“American raised. Canadian born. My name is Daystar Peterson. One day I’ma be the biggest artist in the entire world.” The first words on Toronto rapper Tory Lanez’s debut album, I Told You, aren’t rapped in patois, like on his most recent hit, “LUV,” or sung sweetly like on his breakout 2015 single “Say It.” He’s not even going in on the bullish melodies “Diego”-style, and rapping. Tory narrates his introduction on I Told You, marking the first of the album’s 14 skits.
At one time the skit was ubiquitous in hip-hop: it was a tool for adding a narrative dimension the listener might not glean from the music alone. When we spoke on the phone, just a few days after I Told You’s release, Lanez talked about wanting to create a listening experience similar to Biggie's Ready To Die or Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. “They gave me the feeling that I was watching a film. The music was almost secondary to seeing this thing come to life without a screen.” I Told You tells a violent Cinderella fable that starts with Lanez getting kicked out of his house at 16. He reconstructs difficult emotional moments on his path to getting a record deal: being doubted, pressured, abandoned, or regarded as anything less than a star in the making.
This week Tory Lanez will turn I Told You’s narrative into a 45-minute film, co-written and directed by Lanez and Zac Facts, who’s directed several of his videos. They’re working with a skeleton crew and aim to finish in two weeks, though a premiere date isn’t fixed. Ahead of this directorial debut, The FADER spoke with Lanez about creating a different kind of visual through skits and songs.
TORY LANEZ: I added skits to the record because I don’t care about what anyone else thinks I should or shouldn’t do. What I care about is the music and the art, and I think people like me because of that. Some might say we’re in a time where you can’t add skits because people have short attention spans, but I want to look back on this for myself and go, ‘Wow, this was a fun project to make.’ I don’t want to ever look back and say that I did something because it was the thing to do at the time. This is a full piece that I created when I was 24.
People have it a little confused. I wanted people to understand the story of Tory Lanez from age 16 to now: getting kicked out of the house, being with my girl, when things changed for me. There’s some details I couldn’t include because we could’ve got indicted or some shit.
I had to coordinate this with the music that was already made. I always knew I was going to make the album feel like a movie, but I made a lot of the music first, then figured out how to incorporate my story. My producer, Play Picasso, and I sat together in the back of a tour bus for a month trying to figure out how to get to certain parts of the story. I was thinking down to every last detail for the listener to understand how scenes really went. How do we get to this part of the story in three songs? What song has to be made in order for this part of the story to make sense? That was the hardest thing. I had to come up with experiences from my life for it to work, and Play couldn’t help me there, because it’s my story.
“When I listen to the album front to back, it makes me feel kind of sad because I’m going through the experiences again. I feel like I know myself more after listening, you know?”
My favorite movie is A Bronx Tale, and my favorite directors are Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorcese, Michael Bay, and Robert Rodriguez. I talk about Desperado all the time. For a movie to resonate, it’s gotta be thrilling. I hate having to wait till the middle of the movie for it to really begin. I like it when it’s intriguing.
But I believe it takes a good week of listening to a musical project back-to-back to capture every musical element, every piece. What you’ll catch with I Told You as you keep listening are clues in the skits that stick out, and the correlations [with the music] become more clear. Personally, when I listen to the album front to back, it makes me feel kind of sad because I’m going through the experiences again. I feel like I know myself more after listening, you know?