London filmmaker and director Nathan Miller released his third short-documentary 'LDN' last year, propelling him to the forefront of a new wave of young visual creatives documenting the world around them, from the ground up.
Across the 45 minute film, Miller charted the birth and growth of the rap and grime scenes of London. With input from experienced luminaries such as DJ Semtex and Posty, Miller also shed light on the new generation of future stars, from J Hus to 67. After documenting the goings on of his home turf, the young Londoner has now taken his sights to Toronto; “the 6ix”, for new 45-minute film 'Northside'.
A short exploration into the current state of play within Toronto and it's music scene, 'Northside' charts the groundwork put in by a host of artists on the cusp of major success, featuring live footage and interviews with Smoke Dawg, Sean Leon, Jimmy Prime and Murda Beatz amongst others.
After unveiling 'Northside' to the world this week, we caught up with Nathan Miller to get the inside story on his finest project to date.
VERSUS: How long did you spend in Canada working on ‘Northside’?
Nathan Miller: I was over there for about twenty days, I’d always really wanted to do something involving the rap scene out here.
What inspired the idea behind producing a documentary on Toronto music?
As I said it was always an ambition of mine. Back in 2015, I was over in Chicago doing some filming and I remember seeing how cheap it was to fly straight over. That was when I reached out to Jermaine Prime (Jimmy Prime’s manager) and asked if the guys would get involved, ever since he said “yes” – it’s all I’ve been working on.
That’s you narrating again right? What influenced you to also narrate all your documentaries as well as shoot?
It’s me! I just wanted to remain consistent at this point. Initially, it wasn’t going to have any voiceover at all but I spoke to some friends in London and they stated they had no clue what the situation was in Toronto, they didn’t think they’d be emotionally connected. I guess they just wanted a little context, I could give that by narration. It’s also why I mention that Drake and The Weeknd are the ‘big guys’ out there, but even still, there’s such a gap from the ground level to that point, the scene is small and everyone knows of each other.
“The industry has accepted grime and UK rap. In Toronto it’s different, rapper’s don’t get the same backing.”
What did you find to be the similarities in Toronto and London’s underground music and street cultures?
I think it all comes down to our cultural heritage. Like London, many of us are first or second, sometimes third generation of families that have come from overseas, and it’s all reflected in the way we speak. Look at the huge caribbean communities out there, Somalian communities too, it’s the same in London. I feel that at home, in London, the “industry” has accepted grime and UK rap for what it is and how influential it can be. In Toronto, it’s different, the rappers don’t really get the same backing from the industry that we’re seeing now. So I just really hope ‘Northside’ could be of some help to push things in the right direction – it’s one of the first things I mention in the doc.
What about the differences?
There’s a long list of differences. It mostly comes down to how cliquey the city is over there, I feel. Also maybe a lack of support, just across the board, from peers to the industry. In Toronto, if someone isn’t from your camp, you don’t really share their music. In London, if an unknown drops a banger, we’ll all get together and congratulate them, you know? That for me is the biggest difference, and it also sums up why things are how they are there.
Who did you enjoy filming most?
I enjoyed all of them to be honest with you, Smoke Dawg gave me the most emotional interview and that was amazing to hear. All of the artists I featured have something, whatever it is, thats unique to them. There was always something that happened that made everyone’s story special to me. If I could have included more artists, I probably would have got Pressa, Booggz, Killy & Wondagurl involved.
Whats next up for you?
A break! ‘Northside’ has been a very difficult piece to work on, I had to make so many changes and sacrifice and now I’m ready to come home and just plot something new.
Directed, filmed, edited and narrated by Nathan Miller, check out Northside above.