Choclair Brings Canadian Hip-Hop On U.S. Tour

The unenviable task of representing Canada in the country that gave birth to hip-hop has fallen on the shoulders of a charming, bespectacled former day-care worker from Toronto who christened himself after a candy bar. By all accounts, Choclair is doing Canada proud.

Preceded by the single "Let's Ride," Choclair's debut album "Ice Cold" arrived in U.S. stores on March 14, generating glowing press notices. Now the rapper is taking his music to hip-hop fans south of the border on a bill with Mix Master Mike and Rahzel of The Roots.

"The tour's been real good so far. The crowds have been real receptive," Choclair told MTV News from a hotel in West Hollywood, adding that the gigs in Cleveland, Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee, and Santa Cruz were "over the top."

Considering most American hip-hop audiences are largely unfamiliar with rhymers from up north, Choclair was understandably intimidated by the prospect of performing in the U.S.

"You know, I

come down here, and some people might only know 'Flagrant' or '21 Years,'" the rapper explained, naming singles he released prior to getting signed. "They may have heard of 'Let's Ride.' But they're so open to my music... it's a good feeling."

"[There's] no getting away from people who look at me as a novelty," he added.

"People seem a little shocked that something like this is coming from Canada. But they're like, 'It's good music regardless, and I'm liking it.'"

Aside from Choclair's self-described "ill-sane lyrical skills," "Ice Cold" features guest shots from Gang Starr's Guru, Memphis Bleek, and Rahzel, with beats courtesy of acclaimed Toronto-based rappers-producers Saukates, Kardinal Offishall, Grassroots, and Solitair. The disc also contains only two samples.

After working it out for several years on the indie circuit, Choclair signed with Virgin Music Canada last year, becoming the first Canadian hip-hop artist to sign with a major label as well

as the first to receive a U.S. release (on Priority Records).

"Ice Cold" has also made rap history at home. It went gold (50,000 copies) 35 days after its November 2 release in Canada and debuted at number ten on the Canadian SoundScan chart, the highest ever debut for a Canadian hip-hop album. Choclair has also bagged three Juno Awards (the equivalent of three Grammys) over the last three years.

His recent success, though, isn't news for U.S. heads who've had their ears cocked to the underground hip-hop scene. Choclair was profiled in "The Source" magazine's infamous Unsigned Hype column in '97, and Gang Starr sampled him on the group's '98 single, "You Know My Steez." During a recent promotional trip of the States, he got props from one of hip-hop's hardest hit men at a club.

"Redman shook my hand and said, 'Yo, Choclair, I love your sh**, man! Your stuff's off the hook!'" Choclair said. "I was standing there freaking in my boots, but I tried to keep calm. These

artists that are so huge know who you are and respect what you do."

To check out what Choclair will do on the road with Mix Master Mike and Rahzel, here's where to find go:

  • 4/5 - Tempe, AZ @ Pompeii
  • 4/6 - Albuquerque, NM @ Sunshine Theater
  • 4/7 - Austin, TX @ Mercury Lounge
  • 4/8 - Houston, TX @ Astro-Arena
  • 4/11 - New Orleans, LA @ House Of Blues
  • 4/12 - Atlanta, GA @ Variety Playhouse
  • 4/13 - Carrboro, NC @ Cat's Cradle
  • 4/14 - Old Bridge, NJ @ Birch Hill
  • 4/15 - Brunswick, ME @ Bowdoin College
  • 4/16 - Kingston, RI @ URI
  • 4/17 - Durham, NH @ UNH
  • 4/18 - New York, NY @ Irving Plaza
  • 4/19 - Boston, MA @ Middle East
  • 4/20 - Worcester, MA @ Clark University
  • 4/22 - Hartford, CT @ Expo Center
  • 4/23 - Northampton, MA @ Pearl Street
  • 4/24 - Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club
  • 4/26 - Orono, ME @ University Of Maine
  • 4/27 - Winooski, VT @ Higher Ground
  • 4/29 - Purchase, NY @ SUNY Purchase
  • 4/30 - Manchester,

    NH @ New Hampshire College

  • 5/1 - Philadelphia, PA @ TLA