Hip-hop artist reaches admirers through YouTube

Nicholas Mercer nmercer@cbncompass.ca
Published on April 11, 2011
Nate Doucette, a.k.a. 4play, performs during a recent show in St. John's.
Sandra Lee Elford/Special to The Telegram

Every artist wants to have one of their videos go big over the Internet, especially if it is done by current YouTube sensation Keenan Cahill.

St. John’s native Nate Doucette, 19, is one of those artists.

“I was speaking to Keenan directly,” says Doucette. “He heard the song and we both agreed that he would do the video for it.”

Keenan is a 16-year-old high school student from Chicago who has MPS VI or Maroteaux-Lamy syndrome, a rare genetic disease that causes respiratory problems, stiff joints and other problems.

He started a YouTube channel as a hobby before doing a video for Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream,” a song that caught the attention of Perry.

Keenan’s videos, in which he lip-syncs to pop songs, have drawn 2.2 million views.

Doucette caught the attention of Dustin Picove when he entered an online contest with Picove’s Canadian label, URecords. The payout was a record deal.

“I saw the contest on URecords’ YouTube channel,” says Doucette. “I heard a lot of buzz about the label.”

He decided to enter the contest, which required him to download the music for a track by Canadian recording artist Belly, who’s from Ottawa.

Doucette had to listen to the music, lay lyrics over the beat and record it. The result was a song called “One Night.”

“Nate not only had the best track, but he was also a good-natured person,” Picove said in an email message.

“He was serious about success after only entering the music scene two years ago.”

 Picove does a lot of scouting online. He was looking at other artists to sign when he stumbled upon Keenan. To Picove’s dismay, Keenan was already signed with David Graham of Rise Entertainment Marketing.

Picove brought Doucette’s song “Good Life” to Keenan and his management team in the hopes of having Keenan make a video for it.

“(Keenan) fell in love with it,” says Picove. “It’s one of his favourite tracks.”

Keenan, working with male model Forrest Gregory, did a test video for the song, where Keenan mouthed the chorus while Gregory did the verses. It can be seen on URecords website, Doucette’s YouTube channel and Gregory’s channel.

The official video is being shot by Keenan in the Bahamas.

Doucette, who still lives in St. John’s and goes by the handle “4play,” believes his exposure helps belie the notion that artists need to leave this province in order to fulfil their dreams.

“I’m here now and I have a record deal and blowing up on iTunes,” he said.

Doucette’s love of music started early in life. He remembers sitting in his west-end home at 13, listening to music and writing lyrics to the music that was coming out of his headphones.

“It just gradually went from there,” he said.

Doucette’s style is an amalgamation of sorts. His background lies in hip hop but he has incorporated other styles, such as pop and R&B, into his flow. And while he falls back on hip hop because it is what he started out with, Doucette recognizes the importance of incorporating other genres into his music.

“To be successful in this industry, you have to be able to adapt to any style,” he said.

His first single, “Good Life,” reflects that mantra. His rapid flow is counter-balanced by Ricky J’s smooth R&B voice — a sound that makes you think of Canadian rapper Classified.

A second track, as yet untitled, will be released in June featuring Canadian singer Jordan Croucher — a.k.a. JRDN. The R&B/hip-hop  singer, who grew up in Toronto and Halifax, is known for his single “U Can Have It All.”

There are plans to release a full-length recording, says Doucette, and his management is talking to producers and artists they’d like to have appear on the album, including Classified, the platinum-selling artist from Nova Scotia.

“We’re trying to get all the big names in Canada on the same record with me to make it more of a backbone,” says Doucette.

As for the significance of the name he’s chosen for himself — 4play — Doucette explains.

“Basically, music is my foreplay. It is something that excites me,” he said.

“Good Life” can be downloaded from iTunes, or free from 4play’s band camp website, http://4playmusic.bandcamp.com/track/good-life-feat-ricky-j

There is no release date for the album yet.