Meet Tory Lanez, Toronto's Next Household Name - DJBooth

Meet Tory Lanez, Toronto's Next Household Name

"A lot of the times it's hard to convince people about what you see in yourself."
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Next week, September 29 to be exact, Tory Lanez will drop his highly anticipated project, Lost Cause, his third project following 2012's Sincerely Tory and 2013's Conflicts of My Soul: The 416 Story. Both have helped establish Tory as one of the most promising artists out of Toronto, a high honor considering Toronto's deep talent pool, and now with Lost Cause it's finally time for Tory to become a household name.

To give you an idea of who he is (before even your mom knows) and what he's all about, we checked in with Lanez and talked about everything from his three-pronged attack to how he feels about being labeled as "next up."

Most rappers will tell you they were born to rap, that they were bumpin' Tupac in the womb and wrote their first bar while in the crib. Not Tory Lanez. Though the Toronto singer/rapper/producer knew that school and the traditional path wasn't for him, his father was a preacher and wouldn't allow hip-hop in his house. In fact, Lanez didn't hear his first beats and rhymes until he was a teenager. Before then, he had planned on following in his father's footsteps and was going to be a preacher as well.

Now, rapping and preaching might seem like opposites, but for Tory, they aren't that different. In some ways, his current career might not be that far off from his original plan. 

"In our times I kind of look at myself as a modern day preacher. Not someone who is giving you all these religious opinions and thoughts but someone who is giving you real life and a better out way of looking at life."

If he is a modern day, particularly well-dressed preacher, then his new project, Lost Cause. looks to be the gospel according to Tory. Growing up throughout different parts of North America following his father's missionizing before settling in Toronto, Tory's teachings look and sound a little different than any other artist out there.

"I stand for people who are really about being something more than the norm. That's what Lost Cause is about. I wanted to show people my roots and a lot of the shit I was going through with a style that's more honest and more me. More truthful to the the things I thought were too dark with the citizens before this."

Is putting yourself out there like that difficult?

"It used to be, because I didn't understand how to do it right, so I was uncomfortable with keeping things too real. But I came to a point where I was like fuck it, I'm going to do what I want and however it sounds, it doesn't matter. Don't focus on that. Focus on it being real to you and meaning something to you. Once it means something to you and resonates in your soul, everyone is going to feel it the way you do."

Of course, in rap it's not just what you say but how you say it. The passion is there, but so too is the presentation. Though breaking through into the American market is tough for any international artist, Tory has had no trouble. Part of it is due to his experience with American culture, living in places like Florida before settling in the T-Dot for example, but part of it is due to the music that has an irresistible, compelling sound. His trademark is blending hip-hop and R&B and his own influence on the production to create a three-headed monster.

"I started rapping before anything. That was my first passion. Rapping will always be something that is fun for me and I can always use to express myself, but about three or four years ago I felt I I wanted to do more, I want to be more involved. I  started appreciate music for more than it was and I wanted to be more involved in all aspects of my music.

I remember, I had this shit on my computer, I think it was called AudioHijacker, where you could take beats. I don't even know how I got it, but that was how I got all my beats back in the day. Basically, I had so many beats, it came to a point where I was like, "Damn, I wish this beat didn't have that sound," and it's not like I could go to the producer and ask 'em to take it out, because I wasn't supposed to have the beat. So I wanted to get into production. I would listen to hooks and thought " I wish I didn't have to rely on someone to come in and sing my shit" so I think a lot of it came from me not wanting to rely on people for my own creativity. I had to start being hands on and doing things that challenge me. I started signing, I started producing, and started developing those talents and it's turned into what you hear today."

Do you still feel like you are a rapper first?

"I'm an artist, my brother. I look at my shit like Picasso. Making music, to me, is like painting a picture like a real artist. I'm not a rapper, I'm not a singer, I'm not a producer. I'm just an artist who paints pictures musically."

While he may see himself as an artist, and he cares so deeply about each aspect of his music that he definitely is, this industry is one to put an artist into a box and judge them before really giving them a shot. So, when you have a sound as diverse as Tory's, it's no surprise people have trouble defining you. I asked him about the perils of incorporating so many different sounds into his music.

"People think I'm this confused artist who cant pick a lane and sounds like everybody. They tell me I sound like this guy or that guy. I feel like people need to understand that when I make music, I make it to make art. Some people don't understand how talented I am and how far I am willing to go for my art.  Sometimes it makes people skeptical and makes them scared. People don't understand why I'm so everywhere with the music."

Why is he everywhere?  Well, to answer that you'll need to know what it's like for him in the studio and how he decides when to rap or when to sing. It's all about the creative process being natural and organic.

"It's whatever the beat says to me. People overlook the fact that music talks to you. The music itself can show you the best way to go about it. So I go off the feeling of the music and how it makes me feel. I don't write. I go in and I just do it; it's off the feeling right then and there in that moment. That's with producing, that's with rapping, and that's with singing."

Tory's passion, his message, and his diverse sound have garnered him some serious attention. As fans, we love to use buzzwords like "next up" or "going to blow." For us it's a way to spotlight someone who is really making great music, but what about for the artist? What does receiving those labels mean? Not only is Tory brimming with passion and talent, but he also has the confidence.

 "When people tell me that, I feel great they see what I see in myself. A lot of the times it's hard to convince people about what you see in yourself, and I feel like they are a part of what I am doing because they believe in it just as much as I do." 

Well, Tory made me a believer. After getting to talk with him first hand, hearing how much he cares and how much thought he puts into all aspects of his art, I was even more convinced of his eventual success than I was before. His perspective on music is a breath of fresh air and while his sound will no doubt be all over the radio, it's the soul and honesty that will resonate to those who seek a level of authenticity. He also managed to make me excited for Lost Cause, so much so I basically begged him for any insight into the album. A surprise guest feature, a verse he is most looking forward to, anything that would satiate my appetite.

He was tight-lipped...

"If I told you all the surprises they wouldn't be surprises. I want the anticipation. You'll love it though I promise. I promise on anything..."

Thankfully, it won't be too long before we get to dive in; Lost Cause drops on September 29. Additionally, be on the lookout for two more, end-of-the-week releases in the Fargo Friday series with notable producers RL Grime and Ryan Hemsworth.

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