Planet Giza's otherworldly sounds

Meet the rising hip-hop trio that emerged from Montreal's underground beat scene.

Meet the rising hip-hop trio that emerged from Montreal's underground beat scene

There's 3 of us and we all have different influences | Planet Giza | Beyond the 6

10 months ago
Duration 4:50
Planet Giza is our feature this month for Beyond the 6.

Beyond the 6 is a CBC Music series that highlights hip-hop artists and scenes across Canada, beyond Toronto. This month, we talk to Montreal trio Planet Giza, whose members had to adapt and find a new way of being creative when COVID-19 hit in 2020.

For most musicians, whose modus operandi and livelihood largely depend on the gathering of people, the impact of the global pandemic was (and is) severe. Fast-rising Montreal collective Planet Giza is no exception. The trio, comprising producers DoomX, Rami B and rapper/producer Tony Stone, was working diligently on a followup to its acclaimed 2019 full-length debut effort, Added Sugar, when the lockdown began.

"When the whole quarantine came about, it kind of stopped the creative flow," Stone says. "We were making hella songs every day and so we decided to put the whole other project on hold, and just try to create something fresh, knowing the situation we're in. So we got together for like a week, the week that we were able to not be in quarantine anymore. We were like, 'OK, this is what we have to do.' And in six days, we had the whole thing. Three days for the beats and three days for the writing and recording."

Planet Giza | When The Moving Stops | Beyond the 6

10 months ago
Duration 3:33
Planet Giza performs "When The Moving Stops" for Beyond the 6.

The result is the six-track, 15-minute EP Don't Throw Rocks at the Moon, which succinctly distils the essence of Planet Giza's musical appeal. Released in the spring of 2021, the project finds the group drawing on elements of funk, soul, electronic and R&B music fused together. "I always say our sound is futuristic, old school, soft, hardcore, fast-paced slow music," Stone tells CBC Music, his bandmates laughing.

But there's truth in jest and Planet Giza's sound, while alluringly expansive, is rooted in a hip-hop foundation.

"I think we're definitely a hip-hop act," says Rami B. "I mean, we started as a hip-hop act. But through digging samples and everything, we discovered different genres of music. And that's where we've expanded. So, I guess we have to credit hip-hop for being versatile in our music now."

"You can credit hip-hop for being the foundation of how we got together," Stone chimes in. "We have our sound and hip-hop is really at the core of everything."

The group's sonic foundations can be traced back to their high school days when Stone and DoomX met through a mutual friend who knew they both produced beats. According to Stone, the chemistry was "impeccable" and the two decided to join forces and form a group called the North Virus. Stone eventually invited childhood friend Rami B, with whom he'd grown up playing basketball, to collaborate. "Firstly, it was the North Virus and Rami. And then, as we started making beats all together, we were like, well, we need another name for all three of us. And that's why Planet Giza came about."

It's important to note that Planet Giza emerged within the influence and context of Montreal's underground beat scene of the early 2010s, which found a nexus at Artbeat Montreal, an event that began as a night when beat-makers and producers would plug in their laptops and share their latest creations at a factory loft in a roundtable setting. 

"Artbeat was very huge," Stone says. "The artists weren't established. But as far as producing goes, it just showed people like, 'Oh, we have something serious over here.' And it was like honing in on the early stages of everyone's craft. And it just gave them a platform, it gave them confidence to just go out there and be confident in their shit."

"I remember when we first started making beats, I felt a bit like an alien," says Rami B. "Because in Montreal, nobody was doing the same kind of stuff that I was doing. Like, I was more into the boom-bap stuff and other things. And later, I discovered Artbeat, and that just blew my mind. It gave us a platform. They're probably the first people to give us a platform as Planet Giza. And that's where we met most of our friends in the music industry."

Among those friends was a producer then known as Kaytradamus, who, along with Rami B, was a member of producer collective Alaiz. Kaytradamus would later become known as Grammy and Polaris Music Prize-winner Kaytranada.

"We had a good relationship with his brother, [hip-hop artist] Lou [Phelps]," says DoomX. "We always used to send beats to Lou. And I guess he eventually showed [Kaytra] the beats we were sending and he was like, 'Damn, that's dope' and he started reaching out like, 'Yo, you should send me beats,' so we did and then he started sending beats back and that's how the friendship started. We like the same thing as far as musically. I feel like we're all on the same wavelength." 

While they have established a long-standing creative bond with Kaytranada (who co-produced a track on Added Sugar), the members of Planet Giza have been focused on establishing themselves in their own right, steadily issuing music via Soundcloud and EP releases over the past few years and producing for Montreal acts like Shay Lia and the aforementioned Phelps. In doing so, the group has evolved from delivering strictly infectious instrumentals to seamlessly incorporating Stone's vocal capabilities. 

"I think it happened naturally," says DoomX of the group's evolution. "But, at the same time, like, it had been at the right time. There was a point where we were putting stuff out on Soundcloud. We used to put on a lot of remixes. And then there was a point when the labels got involved with Soundcloud and they used to strike people. Like, if you had three strikes, your account will be terminated. And at some point, we were at two strikes and we were like, 'Damn, we can't put out anything that would get us banned.' So we were like, let's put out an EP with just original stuff, no samples. We knew Tony could rap, but he didn't really want to. So then we were trying to convince Tony to rap and then he did. And that gave us a little traction and then we were like, we might as well keep that going." 

If Stone was reluctant to display his rhyme skills at first, there's no question he's fully committed now. "I'm like a nerd with this shit, down to every syllable. Every line has to make sense to me, the cadence and all that," he says. "So, it's something I always really had. And it was later that I developed a thing for harmonies and singing. And I got better with it. My voice isn't always on point. It still isn't really that crazy, but I know how to work it, you know?"

On Don't Throw Rocks at the Moon, this balance and growth is evident on songs like "Start Over," which finds Stone vulnerably singing about moving on from a romantic breakup, and "When the Moving Stops," where Stone unleashes a flurry of hard-hitting bars and a seemingly pandemic-inspired chorus that asks, "When the moving stops, are you gonna stop the motion?" The track, on which Planet Giza collaborated with JMF, packs an infectiously futuristic and effervescent bounce that seems to answer the chorus's question with a resounding "No!" 

COVID lockdown may have derailed Planet Giza's followup full-length, but it was only temporary. If anything, working remotely was literally the group's origin story: they used to work almost entirely online, and they have a group Facebook chat that they still use to this day. "But as of right now, we're mostly doing it in the studio, in person," Rami B says. "I remember in our career, we struggled a bit with that. We used to only work online. And during the quarantine it became our strength to work in person and finish a song." 

"It was exploring different topics, different soundscapes, and we just wanted to push ourselves to see how far we can go," Stone says. "The [new] album is coming along very nicely. And once we're done with it, I think it's gonna be something special."

Their latest track, "Out of Touch," is the first evidence of this new material and if its potent mixture of hypnotic grooves and lyrical angst is anything to go by, Planet Giza is confidently poised to make good on its promise.


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