D.O. (aka Defy the Odds) Gibson is a Guinness World Record setting rapper, music executive, motivational speaker and author based in Toronto. His hits include We Lit and Old Hoop, he has performed across the world and has worked with the likes of Snoop Dogg, Funkmaster Flex, Lil Jon and KRS-ONE. As well as being busy solo artist, he also forms one-half of the duo Art of Fresh with beatmaker and vocalist Byram Joseph, aka Slakah the Beatchild. Gibson’s company Northstarr Entertainenment is one of the leading management and consulting firms in hip-hop in the country. A popular speaker at hundreds of schools across Canada, he talks to students about anti-bullying, black history and personal development.
My career really started in 2003 when I set a Guinness World Record for longest freestyle rap ever – 8 hours and 45 minutes. When I did that I was profiled in XXL Magazine and on MTV and it allowed me opportunities in the US. As a Canadian rapper, I realized that I needed to focus not just on my country or the US but worldwide so I began touring internationally with stops in Taiwan and Japan and then to Europe in UK, Netherlands and Croatia. Flash forward a few years and I’m still using that strategy. I just released my new single “We Lit” and it's great seeing it gets love in Canada and also all around the world.
Prior to COVID, I completed a 81 show school tour in Ontario, Canada for Black Canadian History. I do a show that combines speaking with live hip-hop performances. I can’t wait to get back on the road and tour again and also to get back in schools delivering my show.
Performing in Singapore. In 2013, my group Art of Fresh played a festival downtown Singapore in front of thousands of people. It was great to be in another country performing music in front of people that were excited to hear it. It showed me how music has the power to reach people around the World.
Chuck D from Public Enemy because he is someone I looked up to as a kid and then had a chance to meet him in both Toronto and at MIDEM in Cannes, France. He showed me that it is important to have a message in your music and that it can reach worldwide. I look up to Nas because of how compelling his lyrics are. I look up to Jay-Z because of his approach of music as a business.
In short, I like making lyrical music, with a message, and I enjoy the business part of the industry because it contributes to longevity and making it a career.
I love Release Radar on Spotify. I check it every Friday and it’s great to see some of my favourites as well as some of my friends release new music. Other than that, I listen to my friends recommendations. If they are talking about a new song or artist on social media then I will check it. I trust their opinions.
I’m a big fan of Devontée. He’s a Toronto based rapper that I’ve known since he was in high school. He releases music consistently – at least monthly, so he’s always got something new. And it’s dope! Back in the day you’d build behind one of those songs as a major single, but he is creating so much great music that he wants to get it out there now. I think he’s got a bright future.
I think there has to be more ways for independent artists to make money. Streaming rates are so low. Indie artists barely get paid for performances – and can’t perform during COVID. Yet, we still have to pay for studio, beats, mixes, etc. It adds up. I don’t have an easy answer or solution, but I think we need to collectively keep fighting to show that music has value and that artists can make a living, making and performing their art.
I think it’s important to work on your craft, learn the business, and release music consistently. I think if you are doing that you are continually learning and growing. Too many people hold on to their music and when they are set to release they are disappointed because they haven’t built a strong base. Learning about the business helps you when it comes to exporting your music – you learn about other markets and can look to play in other cities and countries around the world.
I’m releasing a book! I’m excited because I will be releasing a chapter a day on my blog www.onthisgrind.com. The book is called “On This Grind” and it is based on life lessons learned from the music industry. I will be releasing an accompanying podcast and songs and freestyles that touch on what I’m talking about in the book. I’m also releasing a lot of new music from now into 2021 so I’m excited to get back on the road next year and tour the new songs.
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