Tre Mission Gonna Be Starting Something

Tre Mission Gonna Be Starting Something
Photo by Benny Fong

Tre Mission has had a big year. This time last year, the Toronto- based MC and producer was largely unknown in his own country. Mission specializes in being one of the few non-British grime MCs to develop a following in the genre's homeland, where hardcore grime fans are familiar with Mission for his clash with veteran MC Jendor at battle series "Lord of the Mics," having his songs played by influential DJs like Logan Sama and Tim Westwood and appearing on songs by grime vet Wiley.

This year, however, things are different. Mission's independently released debut full-length, Malmasion, came out last year to critical praise. He's become a music blog favourite and appeared alongside artists like Killer Mike and Isaiah Rashad. He's also signed a three-album deal with British label Big Dada, best known for releasing music by artists like Wiley and Roots Manuva. His Big Dada debut, Stigmata, comes out August 12.

What has the last year been like for you?
I released my first album, Malmaison, in June. Before I even released Malmaison, I signed a contract with Big Dada and Ninja Tune. So this is going to be my first real, real album. Malmaison was a real album, too. It wasn't a mixtape, but this is the going to be the real, real thing.

So what's the difference between a real album and a real, real album?
Malmaison was my first real project, but basically, it was a bit scattered. Some of the songs had been finished for six months before the album released, some of them were done the week before. This is the first album where I was in the same state of mind the whole time.

I did everything else the same, same studio. I made most of the beats, my engineer Sunny Diamonds and my DJ Freeza Chin still mixed it, my boy Sean Getti's still doing the album art… so all of that is the same, but everything on here was written with the goal of going on the Stigmata album.

What was that like, writing an album as one start-to-finish unit?
I don't really look at myself as a rapper. I spend more time making beats and thinking about my music, what kind of sounds I want to make, what resources I have to make those sounds, you know? A lot of the work that goes into the album is research, finding different sounds and figuring out how I could include it in my own song. So the actual process of making music is pretty slow. Most rappers are like, "Oh, I can make ten songs in one day. I'm in the studio all the time. My work ethic is crazy." That's how it is in the new millennium. When I was growing up in the '90s, no one focused on that. People just dropped an album every two or three years. Now, I'm talking about Stigmata, just a few months after dropping Malmaision, and people are like "What took you so long?" That's how it is now.

Do you consider yourself more a rapper or more a producer?
With rapping and words, I'm not someone who will just write anything down because it fits. Maybe two years ago I would have. Now, I make sure there are no filler bars. So I run into writer's block more than I probably would. I could easily grab a piece of paper and be like "When I'm on the mic I'm a lyrical genius," and boom, there's my first bar. But then I'm not really saying anything. I'm not really putting anything into the world. When I was a kid, I used to be really into Dragon Ball Z — actually, I just got the new one for Xbox, but whatever — and there's this part where they ask [Dragon Ball protagonist] Goku to put his energy into the world… and I feel like music is about giving energy to the world. I was talking to my boy, and we were talking about how, when you go to a club, especially here in Toronto, you don't really see people dancing. They might move a little bit, but they're not really dancing. But if you go to a concert, you'll see people jumping up and down together. That has to do with energy, all the energy together building up in that room. Everyone's feeding into that same energy. When you make music, you're giving people that energy they're going to use… You've got to think about that.

So how did you get linked up with Big Dada?
I met those guys the first time I was in London. I was with Wiley, in London, at one of a mastering session, and Wiley was trying to get everyone to sign me at the time. I barely had any material, and looking back, I'm glad I waited. If they had signed me back then and I had released an album, I don't know what that would have sounded like. Fast forward two years later, they must have gotten wind of me again, and [Big Dada founder] Will [Ashon] was like "We want to sign him, now."

What's it like working with a label for the first time?
It's a bit different. Sometimes I'll be sitting down looking at my laptop and I'll be like "You know what? That song that I did with [grime artist] Merky Ace worked. I want to put that out today." And I'll call up Getti and be like "Yo, slap something together for me, I need a little artwork" and I can dash that out…. I just want people to hear me. And the label is like the barrier blocking between me at that. They have to take everything and monetize it. Big Dada is a different kind of label. They're a niche thing like I'm a niche thing, but they still need to make money. So they have my getting a lot more organized with releasing.