Published Mar 11, 2016There are moments in Toronto's hip-hop scene that seem to be driven by half-hearted co-signs and the need for attention, but for Parma Court's Big Lean, neither seems too important. He first appeared on the Toronto hip-hop scene in 2010 with the release his debut mixtape, I'm Here Now, featuring production from Boi-1da and childhood friend Young Tony (now known to the world as OVO Hush).
"Me and Boi-1da met around the time he was working on [Drake's] So Far Gone," Big Lean tells Exclaim! "We had mutual friends, I was rapping and he made beats, so we connected. I got a few beats from him and from then we built a relationship. Since then he's been like a brother to me."
Fast-forward to 2016, and Big Lean has an impressive group of features under his belt: Sizzla, Chinx Drugz, Juelz Santana, Juicy J and even Chief Keef, all of which were simply acquired through his unpretentious networking skills.
Big Lean also has an additional three projects under his belt, including his 2015 release, Enough Is Enough, which served as an essential building block in his career. "The goal was to make more noise in the city, but also to separate myself from the rest of the other artists, especially when it comes to quality of music and work ethic," he says.
Becoming a rapper was never Big Lean's intention. After the passing of his friend Blitz, another Parma Court rapper, Big Lean decided to carry on his friend's legacy and take music seriously. This past December, Big Lean's personal life would take another hit when his friend Lotto Max, also known to be the glue that held Lean's Da Degrees crew together, was shot and killed in broad daylight in Toronto's downtown core.
Despite the glitz and glamour of studio sessions with Nipsey Hussle, video shoots in Miami and even the recent OVO Sound Radio premiere of "Wavy," the humbling aura surrounding Big Lean's voice is rooted in his want to simply make the important people around him proud, and carry on the legacies of those before him.
"There've been some people coming out the woodwork. But a lot of these people been watching us for years now and they're not surprised because they seen us grinding this hard from day one. Honestly, the city has always gravitated to our movement and know that it's going to be our time any minute now."
When asked about why the co-sign in Toronto matters so much, he responds, "That's because of how the city was built." But with aspirations of headlining his first show, as well as creating a label for Da Degrees, Big Lean is determined to create an environment with a "for us, by us" mentality.
"I don't wrong any artist thinking that's the way to do it, because nothing's wrong with the co-sign, but I also respect the ground up way of doing things and so do a lot of others — and that's what we represent."
So does he think he's an underdog in the city? "Yeah," he responds. "But I'm also a strong believer in when it's my time, it'll be my time."
Have a listen to "Wavy" below.