Monark reflects on the city’s hip hop scene

Jarrod “Monark” Thomas (Cara Smith/AQ)
Jarrod “Monark” Thomas (Cara Smith/AQ)

Ten years ago, Tuesday nights at the Capital Complex were dedicated to one thing, hip hop. Fredericton’s own Jarrod Thomas, aka Monark, reflects on a time when local rap artists were embraced, and hip hop was a growing force in Fredericton.

“The place would be packed wall to wall every week,” Thomas said. “I wasn’t even legal when it was at its peak. My friends would hand me a microphone from the stage and I would free style from the outside the bar.”

Monark’s passions have grown since then, and it has been hard to keep a microphone out of this 27-year-old’s hands.
He’s released two albums, Illamentary and Arts & Crafts, and is currently working on a third. He records at Sean One’s studio in Fredericton.

Sean One uses the program Fruity Loops to create the tracks, and his beats are a big part of the writing process.

“With rap, it’s important to keep an open mind; it’s really the beat that brings you into a song,” he said. “Sometimes I’ll just be walking down the street and something will come to me.”

Music has always been a family affair for Thomas. His father sparked his interest in music at a young age.

“My dad would play groups like Kriss Kross, and I would try and rap along with the music,” Thomas said. “I’ve always been rapping.”

Thomas’s older cousin, Ceeb Dread, has been a long-time fixture on the hip hop scene in Fredericton. His other cousin, opera singer Measha Bruggergosman, a Fredericton gem and Juno winner for Classical Album of the Year in 2008, have been strong in influencing his love for music.

Times have certainly changed since hip hop night at the Capital. Though remnants of hip hop can be found throughout the city, the genre isn’t being as embraced by Fredericton as it once was.

“Fuzion Nightclub holds it down the best in terms of venues these days. Maybe everyone else is scared to host a rap show.”

Even though the genre is growing on the East Coast (artists like Maritimers Ghettosocks and Classified are receiving national attention), Thomas feels as if the growth isn’t happening in Fredericton.

“Fredericton doesn’t provide good roots for artists like me. To grow here, you have get out and make connections with other artists.”

Thomas has made such connections by collaborating with Ghettosocks and Fredericton rapper Phakt. He also works with artist Sean One (who does his beats) and has maintained a long-time friendship with Fredericton filmmaker Jesse Anthony.

Thomas met Anthony while attending Leo Hayes High School in Fredericton. Anthony used Monark’s music in his 2012 film Skateproof and directed three music videos for Thomas.

This has proven to be beneficial relationship for both artists. Anthony is able to get his name out there and Monark gets a quality video.

“I really trust Jesse’s vision as a filmmaker, it’s always a great result.”

Thomas is recognized on the streets of Fredericton because of the provocative videos, and feels like it has been a long time coming.