How a trio of friends from around the world found a common language in music in Toronto and got the attention of OVO.
Golden Boys is a Toronto-based trio from Regent Park, comprised of Strings, JP and Wolfgang. Their sound is dark and cheerful, electronic and hip-hop at once. The three met several years ago long before they decided to collaborate. Strings, who is the older brother of local phenomenon Mo-G, met his cousin Wolfgang in Africa during their youth. JP met his two fellow bandmates years later while growing up in Regent Park. “I used to go to Strings house in Regent Park every day since I was a kid, and I still do pretty much. I met him just on the street—probably at the Cage Court,” explains JP. “We built a strong bond, and even after I moved he’s still my oldest friend. Just from being at his house every day, I met all of his family, including Wolfgang, who is his cousin.”
“We all met on the block, explains Strings. “Even though we went to different schools in Regent, we linked up on the block, at the ball court. I met my cousin Wolfgang in Africa for the first time, and he kept coming to Toronto to stay with my people every year since 2008.” By 2015, the three found themselves in an Esplanade studio, crafting their upcoming mixtape, Monopoly. Since then Golden Boys has been slowly introducing the world to their sound through Soundcloud and Instagram. They've even managed to get the attention of OVO's Oliver El-Khatib. “We have spoken to Oliver and he gave me some good advice and encouragement which is always good to hear from someone who really knows music,” says JP. “Of course, the Ave Boy himself. Mo-G my dawg.”
Noisey: So, who are Golden Boys?
Wolfgang: We’re serious musicians. Artists in the making, for sure.
JP: We are guys who aren’t interested in all the extra stuff, like the image and all of that. We’re a couple of guys who want to focus on the music.
Strings: We’re average Joes, I guess. Or street niggas. We’re all definitely hustlers, though. Those are facts.
In “Haze,” JP recites: “She’s screaming out Golden because you niggas are prosthetic.” Who coined the name Golden Boys?
Wolfgang: I actually said it on a track, "Zombie Night," which was the first serious track that we made. It’s a solo joint. JP heard it, and said, “This is the name of our group.” So we been rolling with it ever since.
JP: Once I heard it on "Zombie Night," it was on. I realized it described us. It’s the set—the Golden set.
But what does it mean?
JP: Golden is the ‘gold standard’. That’s what we mean by it. It’s the highest quality; timeless; malleable.
What neighbourhood in Toronto did you all grow up in?
Strings: I grew up on the south side of Regent Park.
JP: I was born on the east side, Vancouver. I moved to Toronto as a kid to Regent Park, where I met Strings. Later on, I moved to the west side of downtown to Queen and Spadina area.
Wolfgang: I grew up in Paris, and then I moved to Reims, France in my teens.
Have these various neighbourhoods and cities shaped who you are as musicians?
Wolfgang: Yeah, definitely. Living in France, I was more influenced by electronica, and pop—stuff like that. My boy, Mattanoll, is a producer, so that influenced my music too.
JP: Well, you know… growing up with the hardships of living in the projects most of my life definitely adds a realism to the music. We don’t lie in our music: we either did it or saw it, for better or for worse. We had to grow up fast, and our music reflects that.
Strings: Regent was the slums with all types of gangs and shit, drugs, fiends, prostitution, needles… and that raised us and made us. You can hear it in our music: our experiences, all nighters, blackouts, no water, no heat in the winter… just crazy shit.
How did your friendship transition into the idea of Golden Boys?
Wolfgang: I was already making music in France, but back then, these guys weren’t serious about it. But then Zombie Night changed all of that. It really influenced them to use their talents the way I was already using mine.
JP: I was working out in Saskatchewan one day, and at the time, I felt like my life was passing me by. I was living with Strings and I gave him the idea of forming a group, and he said he was with it. That’s when I called Wolfgang in France and booked like 20 studio sessions straight. We linked up and started to do this shit. We’ve been working ever since.
Strings: Wolfgang made a 1, 2 funny tracks in 2009 with his producer Mattanol, who we still work with. The tracks were hilarious. Wolf’s English was bad, but me and JP used to freestyle on MSN, and just be heavy spitters. And then we finally decided: let’s do this shit. Let’s get serious.
What was your relationship with music prior to Golden Boys?
Wolfgang: Like I said, I’ve been making music. I grew up listening to Fugees, stuff like that. I didn’t really get into hip-hop until JP and Strings showed me the good stuff.
JP: I listen to all types of music. I’ve been listening to rap music and hip hop since I was 7 years old, as well as Somali music. I’ve actually been deep into music ever since I was really young. I’m trying to be a music encyclopedia, knowing anything from Santana to Guns and Roses to classical music. But hip hop has always been my first love.
Strings: We’ve been hip hop heads like I said. Mainly Golden era sh*t. My dad actually put me on a lot of sh*t through bare tapes, bare sh*t and speaker systems. He’s a music hoarder. JP and I have been writing bars since the days of MSN Messenger.
What was it like the first time you all were in the studio?
Wolfgang: It was difficult because I felt like I had to get them up to speed since they’d never really recorded. It was a long process of getting them to a professional level, showing them how to make music rather than just spitting bars.
JP: Yeah, for me it was especially difficult. All I ever did before was freestyle and write bars. And then all of a sudden there was that adjustment, going from never being in the studio, to hours of serious sessions where I had to produce. I’ve definitely developed since—I’m still developing, and that’s part of the beauty of the music. I think that goes for Strings too.
How would you describe your sound?
Wolfgang: Well, all three of us have our own sounds. But the group sound is a blend of electronica, pop, with hip hop. It’s tough to describe. You’d have to just listen to it.
JP: It’s the Golden sound. It’s a new sound. Nothing sounds like this, and that’s what we’re aiming for. I think we’ve achieved that. Like our upcoming tape, Monopoly is different from anything ever released. It’s fire and pain.
Strings: It’s a new drug that’s sweeping the streets.
How do you guys see Golden Boys as separate (or similar) from music currently being produced in Toronto?|
JP: I think it’s separate in how vividly, and in depth, we portray our lives, as it currently is and what it was. Of course, sonically, we are trying to create our own genre. Were similar to every other artist, except a notable few, in that we have a lot to prove.
Strings: You can hear Toronto in our music for sure. We have our own lingo as well. But were not biters, we try to make sure our shit is always different. We don’t wanna sound like whatever's hot. We wanna sound like Toronto but some shit you never heard.
What is Golden Boys working on right now? What can we expect from Golden Boys next?
Wolfgang: Look for us to push the boundaries. Create a new genre.
JP: Were just working on a lot of different things, sounds, trying to innovate and push the music and the scene in general in a different direction. I’m working on some stuff that’s just gonna fuck your whole day up. Your whole month up. From the 1st til the 1st. Make you leave your job. Drop-out. Hustle. Powerful music. Two options. You could like it or love it.
Strings: Working on that new shit, of course. I’m letting you know right now it’s gonna remind you of the late 2000’s crack academic. Do remember that. It’s a classic. We some hood stars. Legends. This year, we’re pushing foreigns.
Huda Hassan is a writer and researcher living in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter.