"I can't believe you work here," says an obsessed rap fan to his idol as the fan tries on a new pair of shoes.
For the last nine years Jason Bruce has been leading a double life. During the day he works at Foot Locker in the Halifax Shopping Centre, and at night he is an underground rap legend known as J-Bru, who tours Europe with D12 and Classified.
Gawked at as a celebrity at a shoe store and worshipped by off-the-rocker fans slobbering in hotel lobbies, Bruce remains modest and somewhat astonished by how he far he has come.
"I remember opening for Ludacris and seeing this gigantic crowd and feeling them responding to my lyrics. I opened for Busta and it was the most insane energy. Hearing people in other countries that know every word I say," says Bruce. "I never thought I would get this far and I can't describe how happy I'm that I get to do this. After years of grinding my teeth to the gears, I'm hoping that the work is going to pay off."
Nine years ago, Bruce was a hungry MC looking to get in on the game. He heard about some guy named Classified while riding a bus and chatting it up with his friend Garnet Estabrooks, who happened to be Classified's manager. Now Bruce is stepping out of his mentor's shadow and making a name for himself.
With the release of The Jason LP he is bridging the gap between J-Bru and Jason Bruce. Bru is a master of party jams, but over the years has built a reputation as one of the most honest true-to-life MCs to emerge from the Nova Scotian hip-hop scene. This intense honesty comes through on this release.
"I do it just because I love it. If I was doing this for any type of money or attention I would have stopped 10 years ago," says Bruce. "The biggest thing for me is having a grown man, or a grown woman, telling you your shit helped them through a hard time."
Take his song "It's Rainin'" off Identity Crisis, featuring Scotian singing sensation Jordan Croucher. It's about the painful loss of a close friend to suicide on Bruce's birthday, and the pain it caused not just Bru but his close friends and family. Bruce rhymes about feelings of betrayal caused by the suicide and the feeling that his life has been taken over by his friend's death, speaking with an honesty that music often lacks. He believes that rappers need to talk more about their own lives rather than the lives they are pretending to be leading.
"I support myself with a nine-to-five," says Bruce. "I drive a Honda Accord. In my videos you aren't going to see me driving a Lexus or wearing chains that don't belong to me. You watch those videos and you don't find out who those cats are. Check out The Jason LP and you'll see me, dents and all." –Michael Kimber