Notez is one of the most divisive figures in battle rap. The Toronto MC’s hood lyrics, in-battle theatrics and raspy patois energize live crowds while often offending online audiences. Take a look through the YouTube comments on any of his battles and you’ll find both derision and praise.
Notez too street for any URL cats -snwoodstock13
Trash!!! Notez fake ass is going to get bodied -EpicFreestyleKing
notez’ bars were so gutter, my speakers got stolen in the middle of his verse. -emceekinaze
First time I’ve heard Notez, hopefully it’ll be the last. -Jeremy Liu
But you can’t argue with his record: 13-2, with no losses since early 2011. True, most of his wins have been over unknowns, but he’s also beat some established up-and-comers like Yung Casper and Tycoon Tax.
We met up with Notez at his Teesdale housing project to get a sense of who he is outside of a rap battle.
We started by asking him about his first officially judged battle, against Blaze in KOTD:
“He deserved that win. I wouldn’t take anything away from him. I did that battle and then had some personal problems. I ended up doing some time and shit. While I was doing this time, I was in contact with [my cousin and fellow battler] Realiztic, asking him to keep my name relevant. During this time, Raw Blow issued an open challenge for money to anyone in KOTD. Me being in jail, I’m hungry, I’m writing, I’m trying to stay relevant.
I accepted from jail on a collect call. I told him when I get out, let’s do it.
So I get out and I call him and I say ‘yo, let’s battle’ and he said he’s starting BeastMODE Battle League and I would be welcome to start.
Instead of Raw Blow, I ended up battling Spook One, and I feel that we put on a classic. We went to overtime, we didn’t choke … for BeastMODE, that’s a classic. And they know that too, no matter how much they want to hate on Notez. That was the first battle they released from their first event. We were near the bottom of the card, like third or fourth on it. Out of their whole league, the very first battle they put out was me and Spook, making us the face of their league.
Then after that, I proceeded to give these guys Bulle, D Tha Suspect, Realiztic. People who came from my direct circle of friends. I felt we basically built their business. Me from Volume 1, Bulle was there Volume 2, Suspect started Volume 3. We were the battlers that people came to see. Without being cocky, I always keep it on the humble. But I know this, they know this. I guess we just had a little falling out and I distanced myself from them.
I’ve always seen BeastMODE as…
More as an extension of Prove Yourself. If you do well there you eventually end up in KOTD.
Well me, I look at it this way. I started in KOTD. If you trace my career, you’ll see, I had two battles in KOTD. My intention of going to BeastMODE was to battle Raw Blow because I’m a man of my word. That didn’t go down, but I started battling with BeastMODE. My intentions there were to battle for money and improve at the same time. I like to always put money on my battles.
Basically my goal was to make money off all these shit D-League guys and win. But they stopped bringing their money. BeastMODE feels like they have rights to me. No one has rights to me. I’m my own man. I helped build your business. Bulle helped put their business on. Between both leagues Bulle has a long resume.
How do you know Bulle? And is Realiztic your cousin? How does the Dirty 30z work?
This is a beautiful question, because it means I can clear some things up. Realiztic is not Dirty 30z. Bulle is not Dirty 30z. Suspect is not Dirty 30z. I am the only one out of my people that you see that is Dirty 30z. I’m from the Dirty 30z building and the other Dirty 30z people are the people who live around here. They are Teesdale. I know Bulle through mutual friends and we became close. He’s originally from the North Side of Regent Park.
What is the Dirty 30z?
Dirty 30z in the building, over there [pointing]. This is the hood. There’s four buildings. This is called ‘Bang ‘Em 40z’ that’s called ’10 Dynasty,’ that’s called ‘Ghost 20z’ and that’s called ‘Dirty 30z’ because it’s the dirtiest one. That’s basically the hood. Anyone who’s not born here or hasn’t been for more than 10 years, they’re not official. Not from me controlling it or nothing but from the people who’ve lived here and went through everything we’ve been through together.
I know Bulle through mutual friends. He’s my dog, but that has nothing to do with Teesdale. Him and Suspect are the Block Bangers. They are not from Teesdale, you know what I’m saying? If there was a problem to arise, and we handled it, me and Bulle, we handled it. But if you were to say Notez and Dirty 30z is coming, that’s a whooooole different set of people that no one has seen.
They’re not in the battle rap world?
They don’t come because they know that if they come bad things might happen, so they just chill out.
What goes on in this neighbourhood?
Everything’s cool now. People around here, they respect us. They know what’s up. Not too much internal problems. We keep it self-contained, you know? No one would come here for problems. As you see, there’s only the one car entrance here and the entrance where you walked in, so once you come in here for problems, you can’t leave. You get everybody from everywhere, you know what I’m saying?
Growing up here was fucked up. There was a lot of us. These buildings were all full. We were young and all coming from low-income housing area. All hustling for money, a lot of crazy fun times.
[Laughter] They can come find me anytime, I will be right here. If I’m not standing right here in this ball court, I’ll be in the staircase in one of these buildings. They can find me. They’re welcome to come face-to-face at an event. People are entitled to their opinion, but they don’t know me. They see me as a rapper. I look at KOTD as a bunch of rappers who are trying to be bad guys. That’s not me. I was a bad guy, I was doing a lot of bad shit, now I am a bad guy trying to rap to do good for myself. But when that conflicts with these guys who are rappers and who want to be bad guys it just doesn’t work. Know what I’m saying? It collides and shit.
Why do you battle?
We’ve always battled. Ever since we were little, hip hop’s been a part of our life – hip hop and basketball. Hip hop’s always been there. Mans be out there – there’s like 60 to 80 of us – we’re all young, everyone’s trying to get their stripes. Some guys are killers, some guys are rappers, some guys are hustlers. So we’ve always been battling. Clowning each other, making fun of each others’ shoes. Clowning me: ‘you’re the only white guy here’ shit like that. So basically I battle because I see a lot of people in these leagues. I want people to know where we come from, what we do, you know what I’m saying? There’s a lot of guys saying they do this and they do that, but I can tell they don’t really do that, and then when you confront them on it, they’re just quiet. I don’t lie in my raps. I give people as much of me … even though I think I’ve given a lot of information and talked about a lot of dirt and shit, I’ve still held back a lot obviously. I would never cross the line and expose things.
But I just want to rap, and let people know where we come from. Not everybody is the same. There’s certain guys that don’t do the white guys justice. And then people see a guy like me, how I talk, how I speak. That’s me. I’ve been that way since knee-high. I can’t change my voice. I just want people to understand where we come from. I can accept all types of people. I don’t know why they don’t accept me.
I think the most interesting thing about you in the battle rap universe is that you really are the only person like you, in a time where a lot of these rappers are using similar styles or similar concepts or even similar angles. How do you see yourself in that world?
I’m not just a rapper. I keep my hood with me everywhere. For me to change my style or to be something that I’m not would be a disrespect to the people who raised me – the older mans that showed me everything. That would be a big a disrespect because the people here would know. They would know: Notez is not this.
Have you heard me ever say how I get money in the Jag? No, cuz I don’t do that, right? I could give a fuck about what the battle world thinks. These are the people I came up with, this is my area, these are the people who mean the most to me, so their opinion matters.
Do they follow battle rap?
They follow Notez. Some of them like to watch Bulle battle sometimes too. They know a few guys. HFK slid through here a few times. Each guy has their own couple guys that they like and shit. A couple guys from here think StepEasy is hilarious and shit. But they mostly follow me for me and they don’t really care. They do support me a lot and I’m proud of that. I just want to make my hood proud and I think this is the best way I can do it legally, without getting in trouble. I’ve done all the trouble. I don’t want no more trouble.
Who would you want to battle out of anyone in the world?
Oh man, I don’t know.
Daylyt. Say Daylyt.
Yeah, I’ll battle Daylyt for his skimask cuz that’s my shit, ya know? I’d battle Daylyt. I’d love to battle a URL guy.
As long as I can get over there and show them. They might take me as: ‘This guy’s white’ but when they hear me and they see me, they’re gonna know. I’m the same as you guys. We can do an unlimited gun round [laughter].
Tell me about your day-to-day routine.
It varies every day. Lately I haven’t had time to sit in my hood and enjoy. Since I did good in my Casper battle a lot of people been calling me. I know people from everywhere. Say I go out to the West end to meet up with someone, I end up getting kidnapped and staying out there for like 3-4 days and shit. I go to meet one person and then there’s like 30 guys I haven’t seen in forever.
I try to wake up, wash my face everything. Do prayer.
Who are you praying to?
I pray to Allah. I’m Muslim. I realize that I need to be stronger. This is also one of the reasons I’ve been contemplating retiring. I know I’m not a legend or anything, but I do feel like battling conflicts with my religion.
Well, for one I drink when I go to events. I shouldn’t drink. I like to drink so I can be aware if anyone tries to fuck around. I get in that zone.
Also, this is the main reason I felt like retiring. I’m not lying in my raps. I really done this shit. So for me to claim I’m a Muslim, I don’t want to look like a hypocrite. You’re either good or you’re not.
So by me telling mans that I’ll shoot them … I look at it like this: I’ve been a Muslim for four and a half years. I’ve changed. I’ve made a lot of strides. I still have a long, long, long, long, beautiful way to go, I realize that. I need to better myself, but I’m not lying in my raps.
Like if I shot a man in the leg and then I come to a battle saying ‘yo I’m gonna shoot you in the leg’ that should double the sin, because I’ve committed the original sin, and not only have I not hidden it from everyone, I’ve exposed the sin on a national level.
On top of that, who knows about the people I coulda influenced by doing that? Some little white guy might be like me. Only white guy in the hood. ‘Oh Notez, he solves his problems by shooting people in the leg’ and then he goes and does that? Boom, done. The sin multiplies. So by me impressing all these people and bragging and boasting, I’m accumulating sins. In the end, I’ll be judged for my actions. I try to stay conscious and try to do me. I should try to be a better Muslim. In my heart I’m a Muslim first, but I’m a mandem…
Wait, who did you shoot in the leg?
Nooooo, no, no I can’t say that. That was an example … let’s say that was an example.
So you didn’t shoot a guy in the leg?
Nooooo, never. I’ve never held a gun in my life… [laughter]
Haaaa … he said sarcastically.
What did you go to jail for?
Oh, a lot of things … a lot of things. It started since I was young so, you know? But the last time was about 9-10 months. I got caught up in the wrong place, had drugs on me and shit … got raided and shit.
Hard drugs, you know. I was making some money and shit.
Yeah … and they found me with it. I coulda won but the lawyer fucked me. I shoulda beat that case. I guess it was because my actions before too. I got in trouble before.
For drugs too?
Yeah and they took a lot of money off me. They took 10 Gs off me. I went in there and I ended up actually beating the case but I had something else previous that I didn’t deal with so I ended up doing time for that.
What? Outstanding warrants?
Yeah. And I was upset cuz they took my 10 Gs and shit and I was like ‘fuck.’ And I went back to the same shit that I was doing … This was pre-Islamic era. I didn’t convert to Islam by being in jail or nothing. I was a conscious human, I knew I was doing a lot of bad. A lot of bad shit was happening. I’ve always believed in God. I just had to look. Islam to me is the truth.
What’s it like in jail?
It’s just fucking boring man. It’s all you for yourself. You go in there, you keep your mouth shut, you’re cool, nobody bothers you. I never had no problems. I got in one or two fights, but … you’re living there 9-10 months. I never went to the Pen. That’s two years or more.
Where were you?
Oh I was everywhere, man. I’ve been to the Don, the East, the West, Maplehurst, Penetang, all a dem. I don’t really have no problems. People don’t recognize me from KOTD, but I go there and they recognize me. ‘Yo, this guy’s the rapper!’ They call me ‘Teezdale’ when I go in jail. I got the hood on my back.
I wrote some of my best stuff in there. But it is kind of painful, you know? You’re just there to yourself. Sometimes they’ll lock you down for weeks at a time and you’re in a space with someone you don’t know. Little actions that a person do become annoying to you and shit. And you don’t know who you’re with – both people are dangerous in the cell. It’s all about testing your patience and your character as a man because they will try to break you. The best way to sustain through all that, I say is through God.
You got a real name? Or age?
Some highlights from Notez’s battle career include his first round against Yung Casper:
And a second round so good in BeastMODE that he gets a Mortal Kombat-style “Toasty!” at 5:39.