Eternia, born Silk-Anne Semiramis Dawn Craig Kaya, is an example of an artist that genuinely trusts the process—something that isn’t the easiest to do when it comes to making rap music and building a fan base.
While her career in Hip Hop has brought her all over the world over the years, with roots in her homebase of Canada, an eight-year chapter in Queens, New York and a stint living in Australia, one thing didn’t change with her timezone: Eternia’s moves are fueled by an organic passion for the art form and a dedication to being true to herself and to her talents alike. Eternia’s music bears no filter and as a result, holds a timeless quality that can be appreciated whether listeners are a day one supporter or just stumbled across her music in recent days.
Working alongside fellow Canadian brethren, producer MoSS, (whose credits range from Obie Trice to Sean Price to Slum Village) helped Eternia to elevate her talents to the next level, as showcased on their 2010 collaborative album, At Last. The pair’s dedication to pouring their souls into the project for three years straight paid off, with the album receiving widespread praise, including a cosign from DJ Premier and landing a Juno Award nomination. In the years following the release and its rollout, Eternia found herself heading back to Toronto, retreating into the lab while also celebrating her achievements and rediscovering what the local Hip Hop scene had become since Drake secured his position as a reigning champion.
Much to the delight of her fans, Eternia is now reemerging six years after At Last, working alongside MoSS once more. After spending quality time progressing, digesting and working, Eternia is again ready to share her voice and perspectives with audiences, and in turn, is also revealing a new version of herself following her hiatus in between formal full-length releases.
Long keeping it real, the equal-parts-fierce-and-soulful rapper has clocked almost two decades refining her dynamic sound as an emcee, much like the self-described perfectionist she is. We took some time to give the rapper a proper welcome back to her rightful spot in our 2016 playlists.
As a female in the game, have you found it difficult over the years to have your voice heard, especially within Hip Hop circles?
There’s a couple things that factor in with that. Technically, in some ways, it’s an asset. By that, I mean that at times, you are heard a little bit more, and then in other ways, it’s definitely harder. So the ways that it helps is, if you’re on a bill with a bunch of dudes, you know whether it’s an open mic, a showcase, a regular show with a lot of acts, whatever, you’ll stand out more. I’d like to think it’s because of the talent, but it’s also because you do look and sound different than everyone else on stage.
So in a way, sometimes females that aren’t even that dope, to put it simply, might get a little bit more fanfare and attention at a showcase or something just because they are something different. People are always looking for something different.
Any personal examples of that you’d care to share?
I started spitting in the 90s so this is when everybody was looking for the female version of Eminem. Literally. [Laughs] It wasn’t even a secret. That’s what A&R’s were on the hunt for.
As a result, you get a lot of attention for what I think is the wrong reasons. But when things progress, it becomes harder, because when you get taken to the table at label meetings or what have you, people will straight up say—and this isn’t to my face but other people telling me, you know—“I just don’t feel female emcees.” Some don’t find anything problematic with that statement.
So, some places you go, people are closed-minded, but other places, you have an element of surprise that benefits you.
It’s really shocking to me to hear people say they don’t really feel female emcees because it’s kind of like saying, to pick something random, “I don’t feel Asian bass players.” It’s like what does the ethnicity, gender, etc have to anything to do with what you’re doing skill level-wise? So to me, that is really shocking, but it’s not shocking in Hip Hop. My gender doesn’t have anything to do with my God-given talent and all that, but to the world it does.
Does the word ‘femcee’ need to die forever?
People have used that word as a compliment to me, but I have never liked it. I know the intention of the phrase, so I don’t take offense, but it isn’t a term I would prefer.
I never even thought about what it was like to be a woman in Hip Hop until people started asking me in interviews, which I’m appreciative of. I don’t say that in a bad way. Since I was born a woman, it wasn’t something that I thought about until people made me think about it.
Switching gears, how did you get started?
I guess it depends on when you start counting. [Laughs] As somebody who rapped, just as a kid, it was just because my brother brought home NWA, Public Enemy, LL Cool J, Black Sheep and I started listening to it. I got into the scene in the Golden Era in terms of being a listener, and I’ve been spitting since I was a kid.
I didn’t think anything of it then because I was so young. I was under the age of 10, so you don’t think about anything beyond mimicking what you’re listening to. Then as I got older, I moved out of the house when I was 15, I got kicked out, and at that point, I just found that Hip Hop and the people that participated in it, became my family.
People that I lived with or did music with were writing, producing, dancing, you name it. It was all very holistic in a sense that we did everything together. It was just one big culture and lifestyle. I was a kid and on my own, so Hip Hop really saved me in a lot of ways from getting into some other dirt. It was my focus as a homeless teenager and it became something that was a driving force behind everything I did.
What came next?
The minute I graduated from university, I moved to New York to pursue music full time, and did nothing else for almost 10 years. I just moved back to Toronto, so as you can see, there have been different stages of my relationship with Hip Hop, but it’s always been something that was as natural as breathing for me.
What were some of your goals like when you first got started?
My goal was never anything beyond, I guess, to be respected by my peers, the people that I respect and the people that I grew up listening to, and to make a living doing it. Those were my goal and I’ve accomplished them. It’s never been about making a million bucks or being famous or whatever, and I’m sure if those were my goals, I would be doing that, you know what I’m saying. [Laughs]
Care to talk about what it’s like being a Hip Hop head in Toronto these days?
If I was to talk to you about the Toronto Hip Hop scene, it would be like from 15 years ago and things have really changed. [Laughs]
I moved to NYC in 2005, and when I left, Drake was not even a twinkle in Toronto’s eye. Nobody knew Drake except for his friends and people that watched Degrassi. When I came back, Toronto was a whole different city, and Drake has had a big influence and a big role to play in that. I don’t feel like I can speak on the current climate in Toronto, because it’s still new to me.
The old scene was very pure in the sense that back in the day, people did it because they loved to do it. At the time, there wasn’t much money in it. When you got together to do a show, often times you’d see all the elements represented, which I have found that as Hip Hop matures, that happens less and less.
Then, I moved to New York, which is like a money making machine. It’s a whole different scene, and I love them both for different reasons.
What are some differences you’ve experienced between New York and Toronto, in terms of the local music scenes?
One thing I will say is that we have a reputation for being screw-faced in Toronto. Meaning, the crowds will boo you if they don’t like you. They are very hard on you and they are not easy to win over. Those were the crowds I grew up having to perform in front of, so when I went to New York, I actually found it to a lot easier to perform for New York Hip Hop heads. I found it so much easier, because they give love if you sound dope. New York is love if you sound dope.
Toronto is like they don’t want to like you, so you have to really convince them to like you. It was just a beautiful thing for me to go somewhere where if you’re lyrical and have content, and you’re dope, people will show you love no matter what, especially being raised in a city where everyone is screw-faced. New York to me was almost a cakewalk when it came to audiences compared to what I was used to.
How did you connect with MoSS? What is it like working together with one producer?
MoSS, MoSS, MoSS. [Laughs] We both define our relationship as love/hate because we both are really passionate about what we do. We’re both perfectionists and we care so much.
How we met is actually a cool story. Torae was on the road with Marco Polo, doing a tour in Canada, and MoSS was on the road with some other producers as well. They were doing something similar to Beat Society at the time.
I was flown in from NYC just to do a one-off in this small prairie city called Winnipeg and I had never met Moss before but everyone kept telling me, “yo, you need to work with MoSS.” I think the only reason I said that is because we both are Canadian. [Laughs]
I’m one of those people that has so much pride, that I don’t want to work with someone unless they want to work for me. Even if I knew you and I have your number in my phone, I’m not the type to hit you up first to work together. So at the show in Winnipeg, we were building a little bit and MoSS is a big Hip Hop head, so he actually had all of my music when I met him, which was really cool. After the show, and I’ll never forget it, he came up to me, super excited and said that he could picture a whole album in his head. A couple months later, he called me, like “Are you ready to do this?” At the time, we were acquaintances at best so it was interesting giving this album all we had. We gave it three years and really put all of our eggs in one basket.
After At Last, there were a lot of things that happened that were on my bucket list, such as being featured in The Source Magazine and having DJ Premier say that the album was one of his favorites of 2010. After that, I felt like the album had taken so much out of me, that I took a step back. A big part of me was like, okay, I did what I needed to do. I don’t have to convince people I’m dope anymore. I think they know. [Laughs]
How did MoSS help you to perfect your sound?
He really identified and created a sound for me sonically. Before what was happening is everyone knew I could spit, but my sound, my brand, was all over the place. Working with MoSS helped me to solidify my sound and I fit in perfectly with his production. There was something cohesive in what we had together, that people hadn’t seen before with me. Whether it’s flows or content, MoSS brings stuff out of me that no other producer brings out of me. It really speaks to my soul, and it was all God to me, from how we met to him being the one that wasn’t to throw down, and so on.
What do you hope people take away from your music?
That question I would have answered completely different 10 years ago. [Laughs] I think that truth speaks to everyone’s spirit the same way. I think we, as humans, have different parts to us. We have our intellect, we have our emotions, we have our physical, and I think we all have a spirit. I would like my music to resonate in the deepest part of a human.
I do think that music is the language of our spirit, the language of our souls. So the kind of stuff I write now, which is also why I don’t write as frequently anymore, I want it to come from the deepest part of me and I want it to touch the deepest part of my listener. I want to touch them in a way where it’s like they are recognizing the truth in me because it’s in them too.
What would you like to happen next in your career?
I think at this point, everything is the icing on the cake. Everything is a bonus.
Often times in the music industry, which is different than just being a musician, people feel entitled or bitter or they feel competitive. There’s just something really freeing about creating because it’s your language and its in you to do so. Everything that comes out of that, including opportunities, is all a bonus. That’s where I am now and I wasn’t there before, so its a really beautiful feeling.
Photo by Jason Rodriguez