Brandon Callender serves ’em off like a waiter.
There’s a hidden power behind music videos that push a song or an artist to the next level. Sometimes an artist is able to make sense of their own music. They make you see what they want you to see, showing how you can fuck the party up with your dance moves, or how you made everyone hit the woah once or twice on IG (Atlantic, if you’re reading this, please put the Uzi remix back on YouTube). But the most important music videos are the ones that show where you came from. It’s an almost unwritten rule to film a video in front of the places that defined your childhood.
Lil Berete, a 17-year-old rapper from Toronto, has been doing just that. He’s been filming videos in front of the Regent Park housing project he lives in, but in early February, his mom got hand-delivered cease and desist warning about his videos being filmed on Toronto Community Housing Corp. property which also threatened his family with eviction if he continued shooting videos.
He’s doing what people have done for years before him. He’s showing the reality of the neighborhood he’s lived in for most of his life, because who else will?
“Northside” captures the essence of the housing project. The rusted satellite dishes that scale buildings. On signs there’s R.I.P. messages dedicated to those who’ve died. He captures the varied expressions of the people people who live in Regent Park. Some stare off into space with stern, serious faces. While others point directly at the camera and smile or start dancing. Real life.
He’s filming nothing but the same scenes you’d be able to see if you spent a day with him. “Southside,” the sister track of “Northside,” is part of Berete’s efforts to unite the neighborhood and the once opposing sides of Regent Park through his music collective called Southside to Northside.
On “Go N Get It,” his most recent single, he partners with London-based rapper Loski and they celebrate just how far they’ve come. There’s corny bars, — he says his circle is tight like a virgin — but he makes up for it with a hook that’s impossible to stop replaying. It feels like victory.
He’s Regent Park’s Lil Tjay. He’s the dual-threat package of vulnerability and confidence. He’s not afraid to sing about the friends that he’s lost and those he regrets meeting. But he’ll switch it up and complain about how diamonds give him migraines. This all makes sense, since he says Young Thug, Akon and T-Pain are some of his biggest influences.
Lil Berete is one of Toronto’s best new rappers. He’s still working out what he wants to be though. He’s experimenting with different flows and sounds, but he knows exactly what he wants to say. He wants to show what Regent Park really looks like — the pretty and the ugly. He just needs the freedom to be able to do that.