“I actually just woke up so we could go to the airport. I was headed to sunny Miami right now,” says Tory Lanez a little slowly. The Toronto based rapper’s real name is Daystar Peterson. Despite Peterson’s admission of just waking up, he doesn’t sound tired. If his work-ethic is as real as he boasts (his prolificness and relatively rapid progression as an artist suggests it is) then Peterson doesn’t have much time to be tired. He has a growing a list of collaborations with rap heavyweights like YG and Rick Ross as well as internet tastemakers like RL Grime and Ryan Hemsworth. This comes in addition to other unspecified projects, the two singles — “B.L.O.W.” and “Say It” — he just dropped and his current tour with the slept-on L.A. up-and-comer, Boogie.
Peterson is very particular about standing out as an individual, but still gracious when inevitable comparisons to the other Toronto rapper come up. He describes his music as “swavey,” a term he coined to refer to the genre bending music that artists like he, Drake, Travis Scott, and others are making. Peterson’s music has a distinct style, but it isn’t confined to a genre. He switches between singing and rapping and blending the two on songs that range from hype to emotional 90’s era throwbacks.
During the interview, Peterson’s personality oscillates between a near hyper-graciousness, having a heavy chip on his shoulder, and having confidence bordering on braggadocious. At several points he mentions that he can and will be the best but at the end of our interview, he pauses, thanking me and Hypetrak for taking the time to speak with him. Sincere “thank you’s” in the music business are like unicorns.
It all seems to work for him — top-tier artists and music media is warming up to him. As Peterson talks about his inspiration and being fueled by misfortune and mistreatment in high school, he is sincere, wholly opening up without oversharing. He wants you to like him, and you do.
Does it help you get peace of mind out in Miami? I’m sure the weather is better there than in Toronto.
The inspiration that I get in Miami is a lot different than a lot of the other places that I go. I think in different places, the culture of what’s going on like in the outside environments and things you get to see. It’s different every place. When I’m in New York you know, I get a very busy street, on-the-go vibe in my music. When I’m in Miami the music kind of sounds more up, more faster, more pick up the pace, more like… Even though it’s upbeat and pick up the pace, it’s still got a laid backness to it — a Miami vibe.
You said you need six months of life and living to produce a project. Does going to different places sort of give you that living you need to help with your projects?
I mean, regardless of the face, I think the most important thing about — at least with my music personally — is making sure my experiences are real. I never wanna be the guy that talks about somebody with swag, or who lives that life, but at the same time you always trying to be portay something. I don’t ever want to portray I want people to understand that the experiences I sing and rap about are experiences of my own life and they’re real things that happen while my day happens. Those are things I sing about — things that are really going on in front of me in that moment, or things that just happened, or rocked my soul, or change — you know — something around me. The whole six months thing was more of a really unique time to live. Not necessarily a specific scale of six months, but you just need time to live and go through experiences to sing about, or at least for me because I always want the music to always be real.
Your two newest records, “B.L.O.W.” and “Say It” sound pretty different. We’re they made in different places?
Yeah. Well, “Say It” was actually made in California. California is a place where a lot of my greatest records have happened. It happens very randomly. I don’t ever expect go out on the street and make a great record, but every time I’m in Cali, it’s like magic out in the air out there. You know? With “Say It” — “Say It” was the first record that I made for the label. It was the first session they set up for me. As far as “B.L.O.W.” is, it’s a song I did in Miami with Play Picasso. Basically one day he came to the studio and played me a beat he had, and immediately... I was already going for some kind of crazy stuff, so when he played me the beat I was already like, “this is good. I don’t even know what I want to do with this.” And that’s how it ended up coming out. [“Say It,” and “B.L.O.W.”] were recorded in two separate places. Basically, you know, that’s how the songs come out.
So your best records come out of California. Do you have any plans to collaborate with California guys, like YG or anyone like that?
Well, I have worked with YG. I have actually worked with a lot of people on the west coast. Honestly, right now, I’m just trying to — I’m more about expanding the umbrella. Umbrella as in musical collective. I’m more into putting people with records and this new energy. I think as far as collabing with people, I don’t collab with people for them to put some sort of talent on the song that’s not there. I personally feel more excited about working with the artist on my own team right now.
During SXSW you said you were working on special project but that you couldn’t say what it was. Can you talk about that?
All I wanna say is the last Friday of this year, it’s very special. That’s all I’m saying. As far as everything else, that project in itself is one that — I should call it a side project — that side project that I was talking about at [SXSW] it’s still in the works. I feel like at the end of this year it’s gonna be an inspiration and a presence that’s remarkable.
Do you feel like it’s going to help you get to that number one spot?
Always, always. My brother, you gotta know, everything is calculated. Everything is a very calculated move. Even when I fall, I’m still standing, you know? We always want to make things with respect to that the people who are listening the music — the listeners and everybody. The most important thing to me is that as long as the consumer is happy, I know that I’ll get to a place that I need to be. I know that as long as I keep feeding the consumer what they want and what I want to show them. I know that there’s no end to what’s about to happen. So, yeah I mean like it really comes down to we need to understand every move that we’re going to make from now on. We have been making those calculated [moves] and it is eventually going to put us in that number one spot.
What does a hip-hop world with Tory Lanez as the number one guy look like?
I’d be on to a lot of artists, because by the time I’m there — I’m willing to work 100,000 times more than you. I’m willing to work — all those things your label or your management is saying, “You have to go out and do this,” and that one thought process that goes across their mind, “No. I don’t want to do that.” Tory is going to do that. Tory is going to do that five times because Tory cares. And at the end of the day, because of that fact, I want every artist to understand that I’m out here to blow you out of the water. When I’m at my best and I’m at my greatest, because right now I’m not at my greatest. I’m going hard, but I’m not at my best. I’m not even close to my best. When I get to my best and I’m on top you have to understand, by the time I be at the number one spot there’s not going to be any stopping me. I’m going until die. When I’m that big and the world looks at me that big, the only way to stop to me is that you might have to assassinate me. You know what I’m saying? When you’re really scared, you have to think like that. I’m gonna be so big that you might just have to assassinate me. That’s all I’m saying.
What influenced you to cultivate that sort of work ethic and confidence in yoursel?
I’m the kid that was never handed anything in life. Nothing was ever handed to me. I know that’s like everyone's story. I was one of the kids that got shitted on. I was one of the kids that — I never made any high school teams. I never made sports teams, not because I wasn’t athletic, but because I was too bad or my grades were never good or I just couldn’t get along. It was just a problematic situation. So for me, the work ethic comes from a vengeance in my soul for all the years I feel that the world has done me wrong. There’s this vengeance to get back what I want to get out of all the situations that I have felt like I have been done wrong. And because of the situations that will never leave my heart, there’s this fire that burns. It’s not a joke, it’s not a, “yeah I feel like this in a moment, I’m not going to feel this way.” It’s an undying fire that burns for me to the path of desire of just being in that position and that fire burns me every single day. Because of that fire, it’s like I don’t allow nobody else to work harder than me. I won’t allow it. I’m not here to sit back and be number two. With that being said, my work ethic will be harder. I don’t care what you do, we’ll blow you out of the water.
I respect that. To go back to what you said about high school just now, in past interviews you’ve talked about how you’ll only collaborate with the kinds of people you were friends with in high school. What kinds of people were they and what’s your rationale behind that?
As much as kids would tease or shit on me, or whatever they did, whenever I went somewhere, I had a personality where I was like never a geek — I wish I had a story where I wasn’t in the cool crowd, I was in the cool crowd, people just didn’t like me. You know what I’m saying? The thing with me is when I look back at it. For me it’s like, in high school I would pick a certain group of people. People that kind of felt the same way. People that felt like that there was something more. People who were like, “I want to live my life, but I also want to do something more,” and I believe in this power that that everything happens for a reason. I believe in the law of attraction and as far as the way people would act the kids that I would chill with in high school, we were all just chill kids. In school there were some wild kids. There were kids like rebels, but at the end of the day, you know, we were still cool. We weren’t the rejects or anything like that. My thing is like if you look like someone I would have hung out with in high school and your personality is like someone i would have skipped school with. It’s like, alright I’ll fuck wit you, you feel me? That’s what I meant by that.
To switch it up for a second, Kurt Cobain has this quote where talks about how the most fun time to be an artist or in a band is right before you blow up, because things are kind of clicking. From an outsider’s perspective, it seems like you’re hitting that. A lot of tastemakers in music are like, “Tory is really dope, his music is underrated.” Do you feel like you’re about to blow up and is it as awesome as Kurt Cobain says it is?
To be honest, I couldn’t really tell you how it feels. I’m very oblivious to what’s going on with me and my crew. I don’t really sit back and go, “Yo, this is big.” When things are big — I don’t know, it’s a weird thing with me. It’s like things never really make me feel that way. They don’t ever make me feel like I know I’m about to blow up, or I know I’m about to be the artist that… I know that this could be taken away from me at any second. And there’s an eerieness about the fact that I’m not where I need to be at and that this can be taken from me. That eerieness kind of stops the whole, “I’m about to blow. I’m about to be next.” It’s just an obliviousness. So when people tell me, “Oh, you’re getting bigger. I can’t believe this is the moment,” I say, I don’t understand what you’re talking about. I’m not in the moment you’re in. I don’t know what you’re feeling, I don’t know what you’re really going through but I do know that right now, I don’t feel the way that you feel about this. Like I said, it’s that eerieness, that not being where I want to be makes me oblivious to that feeling.
Do you feel like that obliviousness helps you just focus on the music and just keep progressing instead of worrying about extraneous stuff?
Yeah, I mean, I think when you start worrying about the crowds and you start worrying about — you know — at what level of relevance you hold, or at what rank you hold I think you start thinking about that. You start forgetting about what gave you that rank in the first place. What gave you that in the first place. It was the music. I don’t ever want to sacrifice the music because of that feeling. I think that’s another reason why I block out that whole feeling of, “Damn. We’re getting big,” and, “This is popping. We’re selling tickets. We’re selling out shows.”
What’s next for Tory Lanez?
So many things. We’re building a production collective right now. I’m building up a production collective of some of the youngest, hottest producers that I know, that world probably doesn’t know yet. I’m bringing us all together, and music is about to drastically change because we’re all coming together. That’s amazing in itself, that we’re all about to change music. I know it’s kind of weird to hear me say that but I just know that it’s going to happen. I’m aligning that group of producers along with myself. That’s about to be a big thing. My music is about to change. As far as any other projects, I think everybody should just wait and see. Allow yourself to just be the consumer. Expect the unexpected. Everything is going to be amazing. That’s all I’m gonna say. I have an incredible team, incredible music. And my publicist is amazing so everything is lit [Tory’s publicist laughs in the background].
Can you tell me who the producers are at all?
Right now, it’s just me, Play Picasso. We got this new kid named Sergio. I only want it to be four or five people. I have the other people ready but the thing about it is, I’m just gonna allow us to get that point so I’m not going to say their names yet.
Photography by Tiki Cofer