By David Kenney
Like fellow Canadian and former teeny-bopper Alanis Morrissette, rapper Ricky J is going to the mall. Not to shop, not to hang but to perform for teens and mall-walkers alike.
Playing Southcentre Mall, Wed., March 28, the 23-year-old Montreal pop singer has invaded radio with the ’70s bouncy single "No Means No." Still, the Montreal native is taking his mall appearances in stride.
"There’s not much preparation for a mall tour," says Ricky J. "I get prepared two minutes before [the show.]"
After six years of MCing in clubs, Ricky J is supporting his debut album, Lose Control. The record is an easily digested teen-bop sandwich, with a layer of funk and huge patties of bad-boy cheese. In other words, he’s oh-too hot, never too cold. "No Means No" is just the template on a album filled with come-ons every 14-year-old can giggle to. After much delay, Canada has another Snow, minus the reggae.
"I’m one of these people holding onto the ball as tight as I can, crossing my t’s, dotting my i’s and hoping for the best," says Ricky J. "I’m just thankful that they’re [Warner Music] letting me do what I gotta do because there is no commercial rapper [with a] Will Smith/Puff Daddy image coming out of Canada."
Ricky J fits his niche nicely. Wearing Will Smith’s perma-grin and oozing Puffy’s wish-I-was-bad attitude, he adds the one missing element to the current Canadian pop scene–cheesy, white boy rap. Fans needn’t worry though; Ricky’s up to the challenge.
"There’s less of an atmosphere because there’s no lights, no effects or anything, but in a way it’s good because people see [I] can really do it raw," says Ricky J. "It may be ghetto in a way to do the mall thing… but you get the point across that OK, this guy’s for real."
Still, Ricky J has his critics. Some claim the rapper is a label creation and has all the credibility of a boy band. Ricky J shrugs this off.
"I found the label; the label didn’t find me," he says. "I’m not something that could be easily manufactured."
As for any misconstrued backlash with "No Means No," Ricky defends his easy-going attitude.
"This defines my personality when I’m in the clubs," says J. "Yeah, I get shot down so I’m poking fun at myself. You can look at things a thousand different ways. That was a mission, just to create something that’s nothing completely serious."