Reviews: Blake Carrington - Dare 2 Dream

Published in the September 2011 issue of Exclaim! and at exclaim.ca

By Anupa Mistry

Blake Carrington might be hip-hop’s first motivational speaker. You’d think it’s the eternally beautiful California sky talking ― he recently relocated from Toronto to Los Angeles ― but as Carrington speaks at length on recording, moving and lessons learned the hard way, you realize it’s his disposition that’s sunny. This charismatic optimism is the reason Carrington (who has been rapping seriously since 18) named his latest release Dare 2 Dream. Hosted by Power 106 FM radio/DJ crew L.A. Leakers, the 14-track mixtape is a patchwork of producer Ric Notes’ dreamy, synth-driven melodies tempered by old school drums. Rich Kidd-featuring single “Fresh(er Than The Rest)” mirrors Carrington’s Californian ambition; it’s breezy, sunset-hued production complements the playfully technical prowess of the two rappers. But it’s the expectant father’s honesty that makes Dare 2 Dream a promising listen ― from acknowledging and transcending parental legacy on “5 Months” to being a high school basketball team bench-rider on the demented bounce of “Kodak Moment” (featuring the Cool Kids’ Sir Michael Rocks). “I don’t have a problem showing the world when I’m low or when I’m happy, or that I’m bigger than my circumstances,” Carrington says. “Sometimes people stay in uncomfortable or bad situations because they don’t realize they can leave, and I want to tell them to go for their dreams despite the distractions.”

You and Chris Strikes have been working on a documentary to accompany the album. Tell me about that.
Part one of the Dare 2 Dream documentary takes place in Tokyo, when I was on tour with Big Boy from Power 106, Ray J and Iyaz. Chris Strikes and I wrote it together and we’re doing multiple parts for a web series. I want people to come with me on my journey ― to my meetings, when I’m in L.A., NYC, at my lowest points ― so they can appreciate the artistry more. It’s kind of, hopefully, like, documenting my rise.

Your name has been in Toronto rap circles for a while now. Why relocate to L.A.?
I’ve always said I wanted to go to L.A. and chase the dream, but something would always come up. A few years ago, I was ready to go but my nanny, my grandma, got cancer so I stayed to be near her. She died on the same day I was supposed to go and freestyle for Jay-Z, who was in town for a show. After that, I met Snoop Dogg in Toronto and told him I’d see him in L.A. at Rock The Bells and he was like, “Alright, bro.” I took a three-day bus from Buffalo, NY to L.A. The fare was $258 and all I had was $160 from selling my mixtapes, but I told the guy at the station that I do music and Rock The Bells was going on out there. When I got to L.A., I ended up backstage at Rock The Bells and saw Snoop and he couldn’t believe that I was there. It made me want to build and get exposure.

What’s surprised you most about the scene out there?
I didn’t know how accessible these people are. I’m building with these guys from Power 106, but also Snoop’s son. I just ran into Big Sean at LAX. It’s helped me realize that just trying to talk to somebody ― not being afraid to do that ― gets you a little further than where you are.

Do you find there’s more attention paid to hip-hop from Toronto and Canada now?
In a big way! Drake’s success has done so much because he’s doing it in a way that hasn’t been done. It’s always good to have somebody like that from your city. As an artist, I’m proud to see it and I use it as motivation.
(Independent)