There’s a fearlessness to just about everything Tory Lanez does.
At his shows, he hurls himself into rowdy crowds, climbs walls like Spider-Man, and dangles from whatever’s around, whether or not it can support his bodyweight. He’s undaunted by fellow MCs, works with the artists he wants to work with (despite the public opinion around them), and is quick to counter whoever he feels disrespected by.
And of course, he’s been known to flip a classic hit every now and then—not just for two of his most successful singles to date, 2015’s “Say It,” which samples the rich three-part harmony from Brownstone’s 1995 smash “If You Love Me,” and 2016’s “LUV,” which borrows from Tanto Metro and Devonte’s 1998 dancehall crossover “Everyone Falls In Love”—but particularly for his beloved Chixtape series, which launched in 2011, a fan favourite within his prolific catalogue.
The core of his confidence lies in his taste, which he defines as a constant negotiation.
“What they want is what I want,” Lanez explains, sitting in Toronto’s Adidas store before a meet-and-greet, where a long lineup of the fans he’s referring to extends through the store and up Yonge Street. “You have to listen to music from the fan’s perspective, as a fan of your own self,” he elaborates.
Between the telepathic bond he’s created with his fanbase and the constant clamouring on social media, Lanez knew he had to revisit the series. “I had stopped singing for the last three years—that’s why I felt like that essence that the Chixtape had was gone. But when you listen to Tory Lanez, there’s always gonna be a variety of music. I’ll always give you a variety of lanes.”
The whole point of the Chixtape project was for Lanez to put his rhymes aside and make the sexiest R&B jams he could, highlighting his impressive singing vocals and flexible songwriting. In 2014, 2 took a new direction, introducing a storyline—told through a series of lighthearted, but drama-filled skits. “It was so important to the whole aesthetic of the Chixtape,” he explains. The following year, he would continue to make samples of 90s and 00s R&B standards his signature on 2015’s 3 and 2016’s 4.
The songs aren’t covers (nor are they loops) of familiar songs that Lanez just sings over. Instead, he uses the originals as launching points for new compositions. The classics are confidently screwed, chopped, reversed, replayed, interpolated, and filtered in every which way as Tory juxtaposes his own and, usually, Play Picasso’s grimy, almost eerie, sounding production under his angelic vocals on odes about relationships, lust, love, and sex. In some cases, the samples are barely recognizable, but their role in deconstructing the series’ themes of nostalgia and adolescence is always clear.
For its 5th and newest edition, Lanez wanted to do something different with the Chixtape: “Something we felt would push the narrative and move the needle on it.”
He found his answer when he played T-Pain his flip of “I’m Sprung,” eventually titled “Jerry Sprunger,” and he was so into it, he laid a new verse on the remake just for Lanez. That got the gears turning and the ball rolling as Lanez recalls, “It was the T-Pain feature that I used to run to all the other places and tell people like ‘Yo, I got T-Pain on this song, so you should do this with me.’” The-Dream, Mario, Trey Songz, Mya, and Ashanti, who Lanez asked to be the album’s cover model, among a bunch of other artists that dominated the 00s are seamlessly woven back into new incarnations of their signature work on Chixtape 5.
It’s a tough ask but Lanez downplays the process of assembling such a potent supporting cast for the project, admitting the real challenge was working through the legalities (“The clearing process was the only hard part for me.”) The fact that Tory Lanez has built up a reputation —and a rolodex — that enables him to execute a project on this scale is a feat in itself, but, ultimately, Lanez and Play Picasso didn’t let the whole “guest thing” distract them from putting together an incredible batch of songs from the most daunting conspicuous source material imaginable. And as cool as he’s trying to be about it, Lanez is proud of his work, plain and simple. “It’s so nostalgic. It’s so much to give all in one sitting. It’s really good.”
Chixtape 5 feels like a creative peak for Tory Lanez: a mammoth of a concept, only executable by a bold artist. But for Lanez, it’s still part of the groundwork for the legacy he’s aspiring to build for himself. Looking back at a decade worth of Chixtapes alongside numerous other triumphs, Lanez is cognizant of is trajectory. “I came in at 2011. This is the decade I got famous in, and I stayed “relevant” throughout the whole decade,” he laughs as he says “relevant,” as if the idea of it going any other way for him is an absurdity.
“[The 2010s] definitely embodies the foundation of things. When we get down the line and we look back at these first 10 years, we’re gonna be like ‘Yo, that’s when everything was just getting started.’ From 2020 and upwards, it’s out of here.”
With a brief headlining tour—featuring “special guests,” who will more than likely be a few of the artists featured on 5—on the horizon, his mentoring of soon-to-be R&B diva Mariah the Scientist, and more music on the way (including teasing a sixth Chixtape), Tory promises he’s not ready to rest on his laurels. “I’m about to go super crazy. Crazier than the world could ever expect from me.”