Tory Lanez. If your first time hearing his name and voice was only this past summer when he released his hit single “Say It,” then we’ve got to ask: WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?
Arguably delivering some the most underrated material of the past three years, the 23-year-old Toronto native found an imploding sense of success with his most notable mixtapes, Chixtape and Chixtape 2. While the young artist impressed with his ability to expand across both the R&B and Hip Hop genres, it was his unique way of being able to deliver hard hitting lines as well as melodic and relatable lyrics that made us realize “he’s definitely next to blow.”
Falling in line with our track record of co-signing many artists who are “next to blow,” it was 2014 where the second installment of Chixtape hit our ears and then shortly following, Lost Cause was released. Undeniably two of the best mixtapes to be delivered that year, it wouldn’t be long before the talented artist was recognized on a level higher than just cosigns and statements of him being overly underrated.
Now signed to Interscope Records through hitmaker Benny Blanco’s imprint Mad Love, the young and poppin’ artist is without a doubt one of the hottest right now. Releasing his collaboration mixtape Cruel Intentions with WeDidIt at the top of the summer, it wasn’t until a month later that mainstream listeners would be exposed to the singer and all that he had to offer with his breakout single, “Say It.”
Taking time out of his hectic schedule to chop it up with us recently, Tory let us know what it’s like having a rapidly growing fan base and no longer be independent. He discussed the impact of his environment on his musical ambitions, upcoming music (spoiler: you may have a new favorite installment of Chixtape soon), and most interestingly, being the savior of R&B.
Take a look at our exclusive interview below!
A lot of people have been recently introduced to you through your new single “Say It.” So for those people who may not be familiar with your past, previous mixtapes, and just the work that you’ve done, can you give them a little insight on your backstory?
I’m from Toronto, Canada – number 1 – but I was raised in America. I was raised in Florida, Atlanta, and New York, and I moved back to Toronto when I was about 15 or 16. I think me taking musical inspiration from all of those places is where I developed my sound. Pretty much, for the people who don’t know, I had multiple mixtapes that were out before I was ever recognized, that I of course built a fan base and following off of. Projects like Conflicts of My Soul, the Chixtape 1 and the Chixtape 2, Lost Cause, and clearly the last that was a collection of music that I did with the L.A. based group called WeDidIt, and from that point on we dropped “Say It” and a couple of other records and things of that nature. Of course, we had this thing called “Fargo Friday’s,” which basically was when we dropped music on certain Friday’s out of the month – or the year. That is what I think had a lot of people starting to listen to my music because I was coming consistent and my music has always been consistent and I’ve been innovative with the music and the sound, so that’s it in a nutshell I guess.
I know you said you spent some time in Florida – Miami, correct? How do you feel having that experience alone down there impacted your style? I’m originally from Florida myself and a lot of people have no idea that much of the lingo that people are using today originated from there.
Of course I feel like it impacted me. You know, you grow up – or especially when you go to school in Miami – it’s a lil’ different. You know, we grow up knowing a lot of things earlier then the average kids. I don’t know, in Miami, it’s just too hot and too free. It’s just a free place. So it’s so many kids that are acting a little overly grown when they’re not. I feel like when I was in middle school, I was living an adult life in some weird way. There’s certain things that we learn – the slang, the dances, the songs that I used to listen to…you know, just runnin’ around being a R&B lil’ jit. That was me. I was really out there causing problems and being a young kid. It’s just a different experience. Growing up and going to a bunch of house parties and stuff like that, but the house parties was different. You go to a house party and you see some 14 and 15-year-olds with the high school kids, but it’s like the high school kids attracted college kids. It was a weird thing. Everyone was like in the same crowd.
Right. It’s definitely a different type of vibe when you’re down there.
So, “Say It” has been somewhat of your “breakout” single. It’s been the song to put you in the mainstream. Can you tell me a little about the creation and the inspiration behind it, and using that sample from Brownstone.
Well it started from Interscope. When I first signed to Interscope, they put me in a session with a producer named Pop Wansel and he was playing around with the sample. I actually had never heard the song before I did the song. So when he was choppin’ it up, I was like ‘Wow, this is dope. Lemme have something ready in the pocket and we just started goin’. I went in the booth and I freestyled the hook and from that point, I just kept going with the vibe and it became the record that it is today.
Do you think that was a good choice for a lead single for you?
Of course. I think it’s cool with the guys and the guys feel it because of what the content is about. The girls love it because of the singing and older people love it because of the sample. And you know, people who just love old school music are gonna love it just because of the feel. So, you know, I felt like it was an all around good choice because it brings back the things that we wanna hear in music and the things that are missing. I feel like people got touched and everyone gets touched in a different way when they hear the record.
So, you’ve had a few people cover that song. You’ve had Ed Sheeran, you’ve had Sevyn…is there anyone in particular you want to see take it on next and how do you feel knowing that those two individuals have covered it so far?
Kehlani told me she was gonna cover it. So, I’m actually waiting on her. I really wanna hear hers [laughs]. If she doesn’t, I would be bummed out. If she does, it’ll be amazing. I just want to hear it. I think both songs [speaking of Ed and Sevyn] are incredible. They’re both different. I think I go to Ed when I want to hear the different foreign sounding way of like hearing it. I go to Sevyn when I want to get that vibe – that soulful, like real, you know, R&B and stuff. Honestly, they both have different characteristics, so I can’t really say if either one is that much better.
You signed with Benny Blanco’s label. How was that experience for you when you were finally able to sign to a label opposed to previously being independent?
Well, the thing about it is we did so much and took it as far as we could take it independent. We had a core fan base, we had sold out shows…we did a lot of stuff before we even got signed. So I think at one point, people stopped feeling like I was independent anyway because of the way that the team was and we was just rockin’. So now that I’m signed, nothing’s really changed because the team that we’re around feels the same way the we feel about music and feeling like we should always just be who we are and never just change or try to be something we’re not. We should just drop music and feel happy about the music that we drop. As long as the music makes us feel good and gives the people good vibes, then that’s all. I don’t have those problems with my label like how artists have – I don’t know why those problems even happen. Maybe it’s just because our team is so good and our team is so strong, but I don’t have problems with the label. I think that everything is the same and still feels good; we just have a little extra help now.
As far as your upcoming music – and I’m hoping debut album coming very soon – what can people expect from you next? Is there another single coming? A release date for the album?
Right now, there’s an album coming next year of course and for right now, I’m just putting out newer music. There’s a couple things that are gonna surprise a couple people, but I’m not gonna talk about it right now.
Let’s back track to your classic ‘Chixtape‘ installments. If you had to choose between 1 and 2, which one would you say would be your favorite?
Well actually, my favorite Chixtape is number 3, but shhhhhh [laughs]. You gotta shhhh. Nah, but between 1 and 2, I would definitely choose 2. It just spoke to me more. It was when I tapped into another element especially with my production. That was the first time I was really able to get deep into the production of music and it just spoke to me more. The creation process was different and the time that I recorded it just spoke to me more. I was a little more naive on the first one [laughs].
One of my favorite songs by you was “Selfish / York University” on the Lost Cause mixtape.
Oh yeah, mine too.
Yeah, I loveeeee that mixtape. I played that thing back to back. I’m in love with that one. And of course, “I-95,” that’s one of my favorite tracks too.
Oh, wow. Thanks! Thank you!
What is your process when you go in and write these tracks? What are you thinking about? Where do you pull from for inspiration?
I don’t write. I just go in and do it. I don’t pull out any pen, sheet of paper, or anything like that. I just go in and whatever is in my mind, I spew.
So everything is freestyled?
Yeah, I’ll like punch fives lines in then punch another five lines in and you know, I just record it like that. I just keep going with five lines and whatever fits, that’s it, and if not, we just keep going based off the feel. Nothing is written down. I just put on the beat and whatever emotion I’m going through – especially when I produce the beat because I’m producing off of the emotion. Whatever emotion I’m going through, I put it on the track.
When it comes to your style, you’re a singer, yes, but you are also a very dope rapper. Is one more essential to your art to you than the other?
Um, if I had to choose…I don’t know because the melodic sound I think is always better for you in the long run. Melody never dies. At the same time, I do think that when you make music, and when it does come to a certain point, I kinda feel like you can’t really have one without the other. You have to be able to create in all forms, you know? It’s kinda hard to answer that question because I wouldn’t want to lose any of it.
You’re currently on tour right now. How has that experience been? What has been your favorite stop so far and how has this whole experience been for you touring?
That tour [with Young Thug] got canceled. But as far as us, we’re doing our own tour and we’re coming back to Atlanta, I believe some time in November. But that tour got canceled, so I can’t really say what my favorite part of the new tour has been because it’s just starting.
Well good! I’m glad you reschedule the tour because I wasn’t going to be here on the original date, so now I can make it out [laughs].
[Laughs] Nah, for sure.
This was your first year performing at the Revolt Conference in Miami. How was that for you?
It was actually really fun. I had a good time. I was just happy to be there to be honest with you. A lot of people don’t get to go to these events. Just me being given the opportunity in general, I’m just happy.
You’re quite young, right? 23?
Yeah, I’m 23.
How do you feel your experience being a little younger in the industry and putting out the quality music that you do, puts you in a different realm than those that are in your age bracket or in the type of “progressing R&B” genre you’re in? How do you feel that you set yourself apart from where everyone else is?
I just feel like I speak as if I’m the voice for the younger people who are apart of my generation. I’m just glad to be this age right now because I feel as if it’s harder for us to relate to people that are a little bit older than us opposed to relating to someone our age and someone who’s able to stand up and be knowledgeable. Age is only experience. So, even though I’m 23, the experiences that I’ve went through in my life, in my mind it’s like I’m 35 or some crazy shit like that, know what I’m sayin’? That’s just how I go about it. I just go by my life. You know, with the experiences that I know and the maturity level that I have and just people feel it I guess.
I know that you’ve experienced a lot in your past. How much do you think that everything you’ve gone through has played into where you are now? Is there anything that you feel like you saw was going to happen at a younger age? Like for me, I knew since I was a kid that I was going to be a writer. So do you feel like when you were younger and you had certain family members in your life who are no longer here, do you feel like this moments maybe paved the way for you to grind harder or say like “this has to happen”?
Definitely. When my mom died, music was the only way I could really express myself. So, I think it was meant for me to be doing music. If I didn’t have music as an outlet of expression when my mom passed away, I don’t think I would’ve been here today. Had I been in a different situation, I probably would’ve expressed myself differently and not in a good way, you know?
Yeah, I definitely understand. One fun question I’ve been asking artists recently is if you had the opportunity to create the perfect collaboration, who would it include and why?
Um, honestly I’m really just about collabing with my team right now. You know there are a lot of artists on my project and on my team under a division of a group we call One Umbrella and right now, I’m just so excited about working with them because these are people who are on different musical levels and their levels of thinking is on a higher echelon right now. I’m excited about their music and they’re excited about my new music. They’re all very dope and there’s a few people that are about to come out. Everybody’s about to be on a different type of wave right now. I’m just happy that I’m in a position to expose these artists and share them with the world.
One last question. Right now, a lot of people feel that R&B is in a state of emergency. Where do you think R&B is going? What do you feel as if the core artists that are out right now – or even the people that are coming up – are really missing? What do you feel like R&B has that has excelled it from where it was previously?
I think personally the state of R&B right now is a lot of artists – and a lot of R&B artists – is listening to the Chixtapes 2 and they tryna emulate my style and I feel like personally, at the end of the day, I’ma keep making this music for them to be inspired and feel good about, you know? [laughs]. But right now, I feel like I am the savior of R&B and I will save this musical genre as I will save a bunch more. And that’s how I personally feel about it. I feel like other artists should feel a way about their music and they should feel the same way. But me personally, I feel like I’m one of the main creators and one of the dudes that’s keeping that sound alive and I will continue to do that for the love of R&B and the love of music. I’m for the people, and I speak for the people, and at the end of the day, I’m the people’s champ and I will never ever say that there’s anything wrong with this music. That’s one thing I will never do. I just want the world to know that [laughs].
–Interview by Ni’Kesia Pannell