NBS. No Bad Sound.
These three words sum up the philosophy of the place. “There’s no judgment here. It’s not a question of talent either,” assures Jai Nitai Lotus, artist and director of Studio NBS, part of the non-profit Chalet Kent.
Mostly from the neighborhood, young people go there for free to record their voices, learn software and techniques, then, often, escape for an hour and a half – or more – from a difficult, even dangerous, daily life.
Nitai – everyone calls him that – has been running the program for eight years. It was he who undertook the move to the youth center located at Martin-Luther-King Park, five years ago, when the building previously occupied by NBS, avenue de Courtrai, was threatening to collapse. It also made some changes to the initiative launched in 2007 by the Nomadic Massive collective.
Yama//Sato is one of the other pillars of NBS. The versatile artist who produced several Skiifall songs, including Yuteman Denis with Charlotte Cardin, says he would “probably be a person with problems” if he hadn’t known about the place.
“I started coming here to be a normal kid. At home, I felt like I was growing up too fast. […] At first, I rapped, but I’m an introvert. I found how I could express myself by learning production. » Although he hopes that his compositions continue to resonate with millions of people around the world, what Yama enjoys is teaching others what he learned at NBS. “To be honest, it’s the only thing that really makes me happy. »
You have to climb a few steps to enter the Côte-des-Neiges Youth Center. Then, go down a few to access the NBS premises. These are set up in a former changing room. A vestige of the bathroom, a urinal – painted gold to “make it fly” – is a reminder “that you can do a lot with a little,” Nitai points out.
The number of young people aged 11 to 18 who wish to benefit from NBS services is increasing year by year. The two-month waiting list was reduced to one with the addition of a second recording room and the hiring of mentors, Yama//Sato, DonPerry and Killjei, former “clients.” become artists capable of transmitting their knowledge.
So that everyone can express their emotions and creativity in the best possible setting, certain days of the week have specificities. So, Tuesdays are reserved for girls, “because sometimes, with the boys all sitting there, it’s a little difficult to open your heart and reveal your scriptures,” notes Marilia Beltrame, media and programs coordinator for Kent Cottage.
Aspiring producers meet on Mondays to share their beats and discuss, “because networking is essential if you want your music to spread,” assures Nitai. It is precisely because he builds relationships with various musicians he invites to the studio that NBS artists opened for the Alaclair Ensemble show last September at Club Soda.
The first time Jevonte Senior walked into Studio NBS, he was accompanying a friend who had booked a time slot. “He had finished recording and had 20 minutes left in his session. As a joke, I asked him if he wanted me to spit something. I was a little nervous, but I did it. Nitai told me to come back soon, and I haven’t stopped since. »
The man who raps under the name Snowside says he was “involved in bad things before he came to NBS regularly.” “Coming here, I spend less time outside doing nothing. I gained confidence and I wrote more. I also write at home, so I’m out less where it’s easy to get into trouble. […] It’s like a family here. I feel accepted and encouraged. Even if it’s your first time, we welcome you and try to get to know you. Coming here helped me grow as a person and as an artist,” mentions Snowside.
Skiifall’s Ting Tun Up has over three million streams on Spotify. It allowed him to cross the ocean to perform in front of a London crowd who knew every lyric, and those of his subsequent songs. This first success was created in one session at Studio NBS, although Skiifall had not set foot there for almost two years.
“Yama//Sato called me to take the place of someone who didn’t show up. And that day, we did Ting Tun Up. We shot the video two days later and released it on November 11, 2020. Since then, my whole life has changed,” says Skiifall in a telephone interview.
Before telling the rest, let’s go back in time a little. Shemar McKie first met Jai Nitai Lotus at Studio NBS when he was just 12 years old. Although he loved the experience, he didn’t return until six years later. In the meantime, he cultivated his talent at J2K (Jeunesse 2000), which offers services similar to those of NBS and which was closer to his home, in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce.
“When I came back in 2018, I played them the music I recorded at J2K and they liked it. Yama and I then did a three-song project that inspired us to continue doing what we wanted to do in life,” mentions Skiifall.
The artist still took a break of several months. It was at the end of this that he received the call from Yama which would change the trajectory of his life.
Certainly, the career of the Montrealer from the island of Saint-Vincent has taken off, but he does things at his own pace. “In the next two years, I collected lots of sounds and little moments from my life. I didn’t know what it was going to sound like when I was recording. Then, I chose seven songs that I really like, which talk about things I’ve experienced, beautiful moments and also more difficult moments. » The result was the powerful Woiiyoie vol. 2 – Intense City EP, released last May. It is on this microalbum that we find Yuteman Denis on which we hear Charlotte Cardin.
At the end of November, Skiifall released a video for the track Left The Trenches. He recorded this one a week after Ting Tun Up, in 2020, and kept it in reserve hoping to make a music video from it. Last June, he was one of three winners of a scholarship awarded by Moose Knuckles and the Prism Prize, administered by the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television, allowing him to realize his project.
The 22-year-old artist does not want to reveal his plans for the next year, although he has “a completely finished project”. “Right now I’m writing down all the questions I have, and then I’m going to answer those questions when I read them again. […] When I think of the young people who go to NBS and others, I know that the best way I can inspire them to pursue their dream is to keep going, because if I can do it, they can too,” philosopher Skiifall.
The year 2023 was particularly significant for Sadrac Jr. Acceus: he completed his first year as a mentor at Studio NBS and released Endworld, his first album under the name Killjei.
The 29-year-old artist has been active for almost 10 years. “When I was called Jei Bandit, I was more into experimentation. I released six or seven projects, and each one was different from the other. There were things I loved in music that I hadn’t learned to do or that I didn’t have the skill to materialize,” he says.
By attending and working at Studio NBS, Killjei developed new skills and made connections with musicians that allowed him to realize his artistic vision. In addition to “filling up on energy” by meeting the young people who use its services. “By being here every week, I boosted my skills as if I had XP points and I used them to create my album,” he illustrates.
Launched in July, Endworld is an album with trap sounds of rare depth and great cohesion. Co-produced by Killjei, nimbustwokay, Wizurd and WYLN, the work is guided by the jazzy strings of Swede Oscar Johnson and the mournful keyboards of Londoner Zorc. The atmosphere continually evolves, going from dark to bright then taking the opposite path thanks to skillful rhythmic transitions. A host of artists with varying styles assist Killjei on the mic: Crypt999, Trei Ochi, Gxlden Child, Lewis Dice, Kevin Na$h, DO, the Outcast and then his NBS colleagues Yama//Sato and DonPerry, to name a few -there. The latter recently released the poignant microalbum Sans soleil.
Killjei has presented pieces from Endworld on stage since its release, but is working on putting together a small orchestra to enhance the live experience. He is also working on a new album titled Vertigo, which will feature production from Yama//Sato.
Sadrac was born in Quebec, but the moves followed quickly. “In first grade, I got kicked out of school. My mother sent me to my father in Florida and that is where I learned to speak, write and read in English. I came back for my second year and learned to read and write in French. I moved back to Florida in fourth grade,” Killjei said.
He did not return to Quebec until high school. It was when his family moved to Laval that he “connected to Montreal” and began to nurture his passion for music. Although he is bilingual, Killjei raps in English, as it is his “first language.” However, he does not rule out recording one day in French, but promises that it would be “a truly Montreal shit”.