Toronto vet King Reign gets Sincere about new album, family & more [Interview]
Toronto, ON – Whether it’s his JUNO-nominated work as a member of the group BrassMunk, his Reign Music series, big singles like the Boi-1da-produced “Money” or the Drake / Saukrates assisted “Fades Away,” or… and the list goes on, there’s really no excuse not to be up on King Reign. But if you are lagging behind, it’s never too late to get familiar with the producer-MC.
The Toronto vet released his aptly-titled Sincere album a couple of weeks back and the response has been both impressive and well-deserved. Between the positive reviews from publications like Exclaim! or the response from fans you can easily find on social media, it’s not hard to figure out that Reign is probably on to something special with his new album. And you can stream the whole thing for free to find out for yourself (and download it on iTunes).
Sincere is exactly what the title suggests: whether it be right or wrong, it’s genuine. Great production met with raw emotions, dope rhymes, smooth harmonies and clever social commentary. It shows Reign’s grasp of his own surroundings and makes it easy to see why he’s so well respected by his peers… a rapper’s rapper, as Nas put it. And it’s captivating from the opening bars of the album as the Rich Kidd-produced “Oh No” starts off with, “I’m waving a knife at the cops, calling them all pussy. I ain’t going to jail, I’m not a killer but don’t push me.” Loving the “Hail Mary” reference too, paying homage to one of the greats. Reign’s respect for hip-hop – the culture and the history – is prevalent the whole way through.
Already over? If Sincere is your first foray into the world of King Reign, there’s some other notable releases you need to check out. Specifically Reign Music 1 and 2, the The Audacity of Hope EP and the 2008 JUNO-nominated (Best Rap Recording) FEWturistic album he released with his group BrassMunk in 2008.
We were fortunate enough to get some time with King Reign to discuss Sincere, family, the Toronto scene and more. Check out our interview after the jump.
King Reign: Q&A
Interview conducted by Jesse Plunkett for HipHopCanada
HipHopCanada: King Reign, welcome to HipHopCanada. Let’s jump right into the new project, Sincere, which has been out since July 14. What kind of response have you gotten since releasing it? Any surprises?
King Reign: The response has been crazy. It’s the type of response that says “If you market this thing properly you can really win.” That’s an idea that’s been co-signed by many. I’ve been getting a lot of Album of The Year quotes from media, fans and friends. Even though as an artist it’s what you shoot for it’s still different to hear people say it. It’s motivating.
HipHopCanada: Why Sincere? What does that title represent?
King Reign: I’ve always said that I like any form of music as long as it’s honest. If I can believe you, I’m already a fan. The music just seems to sound better when the story’s are real or come from a real place. Sincere is just a packaged continuation of what I’ve always done as an artist.
HipHopCanada: Exclaim! called the project one of the most anticipated Canadian releases of 2014. What kind of pressure do those types of statements put on an artist before a project is released?
King Reign: By the time that statement was made the album was already packaged and ready to go…the only pressure that comes after that is the pressure to execute the marketing plan as well as possible. A statement like that reinforces what I felt I could do going into this album and motivates me to get on my grind to promote it. I’ve been doing local shows to get my chops up for the upcoming tours and I’ve been producing content and videos to support the project through Reign Media. I’m happy that the good people at Exclaim! feel that way, now it’s up to me to make sure the rest of Canada and the world share the same feelings.
HipHopCanada: Which song on the album is your favourite? Why?
King Reign: That depends which day you ask me… some days Pretty Girl Lost is my favourite because of the melody and changes… some days it’s Killer cause of the beat, flow and changes… some days it’s Sincere or I Rap because the lyrics, those songs are closer to home for me…some days it’s Chemical Romance cause of the beat and harmony’s… it depends.
HipHopCanada: Your father is a DJ and has been a musical inspiration for you from the start. Was your father at all involved with the creation of Sincere? Do you consult with him for his opinion on musical matters?
King Reign: My dad lives in Tampa so he follows me online and I’m actually always curious as to how he’s going to feel about certain songs. That said, he loves the album and he actually said he was glad that he was wrong about hip-hop early out, and was glad I didn’t listen to him. “Killer” is his ringtone as we speak.
The problem is that he created a monster with all the traditionalist convo’s he let me hear with his partners over a bottle of rum. I used to hear how militant they were about their culture and music and was just waiting for my generation’s version of that. It just took him a second to realize that hip-hop for me is what calypso is for him. That said, if it was up to him or my Uncle Muhtadi I’d be a Jazz musician or something like that. As a matter of fact, after hearing Sincere, my dad’s new idea is for me to make an R&B album for the family to rock to. My next album will not be an R&B album but I think the fam and the rest of the world will be able to rock to it while I continue to raise the bar up lyrically. I’m excited.
HipHopCanada: As a father yourself, do you give any thought to what your children will think of the lyrics you’re writing? Or the subject matter of your songs?
King Reign: No, I’ve always made sure I could stand behind what I write in any arena or with any age group. As much as a lot of rappers are lying these days, there are still a handful of us only painting pictures of what we see. A lot of my content isn’t for kids but it won’t warp their mind if they listen to it and I don’t direct my marketing campaigns towards kids anyway. I have songs like “My Baby” and “Fades Away” that are on my kid’s playlist. My daughter is actually in the video for “Lemonade Stand” (a joint I did with Art Of Fresh). She doesn’t remember shooting the video but that gets a lot of play on her iPad and I let them listen to Sincere. I think when they get older they’ll think that they had a cool dad who was about something and I’ll be there to explain what they don’t understand. I look forward to some dope convo’s with my homies.
HipHopCanada: How did you determine which producers you wanted to work with for the album? Is there a particular type of sound or style you strived to work with?
King Reign: No, I was open coming into this album. There was no plan sonically, it was just me going with a vibe and some song ideas I had held on to. If there was a plan it was to stick to my soulful formula and don’t look up until it’s done. I started this project without thought of how it’s going to get out or why I’m doing it. I keep telling people I’ll always make music and this story proves it considering I heard about a good studio in the borough and started spending my money there like an alcoholic would do at a new bar that just popped up. I had the Gameboy beats already, a few others and was making some myself on the spot (songs like “Grey” and an unreleased joint called “Shinin”) We had listening party’s but that was more for those who came on to help with the project because I knew I had just recorded the album from top to bottom and that older joints wouldn’t fit. But, because I believe in teamwork I let them see it for themeslves. We had three listening parties where we made people fill out forms giving feedback on about 35-40 songs we picked out of over 100. The survey said they all agreed with my original track list but thought that “Don’t Fall In Love” can fit on this album too, and that became Sincere.
HipHopCanada: What was the most memorable part about putting the project together? Any particular recording sessions that stand out?
King Reign: What I’m going to remember the most is something that I’m most proud of and that is the fact that I sat down with an engineer (T.J. Habibi), created this album, mixed and mastered it in a short amount of time with, a small amount of money, and created a project that is being critically acclaimed. For the most part that’s how I’ve worked in the past but to do it for an entire LP was yet to be seen. Mission accomplished.
We had a lot of dope sessions creating this album, but off the top, adding the backup harmony’s to “Chemical Romance” and pulling it off was a moment. We both were like, “shit, that sounds good.” We had to check the booth to make sure the Manhattans weren’t hidden in the room somewhere. I didn’t hold back as much on this project as I have in the past. And the next one I plan to open up even more.
HipHopCanada: Will the project receive any additional visual support? Any new videos to look out for?
King Reign: Yeah, I’m working on a few web series as we speak. They’ll be similar to the Sincerely King Reign series where I did an accapella version of each song on the album and released one video everyday for the twelve days leading up to the release. The video for “Chemical Romance” should be done and ready for the world in about two weeks and then it’s “Happylaidback.”
HipHopCanada: This might be a tough question to answer since the project just came out, but you’ve recently acknowledged that the biggest complaint from your fans is you don’t release enough material. With the release of Sincere, should fans expect a hiatus on new releases? Or do you have plans in place for a follow-up already?
King Reign: My fans can expect to hold me to my word and keep the party going. I actually had the idea for my next album before I started this one. I’m looking forward to diving in to it. So far, I’ve only been planning and making references for songs and marketing ideas. I think like Sincere this will be a quick process because a lot of the thought needed to make the project work has been done. I also held back some joints that I plan to release as singles and I’ll be on some joints with some of your favourite rappers. Also, look out for some remixes and remix videos in the near future.
HipHopCanada: Can you talk about your relationship with Pharoahe Monch? Will there be any more collaborations with him down the road?
King Reign: Pharoahe’s doing his thing. He just put out another project called PTSD. Anything is possible.
HipHopCanada: Speaking of other artists you’ve worked with – Drake specifically – since his rise to hip-hop royalty status, how has Toronto as a scene changed?
King Reign: Any attention on the Toronto music scene is positive. His status has brought a lot of international attention to the city and provides opportunity for some of the artists he’s working with.
HipHopCanada: We first covered you as a member of the group BrassMunk. Are you still working with the group and should we expect any new collaborations?
King Reign: Everyone except Clip is still pretty active in music although I know he still dips in. I was signed to Sony/Columbia in NY before I joined the group and was only supposed to be a feature on The Fewturistic album. For me it was just another adventure and I was curious to see what kind of heat our styles put together would come up with. As far as us doing it again, if the right opportunity and vibe present itself in the future I’d be down to make some more music.
HipHopCanada: For someone who’s not familiar with you as an artist, which song – and not limited to Sincere – would you want someone listening to as an introduction?
King Reign: I’d say “Guilty” is a good place to start. It gives you some history, it’s a good reference to my style and the beat is dope.
HipHopCanada: Thanks for your time. Any last comments? Shout-outs?
King Reign: Shout-out to every one who has supported me in the past and what up to my new fans!
Interview conducted by Jesse Plunkett for HipHopCanada