From the daycare to the Canadian hip-hop throne

By Justin Lee

"He’s not like a typical rapper… [he’s] very down-to-earth," reassures a female voice on the intro to Choclair’s debut album, Ice Cold.

As I sit across from him in a trendy uptown martini bar, these words bear new meaning when describing the 24-year-old Scarborough, Ontario-bred mc. Both polite and patient, he comes across more like an elementary school teacher than what he really is: the first Canadian rap-artist to be signed to a major Canadian label (Virgin Music Canada). However, given his previous occupation as a daycare worker, this isn’t too hard to believe.

Choclair, whose real name is Kareem Blake, tries to keep his alter-ego separate from his everyday personality, but the two often conflict with one another, both on-stage and in everyday life.

"I make sure that everything that I usually deal with, that it’s Kareem dealing with it. [When Kareem] deals with things properly, results come better," explains Choclair, "but occasionally with that snip, [the two personalities] cross paths."

Whereas Choclair is the smooth, out-spoken and confident performer, Kareem Blake is the polite and fun-loving kind of guy.

Since his Juno Award-winning debut single "What It Takes" dropped in ’96, fans have anxiously awaited a full-length album from Choclair. After releasing a handful of singles, including the autobiographical "21 Years," he gained national recognition when he was featured on the 1998 Rascalz’s hit, "Northern Touch."

While some rap-artists choose to tell stories of the harsh realities of ghetto-urban living, Choclair wanted to create music that would "make people feel good" so when "people are going to the clubs, they [can] put [Ice Cold] in to get amped."

He prefers to talk about the lighter side of topics and is against issues that promote violence in any way.

"I had a lot of negative situations happen to me before, but from each one of those is what I did is just turned it around–make a negative into a positive," he emphasizes.

While many have argued the future of Canada’s hip-hop scene is riding on the success of Ice Cold, Choclair isn’t letting the pressure get to him.

"I know that it’s there but the main thing is that what I do is keep focused and keep doing what I was doing before," he insists.

So just how does Choclair define success?

"Success is one of [those] things where you walk down on the street, people are like ‘Choclair, I love your music.’ I think that’s it because with hard work, the money and the houses, the cars, the whatever–it will just come."

There is no doubt that Choclair will achieve that kind of success by sticking with that mentality. Like the hook off his underground single, "Flagrant" (whenever I move, eyes glued), heads will definitely watch Choclair’s every move.

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