DGS Samurai Champs are a crew of two from the Canadian flatlands of Saskatchewan. This duo is about combining things in more ways than one. Hailing from both, the “Queen City” Regina and the “Bridge City” Saskatoon, Merv xx Gotti’s (Marvin Chan) savory R&B vocals and Jeah’s (Savan Muth) new-wave rap combine in perfect harmony. Their latest EP release Crayons encompasses a futuristic-synth sound that could be likened to Drake and The Weekend.
What do you want to say about your artistic endeavours so far?
We almost can’t believe this year actually happened. There were so many firsts. In the past year, we filmed our first professionally produced music video for our single, Crayons. Then, we followed up by releasing our first professionally produced EP, Crayons EP. The Crayons video premiered on Vice Noisey, and the EP proceeded to premier on Exclaim!.
This led to us playing in our first national music festival, Canadian Music Week in Toronto, then our first international music festival, Reeperbahn Festival in Hamburg, Germany. These festivals led to us playing in other festivals like MoSo Fest and BreakOut West. Following BreakOut West, we were awarded $10,000 towards our next record by Rawlco Radio’s 10K20 Project. By the end of the year, Crayons EP was voted #2 in SaskMusic’s Best Saskatchewan Albums of 2016.
Every milestone this year was built upon the previous one, starting from the release of Crayons. We kept rolling with the momentum, putting one foot in front of the other, taking one step at a time. In a way, 2016 felt like the year we took off the training gloves, finally entering the ring to fight for real. However, this pivot point only resulted from years of prior hard work. These initial years consisted of sounding like shit most of the time and being okay with not knowing where this path would lead but proceeding anyways.
What's integral to the work you produce?
In our experience, our best work comes from being sincere and honest with ourselves. We write about things we know about and are familiar with. We don’t write about money we don’t have, lives we don’t live, or renown we’re still working towards. Even during high school, we called ourselves “No Money Records” to make fun of this brutal truth.
We write about what we understand - the personal struggles we’ve been through, the people we’ve loved, and the successes we’ve experienced so far. Although we’ve been through our own unique trials, we don’t write about being raised in a “hard” life. We both came from loving, immigrant families who fought hard to give us a good life in Canada. The struggles we’ve had to deal with mainly came in the form of adversity through racism and discrimination.
As visible minorities raised in a typically conservative part of Canada, we had to face our own set of challenges and anxieties. However, this drove us to pursue creative careers in healing this problem. Although our creative content is mainly based on our personal relationships, our work in community building through Trifecta is driven directly by the pursuit of promoting cultural diversity through the arts.
Is the artistic life lonely?
It depends. It is and it isn’t. We’re fortunate enough to have a creative community, not only consisting of other musicians, but also of photographers, visual artists, and creatives from other disciplines. Through Trifecta, we were able to build a creative network, not only to create and work with, but also to simply hang out with. What started out as artists looking to collaborate with other artists has gradually transformed into a bunch of homies who just want to hang out with each other, as well as create.
On the other hand, artistic life can be extremely lonely in the way of being alienated by the majority of one’s peers. In our experience, creatives, or individuals pursuing non-linear career paths in general, often encounter resistance from loved ones in regards to their career choice. This is largely due to non-linear career paths being inherently uncertain, making them appear scary to most people who follow more conventional, linear career paths. By no means does this resistance come from a place of harm. On the contrary, this guardedness comes from a place of care. Loved ones are simply trying to protect from that which they may not understand. However, this makes it crucial for creatives to find other individuals who will champion and encourage their creative work.
What's the best piece of advice you've been given?
Jeah’s older brother, Savonn, who’s been like an older brother to the both of us, coined the phrase “Death by Design”. What he meant by this was: we are the designers of how we choose to leave this world. In other words, how we view our lives at the time of death will ultimately be decided by how we chose to live.
We both want to leave this world knowing we pursued what we truly loved, and hopefully as a result, impacted our friends, family, and other creatives for the betterment of society as a whole. This is pivotal in the reasons why we do what we do in regards to Trifecta. We know how much we love creating, and we know that there are others who share in this feeling.
Trifecta Music Festival was designed to provide a platform for emerging artists to showcase their work, regardless of genre, background, and ethnicity. We also wanted to provide guidance and facilitation for other emerging artists along a similar career path, and this led us to form Trifecta’s artist collective. We hope to provide, or at least, strive for a creative world we wish we had as young artists - a world where artistic pursuit is encouraged, creativity is nourished, and diversity is celebrated.
In entwining these core values into all we do, our hope is that when death comes, we’ll be able to look back upon our choices and take pride in the decisions we made. We hold honour in the fact that we chose to live by ensuring our actions aligned with who we are, not only as artists, but as people. Our death is by our design and this is how we choose to die.
DGS will be opening for T.I. at Saskatoon Event Centre on January 21, 2017. For tickets click here
To hear more about DGS, visit their website
Follow DGS @dgsamuraichamps and Facebook
Photography rights to Christina Bourne at My Boots Photography and Jon Chan at Athirdtime Photography © 2017