4KORNERS is a Toronto legend. He’s been the official Raptors DJ for over 15 years and is an icon in the city. But don’t think he’s just a local sensation. He’s an international star with a resume that includes the Olympics, London Fashion Week, and Formula 1 in Abu Dhabi to name a few highlights. While he’s known behind the decks, he’s no joke behind the boards. Most recently he linked up with emerging producer Ashton Adams to form 401 WST, a duo that’s taking house music back to its Black roots, fusing elements of hip-hop with classic Chicago influences and a modern bass-heavy twist. Last year they unveiled their impressive debut EP Our House and today they’ve blessed us with a high-energy guest mix. A half-hour of party-starting house is primed to get you dancing and craving the days when we can all get together and dance. For now, turn up to this in the safety of your home.
In addition to the mix, we had the pleasure of catching up with 4KORNERS for an exclusive interview. We talk about how he’s adapted as DJ during the pandemic, the foundation of 401 WST, the importance of breaking new music, the Drake effect, his favourite Raptors championship moments, and more.
What should we expect from the mix? How did you go about putting this one together? What’s this the soundtrack to?
What to expect? I don’t wanna give it away but for you can expect to be taken on a journey. This is the soundtrack to us all getting ready to get back outside jamming at clubs & festivals together!
Going through this pandemic has been difficult for everyone but especially difficult for DJs and artists. How have you pivoted or adapted through the last year? Have there been any silver linings from all of this?
Aww man, it’s been THE WORST, but at the same time we gotta do what we do to keep ourselves sane and to keep sharing our music and making people happy. So aside from continuing to record and release new music, I’ve been streaming DJ sets and other entertainment on TWITCH almost everyday! It’s been a really dope outlet for me. I even shot and produced a full virtual concert and broadcasted it on TWITCH. There’s a real community of music lovers on there that just listen to DJs constantly and showing mad love in the chat. I’m loving the vibes!
That’s our mission, to take house music back, but with a modern twist and our own flavour.
How did 401 WST come together? What made you want to start a house project with Ashton Adams?
Honestly, 401 WST came together so organically. Ashton & I had already been in the studio a bunch of times and we put out a hip hop record called ‘I Want More’ in mid-2019. But later that year during one of our music talks, it came up that he loves house music as much as I do. I had no idea! I knew he was into pop & hip hop and that he’d been a drummer in a band a few years ago, but the more we got into talking about house, the more I realized we should work on a house record together. He showed me a demo that later became our debut ‘Shh (Just Be Quiet),’ and we wrote a few more together in a really short time. Skip ahead a few sessions and the songs just kept coming and the conversations went deeper. And when we got to talking about the roots of house music and the fact that it was created by Black DJs & producers in Chicago like Frankie Knuckles, Ron Hardy, Larry Levon, Jesse Saunders, Marshall Jefferson….the list goes on. Right then we decided to officially start a project and set out to bring the music back to the essence of it all. To educate people in the dance community and beyond about the foundations of the music, to pay homage to the pioneers and to recapture the vibe that they created. That’s our mission, to take house music back, but with a modern twist and our own flavour.
I’ve always loved dance music as a whole for that. Hit records are made more on the dance floor than in the boardroom.
How important is breaking new music to you as a DJ? How do you go about on different stages (clubs, radio, Raptors games, etc.)?
I think breaking new music is one of the main things every DJ should aim to do. It’s true that with streaming and all, anyone can get any song super easy. But it’s our job to expose people to the new sounds that will become their favourite songs. I’ve always loved dance music as a whole for that. Hit records are made more on the dance floor than in the boardroom. And as a DJ, rather than just playing the shit that everyone already knows, it’s an important part of the craft and culture to drop new gems into our sets and to talk about the records we love and think people should hear, and connect with upcoming artists that we think are talented. We’re the tastemakers.
The perception of Toronto globally has changed massively over the years. Being someone ingrained in the city and music industry for as long as you have been, what do you see as the key factors that contributed to this shift. Is it mostly the Drake effect? Or is it much bigger than that?
Okay, let’s not fool ourselves. The Drake effect is HUGE! I’ve been asked to speak about this on numerous occasions, my favorites being a piece CBC Music did on his rise to stardom, and another that VICE Magazine did specifically on the economic effect he’s had on Toronto (both videos are on my YouTube channel). Dude is the GOAT! But even so, it is bigger than just him. We’ve always had tons of talent here but the global awareness started to grow when the internet became THE INTERNET and blog culture developed and social media evolved. Because before that, getting music heard around the world was pretty much impossible without a big record label behind you. The internet changed all that and all of a sudden, independent artists had a way to share their music with the world, in real-time! No politics or bullshit, just a SoundCloud account. From there, all the talent started being exposed. The Weeknd, Jessie Reyes, Daniel Caesar, Partynextdoor, MSTRKRFT, Zeds Dead, Grandtheft, Kaytranada etc. The world HAD to take notice. We gave them no choice!
Everyone that ever said “nah, I’m not gonna go out tonight” is GOING OUT EVERY NIGHT!!
What changes do you expect to see in the Toronto music scene when we can safely get back to regular parties, events, concerts, etc.
Well first, I think that shows are gonna be CRAZY as soon as things open up. Everyone that ever said “nah, I’m not gonna go out tonight” is GOING OUT EVERY NIGHT!! But long term, I think the biggest change will be that online shows, live streaming, all that will continue to get bigger and more important. We as artists have adapted and consumers have become accustomed to being entertained this way. And me personally, I’m SUPER down to keep doing virtual DJ sets and performances at events around the world from the comfort of my studio. We’ve leveled up and added new ways to reach people. I think shit is gonna be dope!
I’m still tripped out over the fact that I DJ’d LIVE in front of 2 Million people that day. I don’t know if any gig will ever top that one.
What was your single greatest moment or memory from being a part of the 2019 Raptors Championship?
Nah lol. I can’t pick just one. I’ll give you four.
1) THE shot! Watching that ball bounce 4 times and drop was hands down the craziest sports moment I’ve ever witnessed live in person.
2) The night we beat the Bucks and were officially going to the finals. I legit cried. So many years of ups & downs….I’ve been with the team for 16 years. I’ve seen it all. So that moment of “this is real. We’re going to the NBA Finals!” was overwhelming.
3) The night we won the championship! It was an away game so I was spinning outside the stadium at Jurassic Park, Drake and the whole OVO squad were on stage with me, and we all went CRAZY during those final few minutes. And in the middle of all that I led the crowd in singing Oh Canada! That was a moment for sure!
4) The parade. yo, I’m still tripped out over the fact that I DJ’d LIVE in front of 2 Million people that day. I don’t know if any gig will ever top that one.
Which Raptor has the best music taste you’ve ever encountered? Why? Who had the worst?
Hahaha, that’s a funny question. Most of the guys have decent taste in music and like most of the popular stuff. But I’d say Chris Bosh was the most vocal about music. He even hired me to play his birthday party one year.
You’ve DJ’d everywhere from Cannes Film Festival to London Fashion Week, Formula 1 in Abu Dhabi, the Olympics & more. Is there anywhere (country, club, or event) that’s still on your bucket list to play?
Yeah I’ve been blessed to touch the stage in a LOT of places. I’ve crossed most of my bucket list off already but I’d say Nigeria, Brazil and Australia are my top three that I haven’t done yet. Nigeria and Brazil because I’m in love with the music and culture of both, and Australia because I keep hearing how incredible a place it is and how it’s a lot like Canada but with better weather year-round. I gotta see for myself!
Time is definitely needed to dismantle and rebuild the systems that were intentionally created to marginalize Black People and all people of colour really. So, time will tell.
You’ve been very vocal in supporting and highlighting Black Lives Matter. Do you feel that meaningful change has occurred since the peak of the support around the movement last summer? What further changes would you like to see?
I’ve always been and will continue to be vocal and proud of Blackness and against racism and injustice. But I think this past year has opened a lot of people’s eyes to what has been going on for far too long. AS for meaningful change, I’m not sure. There’s definitely been some attempts made in the media, from certain corporations and in some industries. I’m just not sure how genuine a lot of what we’re seeing is. Time is definitely needed to dismantle and rebuild the systems that were intentionally created to marginalize Black People and all people of colour really. So, time will tell.
Can you provide us with one piece of advice everyone should hear?
You got one life. LIVE LOUD!
What’s on the horizon for you in 2021?
For now, I’m Live Streaming DJ sets at least 5 days a week on Twitch.tv/4korners (make you y”all follow me). And I have new 4KORNERS and 401 WST music coming with lots of dope collab. And once the world opens up, be ready to rage with me! I’m goin innnnnn!!!!
401 WST, 4KORNERS, Ashton Adams – Do The Damn Thang
Dipzy & Luke Andy – Show You
NUBZ – Nightime
MK – 17 (Ben Rainey Remix)
Dr. Dre & Snoop Dogg – The Next Episode (Reynor Remix)
Jay Psar, Cheery-O & 4KORNERS – Comin In Hot (Hooders Remix)
Stardust vs BSOD – Music Sounds Better On Drugs (Digital Dave Edit)
Malaa & Habstrakt – Riot Gear
Sikdope & Gentlemen Club feat Tima Dee – Ballin
Aazar & GODAMN – Big Beat
Travis Scott – Whole Lotta Lovin’ (Grandtheft Remix)
401 WST, 4KORNERS, Ashton Adams feat Dom Vallie – Alive
Todd Terry – Black Again
Idris Elba feat Kah-Lo – Ballie (Destructo Remix)
A$AP Mob – Hella Hoes (Buzz Trillington Remix)
401 WST, 4KORNERS, Ashton Adams – Shh (Just Be Quiet)