Samurai Champs
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Samurai Champs

Saskatoon, Canada | Established. Jan 01, 2016 | SELF | AFM

Saskatoon, Canada | SELF | AFM
Established on Jan, 2016
Duo R&B Hip Hop





Inexplicably, tucked between wheat fields, country music, and other reasons to take mind-bending drugs, there’s a quality Saskatchewan hip-hop scene thanks to people like Merv xx Gotti. Gotti, real name Marvin Chan, is a singer-songwriter akin to Pharrell: He is linked to everything cool and might be a 3000-year-old alien. The Regina artist runs with the DGS Samurai Champs crew, featuring Jeah (Savan Muth) and Nono Ryan (Nolan Janssen). One year after forming DGS in 2013, Gotti and crew started Trifecta Music Festival, which gives stage time to local artists and continues to expand. Gotti, proud of DGS’ gentle manner, calls the group a “hip-hop boy band.”

Recently, Gotti invited me to hang out on the set of his latest music video for “Crayons” off his Crayons EP, planned for release this summer. I arrived at downtown Regina’s Lot Club and knew I was in the right place because everyone was dressed like an American Apparel ad. I felt ugly and out of place as I mingled. ”I write for VICE sometimes,” I interrupted several conversations to assert. Pimpton, another local rapper doing big things, was also there so I hung around his space until he was forced to interact with me. I drank free beer under set lighting, amplifying the rap video production experience. Eventually, after being rejected from a bunch of beautiful actresses—what part of “I write for VICE sometimes” were they not impressed by?—I spoke to Merv xx Gotti about the “Crayons” video, Regina’s hip-hop scene, and Trifecta Music Festival. Watch the exclusive release of Gotti and Jeah’s new video produced by Merlando Media, below.

NOISEY: Are you and the DGS Samurai Champs crew the Wu-Tang Clan of Regina?
Merv xx Gotti: Uh, no. Please, cut that out. I don’t wanna get killed tonight.

What is “Crayons” about? Why are there so many good looking people here tonight?
Jeah called it “Crayons” because not only does it represent a girl’s makeup but essentially their colour pallet—their hair colour, skin colour, background, ethnicity, their steaz, their style, the way they present themself.

So you’re more like the UN rather than Wu-Tang.
Yeah, that’s kinda how [I describe] the Trifecta thing. We’re like the model UN of the music scene in Regina.

Tell me about how Trifecta has grown.
I was not anticipating the growth [of Trifecta] at all. The first year we did the Trifecta Music Festival, it was supposed to be a stand-alone, one-day thing. After, it grew into a two-day thing, a concert series, promotion, media services, artist coaching, a pseudo-label—

Competitive gaming! What’s up with that?
[laughs] Competitive gaming, yeah. We do that too. Everyone here tonight is here because they want to participate with Trifecta. Everyone here played some part in Trifecta in either the first or second festival, from the artists, the extras, providing beer—like I said, the model UN.

Yeah, but again, why are there so many good looking people here? How is this fair?

Am I too hideous a person to be here?
[laughs] Regina seems to have a bigger population of good looking people.

Are you throwing shade at Vancouver?
Uh, we’re pretty not bad.
You seem way too stable to be a Regina rapper.
Sucks for me, but I didn’t have any real hardships in my childhood. I grew up in a great family with great friends. I have a support system. I feel like that ties into our music. Hip-hop doesn’t always have to be about the life or the struggle. It’s a medium to express how you feel about certain things, political views, heartbreak, and things that everyone goes through.

Most of the Trifecta team are second-gen immigrant kids. We were always dissuaded from the arts and taught that it was almost a shameful thing. That the only things worth chasing were professional careers, so to us [Trifecta and the scene] means a lot, and we're so excited to even get a little acknowledgement that we can create work people actually dig. No shade, but it was our parent's responsibility to raise and educate us; it's also our responsibility to educate them in turn. They're from a different culture entirely, how could they know?

Insightful. You’re more like the Drake of Regina. Did you ever play any characters in after-school programming
[laughs] No.

Devin Pacholik loves his home province Saskatchewan and writes. Follow on Twitter. - Noisey: Music by Vice


Regina’s music scene has always been fragmented–you’ve got the hardcore kids hanging out in basements, hip-hop fans at club gigs and everybody else is at the Craven Country Jamboree (or at least, sometimes that’s how it seems). But Marvin Chan, a software engineering student at the University of Regina and part-time musician, is trying to change that. His master’s thesis is on how to bring the local scene of musicians and audiences closer together. “In my mind, we have a lot of artists but they were never, ever unified,” he says. “But there’s too few of us in one given scene to really make a dent, so our best bet is to get together… for people to take independent music seriously.”

Chan’s thesis was inspired by Eric Ries’ bestselling book, The Lean Startup, which says you can apply the principles of software methodology to starting a business. It’s basically an approach that calls for the project to be split up into phases so that it’s easier to develop and manage along the way. So Chan thought, why can’t the same concept for developing a local music scene? “As a teenager, I listened to hardcore, being [of a ethnic] minority and wanting a place to feel understood,” he says. “I got into hip-hop later, and realized how similar the genres are. They both have a DIY approach to making music. That’s just it: there’s a lot that genres can learn from each other.”

Noisey: So the whole thing started with you being a musician yourself, right?

Marvin Chan: We started a hip-hop band called DGS a couple years ago, and it was like if someone’s starting a family they want to make sure their family lives in a nice neighbourhood so they can grow up in a good environment. So starting a band, I wanted it to grow up in a healthy creative community that, to me, wasn’t there at the time. So I felt like the first step into that was building a festival together with other members of the local music scene. And of course, the idea was the scene would be a byproduct of the festival. One can’t exist without the other.

So how exactly does one apply “software methodology” to starting a festival?
Well, the main principle is that technology changes so fast, what you need to do is create prototypes and test them by gaining user feedback. And you just repeat it until you’ve got the final product. That’s how we started the Trifecta Music Festival. Our first was in 2014, and that prototype was just the minimal amount of requirements and features to have [the festival] functioning. One day and eight bands, so the co-founders and myself could gather enough data to see what worked and what didn’t.

Last year, we expanded from one to two days, made the beer gardens bigger to accommodate 200 more people and increased the line-up from eight to 25 acts. Not a huge change, but a more complete version of the product. This year’s festival we aren’t drastically changing anything, just trying to refine what we did last year, and we’ll go on from there.

So is it working? Is the local scene becoming better?
We’re not at the final product yet, but I think Trifecta is doing what it was meant to do. I think the scenes are starting to come more together now. I’m seeing hardcore kids at hip-hop shows, and hip-hop kids at indie rock shows. I still remember two instances of different guys—one’s a folk singer, the other a heavy blues singer— saying, “This is my first hip-hop show ever, this is so much fun.” Which to me is pretty cool.

Why do you think that people haven’t checked out different genres?
Regina is a small city with a small town mentality, and sometimes people have a hard time branching out. I feel like people don’t want to give anything a chance these days, especially in Saskatchewan, which I consider to be like the bible belt of Canada. That’s why we’ve done a couple Trifecta concert series, in addition to the festival, and are trying to do a few different genres or themes inside of one show so that people get exposed to different ideas. In March, we had one at a ’60s-style diner where my band—we play hip-hop—and a prairie punk band collaborated. We learned some of their songs, and they learned some of ours. We’re about to do our first hardcore show, which is going to be at the same time as a Street Fighter and Smash Bros tournament, while the games are being projected onto the bands.

Woah, woah. Are Reginans ready for that?
It did take awhile to convince people to take us seriously, but that’s just an underlying thing here. Sometimes I think we’re just putting together all the stuff we like video games, punk, rappers and stuff. [laughs] But I really do believe that, at the end of the day, music is just music. The more different genres you can listen to, it just expands your perspective. Even if it’s all shit, there’s going to be some parts in the shit that you can respect as being good.

Barbara Woolsey is a writer living in Berlin, born and raised in Regina. Follow her on Twitter. - Noisey: Music by Vice

"Meet Jeah, the Cambodian Rapper Who Came to Canada as a Refugee"

"I think that not being born in Canada is why I always feel the need to express a taste of where I'm actually from. I have to showcase who I am culturally as much as I am also a Canadian."

It's a blustery cold evening in Saskatoon, and Cambodian-Canadian rapper Jeah is riding the high of one of his biggest sets yet. Warming up the stage for chart-topping T.I., percolating for a crowd of almost a thousand, he emerged from backstage with his crew known as Trifecta—an artist collective of other first generation Canadian musicians, filmmakers, and supporters, with ethnicities ranging from Filipino to Vietnamese, Metis, Chinese and Thai—and they could all see he was ecstatic. "Usually he wants to chill after shows," recants his bandmate Merv xx Gotti. "He really wanted to celebrate, not just go out to Burger King, but make sure we all went out."

Jeah's always had a lot of friends with immigrant backgrounds. It was never conscious, but a consequence of sharing common experiences.

"I feel like a lot of it is emotion," he says in an interview a few weeks after, dark eyes deep in thought, a cap turned backward and a string of Cambodian characters distinctly tattooed on the inside of his arm. "You have to experience certain things to relate to a certain person or situation. I don't think a person who isn't a minority will understand how a minority feels."

One of Jeah's earliest childhood memories is first coming to Canada, gazing awestruck at snowflakes in the crisp Saskatchewan winter, not being properly dressed. It was October when he and his family came to Regina under refugee status, and the prairies are known for freezing over incredibly fast. All four children and parents trudged outside in a mishmash of jackets and mitts from the Salvation Army and sponsor donations. They saw what their own frosty breath looked like for the very first time.

Jeah was born at a Cambodian refugee camp on the Thai-Cambodian border in the Thai province of Chonburi. He doesn't remember much but has heard plenty of stories from his siblings about the barren landscape of small shanty homes made from banana leafs. "Dad had a sugarcane farm in Thailand, but when times got really bad he sold ice cream and cigarettes," he explained.

"There was a community feeling," says Savonn Muth, one of Jeah's older brothers. "There were no doors so you could literally walk into anyone's house. You could sense the poverty, but I don't ever remember it as being a bad thing."

During the Cambodian genocide, which took place between 1975 and 1979, over one million people died at the hands of the Khmer Rouge regime. Jeah's parents met and married in the refugee camp. Coming from small villages raided by the Khmer Rouge, both were put into segregated prison camps. When the camps were eventually liberated, they ran for the border like countless others who were also displaced.

"One of my mother's sisters died from starvation in her arms," Jeah says. "But it is not something we really talk about."

Emigrating to Canada changed everything. It was understandably a massive transition. Jeah absorbed English easily in kindergarten, but his older siblings and parents attended ESL courses. In the beginning, the family lived in the same small house as their cousins, aunt, and uncle, where all six of them slept in one room. He called it a "welcoming experience," saying the community helped massively—from the Lutheran church that raised the money to bring them all over, to the community school where he ate breakfast every morning before school.

"A guy even dressed up as Santa Claus coming to our house and we had no idea what Christmas was," he laughs. "He came in and gave us presents and stuff, and we had no idea what to call him."

Such experiences shaped Jeah's passion to make the most of what was an unbelievable opportunity. He gets his work ethic from his parents striving to build a new life for their children by making ends meet. "(My upbringing) has everything to do with the person I am today," he says. "Savonn and I used to just lay in bed and he used to tell me there's more to life than just this and there's a reason why our family is here. There is a plan and I feel a part of me that desperately needs to seek that out."

Jeah grew up on hip-hop but didn't start learning to rap until a multimedia class in high school. The teacher agreed to let him make beats on GarageBand and lay freestyles overtop for grades. The first thing he ever wrote was a parody of the Twista and Kanye West tune "Overnight Celebrity" called "Overnight Asian," about a guy that "becomes Oriental and starts becoming accustomed to Asian food and culture in a silly way," he says. "That's when people started taking him seriously," says brother Savonn. "He was just in grade nine, but already showed a lot of talent."

That's when the seed was planted that becoming an artist could be a reality. He continues to rap about the meaning of ethnicity and growing up Asian as half of the influential Saskatchewan hip-hop group DGS Samurai Champs. Jeah and his singing counterpart Merv xx Gotti, who is Thai-Chinese, explored culture in their most recent video "Crayons". Lyrics vibe their adoration for the diversity of women, who are a vibrant "colour palette" of style, background, and race.

"I think that not being born in Canada is why I always feel the need to express a taste of where I'm actually from or feel the need to subliminally," he says. "I have to showcase who I am culturally and of a different ethnicity as much as I am also a Canadian." Jeah admits that his parents, coming from a different worldview and tough life experiences, don't really get his dreams of being recognized in the rap industry just yet—but like a lot of immigrant parents, it's only because they want the best for him.

"They see success more if you finish school or you have a degree," he says. "For them, it's harder to see success as a musician unless you're on TV showboating it."

"They do appreciate his hard work," says his brother Savonn. "Of course, they view it differently but they know making music is not easy to do and hope for the best for him."

He doesn't rap much yet about his family's hardships before and after coming to Canada or the experience of being a first-generation Canadian. Jeah confesses there are hard drives locked away full of deeply personal lyrics. He plans one day to tap into those memory banks. Some of the material is heavy and dark, and the musician isn't ready for it all to be out in public just yet.

"It's something caged inside that does want to come out," he says. "But it's about finding the right time to do it. Right now what's more important for me is prizing in on being a good songwriter and composing. I need to polish what I know best and take that with me to create new music."

Jeah and his brothers joke that if they never came to Canada, they would've ended up rice farmers. It's difficult to imagine, but likely the truth. For the Cambodian rapper, it's a reality that has made every taste of success sweeter, especially going forward as he sets his sights on one day becoming a mainstream artist.

"Not a lot of people get these chances in life," he says. "If I do get a chance to make it, then I feel like there's a story to tell." - Noisey: Music by Vice

"5 Top Acts To See At Tallinn Music Week 2018"

This rap duo influenced by Drake’s label OVO label weaves modern hip-hop, r&b, and trap very cleverly to create emotional ballads and quick-witted raps you’ll have singing way after the show. Such was the energy of their set at The Great Escape and Sound City last year, we concluded them in our top picks of each festival. They’re still reeling from killing it at SXSW so expect a feverish set. Keep an eye on their co-frontman Marvin Chan whose acrobatic stage presence often sees him climbing the rig or the venue walls. Their wide-reaching references flit between each other brilliantly; it’s a well-honed live set. - Gigwise

"20 Of The Most Exciting Bands On The Planet To See At The Great Escape in Brighton This Weekend"

Merv xx Gotti came up in the same rural Regina music scene as Andy Shauf. Rejecting the steady diet of country music fed to the general populous they honed their craft with fellow like-minded youth in backrooms, garages and basements. These days the sounds are very different - Shauf turned folky while Gotti channelled his infectious energy into the hip-hop and R&B scene, forming DGS Samurai Champs with Saskatoon new wave rapper Jeah. While the spectacular acrobatic hardcore punk moves remain in place as Gotti paces the stage, growls are replaced with anxious, soulful post-R&B With heavy hooks and Jeah’s dark, hard raps the duo have an infectious presence that is a sight to behold. On this evidence the future of Canada's Urban music scene might just lie in the wheat fields of Saskatchewan. - The Line of Best Fit (UK)


DGS Samurai Champs are a group that fit neatly next to artists signed to hip hop/R&B acts Drakes' OVO Sound label and those pumping out minimal electronic future soul under LA's Soulection Collective. This urban sound has seen them gain a lot of traction in Canada's most populous city, Toronto. As for their home city of Regina in the state of Saskachewan they're cutting a path of their own bringing their distinct sound to a part of the world that's far more used to its Neil Young-esque singer/songwriters than anything of this ilk.

This new dawn is best measured by looking into Regina's most exciting new DIY label, Trifecta Collective. It's an umbrella with which a lot of young artsits such as LOA, WrongKrowd and VBRTR release awesome music. As for their set, Samurai Champs smash it at the Shoosh venue on Brighton Beach and get the crowd popping, everyone feeds off the energy of the front duo. Particularly exciting is seeing singer Marvin Chan scale to the venue ceiling, precariously position himself at the top fo the PA whilst keeping his vocal in perfection the whole time. A definite surprise under-hyped highlight. - Gigwise (UK)


Having the difficult task of following on from the sublime Barabarettes were DGS Samurai Champs. They’re completely different in style but their fiercely energetic live show, led by individuals who are the godfathers of the new wave of Canadian hip-hop who put out music under the umbrella Trifecta, was equally enthralling. Rapper Jeah and R&B singer Merv xx Gotti are the focal point of the show. Gotti’s acrobatic stage presence is admirable he runs up the venue walks and all over the equipment in gravity defying way, meanwhile his vocal remain unwavered and pitch perfect the whole time. Jeah, who came to Canada as a Cambodian refugee, added the grittier, heavier vocals and was ill-afraid to jump out into the crowd and get the party going. Making the whole project even more intoxicating is the hotly-tipped future-soul producer vbnd providing the backing track. - Gigwise (UK)

"BreakOut West Reveals 2017's Western Canadian Music Awards Nominees"

In 2017, the annual BreakOut West will be celebrating 15 years of honouring music in Western Canada. And as the event gears up to take over Edmonton this summer, the Western Canadian Music Alliance has revealed the nominees for the 2017 Western Canadian Music Awards and Industry Awards.

With BreakOut West set to take place in Edmonton from September 13 to 17, the full list of nominees has been announced. Among the notable names, you'll see the likes of Dan Mangan, Andy Shauf, Dear Rouge, DGS Samurai Champs, Ruth B, the Zolas, Factor Chandelier, Corb Lund, Jesse Zubot, Striker, Fond of Tigers, The Harpoonist & the Axe Murderer and more.

You can view the complete list of nominees for the music awards below, while the industry awards nominees can be seen over here.

Along with all those, the 2017 Heritage Award will be going to CKUA's Ken Regan, the Kevin Walters Industry Builder Award will be given to the late Kirby and the Hall of Fame inductee will be Paul Brandt.

Urban Artist of the Year:

Damian La Grange (AB)


DGS Samurai Champs (SK)

Nuela Charles (AB)

Sophia Danai (BC) - Exclaim! Canada

"Samurai Champs - Featured Artist"

1. What’s the most ‘rock star’ thing that you’ve ever done?

At the Liverpool Sound City afterparty stage, we climbed the speakers up to the upper balcony, destroyed a kick drum, and stomp-bent the grills out of two monitors. The sound guy hated us. Jeah still had the nerve to ask for beers after.

We’re really mild guys…except while on stage.

2. What do you like better studio or stage and why?

Hands down, we’ll take the stage. We’re a live act and we always will be. We’re even more of a live band now that we have the drummer and bassist of Eleven03 backing us with our DJ, Tefrondon.

We believe that Canadian bands must be known for being the most “live” and energetic of artists. We’ll drive through 5 hours of blizzards just to play in front of 20 devoted kids. We train hard to be the most “fun-to-watch” act we can be.

3. If you had to give up music – what would you do to be creative?

We couldn’t give it up. Music is all we know. Jeah spends every waking minute either in the gym or writing songs. Merv would probably just meditate or practice yoga all day.

4. Strangest venue or gig you’ve ever played?

Our province isn’t known for having the best selection of hip-hop venues (besides Lot Club in Regina and Flint in Saskatoon), so we’ve had to adapt. We perform wherever we can. From Vietnamese restaurants’ basements to 70’s-themed burger diners to spin class studios (Yes, we’ve performed in a spin studio - Wheelhouse Cycle Club wassup!), we’ll turn anything into a venue.

5. What is the best advice you were given in the music business

Remember that everyone who works in the music industry, especially those who don’t directly play or make music - the promotors, booking agents, festival reps, managers, etc, all love music. Not everyone is given the gift and oppourtunities to create and perform music, so some work in the background to be as close to music as they can be .

We must all respect that the music industry works as a whole. There’s so much that happens and so many people working behind the scenes to create a great song, show, or record. In no way, shape, or form is music a “lone genius” endeavour; it is the ultimate team pursuit. - BreakOut West

"DGS Samurai Champs Revival, Toronto ON, April 21"

While Toronto isn't set on giving up its title of Canada's hip-hop hotbed any time soon, Saskatoon's DGS Samurai Champs made a strong case for the early crowd of locals to look farther than their own backyard when it comes to what Canadian hip-hop has to offer.

In opening the evening to around a crowd of 20 people, the mic-wielding duo of MC Jeah (Savan Muth) and R&B-leaning vocalist Merv xx Gotti (Marvin Chan) relished every second of their stage time. Despite their different roles in the project, the chemistry between the two was apparent in watching them shift from Mutch's sharp delivery and Chan's rich, emotive singing, rarely intruding on each other's vocals as a more traditional MC/hype man combination might.

They were both a treat to watch on their own as well. Muth spent much of his time pacing the stage in gesturing his way through each bar, hopping to the floor to engage the audience later on in the set. It was a wonder that Chan held his pitch considering his own set of stage moves, which involved flailing about with a mic stand and some well-executed mic tosses, never once missing a catch after spinning it by its cord.

Members of DGS's Trifecta collective got the crowd involved on some call-and-response for "Crayons" before Muth led them in waving side-to-side for a '90s-influenced jam to close things out. - Exclaim! Canada

"Canada’s DGS Samurai Champs reveal the infectious “Zone”"

New wave rapper Jeah and dark-R&B singer Merv xx Gotti are DGS Samurai Champs, a duo hailing from the cities of Regina and Saskatoon, determined to redefine the way people think about Canadian hip hop.

The duo draw in equal measure from their Southeast Asian heritage and their Urban Canadian identity. Since 2013 they have become a key player in the Saskatchewan hip-hop scene. Working on building their community rather than tearing others down, there’s a positivity to their sound that is infectious, and spreads way beyond the hip hop community.

The slick "Zone" might recall the textured productions of Drake and The Weeknd at times but there's a confidence and swagger that's all their own and the track has infectious lyrical hooks to spare.

DGS Samurai Champs play the Green Door Store in Brighton on Friday 19 May at 4pm and Shoosh in Brighton Saturday 20 May at 8.30pm as part of The Great Escape festival. - The Line of Best Fit (UK)


Saskatchewan isn’t typically the place people think of as a hotspot for Canadian hip-hop. In fact, when one thinks of Saskatchewan music, the first thought that comes to the mind is the notorious Craven County Jamboree. With a population of just over a million people and an enduring, but misguided image of a place where nothing ever happens or changes, Saskatchewan is seen as something of a cultural backwater by the rest of Canada. If people do know anything about Saskatchewan rap, it’s probably because of the now infamous “My Hoverboard” video by Saskatoon’s J Staxx. Rest assured, there’s a lot more to the province’s rap scene then J Staxx’s viral “hit.” Saskatchewan has always embraced its role as the underdog and behind the stereotypes and YouTube sensations is a small, but dynamic hip hop scene rife with homegrown talent. Saskatchewan’s rap community is centered in the province’s two largest cities; Saskatoon and Regina. The urban landscapes of both cities have had a profound effect on the artists they produce. Saskatoon and Regina consistently maintain some of the highest crime rates in all of Canada, while Regina’s North-Central was previously named the ‘worst neighborhood in Canada.’ This is the reality that many Saskatchewan rappers grew up in.

“Knowing Saskatchewan like I do, we usually top the country in crime and murder rates, so it's definitely something that gives us a different outlook than being from some other nice, little, cute place,” said rapper Joey Stylez, “Hardships give one character and I know firsthand. I been through enough storms to give culture to some folks who lack identity.” But this is far from the only influence fueling Saskatchewan rappers. The province’s First Nations history, which dates back to well before Saskatoon and Regina were even thoughts and the arrival of Europeans in Western Canada, has been an instrumental force in shaping Saskatchewan rap. From the lasting legacy of residential schools to the rampant, yet largely ignored mental health issues on northern reserves and inequality in urban centers, Saskatchewan’s First Nations population has never had it easy. But in the face of this painful past and present, Saskatchewan indigenous population as whole, including its hip hop artists, remains proud and hopeful. Artists such as Stylez, Drezus and Eekwol have proudly displayed their aboriginal identities through their music.

Though Saskatchewan’s hip hop community is small, it is tight knit. Artists embrace each other’s individualism and feed off one another’s creativity. The result of this creative incubator is a sound that is both diverse and profoundly influenced by the province itself. While a number of Saskatchewan artists have left to seek out opportunities elsewhere, the community continues to grow inside the prairie province at an astounding rate. “Inclusivity is hard to find in rap, but Regina's new scene would surprise the most critical hip hop hipsters out east, I believe,” said Kav the Bruce of the Queen City Stoop Kids, “We created it together with others who were clearly waiting for something to just happen.”

Originally from Saskatoon, but now living in Vancouver, Dakk’One got his start in the Bridge City’s hip-hop scene. Before leaving Saskatoon in 2013, Dakk was a fixture on the 306 Battlegrounds circuit where even as a teenager, he could be seen going toe to toe with older opponents. On his verses, Dakk fires off with a high-paced, staccato cadence. While his earlier music focused on the harsh realities of growing up on Saskatoon’s mean west side, his most recent track, “Big Things”, hints at a more uplifting sound on his forthcoming EP produced by multi-time Juno award winner and Swollen Members’ member Rob the Viking.

Also from Saskatoon, Dayda Banks got his start in hip hop in a friend’s basement as a 16 year old, but didn’t start performing as Dayda until 2012. Since then, Dayda has dropped two albums; 2013’s Roy Meets World and 2014’s The Lucid Dreamer. Working closely with his DJ Akadelik and local producer Dilly Bat, Dayda brings a laid-back flow over floaty, dreamscape beats. Dayda is also a regular performer in Saskatoon’s live venues, putting on energetic shows for enthusiastic crowds of locals.

No discussion of Saskatoon hip hop would be complete without mentioning Kay the Aquanaut. A veteran of nine albums and a frequent collaborator with much of Saskatoon’s hip hop community, Kay has been a true pathfinder for the city’s scene. Kay is best known for his intricate word play and his abstract, but technical style.

Another Saskatoon rapper who left the province to seek out opportunities outside of the province, Joey Stylez has become a true journeyman in the Canadian rap scene. Stylez started rapping in 1999 and before settling in Toronto, journeyed through places such as Beverly Hills, Atlanta and Detroit while refining his style. In that time, Stylez has worked with a wide variety of artists including Bun B, Dragonette Ty Dolla Sign and A Tribe Called Red. Like many Saskatchewan artists, Stylez is proud of his cultural identity and his music is heavily influenced by his indigenous heritage.

Before leaving Saskatchewan to grow his Team RezOfficial group, Drezus was one of the pioneering rappers in Saskatoon alongside Joey Stylez. While he left Saskatoon over a decade ago, Drezus credits his upbringing on Saskatoon’s notoriously rough west side as one of the foundations of his music. Drezus proudly infuses his aboriginal identity into his verses, which are backed by booming, speaker-rattling beats. On “the Sequel” off 2014’s Indian Summer, Drezus raps “We lost our identity, we still trying to recuperate. We used to hunt for our food, now we ain’t shootin’ straight. Confused by the new world order, we don’t know who to hate.” For his upcoming album, Drezus is working with producers such as Freddie Gibbs Superville, A Tribe Called Red’s Toolman and Lordquest.

A true veteran in Canadian hip hop, Eekwol also holds claim to being the first solo, female, aboriginal, hip hop artist in the nation. Born on the Muskoday First Nation in north-central Saskatchewan, Eekwol has been carving out a niche in the Canadian music scene since 1998. Eekwol’s songs focus on the issues facing Canada’s indigenous populations today, including poverty, inequality, addiction and negative stereotypes. However, Eekwol’s music also carries a positive message, encouraging Canada’s indigenous peoples to embrace their unique identities and to build strong communities together in order to overcome the systematic hardships they face.

Pimpton is probably Saskatchewan’s best known rapper outside the province. While many Saskatchewan rappers have sought out bigger centers with larger rap scenes to advance their careers, Pimpton has made it clear that he wants to stay at home in Regina and build Saskatchewan rap from the inside with the backing of his CJE crew. Pimpton raps with a trademark bouncy style over booming, high energy beats that mesh perfectly with his unorthodox cadence. His most recent album, KCMKV 2, featured tracks with Andre Nickatina, Joey Stylez, 40 Cal and Future.

The Queen City Stoop Kids, consisting of Kav the Bruce, Stupid Clay, Kid Kris, James Worthy and Voodoo Doll Joey, are hard to pin to one particular style, but are perhaps the most out-there hip hop act in Saskatchewan. Chopped and screwed samples, vocal delays and tone drops are all regular features on the Stoopkids’ tracks (no two of which are exactly alike). While each member bring unique content to their verses, the Stoop Kids love to rap about mind altering, chemical-fueled parties over tripped out, face-melting beats from their producer Deadlighters. On “Rachet,” off the group’s newest release, Bag Fries, Kav typifies this theme: “Chilling on the ave with the drastic acid, pop a couple of pills and I’m fuckin’ fantastic. Two tabs and a couple samples of grasses.”

DGS Samurai Champs are a Regina-based trio consisting of Jeah, Merv xx Gotti and Nono Ryan. With Jeah and Nono bringing their own individual styles of rapping to the table, Merv provides dark, brooding backing vocals and hooks. The result is a crawling, dread-filled sound that mixes elements of R&B and hip hop. The group are close friends with the Queen City Stoopkids who are featured are their new album and have opened for both Pimpton and Madchild.

Dilly Bat is a producer, videographer and occasional rapper out of Saskatoon. Dilly Bat is also the most prolific rap video director in Saskatchewan. Dilly Bat has produced videos for a who’s-who of Saskatchewan rappers and is the man behind J Staxx’s “My Hoverboard” video.

Active since 1999, Factor is a Saskatoon-based producer who has slowly made a name for himself both in Canada and internationally in the underground hip hop scene. Factor has worked with artists such as Shad, Moka Only, AWOL One, Evil Ebenezer and Kay the Aquanuat. - Noisey: Music by Vice

"How one Saskatchewan hip-hop group is creating big changes"

There is a growing hip-hop scene in Saskatchewan and the DGS Samurai Champs have played a major role in it.

"When we first started our band, DGS, I didn't really feel like Regina had a very nurturing or healthy creative culture for hip hop," Marvin Chan said.

Chan wanted to create something that would give his hip-hop group creative energy to thrive off of.

"When you start a family, you try to live in a good neighbourhood so they have a good place to grow up. I thought, I want my band to grow up in a nice and nurturing creative culture.

Trifecta Music Festival

So DGS Samurai Champs tried to consolidate all the different music scenes in the province by hosting a music festival.

The band, along with festival co-founders Reid Edwards and Casey Dela Cruz, brought something new to Saskatchewan.

The Trifecta Music Festival showcases musical talents from a wide range of genres and brings them together under one festival in Regina.

Organizing the festival led to valuable connections when it came to taking the next step, and releasing a music video.

The video for Crayons by Jeah and Merv xx Gotti from DGS Samurai Champs was released earlier this week and it was all filmed in Regina. Everyone that is featured in the music video, and who helped in it's production, is tied to Trifecta either as an artist, volunteer or a sponsor of the festival.

The music video for Crayons is a reflection of the diversity that DGS Samurai Champs and the Trifecta crew want to bring to music in the province.

"That's kind of our whole thing with Trifecta, we want to be able to almost be like the model UN [of music] for Regina and eventually all of Saskatchewan," Chan said. - CBC Saskatchewan

"DGS Samurai Champs 'Crayons' (EP Stream)"

Hailing from Regina, hip-hop duo DGS Samurai Champs finds rapper Jeah and R&B singer Merv xx Gotti teaming up to deliver fresh tunes that toe the line between each member's respective genre. They're ready to release their debut EP Crayons, and Exclaim! is giving you an exclusive first spin of the record.

Across five new songs, the two-piece takes their sound in a smoother, more melodic direction than their heavier early material. There's still a darkness that creeps in, though, bridging Gotti's brooding, anxious vocals with Jeah's hard-hitting rap verses atop infectious electro-tinged beats.

The beats come courtesy of producers MKSB, PDUB and Mentz, while the EP was recorded and mixed by Miguel Day at Blue Door Recording in Saskatchewan's capital.

"Crayons is an analogy for makeup. But, makeup is just one of the ways a female chooses to present and express herself," Jeah said in a statement, explaining the meaning behind the new music. "The concept for Crayons was to represent a female's 'colour palette', or her skin tone, hair colour, style, background, ethnicity — whatever makes her unique. Essentially, the [title track], as well as the EP as a whole, celebrates the diversity of the modern female and the ways she chooses to express herself as an individual."

You can hear that emotional expression get transformed into a smooth, sultry five-song offering below. Crayons is officially released on October 4. - Exclaim! Canada

"Samurai Champs Set to Make Its Mark Deep in the Heart of Texas"

When it comes to taking a major career step, Samurai Champs know that it doesn't come any bigger than the SXSW Festival.

When it comes to taking a major career step, Samurai Champs know that it doesn’t come any bigger than the SXSW Festival.

The hip hop duo, comprised of singer Merv xx Gotti (Marvin Chan) and rapper Jeah (Savan Muth), will be making their way to Austin, Tex., for showcase performances on March 13 and 15 at the festival. Formed in 1987, the festival is — according to its website — “an iconic global music industry event.”

Chan is very aware of how important the festival can be for the future of Samurai Champs.

“For us, this is huge. We’ve really thrown everything at it,” said Chan. “We’ve never actually hired a publicist before for any kind of festival or tour but we did this time because we wanted to make it count. We started prepping months in advance, sending out emails to other industry that will be there, other bands and press that will hopefully promo it as well. It’s mainly because most people see SXSW as kind of a tipping point for a lot of artists.

“You hear of bands like Feist, Katy Perry, they attribute a lot of their success after SXSW but specifically in the hip hop realm, SXSW has tons of hip hop. There’s always been like the Asaps, the G-Eazys, they’ve always credited SXSW as something that impacted them. It didn’t make or break them but it definitely was a threshold breaking point.”

Chan, based in Regina, and Jeah, based in Saskatoon, have fashioned a successful career with their mix of rap with soul and R&B. In addition to touring across Canada, Samurai Champs have also expanded its fan base with tours in Europe.

Attending SXSW is yet another opportunity for Samurai Champs to continue building its brand. Given that the festival is such an important event in the industry, is Chan nervous about the showcases?

“It’s not so much nervousness. I don’t think Savan and me have been nervous about something in a while,” explained Chan. “We pretty much keep our heads in our Macbooks, trying to plan for everything. We train as much as we can. Any time we have a festival prep or tour prep, we double our workouts, we practice more with the band. There’s not really much time to be nervous. It kind of sucks because in that way, we also lose a lot of the excitement sometimes.

“People will ask, ‘You must be so excited, you’re doing so many cool things,’ and we’re like, ‘Oh yeah, I forgot ˚I’m going to this thing.’ We definitely get tunnel vision.”

And Chan isn’t kidding when it comes to his tunnel vision.

“With all the conferences and planning for SXSW, I totally forgot that it was my birthday on Sunday until someone brought it up,” Chan said with a laugh.

While many artists head to SXSW with specific goals or results, that isn’t the case for Samurai Champs.

“I know a lot of artists may give an answer that is a bit more fantastical, like maybe a record deal coming out of it, but me and Savan have accepted for the last little while, just from being so exposed to the process of it, that everything in music is so connected toward the next step,” said Chan. “So for us, even if something comes out like a festival booker for our next festival or maybe a publishing deal or someone to help us with Spotify listing, anything like that for us would be a win. A lot of these things, you can’t really tell what comes out of it until maybe a year or two down the road.”

Samurai Champs are on the verge of releasing a full-length album. Two singles have already been released — Dripping hit the airwaves on Feb. 27 while You Know Me dropped on March 1.

For fans who enjoyed Crayons, they should be prepared for something different with the new album.

“It will be pretty different, actually. There’s a lot sounds that are a bit more on the heavier side and lot of songs that still have the softer, slower trap ballad type of feel like Crayons but it’s definitely a step in a different direction,” said Chan. “Nothing was forced. It was conscious in the way that we wanted this to happen. We knew we were going to grow and what sounds we wanted to incorporate and this is where it led. You can feel it when you know you are growing and we could sense that feeling was coming.

“We knew that everything we going to put out for the next little while was going to represent that growth.”

Joining Samurai Champs at SXSW will be DJ Tefrondon and Eleven03, their backup band. - Leader Post

"The Session - Summer 2018 Ed. Cover Feature: Samurai Champs - World Travels, Full Circles"

This interview was published in the Summer 2018 edition of The Session magazine.
Read the digital copy of the full magazine here. - The Session


Dripping (2018) [single] - +23,000 streams on Spotify, placed on Spotify Canada’s Just Vibing official playlist

Crayons EP (2016) [EP] - voted #2 in SaskMusic’s Best SK Albums of 2016, nominated for WCMAs - Urban Artist of the Year 2017

The Hard Tape (2015) [mixtape] - voted #1 in SaskMusic’s Best SK Albums of 2015

The Banff Mixtape (2014) [mixtape]



Hailing from two Canadian cities – “The Bridge City”, Saskatoon, and “The Queen City”, Regina, Samurai Champs is a recording and performing future-hip-hop/R&B duo. Comprised of new-wave rapper Jeah and dark-R&B/soul singer Merv xx Gotti, the duo draw influence from their Southeast Asian heritage while taking pride in their urban-Canadian identity. Blending Jeah’s versatile rap delivery with Merv xx Gotti’s emotional R&B vocals, the duo create a smooth, yet dark coalescence of contemporary hip-hop/R&B.

Within the past 12 months since their Western Canadian Music Awards (WCMAs) - Urban Artist of the Year nomination, Samurai Champs have risen as the prairies’ premier hip-hop/R&B artist. The official video for their debut EP’s single and title track, “Crayons”, premiered on VICE Noisey, while Crayons (EP) itself premiered on Exclaim!. The duo recently released their latest single, “Dripping”, blending the diverse sounds of Toronto’s OVO label with the soulful minimalism of L.A.’s Soulection movement

“Dripping” was mixed by Jazz Cartier’s Juno Award-winning producer and engineer, Michael Lantz, and mastered by Drake’s Grammy Award-winning mastering engineer, Chris Athens. Upon its release, “Dripping” was placed on Spotify Canada’s Just Vibing playlist, and has since amassed over 23,000 streams. “Dripping” is now available on Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, and all music platforms.

Samurai Champs has toured across Canada, and internationally, sharing the stage with hip-hop heavyweights such as T.I., Flatbush Zombies, and k-os. They have performed at international festivals such as South by Southwest (SXSW) (Austin, TX), North by Northeast (NXNE) (Toronto, ON), Reeperbahn Festival (Hamburg, GE), and The Great Escape Festival (Brighton, UK).

Surrounding their European tours, the UK’s largest independent music blog, The Line of Best Fit, featured Samurai Champs in 20 Of The Most Exciting Bands On The Planet To See At The Great Escape. Following this, award-winning UK music news site, Gigwise, featured Samurai Champs in 11 New Bands From The Great Escape That You Need In Your Life. Most recently, Samurai Champs were also named in Gigwise’s 5 Top Acts To See at Tallinn Music Week.

Samurai Champs is currently on tour, and preparing for the release of their debut full-length album, Cabernet Sauvignon.

Band Members