Spotlight: Coming up SonReal [Article]
“I’m lucky enough that I got to spend time to become seasoned in my craft before I had a platform for it.” – SonReal
Coming Up SonReal
Written by KassKills for HipHopCanada
Vancouver, BC – The rap game is evolving. Artists are catching on to the fact that making quality music is just as important as the rap game hustle; the business, the sound and the image are all equal factors in climbing the ladder. From making the right connections to creating music that stays true to self is what took artists like Macklemore to the next level, all while shaking off major record label deals. There’s an increased popularity in the thirst for realness; relatable stories delivered by underground new kids are rapidly gaining notice.
SonReal seems to be one of those up-and-comers keeping it real. He’s found his style and owns it, shooting to a higher level of Canadian fame since the release of his Napolean Dynamite-esque “Everywhere We Go” video. He’s not the type to boast about bankrolls, or to seriously make videos by the pool surrounded by body gals. He’s making music on the real, being himself and remaining relatable to his fan base – certainly coming a long way since the days of recording on his computer at age 12.
Aaron Hoffman came up a skateboard rat in Vernon, BC – population 38k. After hearing NWA in a friend’s older brother’s Honda Civic his interest in hip-hop was awakened and since then, nothing was the same. He eventually took influence from a crew of older skaters who formed a hip-hop group and recorded gritty posse cuts that reminded young SonReal of early Wu-Tang. You could say from there, the rest is history but it didn’t happen overnight.
Countless hours spent writing, studying, training his voice and developing his style has brought the 28-year-old to the verge of hip-pop stardom. He recognizes his success came from a lot of hard work and he credits his team for taking an integral part in getting him to where he’s at. “Byron, (DJ) Rich A – these are the people I’ve ridden with from the jump. Byron is my best friend and manager. He’s seriously the hardest working dude, on his phone with emails and booking all the time. And he’s actually been to every one of my shows except three… since I was 15.”
So the statement “teamwork makes the dream work” is nothing short of the truth for SonReal and his camp. Not only is he dedicated to quality music and production, his whole team is…and the dream is actually starting to work.
Although SonReal admits it took a minute for him to find out where he fit in, he eventually got there:
“It took me time to find out what I wanted to say. It took me time to find out how I wanted to look, what kind of videos I wanted to shoot, what I wanted to say in interviews, who I wanted to be as a person. Some people find it right away, I guess that’s what it’s like for people who blow up at 19, 20. I’m lucky enough that I got to spend time to become seasoned in my craft before I had a platform for it.”
And seasoned he is. He grew up and grew into his music, focusing on his stronger qualities, taking his time and getting damn good at doing him. He’s now got multiple tours under his belt, a Canada wide fan-base, and over 10,000 followers on Twitter, although still not verified yet (ahem… Twitter). All of that and he hasn’t let it go to his head. “No ego yet… trying to get it. [Laughing] Working on it. Maybe next time you interview me I’ll be wearing shades and shit.”
He remains conscious of the role his fans have taken in getting him to where he’s at and stays humble trying to connect with as many as he can possibly handle.
“It’s all about the fans. I’m nothing without them. I just got off tour and we were spending 1 -2 hours hanging out and signing autographs. New fans are as good as the old fans. We’re all in it together, you guys are watching me grow.”
Photo: Lee Watkins
Last summer’s video success “Everywhere We Go” is an entertaining example of how SonReal doesn’t follow in the typical rap persona. He is creative, innovative and 100% himself, which may be a big part of why fans are so drawn to him.
“I’ve never really shown my funny side. Me and my friends are clowns, this is how we live. We’re joking 90% of the time. We’re never serious, ever. ‘Everywhere We Go’ was easy as hell for us to act out because in a lot of ways that’s apart of me, just being funny.”
He knew from the jump that it was something special:
“I wrote it and I brought it down to Byron and I was like ‘Yo, this is first or second single, I’m telling you.’ I don’t do tracks like that normally. I don’t do really easy, catchy, trap-influenced but still me tracks and still maintain my integrity. I don’t do records like that very often and I really thought it was a special record. What really catapulted the song and the video was just having such a crazy idea that was such a juxtaposition of the actual song. We didn’t even release the song before the video. In order to listen to that song you need it to be accompanied by the visual and it’s like a movie almost. I feel like ‘Everywhere We Go’ could be a movie. That’s how interesting I think it could be.”
Clearly close to a million viewers and counting on YouTube are feeling the same way.
His recent album One Long Day has 20k downloads and almost six times as many views on Datpiff not to mention plenty more on SoundCloud and Bandcamp but his fans aren’t the only ones who have their eyes on SonReal. Canadian hip-hop pioneers like Maestro and Madchild have made mention of SonReal and his success, displaying support and their hope he’ll soon be apart of putting Vancity back on the map globally.
With heavyweights like Grammy award-winning producer Chin Injeti, and Kardinal Offishall on his latest album, these co-signs are definitely proving to be a good thing. From public shows of support to video cameos and guest verses, the Canadian big dogs have taken notice. SonReal even claims that One Long Day’s “Monday Night” featuring Kardinal Offishall may be one of the best Kardinal verses to date. “For Kardi to give me that verse on my record is amazing. I seriously think it’s the best Kardi verse of all time. I’m not even bias, it has nothing to do with me. I heard that verse and completely removed myself from the situation and that’s the best Kardi verse I’ve ever heard. I picture him on a mountain with a crown and wind blowing. He’s amazing.”
So he’s got the fans, the hits, the team and the co-signs: what’s next for SonReal?
“Doing a long tour with Grieves this summer – 52 American dates. Trying to lay groundwork in the States now. You’ll see steady content too. I’ve got a three-part series of live performances with a live band – new renditions of songs from One Long Day. And working on some bigger features.”
No doubt SonReal will see all of his hard work, blood, sweat and tears pay off. A second year JUNO nominee (“Rap Recording of the Year“), we know Canada has SonReal’s back, now he’s going straight for the hearts of the rest of the world.
Written by KassKills for HipHopCanada
Photography by KassKills and Lee Watkins
Spotlight cover by Sarah Sussman for HipHopCanada