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Stepping on Hot Water with Toronto’s Very Own K. Forest [Interview]

Delving about the Canadian music scene, dream collaborations, tour dates and his next full-length project.

Once a prodigy in the making, Toronto R&B singer K. Forest is planning his return, hoping to mesmerise the summer period with his next anticipated project. As now an OG in the Toronto scene, Brampton raised artist has a lot more to offer and he reveals it all on this special occasion. We sat down via zoom call to discuss his upbringing, rise in the music industry, the Canadian music landscape and his upcoming album.

Firstly, how are you doing?

Good! I woke up not long ago [laugh]. Just finished the album, gearing up for the tour and the release is next week. Life has been very good to us.

Where are you right now in the world?

I’m in one of the greatest cities in the world; I’m in Toronto right now and it’s really nice (outside). I think today is supposed to be 20 degrees? It’s not the typical Canadian weather you get all year round, I’m grateful for that.

Personally, I’ve been listening to your music since a teenager but, for those who do not know you yet; who would you say is K. Forest to the world scene?

I believe that my music gives life but there's so much depth to what’s inside of Forest. Some may think that I’m mysterious, but from the outside, it’s very beautiful and something we all need in order to survive. So that’s how I look at myself and my music.

Yeah, it makes total sense. Where are you from?

From a lot of places, actually. I feel like I have an embodiment of every aspect of culture level, it’s weird. Growing up in Brampton, people would say it’s predominantly Indian, so I got a little of Indian flavour in me. I was born Jamaican, also, spent some time in the United States. I’m like a good padlocker of everything but yeah, I’m Jamaican and Canadian.

Tell us a little bit about your upbringing; how was it like as a Jamaican growing up in Canada?

I remember when my dad, specifically, had gone to England at a young age, he was living out there and then migrated here (Canada), it’s pretty much the same. A lot of family dinners, a lot of get-togethers that we had that I’d say happened every month or every two months. I used to kind of control the neighbourhood, hang out with my friends, get into trouble, try to get out of trouble and make music a lot of the time, in between a lot of things that were going on in my life. Yeah, I would say it was just like being a regular kid.

Sounds about right. So where does music fall in place into the storyline? Is it something you always had around you?

My uncle goes by Boozie, part of a rap group called True-Paz. He used to rap and was like the lead singer and writer of this group. He used to bring me around the studio at the time and the video shoots. There’s actually one specifically that’s out right now called Rude Boy and you can see me in it as well, like a little young K. Forest. So yeah, I was around during time and it was just kind of in and out, pulling up, seeing how they were doing, how they would rap, how they would formulate music, and see how they would be on set.

Fast forward, I went to England for a week or two, I think it was 2009. When I went there, I was staying in Brixton and my cousin at the time was learning how to use FL Studios and mixcraft, so he just kind of put me in to that and I just picked it up from there, and just carried on and developed my skills over time.

Sounds adventurous. When it comes to artists in general, there’s always that period of time where at first, they see music as a hobby and then, it develops into a pursuit in career. When was that moment for you?

It’s weird because that moment always lived in my head. So regardless if I was going to be on Drake’s level or not, I always accepted the fact that music is a part of me. It wasn’t like I had a realisation, but a milestone that I hit and solidified was the Travis Scott thing, when I had got on the album. This is because then I was like; “Oh dope! A superstar like Travis Scott listens to my music and wants to put out the album” and that right there gives me the extra green light. God already gave me the green light, but that gave me another green light and let me know I can compete on an industry level.

Speaking of Drake, I think 2017 was arguably when the Canadian music scene reached its peak for the first time and many listeners such as me became aware of your catalogue. I’m curious, where do you think the scene you partake in stands in terms of international reach today?

We’re still growing. I said it before to some of my friends, we just need more independent artists that take a different route. As opposed to always getting signed. When you look at New York, I could go to each Borough and say; “OK, Queens - 50 Cent. Go to Brooklyn, I could say Jay Z. I could go to Manhattan and say Russell Simmons”.

They have different leaderships in different Boroughs and I think it would be very nice to have something similar where you have somebody from Brandson step up, somebody from Toronto and everybody just have their own crowd in their own right. I think that would make a big difference, in my opinion.

I think with the music now, worldwide, everybody knows or has an idea of what the sound of Toronto is, which is mainly R&B, dark -ish, but I think we’re slowly growing into other genres like Hip-Hop and rap. Maybe in the next 10 years, it's not going to be overnight though.

Some may argue that Canada in terms of diversity is far more interesting than New York at the moment. I mean, on one side you have Night Lovell from Ottawa, Skifall representing Montreal, Killy in the Toronto streets, Mustafa the poet and many more. These examples alone sound completely different from one another.

The reason why I am asking this question is that, on top, there is Drake, who is a very important figure, but I don’t think any other artist could not also dominate or come to that level. Do you think that it is perhaps the lack of reach outside of the country that prevents the scene to pop out of their bubble?

No, it’s the lack of belief. Everything goes down to belief, right? Like you have to believe that you can do it. Like Drake for example, he believed that he could do it and he was in a time where nobody even wanted to take in Toronto artists at all. You have to believe man. Some people say it sounds cliché. It’s not the lack of resources because we have the internet, you can get connected to anyone in the world, you just need to really believe in yourself and put a hundred and fifty into it no matter what.

This brings us to your upcoming project, which you mentioned at the very beginning; what is something you want your supporters to know about this next one? Why is it important to come out now?

Well one, I know people have been waiting for a new project for a long time. Aside from that, I think it’s like the first time where, not to say that I held back before, but this is a time where I really let go of all of my inner demons and everything I’ve been facing and battling and chose not to address.

Now is the best time because I feel free mentally from certain relationships and things that held me back in the past, you know. I fully have clarity on certain things so I thought to myself; “Let me discuss this, put it down and see how people respond to it”. It’s something that I needed and also, in a weird way, me talking to God in this album.

Will it follow up with some tour dates?

Yes, absolutely! We have next Friday our first one at Long Book Hall in Toronto. After that, we head to Montreal, Vancouver. And then, God willing, we do the states next. We have New York and LA which are two places I missed going to for a very long time.

I’m sure you are very much aware of what is occurring around the world right now and as a Jamaican born yourself, there is an uproar when it comes to Caribbean and African music at the moment. If you had the opportunity to collaborate with anyone, who would it be?

I would say Free Vybz Kartel [laugh]. Yeah, I would love to work with Vybz man. Coming up, I nit-pick too much. I’m still stuck in ‘09. There’s just something about when these guys came out, I feel like nobody can top that, it just sounded different. I mean, cool. I need to tap in and if anyone has any suggestions, let me know. I definitely would like to look into it. Nobody is competing with Vybz Kartel for me, I’m not going to lie [laugh].

We’ll definitely keep you on the loop. Is there anything you would like to share with your supporters?

Yeah, stay close to family, love yourself, pray, talk to God, you know, he is always there for you and put it all whatever you're growing through towards him. He’ll take care of it, that’s all I have to say.

Actually, I think it would be important to state when you plan on performing in London.

Oh yeah, to be determined right now… You know, I love the city and I would like to go back to Brixton, they have the best jerk chicken.


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