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Halifax, Canada | Established. Jan 01, 1999 | INDIE

Halifax, Canada | INDIE
Established on Jan, 1999
Solo Hip Hop




"J-Bru wants fans to know Jason"

By STEPHEN COOKE Entertainment Reporter
Thu. Jun 24

For the past decade Halifax MC J-Bru has approached hip hop much the same way he took to the basketball court as a college and semi-pro player. Jason Bruce, commanding the stage with a confident stride, passing rhymes back and forth with teammates like Classified, Mic Boyd and Spesh K, and slam-dunking his words with from-the-gut gusto.

On 2007’s Identity Crisis, J-Bru began exploring the differences between the braggadocio of his onstage persona and the day-to-day existence of a neighbourhood guy trying to make good, a thread that continues on The Jason LP, which the thoughtful rapper drops with a launch show at The Paragon Theatre on Sunday night.

"A couple of tracks are similar in that they continue with that really personal mood," says J-Bru of the release on his own label Bru-Print Music. "But that’s me too, if anyone knows me closely, and with The Jason LP I wanted to show more of who I am for people who only know me as J-Bru.

"We go on the road a lot, and you encounter people who don’t know you from a hole in the wall, and they just assume certain things. I do shows for kids, and they all think you drive big trucks and have 10 houses, just because you’re a rapper, and I want to steer everyone away from that stereotype of what a rapper is and show everyone that everyone’s a real person."

Thanks to tours across Canada and overseas with Classified, and appearances on the Enfield MC’s CDs Boy-Cott-In the Industry and Hitch Hikin’ Music, J-Bru is one of the most visible of Maritime hip-hop performers, and he fits in comfortably with local rappers’ emphasis on being yourself with as few pretentions as possible.

Sure, he can boast about his skills on How We Do, but he’s just as likely to joke about his former days working at Foot Locker or bare his soul about the shock and pain brought on by a close friend’s suicide on Identity Crisis’s It’s Raining and The Jason LP’s Hard to Forget.

"It’s easy as a musician or a songwriter to make music that’s not about your life, but when you tell someone a story about something that really happened to you, it hits them at a personal level," says J-Bru. "It’s a huge thing for me, especially on the song It’s Raining that I did with Jordan Croucher. That’s probably the one that people most want to hear at shows because it’s the one they most relate to."

Like Identity Crisis’ guest spots from Croucher, Ghettosocks and Jay Bizzy, The Jason LP features collaborations with Classified (who also co-produced some tracks), Rochester, Kayo, Quake and Ghettochild — look for a some prominent guest appearances at the Paragon on Sunday, with DJ IV on the decks — while J-Bru indulged his love of classic R&B by including Nova Scotia soul man Dutch Robinson in the mix.

By featuring up-and-coming talent as well as some serious urban grooves, J-Bru hopes his latest project will grab some of the international spotlight that’s shining on hot Canadian hip-hop acts like Drake, K’naan and Shad, not to mention his biggest booster Classified, who first took him out on the road when they were sleeping on floors and playing to crowds of 20.

Now they play to thousands, including their upcoming date on the Halifax Commons with Black Eyed Peas and Weezer, and the timing for The Jason LP couldn’t be better.

"I’ve been touring with Class for almost 10 years now, and to see what he’s done, and guys like Shad and K’naan, it’s been a long time coming," he says.

"But at the same time, in Canada we look at it a little bit differently; we do it at a grassroots level where it’s tour, tour, tour and get out there and meet people. In the U.S., I think it’s more studio driven, where you get signed to a label and the priority is to make a radio hit, or a ringtone hit, while in Canada we have a little more freedom to make what we want to make.

"There are great artists in the States, but I find everything down there’s focused on making hit records, whereas up here it’s about making good music."

( scooke@herald.ca)

- The Chronicle Herald

"The real J-Bru"

The Jason LP bridges the gap between the popular party MC and the refreshingly honest rapper.

"I can't believe you work here," says an obsessed rap fan to his idol as the fan tries on a new pair of shoes.

For the last nine years Jason Bruce has been leading a double life. During the day he works at Foot Locker in the Halifax Shopping Centre, and at night he is an underground rap legend known as J-Bru, who tours Europe with D12 and Classified.

Gawked at as a celebrity at a shoe store and worshipped by off-the-rocker fans slobbering in hotel lobbies, Bruce remains modest and somewhat astonished by how he far he has come.

"I remember opening for Ludacris and seeing this gigantic crowd and feeling them responding to my lyrics. I opened for Busta and it was the most insane energy. Hearing people in other countries that know every word I say," says Bruce. "I never thought I would get this far and I can't describe how happy I'm that I get to do this. After years of grinding my teeth to the gears, I'm hoping that the work is going to pay off."

Nine years ago, Bruce was a hungry MC looking to get in on the game. He heard about some guy named Classified while riding a bus and chatting it up with his friend Garnet Estabrooks, who happened to be Classified's manager. Now Bruce is stepping out of his mentor's shadow and making a name for himself.

With the release of The Jason LP he is bridging the gap between J-Bru and Jason Bruce. Bru is a master of party jams, but over the years has built a reputation as one of the most honest true-to-life MCs to emerge from the Nova Scotian hip-hop scene. This intense honesty comes through on this release.

"I do it just because I love it. If I was doing this for any type of money or attention I would have stopped 10 years ago," says Bruce. "The biggest thing for me is having a grown man, or a grown woman, telling you your shit helped them through a hard time."

Take his song "It's Rainin'" off Identity Crisis, featuring Scotian singing sensation Jordan Croucher. It's about the painful loss of a close friend to suicide on Bruce's birthday, and the pain it caused not just Bru but his close friends and family. Bruce rhymes about feelings of betrayal caused by the suicide and the feeling that his life has been taken over by his friend's death, speaking with an honesty that music often lacks. He believes that rappers need to talk more about their own lives rather than the lives they are pretending to be leading.

"I support myself with a nine-to-five," says Bruce. "I drive a Honda Accord. In my videos you aren't going to see me driving a Lexus or wearing chains that don't belong to me. You watch those videos and you don't find out who those cats are. Check out The Jason LP and you'll see me, dents and all." –Michael Kimber
- The Coast

"Reviews:: J-Bru - Identity Crisis"

The hill has history with J-Bru. Well hoops history I guess. The Ack played with Jason Bruce on the Grant Walsh all-stars and then against him in high school. I played against him when I was on the Jim Gannon no-stars, and I watched Ack play against him from the bench. Despite our shared hoops past, I wasn't aware of J-Bru's musical career until recently. Turns out this is his fourth album, but I'm guessing it'll be his biggest release as it's being distributed by urbnet/Universal.

From what I can cobble together via monsieur Google, J-Bru started out DJ-ing in Ottawa where he hooked up with fellow Halifax MC Spesh K. This association got him hooked up with Classified who has produced a number of tracks for Bru, including about half of Identity Crisis. I'm not sure if it's all the time he's been spending with Class, but Bru's lyrical approach is very similar to the "rappin' everyman" steez of the more recent Class albums.

I can't speak for everyone else, but this mature, honest approach to writing lyrics works for me. I mean, I like hearing Ghostface tell a story about the time he & Rae almost got jacked for their coke at the Hilton, probably more so than anyone you know, but on the other hand, it is nice to hear lyrics I can relate to. That being said, J-Bru has a bit more of a darker side than Class, and he does exercise some some demons in his lyrics from time to time.

The first single, Makin' People Say, has a classic, urr, Class beat and finds J-Bru in fine, braggadocios form. The stop-start pianos and catchy "oooooooh-ahhhh" vocal sample provide a solid background for J to drop lines like "I'll make you look stupid like wiggers on the Herring Cove road" and "be easy like Sackville girls". You might need to be Halifamous to find those funny, but the song is enjoyable either way. I Love You Ma opens with a snythified string loop that sounds like True Colors, or some other 80's song I can't place. Lyrically it's a frank look at Bru's childhood and an ode to his mother in the 2Pac (not Tupac then), Dear Mama style.

Sped up soul samples aren't dead. Well in my book anyway I suppose, and What R We Doin? backs that up nicely. The big drums and organ/guitar flourishes help as well. It provides an effective backdrop for Bru and the always solid Eternia to debunk the "make rap song, become zillionaire" myth: "I'ma show you how to cruise in the whip, it's called a j-o-b, as uncool as that is". Regular soul samples are just fine too, as proved on Help! I Been Robbed. Handclaps, a jangly guitar loop, and some quality verses from Jay Bizzy and Ghettosocks come together for one of the catchiest tracks I've heard in a while about getting jacked.

J-Bru does the demon exercising I mentioned earlier on tracks like It's Rainin' and I Got A Secret. The former is about J's ongoing struggle dealing with a friends' suicide a few years ago, and the latter deals with J being molested by a female family member as a kid. I won't give away the secret, but it kind of heavy, not the kind of thing you hear in a rap song everyday. On the opposite side of the spectrum is Tru Luv Part II, which is a double-time sex jam rapped on an answering machine. I'm fairly certain it's done tongue-in-cheek, but it's kind of terrible and is probably the only track I would've left off the album.

After all that are you still wondering if J-Bru's Identity Crisis is for you? Perhaps this line will convince you:

For all the people that remember Special Ed, I'm bringing rap back from the dead

Honestly I don't think that line will convince anyone of anything, I just like it. Even if you don't remember Special Ed, or aren't from Halifax, I'd still recommend you check out this album. J-Bru is a solid MC and the production provided by Classified and company is mostly good across the board. Lyrically the album is strong as well; there's no fake gangster nonsense here, J usually gives you something to think about on every song. So get in there, support some Canadian hip hop. - Hero Hill


2000 Tell Me What U Like (LP)

2001 The Fax (EP)

2003 Underground MC (LP)
- The Fax Remix (single)

2007 Identity Crisis (LP)
- Makin People Say (single)
- Help! I Been Robbed (single)
- It's Rainin (single)

2010 The Jason LP
- Movin on Up Feat Dutch Robinson (single)
- Christina Feat Chad Hatcher(single)

2013 Stranger in my Hometown

- Daily Operation (Single)

2016 King the Mixtape (yet to be released)

2016 Yet to be named released



In a time where bravado, wordplay and penmanship have been erased from the hip hop genre, there’s an emcee from Halifax that is hoping to bring it all back.

After travelling the globe for almost 20 years J-Bru has finally copped to the title that a lot of people have given him – the King of Halifax!

J-Bru has been a part of the music industry since the 90s, and has never been one to flaunt the accolades he has accomplished, or the top-notch skill he has over some other hip hop artists. But, something changed for the emcee after his last album, Stranger in my Hometown, came out in 2013 – he got to take a step back and look at the state of the hip hop scene in Halifax.

“I just look at some of these young guys coming up that are so talented. Some have more marketing drive than skill, and some have so much skill but no idea how to market themselves. I have been self-sufficient in my career to the point I am now signing other artists to my record label and doing things nobody else has done.”

Being motivated after seeing younger artists have success as of late, J-Bru feels that he can compete with the younger artists when it comes to music, and hopes to continue to be an artist that they can look up to.

After completing nine cross-country tours and three international tours, Bru finally sheds the self-conscious tag he is known for and will release KING, an EP that will showcase Bru’s unique talents for wordplay and show the world that there is only one emcee on the top of the Halifax hip hop heap.

With a loyal fan base, Bru has sold over 10,000 albums worldwide since his first release in 2001. With KING, the focus is not on sales, or dark stories about Bru’s past, or things he is known for – but rather an album which (in the vein of Jay Z’s watch the throne) showcases one of the best emcees Canada has to offer.

Known for topics ranging from heartbreak, religious beliefs, racism, and the general state of music today, the new record speaks on none of those, instead focusing on the old school hip hop method of showing why he is the best.

“I have rappers and fans tell me I am the best all the time, and while I am a very humble person, and never want to seem like a cocky guy, I have been killing other rappers when it comes to showmanship, bravado and stage presence for years! So as of the 2014 Hopscotch Cypher, I put other rappers on notice that I am going straight lyrical and trying to show the world that I am worthy to be called the best.”

J-Bru always wears his heart on his sleeve, and he’d have it no other way! So while he feels like he finally gets some of the respect he deserves from the local hip hop community, there is more work to be done, and KING is one of the tools to increase that respect.

Today’s hip hop scene has a rotating cast of notable stars, yet KING is simply J-Bru at his best. Truth be told, most people will wonder why he isn’t making his typical style of album, but that won’t take away from the quality found on KING, nor does it change the fact that crown rests assuredly on his head.