The Toronto-based producer who claims to have helped craft The Weeknd’s early hits steps into the spotlight with a stellar five-track EP.
Who: Nova Scotia native Jeremy Rose is a producer and songwriter who must be heard. At just 24, the now Toronto-based talent also known as Zodiac makes incredibly mature, moving and unique beats and electronic songs. He’s spent the last decade picking up and perfecting skills that put him, in my opinion, in a league with forward-thinking originals like Burial, SBTRKT and Flying Lotus.
“I spent a lot of time listening to producers,” writes Rose in an email while discussing his musical education. “There was a lot of Nine Inch Nails in there, Aphex Twin, and Squarepusher. I found it really interesting that you could be one person and basically craft soundscapes that no one had heard before. I knew all of these people were using samplers and the like. I needed to do that. I tried to get into bands, but I’m not a people person and can’t play any instruments.”
What: Rose broke out as a producer of experimental hip-hop and R&B in 2011. The original versions of the first three songs made public by The Weeknd—“What You Need,” “Loft Music,” and “The Morning”—were all allegedly produced by him. By the time they were released on The Weeknd’s career-making House Of Balloons mixtape though, Rose’s name had disappeared from the credits. This story has been well documented in stories by VICE and Pitchfork.
Rose’s adventurous approach and ear for both darkness and light has also led to Zodiac productions for the likes of Toronto’s Talwst and Bay Area hip-hop act The Jealous Guys. Between all of these projects alone, Rose has already carved a new, musically introspective path in contemporary R&B and hip-hop.
“I have no clue how music is supposed to be written,” Rose admits. “I’ve slowly been trying to learn how to compose proper songs with structure and dynamics. As time goes on, I think my music will take on more complexity in that way.”
Rose’s ears and instinct have served him well. He’s managed to work on music full-time—no day job required, thank you very much—for the past two years, with a few solo Zodiac joints hinting at what was to come.
Now, following a year of working away on a cheap laptop, Rose has given us Zodiac’s gorgeous, five-track debut. Released digitally via Jacques Greene’s Vase label this past Monday (with vinyl to follow on October 8), the self-titled EP moves fluidly between instrumental hip-hop, electronic soul, and anthemic synth stabs. Regardless of tempo, each song is meticulously constructed and deeply textured. Rose’s music is all about ambiance and detail—not surprising given that he worked as a video editor while in his teens.
“I’ve always driven myself crazy with the details,” he says. “That fractal attention to detail is really hard to control, and I’m often finding myself taking too long to make something. I never feel like something is complete, and feel absolutely awkward when I show it to people. It’s balancing that with the simplistic attitude of what I’m trying to convey that’s my biggest challenge, and something I’m constantly trying to perfect.”
Rose samples, constructs and deconstructs in his work, but whatever his sound sources, the man’s musicality stands out. The EP shines from the opening strains of crazy good, heavily chopped instrumental “GirlGirlGirl,” revisits dark R&B with “So Soon We Change,” and closes with brooding, slow house stormer “138.” But it’s Zodiac’s collaboration with Chicago soul singer Jesse Boykins III that has nabbed immediate attention. Their single “Come” has garnered more than 50,000 plays on Soundcloud alone this past month.
Why: It seems The Fader nailed it when they pronounced Zodiac one of the “top 5 producers who will change the sound of rap in 2012” in their December 2011 issue.
Since, Rose has been featured in a variety of blogs and on influential sites including XLR8R, got play on Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide program, and has received lots of love from Britain’s influential FACT mag. CBC Music also featured an extended interview with him this past April.
But it’s the news that Grammy Award-winning producer Paul Epworth (Adele, Bloc Party, Florence and The Machine) recently signed Rose to a writing deal with his new Wolf Tone imprint that especially excites. Epworth, who has described Zodiac’s music as “forward thinking” and “quite unlike anything else,” contracted Rose to create 16 tracks. It’s reported the two will work closely together.
“It feels really good!” exclaims Rose of his new boss’ confidence in him. “It’s also really scary, but that’s my own insecurity I think. There’s a specific project he wants to work on with me, but at the same time he might get me involved in some other things as well. We’ll see how it goes.”
What’s Next: Rose heads to London to begin work with Epworth next month. In an interview with LiveForTheFunk, he also hints at working on a few tentative hip-hop projects that can’t yet be detailed.
A Zodiac live show must also be developed. Although Rose has performed live twice—including at a CMW showcase played alongside his pals in BadBadNotGood last March—he was unsatisfied with the results.
“The live thing isn’t going to happen for a while,” states Rose. “I want to make sure what I play live is going to excite whoever has to listen to it. Other than that, I just want to learn new things and try to be a better musician, and make better music.”