With mixtape Black Sheep right around the corner, Toronto-based rapper Ramone is poised to take the world of hip-hop by storm. Writing and recording the entire mixtape in just under four weeks, Ramone blends his R&B roots with raw verses to produce something unique in the overcrowded Toronto music scene. Cutting through the noise, especially during a worldwide pandemic, isn’t easy, but Ramone’s newest project has a punch and passion that’s hard to ignore even in times like these.
Black Sheep though he may be, Ramone has quickly risen to musical prominence outside of his homebase Toronto by weaving together R&B samples and next-gen lyrics in a startlingly refreshing way. The mixtape’s cover itself best conveys the message contained in the verses: decked in gold chains, the artist bows his head and looks to the ground. A humble homage to the strings of past lives teased apart and woven together again through songs like “Dear Diary” and “Make My Way.”
The mixtape’s release comes at a difficult time for the music industry and the world at large. With quarantine and curfews shutting down major cities and the summer concert season all but finished, many artists have retreated from the limelight to wait out the storm. Yet the slowdown presents an opportunity for those with the hustle to exploit it. Instead of waiting on a better opportunity to present itself, Ramone made one himself, recording the entirety of Black Sheep from quarantine.
Yet making music comes with challenges of its own, no matter what’s happening in the outside world. The struggle to create, to breath life into a verse is primal to the work of artists like Ramone. That struggle stems from the artist’s world, both inside and out, and must be dealt with on its own terms. In Black Sheep, Ramone comes head to head with that struggle and overcomes, but the battle is not without its casualties.
That culture of respect, dignity, and survival can be found in every aural grain of Black Sheep, pulling the artist’s past into the present and driving headfirst it into your eardrums. Though the world may look bleak right now, Ramone’s work reminds us to look inside and realize that we can overcome. “Fear is lack of faith,” says Ramone. “I’m a spiritual being. I believe that if you are truly faithful in whatever you believe in, fear cannot exist in that space, just the idea of fear.”