Aubrey Graham, who portrays shooting victim Jimmy on Degrassi: The Next Generation, is branching out, with his debut hip-hop album set to be released this fall.
Entitled Barely Fitting In, it’s based on his experiences growing up between Toronto and Memphis and as one of the few black kids at Forest Hill Collegiate Institute.
“It was very awkward,” he says. “I never had a girlfriend. Not one of those girls would bring me home. It would be too risky.”
It’s hard to believe that Graham would have trouble picking up girls.
Sitting in a barbershop on the Danforth that does triple time as a tattoo parlor and Nike shoe store, the 19-year-old seems at ease, chatting with patrons and leaning against the hand-me-down couches.
He says he transferred to another high school, but ironically, for a star on a high school teen drama, in real life he dropped out before graduation.
“My mom’s a teacher … So I definitely have a high school education, if not more. I just don’t know about Darwin and all that,” he says, flashing a smile and shrugging. He says he has plans to finish.
“Right now, I’m so immersed in what I’m doing,” he says. Most of his days are spent between the set of Degrassi and the recording studio. He lives with his mother in Forest Hill.
“I don’t make lingerie, champagne bottle-popping music,” he says, adding that he’s reaching for a timeless sound.
His single “Do What You Do,” produced by Boi-1da, is one of the most-played singles on Flow 93.5. Graham says with the release of his album, he’d like to be recognized as one of the top new artists, though he says that could be just dreaming.
“There’s an interest in the project because of (Degrassi),” he says.
“When people listen to it, they get excited that it’s real.”
He describes his music as a positive mix of hip-hop, R&B and social consciousness. He writes about his experiences with parents, women and his disappointment with his generation. “About how a lot of us are slipping off. I feel like a lot of kids are lost,” he says, adding that a lot of kids around him drink, smoke weed or have kids early.
“The only option seems to be to become a dope dealer or a rap artist. A lot of us feel trapped,” he says.
But despite his passion for music, Graham says he still wants to find time for acting. Like a few other members of the Degrassi cast, he has a role in the upcoming movie Charlie Bartlett, another high school drama.
He is also going to be playing a basketball player in a movie that hasn’t been named, he says.
“I’d definitely like to be an icon. Not only in the city, but across the world.”