Rap music of late has become all about flashing your wealth and becoming a money-making juggernaut. In a world where it’s all about bravado, it is rare to see groups succeed and stick together through thick and thin. Planet Giza, friends since high school, are bringing back that unity once lost in hip-hop: not fighting for their own recognition, but elevating their music and their scene together.
Rami B, Tony Stone and DoomX hail from the Canadian province of Montréal and its underappreciated music scene. Canadian rap and R&B stars have come before, with Toronto home to the flourishing drill scene led by the likes of Pressa. Of course, there’s also the undeniable footprint of Drake, the biggest rap star in the world, and his OVO label imprint has brought stars (Roy Woods, PartyNextDoor) from the region to worldwide success. A couple of hours east though, Montréal’s music scene is “a bubble” full of driven underdogs trying to make it out and gain recognition elsewhere.
Tony Stone is the suave frontman of Planet Giza (with some production know-how too), whilst Rami B and DoomX take a more chilled backseat, producing the tracks and imparting their wisdom in a more covert way. Together, they’ve already broken expectations, garnering accolades such as being included on last year’s NME 100 list and Tony Stone being the first-ever Montréal star to rap on Sway In The Morning’s Five Fingers Of Death, a hip-hop institution that Stone said he was “over-prepared for” because he has “too many bars.”
NME meets Planet Giza in London, a city close to their hearts. Last year, they had their first-ever sold-out show at Peckham Audio, which saw their friend and 2022 Mercury Prize nominee Kojey Radical help them preview their track ‘Elevator’ to the unsuspecting audience.
This time, they’re in town to promote their highly-acclaimed second album, 2023’s ‘Ready When You Are’. It’s a record that utilises soul and jazz to create an idyllic experience whilst Tony Stone rap-sings about love, self-reliance and reflection, leaving out the endless braggadocio used by modern-day rap stars.
In our conversation, Planet Giza are coy and mild-mannered as they talk about their last album, detail the Montréal music scene and explain why being underdogs isn’t such a bad thing.
NME: Great to catch you whilst in town! What do you love about London and its music scene?
Tony Stone: “I feel like the UK music scene, when it comes to rap and R&B, is something very special here. I like it. US R&B definitely has more hip-hop influences and the UK’s has more house [elements] – you can feel that.”
DoomX: “It was the second [album we made] but it felt like the first. When we dropped the first one, ‘Added Sugar’ [in 2019], we were so young and just doing stuff and not really knowing what we were doing at the time. It felt like the first one because we’ve been working on it for a long time and strategically putting it together how we wanted it and moulding it. We weren’t making sounds just to make sounds.
“When we first started making the album, we wanted the album to sound like somebody was having a panic attack. That was the original idea because the name of the album was supposed to be ‘This Was Not Expected’. We wanted the soundscape of somebody that was having a good day, and then something fucked up happened, and then he felt like he was having anxiety.”
How did yours and Kojey Radical’s friendship start?
Tony Stone: “That’s our guy. He found us on YouTube, and sent us a message [about ‘When The Moving Stops’] like, ‘Yo, it’s fire.’ We’ve been locked in ever since. We’ve worked on plenty of songs. And then he came out at our last London show as a favour. I was like, ‘Can you come through, perform with us?’ and he was like, ‘Man, I wouldn’t miss it for the world.’”
What was it like working in your hometown on music that was made around the world?
DoomX: “I feel like when we’re in Montréal making music, it’s like we have this hunger for getting out of Montréal. We’re not even joking. There’s this energy in the room.”
When thinking about the Canadian rap scene, many think about Toronto and its drill and pop-rap scene. How does Montréal’s music scene compare?
Rami B: “I mean we don’t even compare to Toronto, to be honest with you.”
DoomX: “I feel, coming from Montréal, you have two choices; either you are in your own bubble and you create something unique to whatever’s going on outside or you fall into the masses and you follow whatever trend that’s going on. Not that [the trends are] not what we like. We like all kinds of music. It just was not what we were going for at the time so we just kept on doing what we felt was best for us.”
What’s unique about Montréal’s scene?
DoomX: “I feel there’s a big duality because you’ve got the French scene and the English scene and everybody’s trying to make it to a market that is made for us, but we’ve got to compete with bigger entities. It’s a mess, to be honest.”
Rami B: “I feel like the only big issue is I feel as far as Montréal, we don’t have a sound. Everyone’s doing their own thing. There’s no [cohesive sound] like New York, where even if they do drill music, they have their New York sound, or LA or whatever. We don’t have that yet in Montréal.”
DoomX: “You can find anything you’re looking for in Montréal but you really have to dig in.”
Has Drake and other Toronto rappers monopolised the Canadian music scene?
Rami B: “Drake is Drake. Even if he was from Montréal, it would be the same thing.”
DoomX: “If you put Drake in any city, he’s the biggest artist. Having Drake coming from Canada, it’s a good thing. People gotta understand that he worked hard to get to the position he is in for the longest. From 2008 until 2014, he was considered an underdog. It didn’t just come overnight.”
Do you believe hip-hop is all about ego and braggadocio?
Tony Stone: “We do acknowledge that [rap] is an egotistical thing and there is a competition aspect in it and, of course, we strive to be the best and make the best music we possibly can make. I think that [is where our ego is] because you can feel that we’re genuinely just trying to make the best music possible. We don’t have in our heads like, ‘Oh, we have to be better than someone else.’ We just want to be the best version of ourselves.”
Is Canada the land of musical underdogs right now?
Rami B: “Yeah, we always feel like underdogs because it keeps us making more music every time. I don’t know if we’re actually underdogs or not. Honestly, it’s not like we care but, it’s just the best mindset to make the best music. We don’t really care about being seen as underdogs or not. It is what it is.”
How do you feel now you’re garnering worldwide recognition, including being an NME 100 alum?
Rami B: “It feels nice. We don’t get that much media coverage in Montréal that much, so to get it outside of Montréal, it’s cool for the ego. We’re definitely grateful. Also, it just proves that we can compete with anyone in the world too, not just our own bubble in Montréal.”
DoomX: “I feel it shows that we’re on the right path, we’re doing the right thing, and we just gotta keep going and keep our focus soon.”
What’s your mission when making music?
Tony Stone: “To soundtrack other people’s lives, absolutely. One of the best compliments we get is when someone sends us a message like, ‘I was in high school when I was listening to this.’ I love that people appropriate a time of their lives to our music.”
Rami B: “Also, to be timeless.”
You’re all wearing a diamond ‘Q’ pendant – what does that mean?
DoomX: “That’s the Planet Giza creative hub logo for what we want to do on the side.”
Rami B: “It’s called Quiet Note.”
DoomX: “You see Kendrick [Lamar] has pgLang and Tyler, The Creator has Golf Wang, well, this is our version of it. It’s going to come to fruition soon. We’re all creative and want to do more things outside of making music, like throwing a party or merch. I was always on Photoshop and Illustrator trying stuff. We want to build something strong, like a community. I think we’re ready to put that to the test.”
Planet Giza’s new album ‘Ready When You Are’ is out now
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