Since 2006, SonReal has been lacing tracks with his smooth melodic rap flow and his harmonious vocals. This summer, he celebrated the release of his fifth mixtape, entitled Good News – available free on his website (sonreal.ca).
The Good News mixtape embodies the essence of SonReal’s past work, but showcases his progression as a multifaceted artist.
While most artists would be satisfied putting out a solid mixtape like Good News, SonReal remained in the studio to record his first collaboration album, The Closers, with fellow rapper, Rich Kidd.
From recording, to touring, to hosting RapCity, it’s easy to see why SonReal is one of the hardest working artists in the game.
I had the pleasure of sitting down with, SonReal – a polite and humble 26 year old who surely has a bright future ahead of him.
So, you’re in Vancouver today to promote your new album, The Closers, which is a collaboration with you and Rich Kidd. How many of these listening sessions have you done or are you planning to do?
We just did one other one – a place in Toronto called Proper Reserve. I mean, we’re going to do this one [at a hip-hop boutique in downtown Vancouver], the one we just did in Toronto and then we’ll be touring across Canada. Listening parties are something you just do once or twice, do a really good job of it and then that’s that. But then we’re going to get quite relentless with touring.
Where will you going on tour?
We’re starting in Vancouver, then Victoria, Calgary, Montreal, Toronto… we’re basically going to go all across Canada.
Will you be touring in America?
We haven’t actually started yet, but that’s our goal. That is the goal right now – breaking into the states in any way we can, whether that’s through touring or whatever. We’re already on 2DopeBoyz, Nah Right, and lots of the major blogs over there, but we haven’t made our mark with touring there yet, so that’s our next goal. That’s our next plan of attack.
In your song “Who Am I?” – When asked if you have a crew, you say, “Nope, I’m a loner when I be zonin’…”, Now it seems like you have a crew, what has changed since then?
Nothing has really changed. As people know, me and Rich Kidd have been working together for years now. We did the ‘Already There’ record in 2010 and it really gained steam when the video came out in 2011. It’s more of a family thing. It’s not like I got a crew now, or that I’m leaning on somebody else, or that I got this other guy in the SonReal entity. It was only right for me and Rich Kidd to come together and do a project that was together and still displaying our own separate unique styles and stuff like that.
Do you plan on doing more collaborative albums in the future, or do you prefer releasing solo projects?
I still feel like I’m an individual even though me and Rich Kidd do these projects. I’m still doing it alone. My next project is going to be a solo SonReal project. But it’s something we tried out, and something we might continue to do, depending on the success of it.
Also in that song, the next bar in fact, you state, “plus I’m kind of a control freak, I do this on my own, man.” Given that Rich Kidd is credited as the producer on nearly every track, was there any head-butting or ego-tripping when things didn’t go your way?
Ah, not really, man. We had our differences in the studio with a few records and stuff like that, but they were all generally just solved really quickly. I mean, we’re both grown men, we both have our own creative tastes, we both have really different styles. But to be honest, man, it was very easy to work with him. Whenever we did have a difference, we’d just kind of find a happy medium and just roll with it. We’re both really proud of the record, and really happy with each track.
So this album, The Closers, comes out October 16th, where can people get it?
They’ll be able to get it at HMV as well as some indie record stores, and iTunes is going to be the primary outlet to get it.
I follow you on twitter @TheRealSonReal and you seem to be in Toronto a lot. What city do you spend most of your time?
Vancouver, by a little bit. I spend a lot of time in Toronto right now just because my label is out there, Black Box, so I’m working out there quite often. But, just recently I went to L.A. and spent some time there. I kind of foresee myself being everywhere. I want to be down in Atlanta and New York and start making some moves in the states. So I think that might be something that might be starting to happen.
You put out a lot of free content, what’s your philosophy behind that, and what has your experience with that been like?
My philosophy behind putting out free content has always been: don’t charge your fans for music until you have fans to charge for music. We’ve always prided ourselves on having music that has always gotten better and always like, taken it to the next level. We’ve just been giving out our music for free because it has really helped us out with gaining more fans and having more successful touring and stuff.
People always ask, ‘where do you make money if you’re just giving all your music away for free? Where’s the money coming in?’ Well, the money comes in in all sorts of different ways because your stature goes up so much as you gain more fans. So now I can charge more for a show. Now I can charge this emcee for a feature more money than I would if I didn’t have that type of notoriety and that type of clout.
In several interviews, and even now, you have mentioned directly, or at least alluded to, business and marketing. How much of that aspect do you focus on?
It’s everything, man, to be honest. I mean, you can be the most talented rapper or singer or athlete in the world, but if your business isn’t right and your marketing and all that kind of stuff isn’t right… like, I know so many artists that are maybe more talented than me, or maybe they have a better look than me, or something like that. Like, they have a piece of the puzzle that is so much stronger than me, but their business isn’t right, or they’re missing the hustle, or they’re missing something, you know what I mean? We know that we got the talent, and we know that we got the music, and one thing we’re really trying to focus on is the business. That is the most important thing to me.
Some notable names in hip-hop such as Canibus, Mac Lethal, and Mad Child, have gone back to battle rapping, would you ever consider doing this?
No, man. It’s not really my lane. It’s not really my expertise. I’ve never been a battle rapper. I’ve never really been a good freestyler, to be honest. I’ll kick a freestyle if we’re just kickin’ it in the studio or something like that. I, by no means, have ever been a great freestyle off-the-top dude. I’ve never really been a battle emcee or anything like that. I like to write songs. I pride myself really heavily on the hooks that I write and the way I go at writing about concepts and stuff like that. I really respect the whole battle circuit and everybody that’s really good at that, but that’s not my lane.
Aside from music, what sorts of things are you into?
Skateboarding, man. I really love skateboarding. That’s one thing that kind of got me into music, well it didn’t really get me into music, it got me into hip-hop music. It made me want to rap – seeing all the older skaters. Skateboarding is very influenced by the music around it – any skateboarder will tell you that. So I always used to watch old skateboard videos and stuff like that. Tracks like Beatnuts ‘Watch Out Now’ on there and stuff like that. I just really like that stuff. I like skateboarding, I like working out, I like going to the gym and running, and stuff like that. Yeah, I don’t know… music consumes most of my life to be honest.
On the song ‘Up Up Up’ off the Good News mixtape, you mention how your mom was talking about you having a backup plan. Is there a point, an age, or some sort of goal you want to reach with your career before you abandon ship?
I mean, I never even really caught steam up until last year, really at all. I mean, I’m not really thinking like that. I definitely think that within the next year, I think, could start to be my year. It could start to be a year where I actually do see the types of numbers that major artists are seeing and start to catch on to some of those markets. I mean, I don’t have a backup plan right now. I’ve been doing this as a job for over a year now. I mean, I’m just giving it one hundred percent and whatever happens, happens. People are embracing it a lot right now so I’m just rolling with it.
Do you ever listen to your own stuff? If so, what’s your favorite song?
I always listen to my own stuff before the CD is out. I listen to my stuff religiously before the CD is out and try and come up with new ways to make a song better, or make a hook tighter, or maybe add some adlibs to the last verse, or whatever it is. But as soon as the record comes out, I don’t really listen to it anymore. I’m like, it’s done, you know what I mean?
Some of my favourite tracks are… I think one of my favourite songs I’ve written is ‘Inside’ off of Good News, the song kind of explains my mentality with like, relationships… I really like song two off Good News,‘I’ll be Damned’. I like that song, it’s hard and gives that kind of stuff. I also like ‘She Gone’ off Where’s Waldo?
I want to thank you for giving me the time today. Do you have any last words?
I want to thank you for interviewing me, man. I appreciate it. I just want to thank everybody that’s supporting me in my own city right now, and other cities. I just want to say thanks everybody for supporting me, it means a lot. That’s what’s going to help me take it to the next level.
Article by Edward Mullen
Host of The Edward Mullen Podcast