by Jim Di Gioia

January 28, 2019

Sydanie’s 999 is deeply celebratory, popping with honesty, optimism, pride, and agency.

At some point as a teenager, I thought I struck upon a profound truth that had never occurred to anyone else when I scrawled “I Am A Product Of My Environment” in ballpoint pen across my canvas knapsack. Oh, what a philosopher I thought my white, cis male, Catholic-school educated, immigrant-raised ass was! I am a unique amalgamation of all the influences around me — and it would be years before I even considered swapping the singular pronoun for the plural “we” in that statement; to challenge my own privilege and recognize society’s influences on communities beyond my own.   

I get the feeling that if emcee Sydanie had seen me walking with that graffitied-up knapsack somewhere, she would have physically kicked my privileged ass back to the suburb from whence it came, in much the same way her 2018 record 999 has mentally whooped me. Sydanie’s formative environment is her neighbourhood around Jane and Finch in north Toronto. As she recently explained to The Globe & Mail, 999 is directly informed by Sydanie’s “emotional relationship to my neighbourhood, which includes my trauma, my fears and bad habits.” The result is a nine-track collection of sharply observed rhymes, wildly original flow, and piercing, synth-based production that subtly underlines Sydanie’s complex intersectionality. You’re going to instinctively want to dance to the likes of bangers “333” and “Error 404” the first time you hear them, but soon enough you’ll be compelled to stand still and cock an ear to catch all the complexities in Sydanie’s rapid-fire rhymes.

Even when facing fears, traumas, and her relationship with the place she calls home, 999 is deeply celebratory, popping with optimism, pride, and agency. It is a love letter and a rant rolled into one. Above all, though, 999 is a powerful declaration of identity and the degrees of diverse influences that go into shaping one’s own personal philosophy, character, and art.

Jim Di Gioia

Jim founded the music blog Quick Before It Melts in 2006 and was its principal writer until 2016, when its decade-long run ended 10 years to the day it started. DOMINIONATED is its spiritual successor. Jim currently serves as a Polaris Music Prize jurist and Prism Prize jurist.
Jim Di Gioia

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