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The redemption of Anonamyss

Sackville emcee finds salvation in sweat, blood and tears

click to enlarge Anonamyss’ work ethic shows on Paradox Vol. 1. - SARAH DEVENNE

It's the break of dawn, and Justin Wheaton's still keeping on, after a 16-hour overnight shift working on Alberta's Fort Mackay pipeline. The darkness is all he's seen, his world shimmers with bleary sunlight. "I don't sleep, man," he says. "Nothing beats hard work."

He brings that ethic to everything; pipe welding, Arby's serving, call centre work---or hip-hop.

For the 27-year-old Sackville native---AKA Anonamyss---his glittering world is now genuine gold. He'll release his debut album, Paradox Vol. 1: Daydreams, next week; appropriate, since his March is the stuff of daydreams. When he steps off the plane on March 7, he'll begin a 22-stop North American tour in Halifax with Masta Ace. "Rocking crowds into real hip-hop---it's the dream come true, man, after all these years."

They've been tough years. For a grade 12 project, Wheaton and his best friend planned to start a label, Muzik Over Matter. When haters questioned Wheaton at rap battles at the Pavilion, his friend had his back. "He kept me going," he says. But then his friend suddenly passed away, one month before the project's due date. "I started experimenting with drug use, getting depressed," says Wheaton. He started Muzik Over Matter himself, but said he was "scared" to release any of the 100 songs he recorded. Soon after, another friend committed suicide. Then in 2007, Shane "Short Shane" Jackson asked him to produce his album. "Short was just the man. He had the flow, the punchlines," says Wheaton. "We got three songs in, and he friggin', he ended up dying in a car crash."

At Jackson's funeral, he chose to honour their memories instead of moping. He decided to include, on Paradox Vol. 1, some of those 100 songs he had recorded. He started listening to Masta Ace, and at a Halifax show, Wheaton slipped past the bouncers, met the Bronx MC, and got his manager's email. Eventually, they collaborated on the track "To The Top"; in 2010, after Wheaton took him snowboarding at Wentworth, Ace chose Anonamyss as his tour's opener.

Wheaton doesn't know what to expect. "Sleepless nights, a lot of hangovers, hopefully a lot of girls," he laughs. "If this is all I end up getting to do---and it won't be---I'd be happy."

Anonamyss album release w/Masta Ace, Wednesday, March 7 at The Khyber, 1588 Barrington Street, 9:30pm, $12


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