Rapper Mouraine reps north Edmonton on debut album

· The Pulse

Northside rapper Mouraine is sharing love for his hometown — especially his corner of it — on his debut album, In Search of Gold.

"(The north side is) a very special place in Edmonton. It's a big melting pot, where you run into people from different backgrounds, who have different stories, and we all come together," he said. "It's amazing how people from all different walks of the world come together in one place and bond or have a brotherhood. And what we bonded over was what side of the city we're from."

Mouraine, who only discloses his stage name in interviews, was born in Sudan and briefly lived in Egypt before coming to Edmonton at the age of 10 in 2005. He delves into his upbringing on the album cut Tonight, mentioning an incident on the No. 8 bus, which wends its way from the University of Alberta up to Abbottsfield.

"Here's the point of view of a child in immigration / Tryna reach heights, took flights to elevation / When you gotta leave home and everybody that you know, that's a … that's a tough situation," he raps on the track, which has a video featuring highlights from JUNOFest in Edmonton last March.

Mouraine is proud of his community and his city, even if he sees challenges for artists here.

"We need a little bit more industry and people that play in the background in Edmonton," he said. "We need to develop our own ecosystem and music industry rather than having to move or look to Toronto … For the greater good and for the culture and to see a shift, it takes all of us, not just one person or just one artist to blow up."

Edmonton has had its share of musicians explode in global popularity over the years. Perhaps most relevant is rapper/producer Cadence Weapon (a.k.a. poet and author Roland "Rollie" Pemberton), who is currently based in Hamilton, Ont. There's also Mac DeMarco, who saw his greatest success after leaving Edmonton for bigger cities in Canada and the U.S. Given his druthers, Mouraine is hoping to stick around for the long haul.

"I think a lot of artists end up leaving due to the lack of infrastructure and industry out here," he said. "I am trying my best not to do that. I want to be able to embrace the city, and bring the spotlight that I get and shine it back on the city."

Rapper Mouraine poses in profile with his eyes closed. He is wearing a simple black T-shirt and his hair is braided.

With his debut album In Search of Gold, Mouraine raps about his story and his love for Edmonton, especially the north side where he came of age. (Matt Dunlap)

His philosophy of doing your best where you live is partly why he signed with Birthday Cake of Winnipeg, first on its management side and later with its recording imprint. The label first released his Bigger Dreams EP in 2021, and it has stuck with him for In Search of Gold.

"They had similar goals, similar plans, similar ideas to what I had in mind in terms of representing Western Canada," he said.

Being a big fish in a small pond has some advantages, he noted.

"One thing about our music scene in Edmonton is it's definitely a hidden gem, and it's a place of undiscovered and untapped markets," he said. "I think the fact that we are untapped gives us the leverage to be ourselves in the music world. We get a lot more room to explore and experiment with our artistry."

With In Search of Gold, Mouraine embraced that freedom to explore. Sonically, the tracks range from mellow ballads such as Love Me featuring JRDN to all-out bangers like Planet of the Apes. The lyrics tackle themes of heartbreak, growth, and the perils of materialism.

"I challenged myself a little bit more, and I dive deeper into sharing personal stories, like heartbreak and love songs," he said. "It was more experimental, and actually (about) not being scared to get a little bit more vulnerable."

A debut album is an arrival of sorts for pretty much any musician, but especially for rappers. Hip-hop culture thrives in part on singles and mixtapes, and to make the jump to a full-length LP is a bet on oneself to deliver a wholly realized vision.

"I've been doing music for almost a decade and I never released an album," said Mouraine. "Over those years, I was able to develop and grow so much as an artist and as a human being. But I felt I needed to draw the line, put a mark, and actually present myself."

Mouraine promoted the album with a tour of the UK that included headline shows and festival gigs at The Great Escape in Brighton and Focus Wales. There, he met fans.

"There's people who heard me through a friend, or who heard the music on YouTube or Spotify," he said. "Being Sudanese, there's also a nice network of diaspora, some know me just because I'm Sudanese, and they listen to Sudanese artists."

For now, In Search of Gold is available on all major streaming platforms and for download on Bandcamp. As for a local performance? For now, hold your horses.

"It's definitely something I'm working towards, I just want to make sure it's done the right way," he said. "I want people singing along to the songs — I don't want it to just be an introduction."