Plex, an award-winning hip-hop/rap musician, marks the release of his first album in a decade.
The 12-song record, called Who Am I To Judge, speaks to the reason for his absence as well as other topics on his mind.
“You know fame is something a lot of artists think they want in the early stages of their career and I got a little bit of a glimpse of that — having interviews, talks that were focused on me being someone to watch for,” says Plex, who lives in Barrie. “I think, especially with my addictions and anxiety and stuff like that, I found it very difficult to live in that world.
“I felt I didn’t want to put myself out there like that, so I thought I would ease back a bit and it gave me an opportunity to focus on my sobriety. I didn’t realize how bad it was for me at that time," he adds.
It took him two years to clear "the fog” in his mind and think again, the result of partying, drugs and alcohol. What followed was a regular job, which turned into his own business, but he also worked from time to time with other artists who reached out to him. He wrote songs and was featured on their recordings.
One successful project, called Pareidolia, was with Stoik, he says, an Indigenous electronic music group.
He also did some producing and started his own label, New Leaf Entertainment in 2005, which currently includes videos and releases by Stoik, Rellik, The Deeds, Brandon Brown as well as his music, some past as well as the present.
Plex’s new recording features collaborations with artists from both the hip-hop and Indigenous communities, including Lady Luck, Kryple, Drezus, Touch, and Rellik.
A newly released song, Red Flags, featured Aleah Belle, a vocalist from Barrie. Plex says he did most of the production, but three tracks were produced by acclaimed artist and producer, 2oolman.
Still, for 10 years, he stayed out of the spotlight, and, while he wrote and released some songs, he did not perform. He felt he was at his most vulnerable in an environment where people are partying.
He also stopped because he didn’t want his children to grow up in the same environment that he had.
Drugs and alcohol are still present in his family out west, says Plex, who grew up in an area with low-income townhouses in Edmonton.
“I lived in a duplex — that was kind of a big deal (because) it seemed to other people in townhouses that I was wealthy even though we weren’t,” he says, explaining where his name originated. “So people would always refer to me as ‘Doug from the duplex’. I’m six feet, five inches (and) even at 15 years old, I was just a big noticeable guy in Edmonton. Eventually, it was shortened to Plex — it was just a lot easier.”
Plex moved from Toronto to Alcona and then to Barrie in 2011. It was close to his mother-in-law in Orillia and had similar characteristics, a small-town feeling, to Edmonton. He liked the proximity to water, and with two children, born in 2010 and 2011, he wanted a larger house.
The self-taught musician says he was inspired by his grandfather, who would listen to Hank Williams every day. After his grandfather passed away, Plex says he felt compelled to learn how to make music.
It was a trial-and-error process, but by around age 16, he says he'd figured out how to record and began working with other artists who had access to a recording studio.
The past seven years have been focused on healing, uncovering the layers, and gaining an understanding of the reasons why he did what he did, both for his actions and reactions.
“We carry a lot of trauma — we’re Indigenous,” he says. “I think childhood trauma for me is a precursor to addiction, and whether it was racism or physical abuse or even emotional abuse, I think we carry a lot of (stuff).
“I think a lot of humans have different methods of either dealing with it or bottling it up. Me, I leaned more toward bottling it up over my life.”
Plex says he received encouragement to make more music from others in the entertainment industry, including a Red Man Laughing podcast by Ryan McMahon.
In the new record, Who Am I To Judge, topics range from his struggle with substance abuse to the evolution of hip-hop, cultural appropriation, and the state of the planet and he wraps it up in a musical package with clever words. He also ponders what it might take to fix it all.
“This is me dipping my toes in the water again,” he says. “So far it’s pretty amazing.”
Who Am I To Judge is available digitally, on all the usual streaming sites, as well as CDs and vinyl through newleafmusic.ca.