Published Aug 14, 2012Vernon, BC-born, Vancouver-based MC/singer SonReal is very much a man of his time. Even ten years ago, Son would have struggled to find an audience for his laidback, introspective songs about the sort of small struggles that make up our daily lives. Now, in the post-Drake/post-J. Cole era, the t"houghtful, rapping everyman" has become its own hip-hop archetype. What differentiates SonReal from the rest of his subgenre, however, is how well it's executed. On new mixtape Good News, which is really an album, SonReal proves that he's a diverse MC. As a singer, he may not be R&B star calibre, but his whiskey-soaked rasp is more than enough to carry songs like "I Don't Give a Shit" and "Jerk." SonReal is, in turns, sensitive, cocky and funny, and he writes his own hooks. He has all the qualifications for the job of rapper-as-pop star.
Things are looking good for Vancouver's SonReal. Not only does the MC/singer have a new mixtape, entitled Good News, making the rounds on the major download sites, he also has two more releases, including an EP with Toronto producer/MC Rich Kidd, set to drop in the next six months. With a sound that's more polished than ever and an almost ridiculous work rate, Son thinks is ready to take things to the next level.
Do you think people who might have been on the fence with you a little bit might be coming around with this record?
I think that with any new artist, everyone needs some time to decide if they really like you. Even me, when I hear a new artist, it takes me a while to be sold on them. I really feel like Good News is that kind of album that's almost undeniable. I kind of feel like Canada needs this right now.
You look at my city: there's been nobody to come out of my city since Swollen Members in the early 2000s. I feel like this record is an important record for Vancouver. It's just great to have some of these amazing DJs in my city come up to me and say, "We haven't seen anything like this in a long time." I think Canada needs a record like this because hip-hop's changed. You don't need to conform to being hard anymore, being gully, having anything to prove. This record is just really honest and it relates to everyday people.
Tell me more about the idea of representing Vancouver.
We don't really have anyone doing things on an international level. We have some great artists from my city doing their thing ― Snak the Ripper and guys like that ― but we don't have a Drake or K'Naan. Even K-Os lives in Vancouver, but you wouldn't be like, "K-Os equals Vancouver." We're trying to build the Vancouver brand and sound. Vancouver's a very laidback place and a very open-minded place, and I think that's what I bring to the table representing Vancouver.
Why do you consider yourself controversial?
Just because I'm outside of the box: I'm from a small town, I'm not from the hood and I'm white. No matter what I say, there are already a lot of controversial things about me. Also, the whole singing and rapping thing; I have a song on Good News called "Jerk" where I don't even rap at all. That's controversial. People will be like, "Oh, that ain't hip-hop."
We're seeing more and more of that rapper/singer thing though.
Hip-hop's in a different time now; it needed to go somewhere else. I feel like we're in a new golden era, with people like Kendrick Lamar, Drake and A$AP Rocky ― Frank Ocean even. All these people are hip-hop and it's not the same as it was in the '90s or early '00s. Being an artist, being yourself and speaking on your struggle and your situations, that's cool now.
When did you start singing?
When I first started rapping, I'd get my little sister to come and sing on the hooks, just on the computer at my mom's house. I've always loved singing. When I look at my really old shit, when I was like 15 and 16, I'd try to sing, but I didn't really know what I was doing. It was something I felt ashamed of at one point; it wasn't cool. And I was trying to do the Mobb Deep thing and the Nas thing. Now it's something I really take pride in. It's part of my brand; it's cool. I've been taking voice lessons for years; I'm still taking voice lessons and I'm really working hard to be a better singer.
Tell me about the title?
I feel like I'm at a time in my career where I'm finally getting some good news. Anyone who knows me knows I've been working at this really hard since about 2008 and I haven't gotten a lot of insane results until the last year or so. It's like, "here it is, here's the news, here's what I have to offer."
Read a review of Good News here.