26-year-old Canadian rapper Merkules entered the rap and hip-hop milieu with the help of local top-tier artists, and quickly made an impression on the Vancouver scene.
Merkules, born under the name Cole Stevenson, in British Columbia, started rapping at 15-years old, where he originally went by the name Merk Mikz when he performed at King of the Dot. At 16, when he entered a studio for the first time and started touring, he was brutally attacked after a recording session. The scars left on his face from the machete and baseball bat attack served as an inspiration for his album, Scars, released in April of 2015.
The two-time Western Canadian Music Award nominated rapper’s videos have received 250 million views, and over 50 million audio streams. Merkules' most recent album debuted at #2 on the main iTunes chart across all genres in Canada, and through his raw talent, wit, and genuine humbleness, he has captivated a dedicated, world-wide fan base that is growing by the thousands every day.
In addition to the Canadian Music Week headliner's recent albums, Merkules is consistently releasing new content through his YouTube channel, which features his new music videos, mixtapes, and remixes. Celebrating his “Old Town Road Remix” video hitting #3 on YouTube trending worldwide, Merk will be supporting Gucci Mane on his first ever Canadian tour in May, and will be touring Australia in September.
Although he is young, Merkules has created an eccentric character that people all over the world have come to know and love.
How did you transition into studio work, and what was your experience like recording for the first time?
I transitioned into studio work for the first time after meeting fellow rapper and friend, Snak The Ripper. I had the odd demo here and there that I had recorded on using a playstation headset. It was crazy man, hearing yourself back for the first time in a real studio like that is something I could never explain. I still get goosebumps hearing something back right after recording it. Best natural high ever.
Initially going by Merk Mikz, how did you decide on the alias Merkules?
On tour I earned the nickname Merkules. I was always Merk, but whenever I would get too drunk, or stay on stage too long, my friends would tease me saying, ‘’here comes Merkules.’’ Eventually it stuck. Snak and Evil played a big part in that as well.
What kind of music did you grow up listening to?
Everything man, my father is a huge Bruce Springsteen and Van Morrison fan, so there was a lot of that at home. I went through the heavy metal phase, the punk rock phase, and the rap phase. Rap is the only one that stuck though. *laughs.* I think people assume I only listen to the style of music I make, but that’s not the case at all.
Who are your top 3 favorite artists?
Three is hard man, damn. If I had to pick I’d say: Scarface, Eminem, and 50 Cent. In no particular order. I love everything Drake is doing right now too, just a coincidence we’re both Canadian.
How has your musical style/ approach evolved?
I think in the early years I was so set on rapping about being a tough guy. It wasn’t until life slaps you across the face that you learn to talk about the things that matter. I learned how to properly sing melodies a few years ago, and that plays a big part in the stuff I do now. I’m forever learning more about my voice and the different things I can do with it, and I love that.
Who are your “musical parents” that your style is a cross between?
I get compared to people like Jadakiss and DMX cause my voice is so raspy, but when I’m singing its a Everlast kinda vibe I think.
What are you doing when you're not making music?
When I’m not creating the music I’m still doing things that involve music. Whether that be touring, doing meet and greets, and what have you. If I’m not doing that I’m trying to spend quality time with my wifey, my cats, and my family.
What are your top 3 vices?
Alcohol, Junk Food, and Self doubt.
What is the funniest thing the internet has gotten wrong about you?
My name for sure. People pronounce all sorts of ways, but one time a kid called me ‘’Merkulitis’’ by accident. Poor kid was so embarrassed. Merkulitis sounds like a disease or a deodorant brand or some shit *laughs.*
Onto tattoos, do you have a favorite?
I can’t say if I have a favorite to be honest. I love them all as my babies. The good, and the absolutely terrible ones. Sometimes the worse the better, if that makes any sense.
Any tattoo ideas you’re glad you didn’t go through with?
Yes. I almost got my first rap name. ‘’Merk Mikz,’’ on my knuckles. Luckily it was my OG who I asked to do it and he said no. Not to mention, I had zero ink at the time. Going straight to the knuckles is a major tattoo no no... I think we all know that.
What would people be most surprised to know about you?
That everything going on right now in my career hasn’t sunk in yet, and that if you see me in public and wanna say hello, it’s totally okay and I actually embrace that. Also, I feel like my girl would tell you I’m a big teddy bear too. I think that surprises people.
What are your pre-show rituals?
Tequila, Quick Stretch, Giver.
Your "Old Town Remix" is getting more praise than the original remix. Why did you decide to remix this?
Damn I wouldn’t quite say that, but thank you. To be honest I almost didn’t, I was trying to stay away from the remixes for a while cause some people started to think that’s all I did, and I wanted my fan base to focus more on my original records. But I got so many requests to do it and it was silly. I had lots of fun doing it, and holy crap has it changed everything for us.
What is your musical process with your remixes, from start to finish?
I’ll feel the song out. Sometimes I remix songs I hate upon request to make the fans happy, but if it’s something I like then I’ll probably fire up my sauna at home, and throw the beat on loop until the concept jumps at me. I have a rule too, where if the beat starts playing and I can’t think of a melody for the hook within the first 30 seconds to a minute, I skip it.
Which of yours is your favorite thus far, remix and original wise?
Remix wise: My tribute to Chester Bennington, probably. Original wise: “Gon Die.”
Your most recent release, "STFU", with Chris Webby and Lil Windex is killer. How did this collaboration come about?
Thanks! Webby is someone I’d been paying attention to for years, who I recently became friends with, about 2 or 3 years ago via the internet. We have lots of records together from before that, and we met for the first time recently; and Lil Windex was there as well. Lil Windex is somebody who I’ve been close friends with for over ten years now. It just made sense.
Who is your dream artist to collab with?
50 or Em. I really wanna know if Drake knows I exist too.
You (thankfully) utilize YouTube, while many other artists stick to just audio streaming. Why do you choose to use this platform as well?
YouTube is important man. YouTube is the new industry. I been grinding on there from the beginning. I love Spotify and all the other platforms, but I gotta stay loyal. Even though I don’t have to agree with a lot of YouTube’s new rules, I still gotta respect the platform that got me to where I am.
You disagree with the statement that hip-hop is dead (and obviously, we agree with you.) Will you speak on why it’s here to stay?
It’ll never die. Things come and go: trends, mumble rap, or whatever. If you’re an artist, just make music that’s timeless and is really saying something. Nine times out of ten, I promise you, they will listen. They might just show their friends too.
That said, what's your preference: old school or new school?
I love everything man, a lot of the stuff that’s out now that people hate, I even catch myself listening to from time to time. But you can never go wrong with some old school classics.
Although humor plays a huge factor in your music, you are open about your struggles with mental health throughout your discography. Especially with 'Cole,' in that you want people to know the Cole behind the Merkules. Will you speak on this?
I’m a human being at the end of the day just like everybody else. I wake up look in the mirror and see a million flaws, just like everybody else. Anxiety and depression have played a huge factor in my life and I know that if I can talk about it in the form of music; and some kid can hear it and take it, and apply that song to himself and it makes him feel better, my job is done. It’s the best super power in the world.
What mantra do you live by to get through anxiety struggles?
There is no cure for me. I mean some people think that cause I talk about it I have it all figured out, but I don’t. Sounds corny, but breath control and what you put in your body is important too. CBD has been amazing as of recently for me as well.
Your second album, Scars, was titled after your brutal attack. Do you mind sharing that experience, and how you turned it into inspiration for your music?
I was attacked coming home from a party when I was sixteen. It was me, my girlfriend-at-the-time, my other buddy, his girlfriend, and I think maybe two other friends. A drunk driver almost hit us driving in the snow. We yelled at him to slow down, he got out, and we got into a fight. He lost, then came back very shortly after with his friends, and they stabbed my friend and I, and tried to kidnap our girlfriends. Reference the title track off of Scars for the whole story. It was a blessing cause the path I was on at that time as a teenager was terrible, and that was the wake up call I needed. Everybody survived.
You are extremely committed to your loyal fanbase (including spending hours after each show doing free meet and greets with them.) Why do you think it’s important to put in this time for them, and why do you think other rappers don’t do this enough?
If I can take a little time out of my day to thank the people that got me here, then I’m blessed. I’ve also met some of my heroes growing up who were assholes, and I never wanna leave that impression. I’ve also met others who were incredible though.
You’re going to join Gucci Mane on his first-ever Canadian tour in May. How did this come about, and what are you most excited for?
The offer came in a few months ago, and I had to pinch myself to make sure it was real. It took a lot of strategizing and hard work to make it happen, but shoutout to everybody involved behind the scenes. I’m most excited to play venues that size, mesh our fanbases, and get a chance to maybe pick Gucci’s brain. He literally invented an entire genre within rap music. He’s a legend.
Since this is the last question I just wanna say real quick: Stompdown Killaz forever.