Published Sep 01, 2016Although controversy has surrounded Tory Lanez in recent months, specifically regarding negative comments he's made about Drake, the release of his debut album, I Told You (out now on Mad Love/Interscope), offers a more intimate reflection of the 24-year old, specifically the adversity he faced to get here.
I Told You is an underdog story.
"I Told You is for all the people who've been doubted, the underdogs," Lanez tells Exclaim! "The reason why I called it I Told You is because I wanted to show people that I have been doubted, and I have been in the face of adversity. Coming out of that situation, this is my 'I told you' moment.
"I have a lot of fans, but a lot of people don't know who I am. I wanted to take them through that story from when I was 16 up until this point. That's kinda what the album does — it's almost like an audio movie. But you can see what's going on, there are skits, there are actors, there are interludes, and I narrate the whole shebang, you know?"
His preacher dad got him on stage.
As the son of a missionary preacher, Lanez bounced around from city to city, and was able to indulge in different music scenes — all of which played a role in his music today.
"That was one of the biggest things for me. I used to always see him travel around the world and preach. He was always travelling and going on stage, and I think that influenced me as a young kid. For me, to be watching him just do that made me wanna go out and go on a stage, and travel around, and say my song to the people — my word — and basically show these people who I am. I moved around a lot of places because of my dad's work, but it made my music more cultural and able to reach multiple people instead of one kind of crowd."
School failures fostered independence.
"I started rapping because my mom died when I was about 11 years old, and I was a very rebellious kid. I've been kicked out of every school I've ever been in since 6th grade on, expelled and dropped out in the 11th grade. Music was the only thing that I could really use to express myself, so I started rapping. Then, when I wanted singers on my hooks and on my songs, they just didn't really wanna work with me, because I really wasn't nothing. So I started teaching myself how to sing so [that] I didn't have to depend on them."
Toronto is home.
Adorned in accolades as Toronto's next major superstar, the city itself has played a valuable role in his music — even if he didn't grow up here. Following the release of his 2015 mixtape, The New Toronto, Tory quickly established what the city meant to him, which was further solidified when he wore a T-shirt onstage at the 2016 WayHome Festival that read: *Dying* in Toronto.
"This is my home city. This is the biggest nostalgic place that I have in my heart, and for the things that I've gone through, just in the city and different places in the city, this [place] holds the most stories and the most inspiration for the things I speak about in my music. At the end of the day, I plan on staying in Canada. This is my life, and I don't really wanna think about the day when I die, but it'll probably be here."
Listen to I Told You's "Diamonds" below.