We were in a black box underground as photographers materialized from the crowd to take their positions on top of the square speakers at the front of the room. Flashes from the cameras lit up his face as 11:11 took hold of the microphone.
They were trying to capture a defining moment, witnessed by those who make music their business and felt by those whose business it is to make music or just appreciate it.
11:11 was performing for the 10th anniversary celebration of The Come Up Show at Adelaide Hall. His fans, a room full of hip hop culture diehards, were eager to welcome him back after a year away from the stage. He released Home, one of the songs from his upcoming album Mood, two weeks earlier in mid-November and the audience already knew the lyrics. They were singing them along with him.
11:11 opened up the floodgates on digital media starting with the release of Home to his 200,000 followers on Vevo, then crossed platforms over to iTunes, Spotify and YouTube. The song marks a transition from his traditional R&B style to a more pop-influenced sound. Despite the change, he manages to keep his signature soul vocals, one that flows effortlessly to create a unique, contemporary vibe.
The release of Home signals a change for 11:11 after a decade in the music industry. It could very well be the kind of break that so many artists look for as a launching point in their careers. In the black box of a venue, in the moment, I can’t help but feel like this will be the moment that started it all for him. And although I hear him apologizing for the strain in his voice, the hoarseness doesn’t seem to matter at all. The audience looks beyond it, like I do, like he has already proven himself to the people who matter most to him.
During his days in Lawrence Heights as a producer, “making beats for rappers around the neighbourhood,” known as Jungle, he tells me, “we used to break into abandoned houses to set up computers, create music and record songs.” From his modest studio at the Lawrence Heights Community Centre, “after realizing my love for the craft,” as he puts it, “I ventured into singing hooks and began writing, and the rest is history,” said 11:11.
When I asked him how he felt about the show on Thursday night, he talked about the great turnout and how much he loved to perform his music in front of a live audience.
The new release will undoubtedly turn heads in the industry and has already resonated with fans, judging from the response to the new single during the live performance at The Come Up Show. “I remember releasing a record and only getting 200 plays maximum and waking up one day and seeing my music get 100,000 plays; that’s when I realized things changed,” confided 11:11.
His adventures in music eventually led him to Universal Studios in Los Angeles, California, yet, he still keeps in touch with some of the rappers from his old neighbourhood, like Top5 Psycho, Jigsaw, and Ice.
He shared one of his most memorable moments, the first time he flew out to LA to meet with his managers, which he said was one of the most important moments in his career and in his life. “Meeting them and being around the music and people changed everything,” he said. It “has inspired me to want to create more music, and better music for myself and for my fans. It has been one of the most motivating experiences thus far.”
The singer-songwriter also recorded his self-titled EP, 11:11, in LA in 2015 with songs like Westside and Wild Ting that contributed to his quintessential soul-trap sound. Wild Ting has a Jamaican style rockers reggae vibe flowing. The release of the album was around the time his fans started to take notice. Like me, they wonder out loud how much longer 11:11 will remain a secret.
He released another single before Home, called Good Love, and was featured on the Eric Bellinger album Eric B for President on a song called One of Dem.
He’s worked hard for the past year, putting focus on the upcoming album and took a hiatus from performing live. “This is the first full length album so I’m putting everything I have into this record. I’m itching to get back on the stage, so will be back there soon enough!” he wrote to me in a note.
Written by Dennis Smith and Tyler Craig, and produced by Mantra, Home is about expressing love, derived from a feeling of longing for familiarity and human interaction. The tittle, said 11:11, “refers to my experience while in LA for three months without my girlfriend. It is a tribute to the desire to come back home and spend time with the woman I love.”
The album, Mood, is set for release in the first quarter of 2018. 11:11 said, “it reflects the way I feel in my life at certain times, channeling the vast ups and downs in the rollercoaster we call life. More than anything, I want the album to be relatable, to strike up memories or channel what people are currently experiencing emotionally. It is a journey of the heart – and most of all, I’m hoping it will resonate.”
He added, “I want to create timeless music. I have this desire to create music that draws a certain mood, and leaves a lasting impression in the airspace it occupies. It resonates. There’s nothing better than ‘Mood’ music.”
Listen to the single Home from 11:11’s upcoming album Mood:
‘HOME’ – 11:11 | Vevo
‘HOME’ – 11:11 | Youtube
‘HOME’ – 11:11 | Spotify
‘HOME’ – 11:11 | iTunes
by Cherryl Bird – Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Twitter @ladycbird | Instagram @cherrylbird
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