At the end of the hip hop classic 8 Mile, trailer trash lead character B-Rabbit, played by Eminem, wins the movie’s final freestyle battle by exposing arch nemesis Papa Doc’s (or Clarence as his doting parents called him) middle class roots. An attack on his cred regardless of his skills – after all Papa Doc was reigning champ - as a rapper. A knockout blow that left 8 Mile’s villain, who had concealed his comparatively affluent upbringing, unable to respond. But it couldn’t have been an easy road for Clarence either. Building a reputation, despite your background, is challenging no matter which side of the street you walk on. Something 21 year old rap hotshot Millz knows all about.
“When I first moved down to the (inner city) Bleecker neighbourhood in Toronto I was only seventeen, but straightaway I had to learn how to box.” Remembers Millz aka Brampton born Ryan Jamaal Brooks, whose upbringing – which he has never hidden – immediately became an issue for some local Bleeckers’ residents.
“I’d tell them where I was from and they’d look at me differently, like I thought I was better or something. I had a couple problems and got into fights with people down there who felt like I didn’t belong. But I got to integrate into that situation. It changed me.”
With studio time on tap back at his local school in the ‘burbs, just west of Toronto, Millz had already been honing his craft as a producer, rapper and songwriter. But when the time came, he knew he had to leave to get to the next level. “I was in a group called Lights Out, we had all acc to the studio but our image was tacky. I’m not tryin’ to hurt feelings, but all they wanted to do was covers and act like everyone else. I needed to branch off and do my own thing. I’m more of an original.”
Encouraged by family and friends, Millz (so named after the amount of loonies – Canadian dollars – Brooks is aspiring to earn, i.e. millions … plural) left for the centre of Canada’s largest city - T.Dot, armed with several tracks, and a mixtape in development. Not that it happened overnight (it never does); following hardwork Millz got his shot and signed a record deal with Nova Music Group - over 4 years of hustle and flow to turn lights out to a new dawn.
Whether living in Brampton or Bleecker, the main lesson Millz has learnt in life, he says, is to just be himself.