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Music

Meet the biggest hip hop fan in Toronto

Posted by Staff / January 9, 2013

MindbenderIf there's a rap show happening in the city, chances are Addi "Mindbender" Stewart will be in the front row, going line for line with every song played throughout the night; and this has been the case for about two decades now. Apart from being a rapper and music journalist himself, Stewart also happens to be one of the friendliest, most enthusiastic Torontonians you'll ever come across. It'd be an understatement to say that Mindbender is the heart and soul of Toronto's hip hop community.

I recently met up with Addi at Play De Record, and as soon as we stepped through the doors, it came as no surprise to me that the entirety of the store's staff knew him on a personal level.

In a lengthy session of sheer knowledge-dropping, Mindbender shared a trove of insider stories that any rap enthusiast would be lucky to hear. From Andre 3000's centaur costume, to performing with Raekwon and Ghostface, to the rise of Chief Keef, to Ken Kaniff and Eminem's sexuality, to the city of Toronto, here's what we got into:

I'm sure you've seen Brown Sugar by now, wherein Sanaa Lathan asks Taye Diggs, "When did you first fall in love with hip hop?" Do you remember a particular moment, song, or artist that might have sparked the flame?

It feels like it was always there, but the veil was just lifted one day. But, I guess, if I had to narrow it down, I'd trace it back to 1982, when my big brother Dale was a member of the illest breakdancing crew in Edmonton. They'd break to early '70s roller skating jams, disco, funk... all that classic old shit, but I remember that year in particular because Rock Steady Crew came through. It was crazy to see those legends perform in their prime.

I also remember Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five's "The Message" dropping that year, and losing my mind over those "doo doo doo doo" laser sounds. As far as first rap heroes go, I'd have to go with LL Cool J and Run DMC. They inspired my twin brother and I to start writing a few years later. I didn't write my first rhyme until 1989.

mindbender rap torontoI've seen you mouthing the words to every single song, by every single artist, from Mos Def to Riff Raff, at over a hundred different rap shows in the city. Is there a single rap song that you don't know the lyrics to?

Oh god yes. If it's by one of these new crack/hustle/blog/fashionista rappers, I won't care. I don't really know the lyrics to any Wiz Khalifa stuff.

Still, it seems like your attitude toward hip hop is to at least try to enjoy it from all angles. How important is that approach to such a young genre, and are you proud of all its regional styles?

I treat hip hop like church school; it's a sacred experience for me to be at a concert. There's not much of a difference if you compare the two, other than being able to drink beer and swear at concerts. Generally, it's a person giving a message, and a crowd gathered to hear it. I learn from every rapper; conscious, ignorant, street, guys, girls, Canadian, American, what have you.

Over the years, I've leaned toward boundary-pushing, esoteric West Coast stuff, like Freestyle Fellowship, Project Blowed, and The Hrsmn. I also love New York. Wu-Tang is the best hip hop idea of all time. Tribe was my favourite duo until OutKast released Stankonia. Nas is my favourite rapper because of his content and focus on edutainment, the essence of rap. I could talk for hours about all the mistakes he's made in his career, which aren't limited to beat selection, but he's still the most important MC to ever come along.

addi stewart rap torontoAre you happy with the direction hip hop is going in? Chief Keef and Riff Raff are two unorthodox rappers that blew up this year; what are your thoughts on them?

I'll diss a guy like Chief Keef because, to me, he's the pinnacle of hip hop at its unhealthiest, least lyrical, and most self-destructive. I don't think I can ever be called a hater though, because, at the very least, I listened. I went to Riff Raff's Toronto debut partly because it's a big thing for me to be able to say, "I've seen that person once in my life." I was both impressed and disgusted with the Riff Raff phenomenon when I noticed him lip-synching halfway through the show, after the crowd began moshing and getting wild. I couldn't believe how much power, control, and mad hype he had, that people weren't even aware of him not rapping into the mic.

With contemporary rap, I feel that we're living in a production era, where amazing beats are overshadowing subpar raps. Rick Ross is a perfect example. That guy's the fakest thing ever. Andreas Hale said, "Hip hop went from 'keep it real' to 'it's just entertainment'," and I think that's the worst transition of all time. Plus no one's really scary these days, apart from Killer Mike. These new guys are weak.

That's why, with my own rap career, I really want to Wu-Tang it again, but with a personal spin. I want to incorporate all my influences, and be raw and confusing. At the same time, I really love women. I want to be revolutionary with respect to love and sexuality because almost all of my rap heroes have disappointed me in that regard.

How many rap shows have you been to, and what was your very first one?

Wow. I don't even know how to quantify these things--maybe around 10,000 live music experiences in my life. Sometimes I'd do five in a single night. For my first hip hop concert, I saw Public Enemy on their Fear Of A Black Planet tour in Hamilton. That was in 1991. The first one I caught in Toronto was The Pharcyde in '92, during the Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde tour. I think the only well-known rapper I haven't seen live is Fat Joe.

addi stewart rap torontoDescribe your favourite concert experiences.

OutKast and Moby at The Docks in '99 was pretty crazy. It was Andre 3000's last time in Canada, and he wore a centaur outfit. Like, he was shirtless, rocking horse legs. When they performed "Bombs Over Baghdad," my heart was beating like a jackrabbit.

One of the best concerts I've ever seen, though, was De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, and Souls Of Mischief at Carleton University in '93. I got to talk basketball with Phife Dawg before the show, but later, on our way to an afterparty, I hit up this greasy diner with De La Soul. And sure enough, like they say on 3 Feet High And Rising, Maseo definitely loved his ketchup. It was also cool standing three feet away from Eminem when he performed in Toronto after The Marshall Mathers LP was released. I met Proof, which, unfortunately, I didn't appreciate enough because I was too excited about Eminem at the time.

But the craziest feeling was performing with Raekwon and Ghostface Killah at Yonge and Dundas Square this summer, in front of 10,000 people.

I remember them asking two fans to come up on stage and perform ODB's and Method Man's verses on "Protect Ya Neck." A bunch of concertgoers were screaming your name, knowing it'd be a cardinal sin if you didn't get up there. Talk about that experience.

After missing an opportunity to do a verse at the solo Ghostface show three months earlier, I told myself that there's absolutely no chance this one security guard would stand in the way of my dream coming true. He was pushing me from the front because he didn't see Ghostface pick me out. I ended up leaning against the fence with my shirt ripped off in the process, but once I went off on the guard, he let me through.

After I got up there, I felt like I was possessed in that magical moment, like my brain shut off. ODB's son was up there too; I remember grabbing and hugging him. It was all pure adrenaline. I don't even have many memories of it all going down. When I look back on it online, I'm like, who is that guy? Oh shit, that was me!

What are some other crazy behind-the-scenes stories you have, like at a show, or hanging out with other rappers?

I've had so many crazy experiences. I want to sit down with a hypnotist and tell them to probe into my mind, because I smoke a lot of weed, and sometimes I forget things. But I definitely remember selling a half-quarter to Sean Price and Buckshot in the bathroom of the Phoenix Concert Theatre one time. Just this past year, thanks to my friend Perry P., I got to hang out in a car with Onyx, Tha Alkaholiks, and The Beatnuts. We got lost and were driving around for an hour. Because of Famous's generosity, I also met Nas on the Hip Hop Is Dead Tour. I gave him a Pound magazine, a blunt, and a bag of weed. He was like a child sitting in the corner, so humble and quiet.

Back in '97, I was hanging out with my homies Fritz The Cat, Styles Of Beyond, and Abstract Rude in Compton, L.A. I rocked Project Blowed, really murdered it that day, and even got props from this thugged-out Crip girl. I thought she was going to blow my brains out [laughs]. Not many people know this, but my hype man at that open mic was Aristotle The Hairless Model, the original Ken Kaniff on Eminem's Slim Shady LP. He's a phenomenal MC, but you could tell a lot of people weren't feeling him since he was pretty effeminate. There was a lot more ignorance back then.

addi stewart mindbender rap torontoHow ironic, considering Eminem's homophobia.

Yo! You can put this down on paper: I'm going to my grave far beyond convinced that Eminem is bisexual. I think it's the biggest untold secret in hip hop. Deep into his career, around Encore, the first thing that came out of his mouth in a Vibe Magazine article was, "I just want you all to know, I'm gay." He ends up playing it off as a joke, and the interviewer moves on, but my point is that, even if they've been tongue-in-cheek, he's dropped countless clues. Yet the rap community's still not ready to embrace one of their heroes as a homosexual. Dr. Dre's gay too. Tupac said so himself after he got shot. I wish they'd confess. It would mean a lot to black culture if the most famous rapper of all time and the godfather of gangster rap came out publicly.

What are the worst hip hop fads that have come and gone?

The Ice Age was shit. It didn't matter how good or bad you were; if you had diamonds, you were cool. I hate how Game always switches his affiliations and styles to whatever's hot at the moment. I actually liked the Kriss Kross era. In grade nine, there was a school strike, and three of us turned our clothes backwards and danced all day.

What are your thoughts on Drake, and him finally being that breakout mainstream rap star in the US that Toronto's been waiting for?

I'm a humongous fan of Drake. He's always been cool to me, he always says what up. He's one of the sharpest rhyme-writers around, and a brilliant songwriter, period. I think he's the logical evolution of everything that's been happening in the last ten years of hip hop, from his look, to his sound, to his production, to his sophistication. I'm not as much of a fan of his singing, but he's raised the bar overall. I love that he's made Canadians check themselves and be like, yo, we can have multimillion dollar superdreams up here and manifest insane history. Even 9th Wonder tweeted that Toronto's the hip hop capital of the world.

Who are your favourite Toronto DJs?

As far as cutting and mixing go, Starting From Scratch made Pete Rock and DJ Premier look bad at Circa in '08. I also love DJ Law, Fase, Nana, James Redi, and P-Plus. We've got some of the best in the world.

addi stewart mindbender torontoWhat's your favourite record store in Toronto?

Play De Record. It's been around since 1990, and has outlived all the other classic record stores on Yonge Street. I'll never forget all the Ryerson cats that would drop by to freestyle inside, or first listening to the "Protect Ya Neck" 12-inch that I bought from there in '92. All the new 12-inches would arrive between seven and ten o'clock, back when people actually had to leave their house, hunt for music, and play records for their friends. That connection is so lost now, with blogs and the internet taking over.

Do you have a big record collection?

Not too much vinyl, but I have a big collection of artifacts. If they ever do a Canadian Hip Hop Museum, I could fill it up with all my memorabilia. I've got 4,000 cassettes. I've got Canadian rap magazines that totally don't exist anymore: Mic Check, Peace, Origins, Rice, Twisted Linguistics. De La Soul and Souls of Mischief signed a five dollar bill for me at that concert in Ottawa since I didn't have anything else to give them.

2012 FAVOURITES

Rapper: Kendrick Lamar, although good kid, m.A.A.d city was overhyped

Producer: Rich Kidd

Song: Kendrick Lamar - "The Recipe" Ft. Dr. Dre

Album: Killer Mike & El-P - R.A.P. Music

Writing by Marko Orlic. Photos by Javin Lau

Discussion

36 Comments

AV / January 9, 2013 at 10:22 am
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Mindbender truly is T.dot's biggest hip hop fan.
akswun / January 9, 2013 at 10:42 am
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Addi!...
I remember when this guy was on stage at Manifesto.. I was like who the hell is this guy? But when he ripped it I instantly became a fan!
Had the privilege to meet him prior to going to the P.E. concert last year. I swear we all went as a group and this guy disappeared in the crowd and eventually somewhere back stage.

I agree Addi(Mindbender) is Toronto if not the worlds biggest Hiphop fan!!
Meist / January 9, 2013 at 11:16 am
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He's gonna get a target on his head with that answer.
(I have mutual friends with Addy, talented guy, a bit of a bottle leecher)

His quote:

"Yo! You can put this down on paper: I'm going to my grave far beyond convinced that Eminem is bisexual. I think it's the biggest untold secret in hip hop. Deep into his career, around Encore, the first thing that came out of his mouth in a Vibe Magazine article was, "I just want you all to know, I'm gay." He ends up playing it off as a joke, and the interviewer moves on, but my point is that, even if they've been tongue-in-cheek, he's dropped countless clues. Yet the rap community's still not ready to embrace one of their heroes as a homosexual. Dr. Dre's gay too. Tupac said so himself after he got shot. I wish they'd confess. It would mean a lot to black culture if the most famous rapper of all time and the godfather of gangster rap came out publicly."

j-rock / January 9, 2013 at 11:17 am
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A Tribe Called Quest have never been a "duo".

Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, Ali Shaheed Mohammed, and sometimes Jarobi. The "biggest hip hop fan in Toronto" should probably know that.
Huzzah / January 9, 2013 at 11:23 am
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What's wrong with this guys face? Looks like he took an invisible punch in the shot where he's pointing at the record. Poor fella...
Shamon / January 9, 2013 at 11:49 am
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Big up Mindbender! A loyal & dedicated Toronto Hip-Hop fan who needs to open up his own Rap Museum one day. My homie since we were 17

Graby
Brendan / January 9, 2013 at 12:15 pm
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Great article! Toronto's Hip Hop scene is one of the best anywhere.
DA BUTTHEAD / January 9, 2013 at 12:51 pm
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Looking good Addi - congrats dawg!
sofarsofresh / January 9, 2013 at 12:57 pm
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When I opened this link I thought "it has to be Mindbender or this story isn't legit." I think I've been to maybe 2 hip hop shows in TO that he wasn't at. He is always friendly and bringing the live vibes.
Scott / January 9, 2013 at 01:44 pm
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Great interview subject and great execution by Marko
Jordan / January 9, 2013 at 02:21 pm
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Dope interview and great questions. While I disagree with his comments on Em, Dre and Chief Keef, dude is a treasure trove of Canadian hip-hop history. Thanks for this.
mike in parkdale replying to a comment from j-rock / January 9, 2013 at 02:30 pm
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for all intensive purposes... Tribe was a rapping duo, with a DJ and guests (Jarobi was essentially a cameo appearance)

Trying to knock someone like Mindbender over a detail like that is beyond lame.
j-rock replying to a comment from mike in parkdale / January 9, 2013 at 03:32 pm
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I wasn't trying to "knock" anyone. I was merely pointing out a rather obvious fact. By your logic, The Beatles were also a duo, because Ringo and George (almost) never sang.

ps. "intents and purposes".
AV replying to a comment from j-rock / January 9, 2013 at 03:38 pm
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Always funny to see someone who knows argue with someone who doesn't. I once knew everything as well..
pat. / January 9, 2013 at 04:11 pm
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"Huzzah", I'm sad for you. How miserable and bitter a person you must be to read about a positive, interesting person who is enthusiastic about something and choose negativity as your public response. That sucks. Really. Sorry for 'feeding the troll" but it's been a bad day for me in terms of nasty people so whatever.

Funny enough, I met Addi recently and he was one of the sweetest most genuine people I've met in a long time. Very chill, open and friendly. Really sweet to my kids too.

We luuuuv Addi!
Bobby / January 9, 2013 at 04:26 pm
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This guy needs to stop rapping tho
LL Cool J / January 9, 2013 at 05:20 pm
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"Oh god yes. If it's by one of these new crack/hustle/blog/fashionista rappers, I won't care. I don't really know the lyrics to any Wiz Khalifa stuff."

So Drake isn't? I guess street cred extends to being a cripple on Degrassi.
Melissa / January 9, 2013 at 05:26 pm
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Great interview! Please keep more of this quality coming.
JL / January 9, 2013 at 08:19 pm
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Always been a lover of hip-hop and true R&B, but I'm getting a little sick of this 'lets fuck all the bitches and kill the cops' style rap music. It's getting old, it's time for some new talent that has something to actually say, and bring people together.
Mindbender Supreme / January 9, 2013 at 11:21 pm
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For the record, as it says in the article, I was SICK AS A POISONED DOG while we did this interview. Five minutes before we took these pictures, I was in the alley behind Pizza Pizza across from where Sam the Record Man used to be, throwing up into a sewer grate. But I was genuinely so happy to have this conversation with Marko that I didn't want to postpone it. I was extremely nauseous while I was taking these pictures, my smile normally has a lot more positive energy in it! But I just wanted to represent the real hip hop, like it don't stop and it don't quit! Can't no stomach flu hold me down, ha ha.

I appreciate this article greatly, and thank BlogTO for showing love to Mindbender. I have big plans and dreams for Toronto hip hop and 2013 in general, and look forward to sharing them all with your readers.

I believe a lot more mainstream MCs are bisexual, and I actively seek to be a part of any enlightening conversation that wants to spread the hidden truths and realities of hip hop culture. I'm not on a "witch hunt", I clearly recognize the racist inequality of a world that allows Elton John, kd lang, Adam Lambert, Rob Halford, Freddie Mercury and many other gay/lesbian rock stars, but there are NO mainstream gay/lesbian hip hop MCs allowed the freedom to express any non-hetero-sexuality without being crucified by the culture? Something's fucked up there, please believe it...

And I consider A Tribe Called Quest to be two MCs and a producer. And Outkast is two MCs, so I will compare those two groups. Even though I recognize him, the fact is Jarobi barely rhymes on the majority of ATCQ music. And I certainly would not parallel that group to the Beatles, LOL!

And just in case anyone wonders, I know Killer Mike is not a new school MC. Otherwise, I'll see you all at the Method Man concert tomorrow :)

Mindbender loves you all!
Tamara / January 10, 2013 at 06:26 am
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Great article! Addi remains as genuine, friendly, and funny as when we first met in high school. I remember that strike!!! Go Marauders :)
Trevor / January 10, 2013 at 04:05 pm
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Very interesting character. I enjoyed reading the article. I always wondered what is the obsession with homosexuality in Toronto. I mean appreciate everyone needs to live and let live. But Toronto cats seem to bring homosexuality into the pot and make it an issue when there is none. Eminem's first album sounds effeminate? I've never heard that. I just think we need to be weary when read articles like this because we are hearing an opinion and shouldn't confuse it as a fact.
renee / January 10, 2013 at 04:21 pm
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i love the city i live in and i love the beautiful souls that rep it. a truly kind and lovely individual- and to the person commenting about his face...i dunno why you'd even bother.
Grimzeek replying to a comment from Mindbender Supreme / January 10, 2013 at 05:09 pm
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Brotherman, as much as I love the Beatles, I think they they are overhyped WAY, WAY TOO MUCH for their own good or anybody else's. Even if Jarobi barely rhymes on the majority of ATCQ music, that doesn't mean that A Tribe Called Quest aren't as big today as the Fab Four were in their day, or that they should be overshadowed by the massive amount of Baby Boomer nostalgia that the dominant culture loves to shove into people's faces. Good, bad or mediocre, rap is a lot more of a vital music force today than just regurgitating what Bob & June Baby Boom loved as music.

As for the gayness of most MC's, I think the problem is that black people have been too indoctrinated by the Christian church to believe that homosexuality is bad-that's all there is to it. We need to make it clear to people that the church isn't everything in life, and that the Bible didn't say anything against homosexuality directly-once we can do that, I believe that things will start to change in that regard.


Loved the interview, loved the view into the world of hip hop, and I hope that you will continue to prosper in 2013.
BlueberryT / January 10, 2013 at 05:10 pm
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Awesome article. Very colorful. I thoroughly enjoyed that read :). Minus the Eminem part. He might be, might not, but that's his, and Dre's, business to come out. I don't believe it though, JMO.
Mindbender Supreme / January 10, 2013 at 05:14 pm
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I was on the verge of vomiting when I took the main picture, LOL! I'm giving you the backstage scoop on an physical/emotional level :)

Typically, my face and smile looks a little more like this: http://www.blogto.com/people/2009/07/toronto_through_the_eyes_of_mindbender/

and thank you to all the wonderful friends I've met over the years who have such heart-warming praise to give... thank you for being delightful :)
Mindbender Supreme / January 10, 2013 at 05:18 pm
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"I think the problem is that black people have been too indoctrinated by the Christian church to believe that homosexuality is bad"

Bingo! Give this man a prize, please! LOL :)

I have a lot of music coming this year that talks directly about this. There is not a single institution in the world that causes more sexual shame and blame than the Church, and it's time we free our spirits from it. One love.
pintu / January 10, 2013 at 05:18 pm
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This dude wasn't so normal back in the day when he was stalking Angela Nissel online...
Dedos / January 10, 2013 at 05:28 pm
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Just wondering if anyone or Mindbender himself would be interested in some Hip Hop art created by Rascalz own " DEDOS". If so click on the site www.nomadicalternatives.org , or go to http://www.zazzle.ca/nomadicalternatives or http://nelson-garcia.artistwebsites.com/

thanks for your commitment towards the movement.
Peace!
the word for the new era.

NMDZ
nicholas / January 10, 2013 at 07:19 pm
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bullet bullet
James Pew / January 14, 2013 at 10:57 am
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Great interview! Mindbender is a complex artist capable of some pretty amazing things!

Here is a side of Mindbender Supreme a lot of people haven't heard.

I'm Awesome - https://soundcloud.com/james-pew/im-awesome

Ugly Lovely Truth - https://soundcloud.com/james-pew/ugly-lovely-truth
Versatile / January 15, 2013 at 09:11 am
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Great job to interviewer and mindbender!
Mindbender Supreme replying to a comment from pintu / January 15, 2013 at 04:01 pm
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"Angela Nissel"? Who is that? I honestly have no clue what you are talking about, Pintu. If I did do that, I'll confess, LOL. But really: WTF? I love when haters attack lovers.
Mindbender Supreme replying to a comment from James Pew / January 15, 2013 at 04:02 pm
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Thank you, James! You have brought out some of the best music I have ever created in my life, and Toronto is going to hear more of it in 2013! We're awesome like AWWW SHIT! :)
Mertella / January 19, 2013 at 04:14 pm
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Great article, well written and showed the expanse of Mindbender's knowledge of the hip hop culture...am really proud of this young man...he should really do a hip hop museum and stop talking about! He has to write Toronto hip hop story...however concerns me about all this weed smoking! where did he pick up such a bad habit!!!:O)
david / July 6, 2013 at 04:45 am
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seems like a cool guy. Don't agree with some of what he says. But seems like a nice dude.

With that said, dude. Stop walking around with your shirt unbuttoned in the summer...

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