in the scene was ’08, doing open mics. I had this idea for a mock-tour t-shirt for the end of the year to list every single open mic that I did out there, as just as a joke thing. But that was my first tour. That’s where I cut my teeth. I cut my teeth in Scarborough at the Lion Gate Lounge for Rock Da Mic Tuesdays. And then I started doing my own shows. The Kid Famous was my first headliner. That was back in October ’08 when I did not know what I was doing. There was like 40 people there at my first show, including my parents. But we did another one two months later and it was rammed. It was sold out. From that, I got my performance experience and the years prior, I got my writing experience. All that was formative. The band, Vibonics put me into a whole other echelon of experience. I went touring with them, I composed songs with them. I found my voice with Vibonics.

But Vibonics is no more?

It ran its course. We put out two EPs. We really believed in them, but they didn’t go where we thought they would go. And at the same time, I don’t know if Toronto was ready for a live band at that time. I don’t know if Toronto still is. We did a show with Stalley and I read a review on the show and this guy was saying like, “only in Toronto do you see a live band with a rapper,” which also relates to Toronto’s inferiority complex and need to do everything by a fucking manual. I feel like that’s how we were received. Maybe people got stuck on “they’re a band.” And I think live-band hip-hop has a reputation as ‘a rapper that doesn’t have the chops.’ But we were trying to break that mold. I can rap, she can sing, he can play the guitar. We were all at the top of our game. You do that for two albums, four years and it takes its toll. But I have absolutely no regrets from my time with Vibonics. I toured. I saw the Yukon.

So, taking everything you’ve learned from the band and your past, how has that molded you into the Crossword we’re listening to now? What can we expect from this upcoming album?

I’m a guy that wants to change the world and have fun doing it. You’ll hear me talking politics, you’ll hear me talking about relationship issues, social issues and all that stuff and then I’ll turn around and make fun of myself. I don’t want to take myself too serious. I love Immortal Technique, but sometimes, him and artists of that nature can get a little preachy. I’m not the extreme. I’m halfway in between. I like listening to a Common song and go ham to a Rae Sremmurd song.

We’re premiering your “Overtime” single and video today. Tell me about the single and what it represents for you.

“Overtime” is about going through a lot and seeing it for what it is, overcoming it and letting it go. I talk about the good times and the bad times that I’ve been through. I’ve been on both sides of the story and all that matters is how you handle it. In the verses, I talk about going through all this bullshit, having people try to sell you shit and control you or bully you but at the end of the day, you come through it and you’re stronger and then you just don’t give a fuck. When I say “eff you to the mass appeal,” that’s exactly what I mean. I don’t mean mainstream media, I mean say eff you to what people think of you. They don’t know what you’ve been through. You’ve been through the highs, you’ve been through the lows. They don’t know you. That’s what “Overtime” is all about.

- Samantha O'Connor - OneWomanArmy

"Vibonics' Lead Emcee Opens Up About Tour Life"

The Toronto-bred band Vibonics has finally found a way to define its intricate, trademarked sound with the release of its latest EP, Kitchen Sink, and has set off to share that sound with all of Canada. During the Vibonics’ nationwide tour, lead emcee Crossword took the time to talk about the tour and the inspiration behind the new music.

It’s been great. It’s been a trip. I don’t even know where to begin. We’ve seen mountains; we went mountain biking, we’ve played shows in Vancouver, crazy markets that we’ve never played before, we’ve gotten a flat tire on the side of the road and got helped by Ned Flanders and it’s only been like two weeks.

The hardest part about being on the road, I think, is actually being on the road. Those drives are definitely the most energy-draining of them all because even though you’re not doing anything, you aren’t getting any exercise or getting any fresh air and you just have to really maintain and keep your health and your sanity at the same time. The best part, by far, is being onstage; playing for people that have never seen you before, never heard of you or have heard of you. We have some pretty damn cool fans that we’ve met on this tour… Doing it for music, not for any other reason. It’s fun as hell but the fact that it’s work – nothing beats that.

For us, we come out here and we’re meeting people that are telling us “let’s do this out here,” “let’s do that out here.” I guess the biggest industry lesson and the biggest life lesson is just do it. That’s the main thing. I wouldn’t be here if we waited on someone to book this tour for us.

[Laughs] At the end of the day, you either catch cabin fever or you get closer and I think all of us very gladly chose option B. We definitely learned a lot about each other and a lot about ourselves.

We were trying to figure out how to describe ourselves – are we rock, are we funk, are we hip-hop? What are we? And we were like ‘you know what? We are all this stuff. All of that and more.’ We found that Kitchen Sink was a perfect metaphor for that. Coincidentally, the studio where we recorded at, they actually called their mixes ‘kitchen sink’ mixes. And so, we felt like it was meant to be.

Interview By Samantha O’Connor - Urbanology Magazine

"Interview: Crossword"

This right here is about Crossword. Not the type we can never finish, or give up on after scanning through a list of impossible clues and start filling in the blanks with answers we’re hardly sure of because we refuse to accept that we could only solve 6/60.
No. Who are these people that finish these pieces of $@!%!!! anyways? *Rips newspaper*


Crossword aka Alborz Mohtashami, is Toronto’s own and grown and he does many things. Emcee, singer, musician, journalist, event planner & promoter…
This guy can fix your home appliances and cook dinner on them after. All while holding a baby and free styling into a cordless phone – holding it ear to shoulder.

I first met Crossword about 5 years ago during my days with Ryerson Urban Hip Hop Union (UHHU) at a hip-hop open mic night. The sign-up list for performers was full, but Alborz was quite the memorable individual. He came prepared and was all smiles. You could not help but friend this guy instantly. His energy was real and his dedication and passion for music came through in his performance. If Crossword were an NBA star, Jose Calderon would describe him to a TEE! (or is it tea…I don’t know)

Fast forward to now. Crossword blew me away during our interview. This guy freestyles like Tony Hawk at a skate park. Most artists’ freestyles are recycled or rehearsed (yes – we notice), but I gave Crossword key words to make things interesting (lions, ice cream/iscream, and a school bus) and he SET – IT – OFF!
He is truly a unique individual who stays true to himself at all times. When discussing the monotonous state of new age hip-hop and music in general, Crossword stressed the importance of being an individual: “I don’t want to hold up a mirror to anyone else, I’m only holding it up to myself”

Crossword recently released an EP a few months ago in March titled “Different Light”. Need some music to cruise to? There’s a song to take you there. The album is mainly produced by Justunlimited – my favorite track “What U Wanna Do”, is produced by Junia-T of Smash Brovas. Hello Toronto!!

Crossword works well independently and with others. He’s also a member of the band Vibonics that experiments by combining different genres together to make something incredible. Funk, soul, hip-hop, throw it all in there. If Vibonics were a bag of chips, they would be “all dressed”. They’ve been touring all summer and their support is growing like cancer – benign.

From the first time I heard him on the mic, Crossword has brought nothing short of his A-game. He no longer has a comfort zone. Music is his zone. Point.

Can’t put me in a box. - IScreamMusic

"Crossword: Profile + Interview"

Crossword: Interview

The first words that comes to your mind when you hear Inspiration, Passion, and Strength

What I strive to portray as an artist and embrace as a way of life.

Who are you? (Answer how you interpret this question)

An inquisitive soul trying to figure it out as I go along, and bring as many like-minded individuals on my journey with me.

Why do you do what you do?

Music’s always been a part of me. It’s my calling, so I suppose that makes what I “do” simply responding to that calling.

When did you know this is what you wanted to do, and what events led you to choose it?

I think I always knew in my heart of hearts I wanted to do it, but it wasn’t until I embarked on other pursuits and kept being drawn back to music, that I really started to focus on my art.

Toughest thing you had to overcome to do what you do? And what/who helped you?

Having trust in others – the people around me as well as those in an auxiliary position. It’s an ongoing mission, but every day I’m reminded by my fellow artists, industry personnel and collaborators that there are good people in my circle that want the best for me. With all the ups and downs of artist life, sometimes it’s hard to see.

Has anyone/anything ever inspired you to become who you are (to follow your dreams)? Have you ever inspired anyone directly?

It comes down to great music, great literature, inspirational stories, and the beauty in nature. Those are the utmost driving factors in my creative endeavours. My goal is to inspire anyone I perform for or come in contact with, even on a micro level.

One mistake that you made in your journey? How have you learnt from them?

Follow up consistently. Not to bug people, but I’ve lost shows on tour because I thought they were booked and ready to go, when in reality they weren’t. That lesson also taught me to have every show, especially ones out of town, contracted on paper.

Upcoming projects? Plans/goal? (about anything, if you have any)

I’m about to release my first full-length album, XW, in 2015. With that, I’ll be putting out a few music videos and putting together a North American tour.

What advice would you give to other people? (Just about life in general - It could be about anything)

Whatever your ambition, just go for it and go hard. Even if you’re lacking motivation at the start, it’ll come once you get going.

Say anything you want, about anything (Last words)

Check out my music, spread it around, tell your mom to listen because she just might like it! Thanks for having me on Babes & Gents. - Babes & Gents


XW (2015)

Different Light (2013)

24:7 (2010)



In a world obsessed with image, an Iranian-Canadian emcee already stands out without saying a word. But when the words flow, Crossword cements his status as an artist coming from left field. Sooner to talk politics than swag, or to serenade than cater to the gentleman’s club, intelligent lyricism, witty wordplay and passionate delivery are staples in Crossword’s repertoire. Not to say a rapper shedding light on topics rarely discussed in the mainstream is to be taken lightly. Having shared stages with hip hop legends (GZA, Jeru The Damaja, Jurassic 5′s Chali 2na) and up-and-coming artists alike (Stalley, L.A.), plus having worked with some of Toronto’s finest producers – Juno-nominated FreshKils, Rich Kidd and Junia-T, and toured across North America as a member of the award winning hip-hop-funk-rock band Vibonics, it’s clear this northern native has put in work and paid his dues. But all cliches aside, dude can spit. Daring to take risks with his subject matter, but not too high and mighty to take himself that seriously, Crossword brings an infectious spice to any recording that will have you pressing rewind.

Purchase Crossword's debut full-length album XW at

Band Members