North·Music That Matters

A music-induced sense of nostalgia

Yukon hip hop artist Kelvin Smoler shares a few of his musical influences.

Kelvin Smoler digs through his musical past on Music That Matters

Yukon hip hop artist Kelvin Smoler says he's a very nostalgic person. He looked into his past to share five songs that were important to him. (Photo by Talia Woodland)

This story is part of a web series called Music that Matters with CBC Yukon's Airplay host Dave White. Dave sits down with Yukoners to talk about five pieces of music that inspire them. 

Kelvin Smoler's involvement in Yukon's hip hop scene goes back to the early days and he's still a huge presence, thanks to his work with groups like Borealis Soul and Local Boy.

We wanted to find out what songs set him on that musical path and invited him to share five tracks for this edition of Music That Matters.

"I am such a nostalgic being," he said. "I wanted to go back to the memories that were important to me."

Smoler's first choice was one of those surprises. He selected Dumb from Nirvana's Unplugged In New York album.

"That was the first band that I idolized," he said. "My cousins, they had already been playing music, they had their own bands, (and) they introduced me to Nirvana and I just absorbed that band and really appreciated that music."

It stayed with him for a while.

Smoler said he remembers putting that record on when he was touring with his own hip hop group through Northern Ontario, anything to get them through the endless drives past hundreds of trees.

Smoler dropped another surprise with his second choice when he picked Old Friends by Simon and Garfunkel.

"This was on a record that my granddad had. He didn't really have a big record collection, he was really into CDs. But I was able to scour his record collection, and it was during an early time when I started sampling, and I sampled this song for a track I made in the early days."

Smoler's third choice took him back to a time when he was living in Vancouver on his own, starting his career as an artist.

"I went a flea market and I got three or four Erykah Badu records, but this one was the one I repeated the most, Worldwide Underground," he said.

"When I picked it up and started listening, it was this feeling of nostalgia for high school and shortly after that. I found that trying to connect with friend groups, if it wasn't with sports or music, it was just driving around. You'd get yourself a coffee and you'd go for a drive."

Smoler was well into his own music career when he was exposed to Kendrick Lamar, and right away he knew this artist was something special.

"I initially heard High Power from Kendrick Lamar. That was the first song that (fellow artist) Jakub Evolved introduced to me," he said. "We sat there and thought, 'where is this genre going to go?' And when we heard that song, we knew he would lead the genre and he would lead the culture."

Lamar's track Real concludes with a snippet of a voice mail message where his mother encourages him to come back home and share what he's learned.

"For some reason, this is an emotional piece for me and it's something I've circled around for years," said Smoler.

Finally, for his final choice, Smoler went way, way, way off the map and selected Days Like That by pop group Sugar Jones.

"I recognize it's from a really crazy era, when the pop bands just went off," he said. "And I recognize this was a short-lived group, but I wanted to give it it's flowers. It is what it is."