Tory Lanez is an up-and-coming Toronto rapper with some tasty A-list connections. He’s mate with Justin Bieber and has feuded with Drake for years. Lanez declined to discuss Drake during his NME interview, but it all began in when he laid down a wager in 2010. He asked the 6 God to listen to his music – if Drake liked it, no harm done; if not, Lanez would pay him $10,000. Drake didn’t respond, but dismissed Lanez as a lame imitator in this year’s single ‘Summer Sixteen’.
Lanez wants to put all that behind him and the recent release of debut album ‘I Told You’ is a fine way to do that. Coming off the back of a slew of mixtapes, it tells the tale of his grind to success through classy R&B and trap-influenced hip-hop. It’s insanely long (28 tracks including skits) and so narrative-led that sometimes sounds like a rapped screenplay. We spoke to the musician about Biebs, fate, and how his father healed the sick through the power of God.
Even by the standards of a debut album, there’s a great deal of personal narrative in ‘I Told You’. Why did you feel it so important to tell that story?
It was important because the narrative is not just a fake story; it’s my life on a time line. And a lot of times, people don’t be 100% real with their story and I just kind of wanted to give people the drawn-out experience of the perseverance and the struggle that it took to get here.
Is it true that your father was a missionary, a minister, who healed people through the power of God?
A missionary preacher, yeah. He travelled all across the world preaching the Gospel and healing people. He’d sit there praying in church. The whole church would sit there praying and people would come up and get healed. People who couldn’t walk, they’d come in wheelchairs and he’d make them walk. It’s just the power of god. It wasn’t my Dad; it’s what God had instructed my Dad to do.
That must have a massive impact on you as a young child…
It gave me a kind of backbone and showed me that if I have my morals, then good things [will happen]. If you try to be better every day, more miracles happen in your life. I can look at you and say, “I’m gonna be the biggest artist in the world” because, at the end of the day, it’s about the trust I have in God. He’s already shown me that I’m gonna fulfil my destiny.
Do you think everything’s mapped out, then?
Yeah, 100%. It’s already been written on your path. So me and you meeting today, it was for a reason. Not just because it’s for an interview but maybe there’s something that I’m saying that might stick with you. Maybe you’re gonna tell me something today that might stick with me for the rest of my life.
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Is it true that you were Justin Bieber’s “hip-hop coach”?
Nah, I wouldn’t say all that. People started saying that at one point, though, because he put out a freestyle when he was mad young where he used eight bars of my song. But he ended up being a great friend of mine. When I see him, it’s like seeing Canada again. We’re just two Canadian dudes. It’s kind of like seeing a cousin again, a cousin you don’t see all the time. He always welcomes me with open arms. He’s a warm-hearted kid; a good kid.
What’s your ambition for this album?
This is the best music put out so far in 2016. I stand behind that wholeheartedly. There’s no album in 2016 that’s better than my album. When you take the time to dive into it, you understand why. I encourage everyone to go out and get – not because I’m trying to promote myself, but because you’ve been starved of great music.