HHW: You lived in New York City for a while, correct?
P. Reign: I actually lived there for two years in Brownsville, Brooklyn. I went to junior high school out there.
HHW: How much did your time in NYC shape you as a rapper or how you’d rhyme in the future?
P. Reign: I think that’s where a lot of my inspiration came from at a young age. I’m from a huge family; my mom is one of 13 children. When we ended up moving to NYC, that’s where I actually fell in love with rap, because my family was into it and I didn’t have much family in Toronto. I would have to take a couple trains and buses to get to school each the morning, so that Walkman saved my life.
You could feel that energy in NYC. I remember growing up in the hood, and they [family] were like M.O.P. is from here [Brownsville] and Mobb Deep live in Queens where your cousin lives. No matter where we went, it seemed like a rapper was from there. It was inspirational to see artists come from those places, because I lived on Riverdale Avenue in a sh*tty two bedroom apartment in the projects with four other kids, my mom, my stepdad. It was very inspirational for me.
HHW: I understand that you’re Guyanese. Can you speak on the Caribbean influence on Toronto’s culture that goes understated and how it affects your music?
P. Reign: There’s a lot of Toronto rappers that came before me, especially Kardinal Offishall, that played into merging Hip-Hop with Caribbean based music, so that was something I tried not to heavily get involved with. But coming from Toronto, it’s nearly impossible. You can’t go to school or anywhere without meeting someone from some kind of island.
I grew up going to Dancehall parties, not to say that I was a huge fan of Reggae, but that’s just where we were at. That’s were all the thugs would be to be honest. They weren’t in the clubs downtown; instead, they’d rent out these huge halls. But that’s where all the shootouts would be. It’s almost impossible not to be influenced by those experiences
HHW: You represent a side of lyricism that’s authentic.
P. Reign: It’s so encouraging to here you say that, because it’s a conversation that I have with my peers all my time: Do you think the real Hip-Hop is coming back? Back when ni**as were rapping about their lives, talking that real sh*t, and people were buying into your story.
Where Hip-Hop’s going, it so Southern-based or hipster-based. It’s kind of hard to be successful if you’re not weird nowadays. That isn’t me, so I’m at a disadvantage. I always say that I hope that real Hip-Hop comes back –– it doesn’t have to be gangster, it has to be real, where rappers speak from a real place.
HHW: How does it feel to see Toronto get its just due?
P. Reign: It’s an amazing feeling, because I don’t think we ever knew if it would happen. To see Drake reach the level of success that he’s reached, it’s amazing to see. I was at his birthday, and I looked at him, still amazed at what he’s achieved. He was like, “f*ck it, we made it.” The city as a whole has a new energy –– a level of confidence we’ve never had before.
Then you have artists like PARTYNEXTDOOR and The Weeknd who are encouraging other artists in the city. Toronto was once the “screw face capital,” where everyone hated on each other. I also think Drake helped to break down that wall. Artists are supporting each other now. That energy wasn’t there before Drake blew up.
HHW: Circling back to the project, what are three things you want listeners to get from Dear America?
P. Reign: Number one would definitely be that the story I’m telling is real. There’s no facade. I haven’t been able to get on plane and come to America in 10 years. The project is based on my life, and so will all the music I make in the future. In fact, I’d skip the rest of the list, if listeners could appreciate that one thing. Everything else will come as they become fans of my music.
“We Them Ni**as” ft. A$AP Rocky
“Chickens” ft. Waka Flocka Flame
“Where You Been”