Photos by Martin Nombrado
When a huge portion of mainstream rap seems to have lost interest in elaborate lyrics, it’s a gratifying moment when you find a genuine rapper like City Fidelia. Montreal born City ‘Luigi’ Fidelia takes pride in writing lyrics that reach the heart and mind. He grew up in Brooklyn and later moved to Ottawa, where he studies Criminology and Business at Carleton University. He’s shared the stage with people like Casey Veggies, Obie Trice, Action Bronson, Bow Wow, Fabolous & A$AP Rocky. His new album, “A Pisces World” shows how much he’s grown musically and as an individual. Music has always been a constant in his life, no matter the location.
His father was a bassist who passed down a love for jazz, funk, and Haitian zouk. In his early years, City gained a passion for singing soul music with influences such as Usher and the Fugees. It was during primary school that he entered the world of rap, thanks to his older brother.
“I was raised, told at a young age to know better, because my bro was a cold fella. No doubt, but he showed me the ropes, jotted down notes every time he spoke. I took em in.”
You can tell a lot about a person by what inspires them. Passion must be fuelled by something. For Fidelia, motivation flows from the desire to make his friends and family proud and to make a positive impact on the world. He’s inspired by his strong mother, who he remembers took in kids out of the streets and helped them and musically, he’s inspired by his father.
His brother is a huge influence to him and his music; being the one to introduce him to the rap battle scene. “He’s one of the people that made me who I am today. I feel like (my brother) did everything I wasn’t supposed to do and that made me appreciate everything he said. You start to realize that some people have wise words for you and have made mistakes in order for you not to make those same mistakes.”
“I know that we just met but I feel already connected, baby let me tell you all the things that you are blessed with.”
It’s rare and beautiful when an artist supports his fans as much as they support him. City is set on helping people and becoming a better human being. What’s missing from the music scene now-days is substance. Especially in the mainstream media. While everyone is promoting strippers, weed and getting drunk on a Tuesday, there is a lack of credible content in the world of hip hop. We need more people to talk about real shit to open up to people through their music and talk about their struggle, because that is what people can relate to and that is what makes people respect an artist on a personal level.
His new album, built with heavy framework and filled with emotional style. From the subaquatic cover, to the slow but soothing instrumentals, this album will seduce and submerge you with powerful chords. The rhythms relaxes you yet let you feel its strings pull at your body to move along with it. With the serene flow of “All In”, the sentimental recording from his brother at the end of “Paɪsiːz World” and the menacing beats of “4 AM”, City reached another level with this album.
His ability to switch up the speed of his flow in “All In” bares a likeness to early Kendrick Lamar. Both artists can spit calculated rapid fire lines then ease into slower rhythms in such a way that you would think is second nature.
“Stress Free” is one of those songs that throw back to old school R&B days that you can connect with but at the same time wind down to. Pro Bono, a personal track, was inspired by seeing his brother in court before going to jail. City was frustrated that he wasn’t able to help his brother get a better lawyer at that time. With the motivation of that situation, he expresses in the song that “even if I’m doing something for you for free, I’m giving you 110%.”
“Money comes and money goes, but all my homies on the payroll.”
Experiencing “A Pisces World” was a sort of pallet cleanser for me. The clean flowing songs wash away that familiar negativity often associated with rap. Fidelia takes a refreshing approach to his music and forms a deep connection with the lyrics. It’s City’s therapeutic way of expressing his thoughts, emotions and insecurities when he feels like he has no other outlet. Listening to the album is therapeutic too because we hear about a situation or a line that we connect with and don’t feel like we’re the only ones going through it. People who come from a similar background as the artist can relate to his songs as well as people that are the complete opposite of him. Even if your struggles don’t mirror his, you can still connect with the emotion he expresses in his music. Rhythms, rhymes and melodies are powerful when they can reach beyond just being a catchy tune. When they touch someone’s heart and soul is when you know you’re making a difference in someone’s life.
“I have people tell me to keep going because ‘you’re the inspiration for us.’” City told me about a girl that he normally wouldn’t expect would listen to his music, coming up to him after one of his shows. After telling him how his music spoke to her, broke into tears. “My approach to this life is that we’re all at the same level, we’re all the same people. When she started crying, I didn’t know how to react… I’ll never forget that moment.”
Letting his thoughts out on paper has helped City free his mind. He loves when he’s on stage, seeing people raising their hands in the air and singing along to his lyrics, he says; “That’s my high in life.”
“Every great man needs a back bone; good Feng shui when he back home.”
Promoting education is also big for City. He was shocked when a fan asked him if he should drop out of school so he could be a rapper too. City quickly told him it would be the wrong thing to do, while another rapper may have said, “Sure go for it, follow your dreams!” without thinking of the consequences. Fidelia realizes that in order to gain knowledge and experience in life, school is necessary. You must first be educated in order to be able to teach other people. “I wish coming up that I had a rapper that I looked up to in the city to tell me, ‘you need to go to school first then do whatever you wanna do after.’ Parents can tell you but sometimes it takes that one person you look up to.”
In a city filled with politically minded people, it’s reassuring to know that talented, unique artists are breaking through the barriers and working hard to make a name for themselves. Ottawa isn’t exactly known for our musicians, let alone our rappers. The clubs and local radio stations don’t favour local artists. Often-times local artists are used as opening acts for more widely known musicians. It’s common for people to work a full time job while saving their passion for music as a hobby on the side. Creative minds prosper in places with similarly minded people. For this reason City last November, Fidelia decided to move to Toronto.
“To me, my heart is still in Ottawa; I’m just trying to find a way to climb the ladder in what I do and bring it back to the city.” His goal is to change local people’s perceptions on the music culture in Ottawa. If someone wants to be a doctor or a lawyer, that’s fine but if they want to be a musician, that career path should be given the same amount of respect in the community.”
“The city on my back man, something like Pac Man. Fellas gotta eat before we all get ate. Eight prison years, 8 bullets there, cause people in my city don’t really care. I just lost another fella rest in peace Jabber.”
“Places like Atlanta or Detroit, those types of cities, their artists have made it so big from the support of their cities. Once your whole city’s behind you, everyone wants to be a part of that; they want to know the story of that city.” In order to help Ottawa become more open minded about their musicians, City thinks it would take one artist to go out and make it big but then bring all the love back to the capital. This would open doors for a lot of other people to follow in the same footsteps, having someone to look up to. He wants to be that example for artists in Ottawa to follow and I think City Fidelia is the perfect role model for it.
Not only would it make Ottawa a place for more opportunities for creative thinkers, it would also help the economy. When the people are doing well, the wealth can be shared.
“It helps the economy in Ottawa. On a government scale, the more we do things like that, the more money the government makes.” The more we put into the city, the more we get out. City’s goal is to make Ottawa known on a bigger scale. He’s all about reaching people through his music and changing lives for the better. “I feel like that’s where I’m at right now. I see people appreciating (my music), and I’m not doing music to try to be the best at it, as long as I can connect with people, share my story and have fun.”
He dreams of being nominated for a Juno in the near future and possibly even a Grammy later down the line but the man’s main focus is to make the people closest to him proud and spread a message. There’s too many people getting into music now who just want to be rich and famous. They follow in previous musicians’ footsteps because they want to become “the next Mariah Carey” rather than creating a fresh path. We need brave people like City Fidelia, who write about things people can actually relate to, such as the struggles they faced growing up with family, school and relationships. “Growing up in the projects, you see a lot of kids not doing things that they should do in life. When I’m around these kids or people, I feel like I motivate them to do better things in life. That’s what this album is about.”
A Pisces World will be released on iTunes April 28th.