"At Last" brings Eternia into the spotlight
Not only is it tough to make a significant noise as an underground artist in the United States, but when you add in the fact that the artist is Canadian, and a woman who has chosen to do music in arguably the most sexist genre – hip-hop – the odds of getting your name known are reduced even more.
So, to say that Ontario native Eternia has fought against all odds to become a well-respected hip-hop artist without turning tricks in her music doesn't exactly encapsulate her rise to relevance.
Fueled by a true artistic passion, and a very solid 2010 release with producer MoSS called "At Last" on well-known Fat Beats Records, Eternia seemed to come out of nowhere to those that turned a deaf ear to women in hip-hop or didn't scratch much beyond the upper level of the underground.
"At Last" received favorable ratings from several important websites with HipHopDX.com, DJBooth.net and PotholesInMyBlog.com giving the album a 3 ½ out of 5. Popular magazine and website Urb upped the ante by giving the album a rating of 4 out of 5.
Maybe the most flattering rating was given by the legendary tastemaker website Okayplayer.com, which gave "At Last" an 87 out of a possible 100 points. The extremely knowledgeable blogger Dart Adams, of Bloggerhouse.net, who seemingly knows everything about ladies in hip-hop, also gave the album his approval and issued a decree that everyone should buy "At Last."
Not only do the writers approve of Eternia, but some of the people who shaped the sound of hip-hop have co-signed her. DJ Premier, one of the faces that arguably belongs on the hip-hop version of Mount Rushmore, placed "At Last" as No. 17 of his top 25 albums of 2010 and has been known to say kind things about the emcee.
It has been over a year since "At Last" was released but Eternia is still buzzing from the buzz.
"It feels surreal. It was never an expectation and so when it happened, I think I'm supposed to be celebrating or making some sort of note of this occasion. But sometimes I just keep it moving and I'm the last to know. Like oftentimes, co-signs or things will happen and I'm not even aware. I'm still kind of like a little bit in shock, but not really as aware of how the album is received as everyone else is.
"Which, in turn, kind of translates to when I'm at a show and people know who I am, I'm kind of surprised. Like, I'm like really? How? Because we still don't have this huge marketing team. It still is literally Eternia and Sav doing 90 percent of the promo work. So, it's like it's still surprising when people even know about it and then I realize that a lot of people do."
Even though the buzz has been great and sustained, with BET even catching up with Eternia for one of their "Follow Friday" segments (where they go to an artist's neighborhood to follow them around for a while), getting a chance to appear on a mainstream pop culture television station wasn't her motivation.
"MoSS and I had a couple really specific goals when it came to recording the record and we achieved those goals. And one of them was, literally, we're not making an album to please everybody. But we are making an album that we want the peers to respect and we want to get the industry talking about it. And I think that we really achieved that and so it's cool to see a very specific goal met."
With those achievements met, Eternia confirms that there is an added amount of pressure going into a new project.
"Yes. The answer is a huge caps locked with exclamation marks 'YES!!' It's funny, 'cause like, really, music should be made in freedom. Any decision you do should be done in freedom, not just making music, anything you do, even if it's 'I'm going to meet my friend for lunch,' should be done in freedom. But now, it's like I'm kind of at a stalemate when it comes to recording the next project, if and when I do and I probably will. Because it feels like it's not done in freedom.
"Like now it feels like there's all these expectations attached. And, the MoSS record was done in freedom. The reason why people think it's so good and I think it's good, is because for the longest time nobody even cared that we were making the record. Like we were just doing it for ourselves and it was kind of sneak attack, you know? Like, we did it for ourselves, we shopped it after it was done, and then you know hit the world with it and everyone was surprised.
"Now it's different. It's like there's this expectation. It's like if you're in a relationship and like at first it's all fun and free and then all of a sudden it's like, 'Why didn't you call me?' That's how it feels in the industry now. It's like the industry's like, 'Why aren't you making music, and when's the next song?' I'm like dude, there should be no expectations. I do this in freedom, when I want to."
However, the emcee does find herself staying busy with songwriting when the mood and time is right for her creative spirit.
"I'm writing when I am possessed to write, like when I feel like writing. I'm doing collabs, so I do keep busy creating even if it's not for my own record. I find collabs to be very no pressure. Like I was writing to a track that has Planet Asia on it yesterday, which is really cool and exciting. Collabs keep me busy and keep me like refining my craft and keep me hungry but at the same time there's no pressure because it's not a new Eternia album. So, I'm doing that. I am recording some solo stuff and I'm working on it, but it would almost be like pre-album scratch ideas brainstorming. There's a couple of producers that I want to do full-album projects with and those will just have to wait because everyone's really busy. So, those are kind of on deck in the back of my mind.
"At the same time, I'm really weird when it comes to creating. It's almost like I just want the stars to align. Like I just want everything to feel right, and be right, and be free, and be no pressure. If I feel the least amount of resistance from whoever I'm like doing, say, a record with, I'm like this ain't supposed to happen. Because to me the energy has to be right, and when it is right it can happen in a week. Like straight up, when the vibe and the energy is right you can bang out a record in a week or two. So, I'm in no rush but I don't want to force it and the minute it feels like it's being forced I'm like this music sucks. Like, straight up, the minute I feel like it's being forced I'm like, this isn't even good music. But yeah, it's frustrating for people like my business partner for sure who knows the importance of the business side of you know, doing a new album."
And in another forthcoming moment, Eternia reveals that there could even be another project on the horizon with production from MoSS and Apathy.
"I don't know if this is a secret or not, I collected hundreds of beats at the beginning of this year – or accurately put, Sav collected – Sav collected hundreds of beats for me at the beginning of this year in order for me to drop a project that was supposed to be kind of like original content, but it wouldn't be an album, it'd be like a free promo thing. And you know, all these beats were great, but MoSS gave me like eight beats or something, which is cool.
"And, I can tell you that pretty much other than Apathy, other than Apathy's production, the only people that I've been writing to for my own solo stuff in the last six to eight months is MoSS. Like, I pretty much almost have an EP done of MoSS tracks just based on the beats he gave me. I don't know what's going to happen with that, like they're not done, they're unfinished, but it's like the go-to. It's like I almost feel like I'm spoiled now and I can't write on anybody else's stuff and that's a good or bad thing depending on how you look at it."
Fans of Eternia would most likely lean towards her dependence on MoSS' production being a good thing after what they accomplished with "At Last."
Whether 2011 sees a new Eternia project isn't as significant as the lasting power of her 2010 album and the fact that she is working on new music, even if she's not 100 percent willing to commit to a timeline for a new release.
What's even more important than all of that is the skill with which she manipulates words and rhyme schemes to create positive music and a role model not just for little girls, but aspiring emcees worldwide.
Check out her "Follow Friday" that was shown on BET earlier this summer, filmed in her now-hometown of Astoria, Queens, here.
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