Vendou Finds His Voice on Latest EP

Montreal rapper Vendou may be releasing his third EP in a year and a half, but Trèdou, the artist’s latest EP, might be the one where he found his voice.

“I think I’ve just put my finger on a voice that I can use that speaks to me and that I like,” the rapper says. “I was having, not difficulties, but I was looking for that sound. I think I’ve put the finger on it, and because I was doing it by myself, I was less shy to try things and to experiment.

That curiosity to try new things was spurred by the end of a tour supporting fellow Montreal rapper FouKi, a compatriot of Vendou’s in local rap collective La Fourmilière.  With a few months of looming idleness during the dead of winter, Vendou figured he needed to get up off the couch after a bit too much Red Dead Redemption following his first week back from touring.  Isolation proved to be a key ingredient though to get the rapper’s creative juices flowing, as setting up a small recording space within his bedroom allowed Vendou to take stock of life.

“I took that time to enjoy being by myself,” the rapper explains, “and it’s really about that, the EP.  The meaning is really like… appreciate where you are, appreciate where you were, appreciate the road between every step you go forward.  It’s really about being good with yourself, good in your body, good in your mind.”

On Trèdou, Vendou creates a silky flow that artfully fuses rapping and singing, much like his contemporaries FouKi and Mantisse of hip-hop sextet LaF.  Vendou is proud to admit the blending of styles from his partners in La Fourmilière. “I’m really open to people around me sharing and, not copying, but taking a bit and making it mine,” Vendou says.  “We all do that in La Fourmilière. I think it’s how we’ve grown through the years.”

As one of the founding members of the five-piece rap group L’Amalgame, it was at first an effort for Vendou to make the jump from contributing just a verse to fleshing out an entire song on his own.  After three solo EPs, Vendou is a lot surer now of how to distinguish his separate roles.

“I think I’m more free when I’m just Vendou, it’s really just me,” explains the rapper.  “It’s more like a role that you have to know where you stand in L’Amalgame. So, I know what’s my role in a song, and that’s what I’m gonna do to bring the song up, and if all members do it, we have a good song [laughs].”

When asked what attracts him to the EP format over an album, Vendou believes that the former provides a less stressful outlet to creative expression, where songs don’t necessarily need a common bond.  That said, the rapper is not shy to admit that he’s already in the nascent stages of crafting his debut solo album.

“For me, an album is more complete,” Vendou explains, “and you need to have musicians, and I really want to do an album with one producer.  Right now, I’m working with a lot of people around me. I’ve met that guy [laughs], so we’re gonna do an album together and we already have some demos.  An EP is more [about] finding yourself, finding what you want to do, what you want to have for sound.”

But the album is only in its infancy and far away in the future.  In the present, Vendou has material from his latest EP to mine for his set at OUMF, one where the rapper will have to reach out not only to fans, but to the many people simply passing by back-to-school festival’s base in the Quartier Latin.

“I think you have to be versatile,” says Vendou.  “OUMF is going to be 25 minutes and I’m used to doing 45 [minutes] or one hour, so it’s just gonna be like [smacks palms together] in your face.”  As the rapper further explains, “You have to just stand out, go see the people, ask them to sing with you.”

Despite plenty of experience in handling an audience, when it comes to the art of working the crowd Vendou is still a student soaking in knowledge, even from some of the modern masters in the field.

“I was at Childish Gambino’s show at Osheaga,” Vendou recounts, “and something he said [was] ‘put down your cell phones, this is not about you, this is not about me, this is about us.’  I was like ‘this is so real.’ That’s what a show is.”

Vendou plays OUMF (de Maisonneuve & St-Denis) Thursday, Sept. 5, 6:20 p.m., free.  See the complete programming here. To listen to Vendou's latest EP, Trèdou, check it out on Bandcamp.

Alex Viger-Collins is the host of Ashes to Ashes, your weekly dose of modern pop, every Tuesday at 8:00 PM EST.

Photo Credit: Marie-Emmanuelle Laurin