We last spoke with Brett Klassen some five years ago documenting the young hip hop producer and emcee’s journey from Altona, Manitoba to Hamilton in 2011. He’d connect with the Living Rock Ministries and rally a collective of musicians to release a collection of songs he created. But over the last five years, Klassen developed more connections and focused on production to become Onglish. Still rooted in hip hop, Onglish explores house, R&B and ambient electronic music with a variety of guests lending themselves to the project. The result, Onglish’s Wav Pocket is officially released on Celestial Voodoo this weekend with a special party.
“I’m just a producer and a DJ these days — that’s how I started and when I couldn’t find enough people to be on my beats, I did them myself,” recalls Onglish. “I always just wanted to produce since I was in grade six. My brother got a production program for our computer and I played it like a video game. I just love producing.
“I’ve produced a couple different people like Mother Tareka, Kojo ‘Easy’ Damptey, Scribe and I’ve even deejayed for the Sorority for their New Year’s Eve party,” adds Onglish. “About March of 2018 I figured that I was switching lanes and focusing on production and that’s when I came up with the name Onglish. I had honed more of what I want my music to sound like and what I wanted to put out under this name. It sounded good and nobody else had the name.”
Onglish is definitely more musically adventurous, apt to combining more abstract sounds with traditional hip hop structures.
“I definitely am pulling from a lot of genres and influences,” says Onglish. “The album is even self–referential. There are two sides to it — the Wav side and the Pocket side. Every song on the Wav side samples from the Pocket side. It shows the broad view of what I do and yet they sound similar textural sounds. There’s a similar quality but they’re quite different. I use a lot of found sounds from things in my room and have crafted my own bank of sounds to use and I reference those in a house track or an R&B track. There are a lot of different genres but I do keep a consistent sound that way. I love remixing and imagining the same song in two different ways, you can see how different they are. It’s a reflection in the water like a wave and a lot of the songs on the second side are really danceable and I wanted the drums to be really in the pocket. That’s how the name came about.”
Reportedly, Onglish is ‘obsessed with the texture of sounds, he uses household items and filters found sounds to create instrumental atmospheres and soundscapes for vocalists.’. Ethereal sounds permeate the project, sounds ebb and flow on Wav Pocket with songs like “Texts” featuring Lex Leosis and Keysha Freshh (of The Sorority) adding a grime in the style of Cardi B to the mix, a soulful touch on “Move Together” featuring Shanika Maria, or a smooth jazz trip hop vibe on a track like “Radio Wav”.
The project spans genres with songs featuring rappers Lex Leosis and Keysha Freshh of the Sorority, and Scribe, house grooves with singer/songwriter Shanika Maria, lo–fi R&B with Earlybird (Vicky Wang), afro–house with Kojo ‘Easy’ Damptey and a hip hop/house/funk hybrid with fellow producer Thaddeus. Most of the performers reconvene to help Onglish celebrate the release of the album with live showcase of their own and then together with Onglish but the show begins with a more novel listening party and a Q & A session. If you’re into hip hop or dance and/or DJ culture, expect a danceable and educational experience.
“We’re doing a listening party to start so people can hear it and asking questions about it if they like,” says Onglish. “Why not play it twice? I don’t know what kind of questions people will ask but I’d like to be there so that they can. It’s a big night of dance music and at the end of the night, we have everybody performing the songs. Everyone except my friend Scribe whose wife is expecting so he can’t make it but it’ll be exciting to have everyone together.
“When I perform, I want people to dance, feel good and listen through and check out some of these artists that I really believe in,” adds Onglish. “All of these performers are so incredible and I’m proud to have them on my release and for the big release party. Mother Tareka will be coming to help out on the saxophone and I’ll have some visuals to add to the mix but I am a DJ. I’ll be spinning the songs for the people to sing over. If you’re familiar with other producers, I’ll be playing the beats like you’d be seeing a DJ in the club but it’ll be my stuff. People are definitely going to be listening to live music and dancing — that’s what I expect. Break dancers have really influenced this album and so I love doing sets for people that love dancing, people that like many different genres from jazz to funk, to hip hop, soul and ambient to be mixed together, that’s the people that I want. People that are open to a lot of different sounds.”
Onglish performs this Sunday November 3 at the Casbah with performances by Lex Leosis and Keysha Freshh, Shanika Maria, Kojo 'Easy' Damptey, Earlybird, Thaddeus, and Onglish. Show starts with a listening party at 6 pm with an early $5 cover, followed by live performances at 7:30 pm and advance tickets are $10 or $15 at the door. Click on onglish.bandcamp.com