After releasing his debut mixtape Roses & Bombs in October 2016, up-and-coming rapper HOLDEN (formerly known as E.V. Rose) has burst onto the local Canadian hip-hop scene. HOLDEN is currently working on his first EP True 2 You set to be released later this year. In an oft-filled genre of braggadocio and misogyny, the Toronto native offers a refreshing voice of humility, vulnerability and openness. HOLDEN provides the listener with raw, emotional lyrics layered over a variety of rhythms and sounds. These range from jazz and electronic influenced tracks from his last mixtape like the singles “Efflorescence” and “Weed It Out”, to more traditional boom bap beats like the Nas-inspired “Heartillery”.

Roses & Bombs is a concept record that discusses everything in the world that is pure (“Roses”) and how it is balanced out by evil (“Bombs”). Rose walks a thin line and struggles to place himself in the world around him. The mixtape name itself is a play on words on HOLDEN’s real last name – Rosenbaum. The mixtape manages to cover a wide array of subjects, touching on the roller coaster that is falling in love, growing pains, experiences (both positive and negative) with marijuana, and the state of hip-hop today. HOLDEN uses intricate imagery while showcasing different flows, rhyming schemes and at times, his vocal range. Each track is unique with its message as well as musical composition.

There is no better example than the song “Bombs Away”. HOLDEN chooses to discuss his stance on war, government, and the high profile shooting of Sammy Yatim – ironically over a trap instrumental. The music video is a juxtaposition of Rose on a TTC streetcar, creating the effect that it could have been any young male with baggy jeans and a snapback that would find himself in those circumstances on that summer night in 2013. Matched with the video, the song is powerful, personal and shows the rapper’s true intention of creating music: spreading a message of hope and positivity.