Just across the river from Detroit, one of the top hip hop cities in America, Windsor Ontario has its own thriving underground hip hop scene. One of the busiest artists of late is Shawn Mailloux AKA Mailboxx. Shawn sat down with 519 to talk about his music, how he got started, and where he’s heading in 2020.
When people think of rappers they often think of stereotypes, people from rough neighbourhoods with a lot of crime and drugs. What was your upbringing like?
My childhood was rough, it created a rougher exterior emotionally and a shell which you kind of develop in those situations and I carried that with me. There were times that I was involved or on the way to being involved in things that I probably shouldn’t have been in my youth, but I chose to take a different route. I basically tried it all and I thought, you know what, I’m not going to do this, this isn’t me because I don’t feel right doing it. I was a trouble maker growing up and I hung around those kinds of people but my mom was adamant about not hanging around those people but I was just trying to fit in. I was the odd guy out and people would try to get me to do things that were funny. I was really bullied a lot when I was younger so people tended to try and influence me because I was easily influenced. So I was in situations where I could have gone to jail or situations could have happened. I kind of barricaded myself from the age of 15 to 19 and separated myself from the rest of the world.
Were you into rap music growing up?
Yeah, I was into it from my early teens listening to Eminem obviously, Nelly, Country Grammar, 50 Cent, that was the stuff the people I was around were listening to. My first influence was actually Tupac and that was my uncle showed me that a long time ago. I was probably 13 or 14 and I was like wow, what’s this? I started listening to DMX from there and I’m this skinny white kid listening to Gangsta Rap and I’m just, this is cool. I was never influenced to do the things that were happening inside of it. For me it was just the poetry. I like the way the stories were put together and I liked the poetry behind it.
Did you start writing poetry at that time and experiment with it?
No, I only started that in 2009. In 2009 I wrote my first hip hop song. I was around 20 yrs old and went out to Calgary to look for work and got in some trouble out there, didn’t like it and came back to Windsor and started writing music.
Where does the name Mailboxx come from?
It’s something that stuck to me. Someone gave me the nickname because of my last name Mailloux. If you stick the l and o close together it kinda looks like Mailbux. I’ve kind of flipped that and said they call me Mailboxx because I deliver messages with my music.
If you could collaborate or perform with someone, who would it be?
NF, 100%, NF’s real and he’s an artist and I like that.
I’ve heard there’s a real strong hip hop scene in Windsor.
Yeah, there is. There’s a lot of talent out here. There are a lot of us here that are trying to do something so I think the scene’s pretty good. If you come to an underground show there’s a lot of sport and camaraderie, a lot of friendly people coming together to make music and it’s pretty cool. Rockstar Music Hall does a lot of shows, The Backstage, Blanche has had a couple shows and The Sportsman’s Club has shows.
Your recent song Really Nice Guy has a positive message to it and the video is really light hearted. Is this the message you go for in all your music?
Yeah, well music is energy delivered to people through vibrations and sounds, so there’s enough of it out there that’s rebellious and people that are going against the system and doing things that they’re not supposed to, giving a mentality of a certain character and I’m the opposite. Around the same time I started writing hip hop in 2009 I joined a metal band called Devilz By Definition.
I took an 8 year break from hip hop to focus on that band and that’s where the Mailboxx persona was born. I was more typical of what you would expect from a rapper, cocky, arrogant, what I thought a rapper should be when I was younger.
Over the course of that time I grew as a person and Devilz By Definition helped to shape me into Mailboxx. Mailboxx the persona is owned by Devilz By Definition as well as Mailboxx Music but the purpose is the same, to deliver messages by music. I’m doing exactly what they say you’re not supposed to do. If you’re a rapper you’re not supposed to be out there that way, you’re supposed to be tough and have an image but like you know what, I’m going to be myself and I’m just a really nice guy and it’s true. And when I say that I mean that and everyone who knows me personally knows that. I figured if I put it out there like that you can either love it or you can hate it, there’s no in between.
How did you go from hip hop to being in a metal band?
In 2009 I had joined a roofing crew and that’s where I met Bruce (Munro) who’s the lead guitar player of Devilz By Definition and he said they needed a drummer. I said I’ve got experience, I’ll go try out and I became their drummer and about three and half years later I transitioned to vocalist.
Are you still in Devilz by Definition?
Yes, we’re actually in pre-production for our second full length album and we’re going to tour this July so I’m doing both right now.
Are you involved in the song writing for Devilz as well?
I mostly just write the lyrics. They put the songs together and then I take the feeling that they’re expressing in music and give it a title. Once I have a title I have a topic and I write the lyrics around that.
What do you think of collaborations like the recent one between Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus?
I think it’s great! I think all music is meant to be blended together. It just has to be done properly and delivered in the right format in order for it to be received properly. I’m planning on blending metal with trap and 90’s hip hop for my second album. I’ve been writing and I’ve got my pre-production with the studio I’ve been working with and I’m about to go record it actually. It’s going to be out in the next couple months, maybe sooner than that.
You must be really busy right now with production going on with two albums with two different projects?
I’m putting myself out there in the music industry in as many avenues as I possibly can. I produce, I play piano, I make beats, I play drums, I do scream vocals, I do hip hop, I write poetry, I edit videos, I do everything because I want to make sure I’m equipped with all the tools I need to succeed in the business. The last three years I’ve been working on producing. The album “Going Postal” I produced myself start to finish, I just had someone else mix it. So through producing I’ve learned piano and trap drums and I’ve learned how to mix and engineer. So I’ve released my own music on Sound Cloud that I’ve mixed myself and then I release albums every year for Mailboxx. I like this because I’m in control. When I’m with Devilz there are 4 other people and things don’t move the same way because there are other people to consider. I just released a new song on Sound Cloud every Monday for 17 weeks straight.
Check out Mailboxx on Facebook at www.facebook.com/mailboxxmusic or Devils by Definition at www.facebook.com/DevilzbyDefinition519.