Interview: Tory Lanez — “If I Stopped Making Music, I Would Be Messing Up Our Generation”
Speaking to Tory Lanez without hearing his music could give the wrong idea. The excitable, high-pitched Canadian artist talks a big game; his ultimate ambition, which he is on the warpath to reach, is to be the biggest artist in the world. It is because of his belief that his destiny is to make moving, important music and that he was blessed by the heavens with the power to do so, that he has become the undeniably talented individual he is today. In short, the big game is not only talked; it’s rapped, sung, and more. He can write a jaw-dropping, shit-talking 16, or a certifiably club-needed hook. He can produce the proper beat for each, as well as direct an energetic and sharp video to match. There is no way he would be as good at everything he does without the utmost trust in himself, and it’s not a trust that comes immediately–it takes some time singing on the bus. Gaining others’ trust in your abilities comes even less quickly–it takes some years thumping your chest, on and off the track. Check out our extraordinarily quotable interview with the unshakable Tory Lanez, and be on the lookout for Conflicts Of My Soul: The 416 Story, dropping Monday.
RESPECT: Tell us how your connection with DJ Mustard came about.
Tory Lanez: That actually came about in the weirdest way, because I didn’t even know it was DJ Mustard until I heard the whole “Mustard on the beat,” you know? It’s crazy because it’s really the only R&B type beat he’s made. We hit him up and he was like, “Yeah, I’ve got this one really melodic joint and I want you to jump on that.”
And how did you link up with Kirko?
Let me tell you: I was out in Houston with my DJ, Mr. Rogers. He’s like, a known DJ in Houston, so he was like, “Yo, I’m gonna give you the Houston experience, and take you around everywhere.” And it was like three o’clock in the morning at this strip club called Dreams, and I seen Kirko there. So I went up to him, you know, real humble, cuz at the end of the day, I’m not really on like that. But I went up to him and told him I really fuck with his work. He asked me my name and I was like, “Tory Lanez, I’m from Canada,” and he cut me off and was like “Oh, I know who you are.” I was like “Ohhh, that’s dope.” He said he really wanted to work together. And after that, every time I hit him—I mean I expected the whole “rapper run-around” type situation—he was cool. Every time I called, he called right back. So I gave him the record, and at first I don’t think he really liked it, but then one day he called me like “Yo, I don’t know if I slept on that record before, but that shit is crazy, yo. You’ll have my part in 30 minutes.” At that moment, I was at a listening party with my manager, Sascha, and we were playing the project. And by the time we got to the record that I wanted Kirko on, Kirko had sent his feature through. It was on some God moment type weird shit.
I actually felt really comfortable with Tyler [Yee] directing because he’s someone whose work I was really a fan of. So it was more like I just got to sit back ,and get the thrill of seeing how this is gonna come out. He did exactly what I wanted him to do. I was happy that I didn’t have to come through and be like “Do the shot this way, do the shot that way.” Most of the time, it’s not that I choose to direct the videos, I just get to the set and then I have a better idea than the director. Here, that just wasn’t the situation.
It was an interesting intro to your style to see you first as a pure R&B singer. First time listeners who watch “Know What’s Up” get the impression that you don’t spit.
I don’t ever want people to ever look at me and say “there goes that rapper.” I want them to say, “that’s one of the best artists out right now.” When you think of a rapper, you think of the cliché things that you see in rap videos. I don’t want my music to be reflected upon people like that. I’m never hesitant to go on a record and sing the whole thing, even though I know I could tear it up. But it’s music, its not just rap, you know?
Did you study the singing tip from an academic angle?
No, no, actually, when I was 16, I would ride the city bus. I started singing to this one John Legend record; it was called “Each Day Gets Better,” or something like that. I started to realize, “Wow, I really sound like this dude. If I keep doing this, maybe I can sound dope like John Legend and still rap.” So I decided to try it out, but I was very shy. The way that I learned to be confident was I would ride the back of the city bus and sing very low. Eventually, I would be singing loud as fuck and the whole bus would be like, “What the hell?…But you can sing”.
Was that your first confirmation that you really had talent or was there something else?
Well, I wrote this whole page that was like, a bunch of punch lines, and I spat it at a battle. I battled somebody at the movies with it. It was a slaughter. I was like 13 and I remember kids were going like “He’s the greatest, this little nigga..!” I’m sorry about my French. At this point, as a 13 year old, I was like, “This is it. I don’t want to do nothing else in life, I don’t want to go to school. I want to do this.” That was like my moment.
You once said that after you got fired from Denny’s at 16 was the moment you decided music was your path.
Yeah man…I didn’t have school as a fallback, I didn’t have a job as a fallback, cause I had just gotten fired from Denny’s and then boom—I told myself: “I’m never gonna work through nobody again. The only way that my life is gonna work is through this music. If it doesn’t work through music, then shit, I better grab a AK and a fucking brick of coke cuz I’m going out in a blaze of glory and that’s just how it is.” …There’s a lot of people in the world who know what they want to do, but they don’t have the guts to say “Fuck it, this is what I’m gonna do.”
Has there been a moment since then when you’ve thought you might have to go back?
Never. Never. Never. Like, don’t get me wrong, there’s ups and downs in every artists life, but…There’s something about this talent I have. There’s no possible way I was blessed with this talent for no reason. That just keeps me knowing that I have to do what I’m doing. I feel honestly, like, if I was to quit music now, I honestly would be messing up our generation. I wouldn’t be able to get my message out there and help people in the right way, or at all. I realized, this has to work. There’s people that like my music so much that they come to me and they’re like “Yo, if you didn’t make this song, I don’t know where I would be in my life.” When you hear shit like that, it’s like I’ve gotta keep making music, I can’t stop. There’s people who need this.
You are clearly a confident dude, so what are some of the “conflicts of your soul”?
Ok, so my real name is Daystar Peterson. Basically, my name means “A revolutionary light of progression for my generation.” The way my name was given to me was because my dad was a preacher, and one day he was in this hotel in Virginia and they were listening to my mom’s stomach. They were praying and they said, “may god grant my kid good life and longevity until the day god and the day star rises.” He said that god stopped him and said, “That’s your child’s name.” So based on the diverse talents that I’ve been given, I see it as, I can either use these and be extremely good for the world, or I can use these powers—not powers, but talents—and be extremely negative. I mean, like, making music that’s not positive but sounds good. I’ve been blessed with the talent to make melodies sound good. We live in a world where we hear “fuck this bitch” every day, but they’re put in such a cool manner that I’m like, “Yo I wanna rap or sing like that”. I’m a child of god, but sometimes, I make devilish music, so that’s a conflict of my soul. I could tell the world not to use drugs, but I smoke a lot. Like, niggas be sayin’ they smoke, but I probably smoke double what your favorite rapper smoke. I don’t wanna just be a hypocrite about it. I could tell people a million reasons why not to smoke, but I struggle with the same thing. I’m caught in a world of knowing that I could do better, but not always doing it. I’m in the problem with people.
What, outside of rap, or music entirely, inspires you?
We all went on a trip to El Salvador last weekend. And we were in a village and we would just see people who wake up and catch fish all day and sell ‘em in the market. That type of stuff really inspires me.
Is there an equation or recipe for your sound? You can use artists, genres, eras, anything.
Well basically, I don’t know if you know this, but this is a vital piece of information at least for me—
Ah—yes. Wow, you’re a great guy. Yeah, basically, that’s what swavey is. I don’t want to be a rapper or any of those other things. Swavey is actually a genre of music that I’ve created. It means that you can fuse more than one genre of music together, embody it, and make it your own. So basically, the way I draw inspiration from music, is sometimes we’ll go listen to music that has nothing to do with what we do, and we’ll try to pull sounds and excerpts from the songs and recreate them in our own way, with hip-hop or R&B or whatever. It’s kind of like being a chemist and having a bunch of recipes or chemicals, and creating something that embodied and is your own. And that’s what swavey really is. You’ll hear rock sounds in our R&B, you’ll hear rock sounds in our rap, you’ll hear hip-hop sounds in my R&B, you’ll hear other things that aren’t supposed to be there. It’s just different things that I think are dope.
What’s an example of a recent track you heard and knew immediately you had to take some part of it and add it to your sound?
I don’t know if you realize, but I put out a song called “Fourteen & 40s,” right? And we sampled the beginning of that Mary J. Blige and Method Man song. We didn’t want to just sample the part where Mary J is singing, we actually sampled the intro where he’s talking. Some of the ad-libs on the actual project which you’ll hear are very deep and slowed down but they add to the melodic-ness of the song and the beat. It’s crazy, ’cause we actually got that just from him saying “Ye ye y’all, put it on the track”, but on the actual song, it’ll actually go with the melody, you feel me?
We even had this one Lykke Li sample—I have no idea if I’m saying her name right—and it’s very very very dope. It’s like “Until We Bleed” is what we called it. When I actually flipped it, it sounds like some hip-hop shit, but if you were to hear the original you’d think it was some sort of house, or techno. It’s flipped in a way where it’s ours. Our own.
What would your ideal reaction be for people to have to your music? Like to say “that was impressive,” or “that was smooth,” or “that was inspiring,” or what?
It’s not so much a ‘say’ thing as I want people to feel moved. I want you to leave the tape knowing, “damn, that just affected my life. Hearing that has made me rethink some of the decisions in my own life based on the way this person has described situations that are similar to mine right now.” I want it to change people’s lives. I want people to feel moved—whether it makes you feel in a positive way, or it makes you feel mad or sad I just want you to feel moved. I know once you give your ear and you let the music move you, it is going to move you.
What can you promise about Conflicts other than “expect the unexpected” or that it’ll be dope?
It’s gonna feel like a movie. And even the songs that have come out already, like “Hate Me On The Low” and “Fourteen & 40s,” they have extended parts that tie them together.
In your last interview with us, you claimed social media was the greatest thing ever to happen to mankind. Back that up.
I honestly feel…ok. Let me put it like this. I feel I can speak for a lot of people when I say I’ve been an underdog my whole life. I feel like at times I’ve been given the short end of the stick, as far as having a talent that hasn’t been expressed globally to the world. I feel like now that social media is coming out, there’s a way to put content out to the masses without it being expensive. People are able to go on the internet nowadays and see things they weren’t able to see 6 years ago. It’s growing in a way that’s making it so much easier to be accessible. Especially for people who have talents but are overlooked. I feel like social media adds that outlet to add the underdog shine. In places like…Syria, where all these crazy things are happening, it’s like, people can just show you by videotaping and putting it on the internet, then the whole world can see and people can be affected by it. It’s so dope that that’s able to be done because without that—I hate to sound ignorant—there’s a lot of things that I wouldn’t know, if it wasn’t for social media. I think that shit is amazing…Maybe I went a little far saying it was the greatest thing to happen to mankind [laughs.] But it was one of them.
You’ve often talked about being the biggest artist in the world one day—it’s even promised on the cover of Sincerely Tory. What moment will you need to tell you you’ve made it to that status?
I don’t think its really a moment, I just feel like…when it is…it will be. People will know, and I will know. I feel like as for my aspirations, that’s my main goal. Regardless of anything, at some point in my life, people in Syria, people in Brazil—not just in America, I don’t want to just be a big star in America, you feel me? I want to be the biggest artist in the world—and when I’m getting offers from every place, every little island in the world, and little places where people can’t go to. Because I know there’s little islands that you’re not supposed to go to unless you’re of that caliber. When I start going places like that and touching people in different parts of the world, I’ll know I’ve really effected people. When I sell 500,000 tickets in another part of the world, that’s when I’ll know my music has reached that plateau.
When do you see that happening?
I don’t feel like it’s gonna be easy. But I definitely know that god is gonna bless me with some of the craziest music to the point where a miracle could happen. I know that I’ve been given a talent and that god is gonna bless me within the next couple of years with the songs to touch the world. I know that that’s promised to me. I know that god is a touchy subject to people, and they say “science says this, blah blah blah,” but I know for a fact that in the upcoming time, I will be blessed with the records that are gonna change the world.