C/O @nthenyoudie_

Hamilton-native Paulo Leon discusses the evolution of his music and where his drive to pursue his passion has led

By: Edwin Thomas, Contributor

Music has been a significant influence  throughout Paulo Leon’s life. Chilean folk music and poetry was the soundtrack of his childhood. His mother, Nancy, was a guitarist and singer for a Chilean folk band in Kitchener, while his father, Marco, was an avid hip-hop fan and introduced him to Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre and Gustavo Cerati, an Argentinian psychedelic singer-songwriter. 

In the eighth grade, Leon spent a lot of his time around his older brother, Gabriel and his brother’s friends. He admired their ability to freestyle rap with each other. Gabriel eventually took Leon under his wing and inspired Leon to make beats for his raps.

Leon taught himself FL studio using a combination of YouTube tutorials and experimentation. This do-it-yourself mentality became a core value he would carry forward in his music and into his label later on. His beats then were inspired by the music he listened to at the time — Donald Glover’s Because the Internet, Kanye West’s Yeezus, J. Cole’s Born Sinner and Coldplay’s X&Y

Around this time, his mother also pushed him to write and perform with the Hamilton Youth Poets. Paulo was initially hesitant to participate. He was always a shy kid but had an innate desire to perform. He was encouraged by his first slam poetry performance, which was well received by the audience. 

“People were responding to me, to what I was saying on stage,” said Leon. “People snapped and people yelled, ‘that was a bar’ in the crowd. That was really the moment when I was feeding off of it, I liked when people were enjoying my work.”

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His time with the Hamilton Youth Poets improved his confidence performing in public and taught him to feel more comfortable expressing his true self. 

In high school, Leon would also write poetry during independent study time in class. He found his creative flow was best during class. 

“The best part [of writing] for me is when the world feels like it’s going past you,” said Leon

Over time, he transitioned from writing poetry to writing rap songs. Leon started making beats for his raps, though he would not publish them initially.  His first songs were heavily influenced by Kanye’s stripped-down, soulful style. It was also during his time in high school where he released Glass Plates, his first single. He recalled being excited when people in his high school were listening to it. 

“That feeling still sticks – getting excited that people are tuning in,” said Leon.

“That feeling still sticks – getting excited that people are tuning in.”

paulo leon, musician

Leon released his first album, Casablanca, in 2017. Casablanca’s reflective storytelling coupled with powerful instrumentals made it a strong alternative hip-hop record. Leon was heavily inspired by Jay-Z’s discography and Kanye’s production style, seen on songs such as Calling it Quits

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Leon enrolled in McMaster University’s Humanities program for English and Cultural Studies in 2019 with plans to become an English teacher. He became more comfortable with singing in public by performing in the half-circle sing-alongs in the courtyard between Matthews Hall, Moulton Hall and Wallingford Hall. During first year, he was surrounded by musically-inclined peers who also helped propel his growth as a singer, encouraging him to try new things and step outside his comfort zone.

During the pandemic, Leon was not able to perform, losing his main source of income. He also struggled with the lack of opportunities to collaborate with other musicians due to COVID-19 restrictions

At this time, he was at a crossroads with what he wanted his future to look like. On one hand, he wanted to follow his passion and focus on his music career. On the other hand, he wanted to continue studying at McMaster because it was a more secure option for him. Ultimately, he chose to defer from McMaster and this was a pivotal moment in Leon’s life. 

“I decided to defer from McMaster to throw myself into my work and spend my time, money and energy into something I was passionate about,” said Leon. 

His decision to leave McMaster and pursue his passion was the inspiration behind his 2020 album, Partly Stabilized, Partly Curious

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A typical day for Leon now consists of working all day with fellow collaborators from the label, Whak and Mo, in the home studio of his parents’ house. Besides working on music, Paulo would also work with andthenyoudie’s releases. The consistency in Leon’s work life is a structure he emphasizes.

“Always keep creating,” said Leon. “I’ve suffered from writer’s block. You have to feel the block but also don’t be afraid to keep creating.” 

Drawing from his own life, he offered further advice to other future artists.

“Do not hesitate to get uncomfortable, be yourself,” said Leon. “And don’t hesitate to reach out to others around you for help or feedback. A lot of my time was spent not playing [music] for anybody, just because I was nervous.”

“Do not hesitate to get uncomfortable, be yourself. And don’t hesitate to reach out to others around you for help or feedback. A lot of my time was spent not playing [music] for anybody, just because I was nervous.”

paulo leon, musician

Leon is now working on his next album, Mr. Show Missed his Show, a reflective album of Leon’s decision to jump into music. Over the pandemic, he took a liking to folk and psychedelic rock, as well as getting into Tame Impala, The Beatles, Violent Femmes and Joy Division. The psychedelic aspect of Tame Impala’s music will be featured in his upcoming album, along with more singing and guitar production. He is looking forward to releasing and performing the album, which comes out in late September. In the meantime, his prior work can be found here.

By: Lauren O'Donnell

‘A Two Piece’ consists of two separate and distinct dance pieces choreographed, respectively, by Georgi DiRocco and Jake Poloz. It is a part of the Hamilton Fringe Festival, and it runs until Sunday, July 28th. ‘A Two Piece’ is being put on at The Westdale Cinema, recently renovated and looking snazzier than ever. 

As the audience filters into the theatre, the dancers are warming up. There are brief flashes of the performance that is to come, interspersed with stretches and laughter. With dance performances it can be easy to feel out of place and confused, but that was not the case with this show. Every movement spoke directly to the heart of summer romance, however fleeting. The performers channelled every emotion from lovesick, to happy, to heartbroken, to disinterested in every boy on every dating app. Truly, the most relatable content.

The stage remained bare except for a small bin of props. The focus remains permanently on the performers. They command the stage. There are brief moments of slam poetry interwoven within the choreography, connecting the movements to the words in another kind of duet. The poetry is good, but the true strength of the performance lies in the dance. 

Each of the two pieces carries a different tone, as well as dramatically different music choices. In other words, if one of the pieces is not your other thing, the other one probably will be. Different as they may be, however, there is a cohesion and unity to the show that makes it feel whole and fulfilling. 

I give this show a solid 2/2 pieces. When you’re compiling your list of Fringe plays to go see, make sure to add this one in. And then go ahead and add in every other Fringe show.

For more information, visit http://hamiltonfringe.ca/shows/a-two-piece/

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Tobi Abdul
Staff Reporter

I used to think that the only people who wrote poetry were old, dead, white guys and overly emotional females. But then in high school, I was feeling particularly angst ridden one day and decided to write my feelings on paper. It was from that moment that I realized just how cathartic poetry could be. It doesn't have to rhyme, have stanzas, or be written in iambic pentameter. All poetry has to do is contain feeling.

I became immersed in the poetry culture, often spending my nights staying up late watching old clips from 'Def Jam Poetry' on YouTube. After doing several open mics, I decided that I wanted to get into the competition aspect of spoken word known as “slam poetry”. A poetry slam is when poets perform on stage, one after the other, and get scored in an attempt to win cash and be crowned first place. The top performers proceed until the winner is crowned and handed their cash prize. Usually, random judges are selected from people in the audience and they pick a score to one decimal place between zero and ten.

A lot of cities, Toronto and Hamilton included, have poetry slam teams that will travel to different competitions and perform. Performing in front of people can be a scary experience, but it's easy to get into slamming if you want to try. Slams usually have a time limit of 3 minutes, with or without a small grace period, and then the judges will score you. The scores are based on both performance and content. And in the slam world, how you say something matters just as much as what you say.

If you’re looking to get involved with slam in your community, here are a few tips to get you started:

1. Try open mic

It's always nice to perform your pieces and get feedback from the audience without having the pressure of being scored in front of everyone. To me, there is nothing better than looking into the audience and seeing everyone engaging with your poems.

2. Watch poetry slams

Before performing for the first time, make sure you go and watch one so you know the format, how long it should be, what the content of people's poems are, etc. You will also get to watch some talented people slam, and both Hamilton Youth Poetry Slams and Toronto Poetry Slams have performers that are pretty well known. TPS has had Shane Koyczan, Denice Frohman, and other well-known poets perform.

3. Practice, practice, practice

The key to perfecting your poem is to practice. I perform in front of the mirror constantly, my friends and family can all probably recite my poems by heart, and I often get weird looks from people because I recite when I'm walking alone. Playing around with the actual performance aspect of your poem will allow you to figure out exactly how you want to say it. Spacing, inflections, stressing the right word and pauses are all very important.

4. Attend writing workshops

Everyone could use a chance to learn how to write better. Workshops are hosted by professionals and usually feature a chance to get to look over your latest work and a series of writing prompts that could be anywhere from 'write about your favourite childhood memory' to 'pretend dinosaurs still roamed the Earth, what would you say to them?'

5. Go for it!

It may be scary, but it's never going to be not scary. No matter how many times I perform, my knees still shake when I stand on stage and I still get the most intense butterflies in my stomach before I hit the stage, but the feeling after you perform is unparalleled.

Local slams:

Toronto Poetry Slam hosts slams every two weeks at The Drake Hotel on Queen Street. Doors open at 7 p.m., sign up is 7:30 sharp, and the show starts at 8 p.m. starting with open mic, then the first round of the competition, a performance by the featured poet, then the rest of the competition. The slams for December are on the 6th and the 22nd.

Also in December, TPS is hosting an all women slam on December 17th at Supermarket on Augusta Street where the winner will represent Toronto at the acclaimed Women of the World slam competition in March in Austin, TX.

Hamilton Youth Poetry Slam hosts a slam on the 3rd Tuesday of every month at The Lyric Theatre on King Street West, featuring a workshop at 6 p.m. and open mic/slam starting at 7 p.m.

McMaster also has a Creative Writing and Poetry club if you want feedback on some of your work.

Like they say in the slam world, the points aren't the point, the poetry is the point. You may not get the scores you want in your first slam, but putting yourself out there among friendly competition is the best way to improve your writing and get more comfortable performing in front of people. Good luck and write on.

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