AM: Against All Odds

By: Gulled Omar

In a diverse city like Toronto, the music and entertainment industry seems to be producing promising talent across the city that all have a story to tell.

Since Torontonians are known for being very multicultural, that also has an impact on the music industry. We have a variety of artists that come out of the city who differ in ethnicity, religion and skin color, but all share the same passion, music.

However, it could be argued that not all artists pursue music all for the same reason. Some may want the fame. ome may want the fortune and others may just want the money that comes along with making music.

Abdirauf Mohamed, better known as his stage name “AM” is a 21-year-old versatile underground hip hop, rap and r&b artist. The Toronto rapper got his stage name from combining the initials of his first and last name while turning it into an acronym for the term “All Me” to emphasize his passion for music and the direction he’s headed towards.

AM started developing a passion for music at the age of 17. He became serious about music after creating instrumentals, recording songs and writing down his thoughts.

By the age of 20, he was fixated on producing good music with good vibes. The kind of music that AM produces for his fans vary from soul, to a bit of trap, to some club music and street music.

Dominic “Dot” Okune, AM’s audio engineer and producer, praises AM’s work rate, dedication and passion when it comes to making music. “He could sing, rap, make beats, and flow perfect on almost every beat he attempts,” says Okune.

“His music with good vibes from club, to a bit of trap, emotional and calm music filled with emotions for his audience to gravitate towards which makes him a very versatile artist.”

Coming from Canada’s oldest and largest housing project, Regent Park, AM believes that his environment influenced his music and the type of sound he creates.

“I mean, times got pretty rough at times man. I went from being racially profiled by the cops, to having no stage or platform to do my thing on and growing up in community housing didn’t exactly make things easier for me. This is all authentic and something I share with my fans,” said AM.

In the past, Regent Park had a reputation of being a violent and corrupt neighbourhood that had no hope of changing.

People who were from that particular neighbourhood were sometimes looked down upon. Some people would be afraid to enter Regent Park due to the heavy police presence which caused issues and a level of discomfort for some of the residents.

In the late 80s and 90s, Regent Park was characterized by the war on drugs. Drugs and crimes increased resulting in an ongoing conflict between the residents of Regent Park and the 51 Division police department.  Many residents still view police as aggressors.

Residents in Regent Park continue to face economic hardships, racism and prejudices. According to the 2013 Statistics Canada, Regent Park is “one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Canada, with nearly 70 per cent of residents living below StatsCan’s low-income cut-off rate,”

AM’s music speaks on the issues faced by many inner-city youths which include systematic racism and police harassment to say the least.

“I know that I’m destined for this music thing regardless of where I come from or the obstacles ahead of me. I always ask myself is this a hobby or passion whenever I start to question my music career.” 

After numerous attempts to launch redevelopment plans in the 90s, Toronto’s City Council formally endorsed the blueprint for a new Regent Park in 2003. Demolition began in 2006 and the entire project should last approximately ten to 15 years.

With Regent Park Rappers Smoke Dawg & Puffy L’z currently opening for Drake’s ‘Boy Meets World Tour’ in Europe, this shows that talent does come out of Regent Park and no matter where you’re from, everything and anything is possible to achieve.

Being a Muslim rapper coming out of Toronto, AM stresses the importance of following his passion for music, but also allocating some time in his day to worship his religion and keeping a good balance between both aspects instead of prioritizing or focusing on one thing more than the other.

“At the end of the day, everyone is their own man and has their own relationship with God,” says AM, “I make time for the things that are important and to me. My religion and music are both very important aspects part of my life, it’s what keeps me motivated and keeps me going.”

AM’s visuals for his music is something he takes pride in because he believes visuals will captivate his fans and expand his target audience; as visuals is a part of what’s trending in the Toronto music industry.

His music visuals include new and innovate graphics, which are well thought out and scene setting depending on what the song is. His visuals are captivating because the production of the videos are done really well and it’s all creative visuals which haven’t been done by other artists coming out of Toronto.

Examples of some Toronto artists who have good visuals to go along with their music are Pressa Armani, Smoke Dawg, Puffy L’z, Archy, SAFE, Robin Banks and the list goes on and on.

For example, with Smoke Dawg and Puffy L’z visuals, they shoot their recent music videos overseas in London to be exact, and they have images of CN Tower and Toronto landmarks shown throughout the video, in contrast with images of Big Ben and the London Eye, to show where they are currently filming the music video.

He tries his best to stay relevant without hopping on other waves popular in Toronto’s music scene. AM stays away from mocking the common theme of having 30 masked up people in his video to make a statement.

AM’s audio engineer and producer “Dot”, is confident with AM’s progression, and says “the sky’s the limit for this kid as long as he continues to grind it out, hustle hard keep practicing his craft”.

Dot has been AM’s audio engineer and producer for almost a year and a half now, and wants to keep producing AM’s vocals.

“I personally enjoying working with AM man, it’s just his work rate, passion and consistency is never compromised or turned down. He’s always going full speed at things and doing them to the best of his ability,” said Dot.

Dot has been an audio engineer in Toronto for 14 years and says that AM is a “versatile artist, who keeps improving and always trying to do new things without discouraging himself”.

Okune believes that his best work with AM is on a single they worked on together titled ‘Bounce’, which was part of AM’s E.P he released on Sound Cloud in the summer of 2016.

“He’s going to go very far if he continues to just keep going hard, working on his craft, hustle hard and have plenty of sleepless nights because that’s when he gets locked in and produces great material,” added Okune.

Dreams to Reality run by Nattneil Mulugeta, is a local Toronto entertainment outlet created in 2015 is responsible for putting AM on 7-10 shows last year alone all across cities such as Winsor, Hamilton, Oshawa, including Toronto.

The purpose of Dreams to Reality is to showcase hot up and coming Mulugeta says that the biggest goal Dreams to Reality has planned is to land a big-name artist on the show, and have someone who performed for ‘DTR’, open up for that big artist.

“AM’s been there from the start man, it’s a family ting, I would love for AM to open up a show for the next big artist we land,” said Mulugeta. “It would sort of be a thank you from DTR to AM for all the hard work and effort he’s put in to help us and himself over recent years,” added Mulugeta.

Mulugeta, friend of AM since they were in grade 4/5, says the artists has the potential of achieving unimaginable heights.

“AM is someone who went from being just a friend, to a family member and a long-term friend. He puts all his hard work and effort whenever we call him for a show, and seeing his work rate and passion for music is going to take him very far in this music industry,” said Mulugeta.

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