From the Arts Building to Yeezy’s Studio
About a year ago, Saturday Night Live had a special episode to commemorate their 40th year on television. To celebrate their anniversary, they invited, among many other musical guests, Kanye West. When the time came for him to perform, a strange scene greeted the audience: instead of Kanye’s usual extravagant performances, he kept his movements and flashy showmanship to a minimum throughout the whole set. More unexpected still, Kanye was joined by Vic Mensa and Sia to perform a song that had previously only been heard in part at his ‘Yeezy’ Season 2 fashion line launch event. As the song began, they crouched under a low, lit up ceiling. The beat of the song, although fairly stripped down, was dark, haunting, and hard hitting, evoking feelings of loss and sadness, matching the song’s lyrics. As the song played on, different instruments and levels of intensity were incorporated, complementing each artist and their lyrics, enticing the audience. This song, titled “Wolves,” gave old fans some hope for the album. It sounded more like oldie 808s & Heartbreak than the more polarizing Yeezus-era Kanye. It felt like a critically-acclaimed return to form. Who they little knew at the time was Sinjin Hawke, who played a critical role in the song’s construction – and no less than a Montreal native and McGill alum.
Born Alan Brinsmead, Sinjin Hawke is a Canadian-American producer who is now based in Barcelona. His father – initially a French Horn Performance graduate from the University of Toronto – is a computer graphics designer who played a role in the animation teams of movies such as Toy Story, Shrek, and Spiderman. His father’s work had a large impact on how a young Sinjin saw and approached music in the future, both in visually and sonically.
Although Hawke was born in New Jersey, his parents moved him to Montreal at a young age. He grew up learning and making all different styles of music as a child. He began with classical, before switching to R&B and hip-hop around the age of 11. He was strongly influenced by legendary producers such as Just Blaze, and DJ Premier, whose extravagant and orchestral style he attempts to emulate.
Sinjin studied Music Technology at McGill University from 2006 to 2010, and, during this time, he began to turn towards different forms of electronic music. His interest in the genre led him to launch a weekly party in 2009 called ‘Boom Clap’ at the Blue Dog Motel on Saint Laurent Street. His parties attracted the interest of more known local producers and DJs such as Lunice and DJ Rashad, which inspired him to put more effort into making music. He began to DJ more frequently, making remixes of popular rap and R&B songs that he would then play at his Boom Clap events and, little by little, Hawke gained more and more notoriety. After graduating he kept honing his craft in Montreal until 2011. That was the year when he quit his job and moved to Barcelona, a place he refers to as his ‘sanctuary’. Despite having been relatively unknown on a worldwide scale, Pelican Fly, a Belgium based record label, spotted him, and helped him release his first project, The Lights EP, at the end of the year. The EP helped him build a name around the world, which resulted in him spending most of 2012 touring across North America, Europe, and Asia, all the while releasing more popular club remixes.
These experiences played to his advantage in early 2013, when he applied to the Red Bull Music Academy. The academy offers a yearly series of workshops and conferences aimed at helping young artists connect with each other and industry veterans.Through this program, he was able to come into contact with one of his influences, Just Blaze, and they worked together to make “One”. After the song was engulfed in praise, Hawke also collaborated with Gangsta Boo, a former member of the Academy Award winning rap group Three Six Mafia, to make another song. Hawke thus found two of the best possible introductions to the world of hip-hop; and meeting Kanye – whose team keeps Yeezy’s finger firmly on the pulse of the world of music – was inevitable.
These days, you can find the mysterious Sinjin Hawke working on a multimedia artistic collaboration, co-founded with his fellow producer (and girlfriend,) Zora Jones. They call it Fractal Fantasy, named after a short animation video that was created by his father in the 80s. Driven by their love of alternative electronic music, and fluid, abstract animations, this project is displayed in a website that features their productions playing alongside interactive videos. With his Kanye West collaboration, Wolves, Hawke is able to add another element to his already- diverse CV.
Here’s hoping that he keeps seeing the success he deserves!