Canadian-bred rapper Merkules bulldozed his way into the souls of millions a few years back when his cover of Ed Sheeran's "Shape of You" went bananas on YouTube. It was a raw take on yet another watered down romance song — his gritty tone powering through the speakers like hip-hop used to be. Emotional, witty, grinding … and you can actually understand what the fuck he's saying. Tens of millions have kept it in heavy rotation since.

But that was over two years ago, and Merkules has been working hard on a new album to appease his fans — Special Occasion (which dropped just a few days back). He's also on tour bringing his unique style into the mix nationwide, including here in Denver soon. Dude sat down with Rooster to rap about tattoos, whack rappers and wearing proper attire when things get cold.

Yo Merkules, what's good!? How you feeling today?
I’m good man! Really excited to drop my second single from the album tomorrow.

You've got a long stretch of shows coming up; what is it you do to prepare?
Other than fine tuning my set, I just mentally prepare myself. There’s just as much fun as there is stress on tour, so its all about how you deal with the speed bumps. Very excited to tour the U.S. again though.

What kind of surprises do you have in store for fans at the shows? 
I promised myself that I can’t come back to the same places and give the fans the same show; you’d be surprised how many people return from the year before and I always want to keep them entertained and guessing. I’ll be performing some new music from the album though, and that’s nerve-racking but very exciting for me. It always blows my mind when the fans sing along to new music that just came out.

Might be cold as hell on those east coast dates. This isn't a question we just want to make sure you bundle up …
[laughs] I appreciate the heads up. I’ve spent the past 5 years of my life in Alberta, Canada. I feel trained and ready for war. I got a few extra pounds on me to keep me warm as well. [laughs]

You've made it known throughout your previous tracks you're not fond of the new-school rap trends; do you think a resurgence of the old-school is coming or is the genre fucked?
Honestly, I like the new stuff these kids are doing, and I know in the past few years I’ve kind of come off as the 'old head' even though I’m only 27. [laughs] I was frustrated with the current state of music at that point in time and that was why I was so vocal about it. It just felt so watered down and over saturated to be real. That's always gonna happen though. I actually listen to a lot of the new stuff now on my own time. Even though there’s lots out there I’m not a fan of, I've come to the realization that I don’t need to like something to respect it. There's something for everyone.

Your cadence is that quick-tongued, powerful flow — quite unlike the others — why is that important to you to keep it classic and not hit the trends?
Trends come and go, as long as I feel like I’m making stuff that's timeless I’m happy. I think a lot of my music speaks on relatable topics that not everyone is willing to speak up about, and that makes it stand out. I’m always trying new things with my voice and I’ve fallen in love with singing hooks, so I’m excited to see what I try next and if it works. To be continued.

The new album is said to be 'themed' (you went in it with the purpose of making an album), you want to explain that a little more?
I’m working with a lot of rappers I grew up listening to and really respect on this record. I wouldn’t necessarily say its a themed album, but I decided to call it that because, for me, it really is, a special occasion given the opportunity to work alongside these legends.

Was it difficult to switch gears from YouTube videos and single tracks to a full-on collection?
I actually did it backwards in a sense. I was putting out full bodies of work in the early stages of my career. I was dropping albums and mixtapes and even EP’s wayyyy to early in the game because I was so excited. That was before I understood what makes a classic album. I was releasing music on YouTube the entire time as well, but it wasn’t until years later that the remixes made such a stamp in my legacy. If we can even call it that though, sounded kind of arrogant. Fuck it lol.

At this point you're all-in on rapping. What does a new album like this do for you as an artist?
Putting out a new album is always fun. I get nervous and always decide I hate my new stuff right before I put it out, then I fall back in love with it again. I think that's a common part of being an artist though. I’m always curious to see what the general public thinks of it, and watching it chart is always a good time. I’ve come to the realization too that some songs that I’m not completely fond of, end up being other peoples favorites which is really cool. As stated earlier, there’s something for everybody. I cant wait for you guys to hear this shit though man, its been a long time coming and this will definitely level us up. I’m hype!

We gotta ask, which tattoo of yours hurt the worst? Would you do it again?
By far the 'Trust Your Gut' across my stomach. [laughs] I’m a bigger dude and most tattoo artists live by the theory that tattooing fat hurts WAY more than muscle and that seemed to be the case for me. It was a 7-hour session with no breaks and if were being completely honest, I was sober as a judge. Usually I like to have a few drinks in my system before getting tattooed especially one of that size. I remember I was taking a short break from the bottle at the time so that increased the pain ten-fold for me as well. Yes id do it again. Over, and over, and over again.