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Tory Lanez on Honoring Ashanti With Album Cover, Admiring ‘Calculated’ Drake

If there was a Grammy Award for baby-making R&B album of the year, it would be Troy Lanez’s race to lose. The Brampton, Ontario native’s highly-anticipated “Chixtape 5” project arrives nine years after the inaugural Chixtape, a mixtape series laced with skits and samples of favorite R&B classics. It’s an ode to the early 2000s R&B he grew up on, and this time, he even enlisted Ashanti for the cover art (she’s also featured on “A Fool’s Tale” — an homage to her 2002 smash “Foolish”).

Among the highlights of the 18-track “5” is the standout single “Jerry Sprunger” featuring T-Pain, which include a nostalgic sample of Pain’s debut single “I’m Sprung” released in 2005. Additional features include Lil Wayne, Jagged Edge, Fabolous, Jermaine Dupri and more. Beyond his standout voice and knack for serenading the ladies, Lanez’s lyrics and smooth flow have taken the R&B game by storm.

Hailing from Toronto, Drake’s hometown, the two Canadians once beefed. Initially, a video was uploaded to YouTube identifying the person named Daystar Peterson as “Drake’s lil brother.” A 16-year-old Lanez then uploaded his own clip denying the rumor but additionally making a bet that if Drizzy listened to his tape and didn’t like it, he’d owe him $10K.

Lanez proceeded to diss Drake in a freestyle on “Sway in the Morning,” jabbing the rapper for incorrectly using the term 6ix when it comes to Toronto. Drake then slapped back on 2016’s “Summer Sixteen,” rapping, “All you boys in the new Toronto want to be me a little” (Lanez had dropped a mixtape titled “The New Toronto” one month prior).

Fast forward to 2019, Lanez and Drake are touring together overseas and even playing one-on-one basketball on the newly furbished OVO basketball court. Lanez’s personality has a lot to do with his success, including his openness to talk and joke about his receding hairline, which landed him with unlimited features from Tyga in exchange for his hairline doctor’s number.

Variety caught up with Lanez after his “Chixtape 5” album listening event at Shoe Palace on Melrose in Los Angeles to discuss the new tape, his friendship with Drake, and why working with T-Pain was among the most fulfilling collabs of his career.

Why did you want to collaborate with Adidas & their Superstar shoe?
The Adidas shell tops is what we call them in my hood. The Adidas shell tops are probably one of the most nostalgic pieces to the 2000’s. Dance was a very big part of everything and the fact that we have adidas be apart of it… for the 50th anniversary, there’s nothing better that fit than this nostalgic album. It’s a perfect fit.

You say the Chixtape series is bigger than Tory Lanez. Why is that?
Don’t get me wrong, Tory Lanez is definitely bigger than “Chixtape” series. But at the same time, the “Chixtape” series is its own cult following. People have their own cult feeling about the “Chixtape.” If it wasn’t Tory Lanez or if it was, as long as it’s this piece of work and it’s called the Chixtape, and it’s actually authentic, people would buy into it.

How does each installment connect with the other?
The story from “Chixtape 1” (late 80’s), “Chixtape 2” (early 90’s), “Chixtape 3” (mid-90’s), and “Chixtape 4” (late 90’s/early 2000’s) down and out is basically the same continuous story. It all springs from each other. The “Chixtape 2” story leads into the 3, the “Chixtape 3” story leads to 4; 4 into 5…

Melii’s actually the one who told me “Chixtape 5” was absolutely crazy.
She was actually there for every session. She slept through like 17 sessions of the “Chixtape 5.” [Laughs] We recorded a lot of it at the Record Plant in Los Angeles, and a couple other places. But she was definitely there for a lot of the sessions… From the day I met her, I just always knew she was a star. Everything about her just screamed out star quality. Just the way she put music together and the way she was always just undeniable without anybody having to write something for her or anybody having to help. She was always independently great at her craft.

Which songs mean the most to you & why?
The whole “Chixtape” means everything to me but at the same time, “Sprung” means a lot to me because it’s what started the “Chixtape.” “Foolish” is what reassured the Chixtape. “Trade It All” is probably one of my favorite records, the starting of the project because it created what the theme and how far we were going to go with all the records. “Trade It All” definitely has to be one of my favorite records, one of my most important. Just my most valued song.

What was Ashanti’s reaction when she saw herself on the cover?
[Laughs] Well, actually I asked Ashanti if she would do it first and she was actually kind of reluctant at the start. She was like “what is this? For what?” But I explained to her what it was and she’s, like, “Oh OK, I’m down with it.” Then she ended up being the highlight of the project.

Why was she reluctant?
You just never know. “Why do you want me to be your cover Tory? What’s going on? I’m already legendary, what’s poppin’?” It was one of those.

You have features from Ludacris, Ashanti, Lil Wayne, Mya, Jagged Edge, Fabolous. How do you decide who to collab with and why?
I just went off my favorite records, what meant something to me and what meant something to the culture around me when I was younger. So if a record played a big part of my childhood, that’s what I searched for. If it was something that everybody around me was listening to when I was young, that’s what I searched for.

“Jerry Sprunger” is crazy! Best memory from the video shoot with T-Pain? 
The fact that he just told me, “Yo look, you Tory Lanez have actually calculated and did this better than anyone has ever tried to do this. No one has ever done this at the level that you did this.” I think that level of gratitude for me was one of the most heartwarming moments of the whole “Chixtape” project.

Greatest memory on tour with Drake?
Doing London six nights in a row, at the same place selling out 30,000. That was probably one of my more incredible moments.

What did you learn from him?
He’s a very calculated guy, very organized. Everything that he does is very calculated. I think that stature of organization is just very incredible. It’s a very good manuscript to look back on and learn from.

You recently said you realized how similar you are to people from your city. What are some of the similarities you and Drizzy share?
Just the food we like. The way we talk. The things that we look at and find similar. Our views on different discussions. I think I identify with a lot of people from the islands and people from international countries.

Thoughts on him getting boo’ed at Camp Flog Gnaw?
I mean, at the end of the day, Drake is Drake. Drake could’ve dropped 106 records and at the end of the day, them kids would’ve eventually shut the f–k up. By 43. [Laughs] It is what it is. I think the high expectation for Frank [Ocean] at that moment was the reason why the Drake situation played out. I don’t think it had anything to do with his music or who he is, or what his stature means to the culture.

Which of you rules the basketball court? 
I’m definitely a better basketball player than Drake, by all means. [Laughs] But we definitely play ball whenever we get a chance to have some free time, etc. It’s usually a good turn out and a good night.

Who’s the new Toronto talent to pay attention to?
I’ve been listening to NorthsideBenji. There’s another dude that just came up under Pressa: Burna Bandz. He’s fire too. I fuck with those two. There’s another dude 3MFrench. I fuck with French, he’s fire.

This hairline talk is hilarious. Has Tyga taken advantage of your unlimited features?
I’ve done two features with Tyga, one that I asked for myself. But nah, he knows he got an unlimited feature pass from me. He already knows what it is.

What do you want your legacy to be?
I just want people to remember me as one of the biggest artists of my time. Also somebody that changed the culture for the better and gave people a positive outlook on whatever their situation was.

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