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Black Sheep: New Mixtape From Toronto Rapper Ramone Is The Therapy You Need Right Now

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.

Dropping on June 20th, Black Sheep represents a huge step up in Ramone’s lyrical career. The title itself harkens back to Ramone’s embrace of outsider status in a city run by insiders; “I called this project Black Sheep because I feel like in the city of Toronto, I’m not your typical artist,” explains Ramone. “I stand alone with my sound, direction and how I live my life. I’ve never cared to be in the cliques of the Toronto music industry. I just care about the music.”

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.”  

When asked about his past, Ramone reveals another edge to Black Sheep: “My story is not just the traditional ‘I started from nothing, and now I’m here,’” the artist says. “It’s more technical for me. I grew up in a good home, with positive influences. However, I got kicked out at seventeen and have had to fend for myself and deal with the real world from a very young age. I made a lot of mistakes, but I was able to grow and become the man I am now. I use all of those life experiences and put it in my music so that anyone who has gone through similar hardships can relate.”

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.

For Ramone, creating his own opportunities in the face of hardship is nothing new. From the beginning, the artist simply worked with the materials in front of him to produce music. “When I was about 10 years old,” he recounts, “I’d seen artists that were my age at the time, on TV. I was in awe that you could be so young and make music. I got a yellow pages book with pencil crayons and started rapping over the beats that same day.” He hasn’t slowed down since.

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.

Speaking on struggle and success, Ramone keeps his message on point: “I don’t rap to fit in. I don’t rap to appropriate culture; I am the culture. A lot of artists are in the music game for the wrong reasons. I do this to survive and feed my family. I was raised off self respect and dignity. You will hear that a lot on this project.”

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.”

Black Sheep drops June 20th on all major streaming services. Find Ramone on Instagram and Twitter.

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