The road to realizing one's dreams isn’t always linear and few artists know that better than Pressa. Currently embroiled in a situation in which legal troubles are threatening to hinder his young career, the Toronto rapper is leaving the streets behind and trying to make a real mark on the hip-hop game. And he's already rising. Since dropping the visual for the Tory Lanez-assisted “Canada Goose” in December of 2017, the video has racked up more than 6 million YouTube views. And with a coveted cosign from the 6ix God himself, Drake, Pressa may be headed for even bigger things.

As a Jamaican/Filipino youth, Pressa's intro to music wasn’t rap—it was reggae, thanks to the tastes of his uncles. His masterclass in reggae legends like Bob Marley made him mindful of his words, and planted within him the seed of music. “I started out making little YouTube videos when I was 12 or 13," Pressa tells XXL. He got serious about music in 2015, around the time his best friend, Wassi, was killed in a shootout with the police. Along with friends like buzzing Toronto rapper Robin Banks, Pressa released the song and video to “Wass Gang,” a gritty tribute to Wassi, in November of that year. The track went viral, and is currently sitting at 3.5 million views.

In January 2016, he dropped “Deadmihana,” which further propelled the young rapper's career, racking up 2.5 million views and giving him an online solo hit of his own. Yet while Pressa's career was picking up, he found himself in serious legal trouble. In April 2016, he was arrested for the alleged kidnapping and torture of two Canadian teens. The story became huge, and led to the cops stopping all Pressa concerts.

"I can't work in my city,” he says. “I paid for a bunch of promotion, had merch ready, weeks before the show, and the day before the show, the cops would come shut it down and fuck up my money.”

Still, Pressa's building buzz was noticed by Drake, who recruited the fellow Canadian as the opening act on his Boy Meets World tour last year. The decision put Drake in some hot water, but also allowed a young guy from Toronto live out his dreams, doing his first show ever in front of more than 20,000 people. "I wasn't intimidated, because I've been through a lot of pressure situations—life-or-death situations—so, that was nothing to me,” he says. "People think Canada is so good or whatever, but my area, the West End, I had nothing, I came from nothing.”

Pushed by the momentum of opening up for Drizzy, the aforementioned "Canada Goose" and his most recent project, Press A Brick, Pressa is hard at work on his debut album. And while he insists that labels have reached out, he plans to make his mark on his own. "I've never worked for anybody—I was never that guy to answer to somebody," he says. "I was always my own boss. I'd rather just run the show myself."

Learn more about the life and career of Pressa in XXL’s The Break.

Age: 21

Hometown: Toronto

I grew up listening to: "I know a lot vibes in music. I was young listening to real music. I listened to 2Pac—my uncles were in the streets so they listened to a lot of 2Pac. My uncle played a lot of reggae. Garnet Silk, Bob Marley, Sizzla—they all talk that real shit. That gives me the impression that I won’t say no random shit in my bars. I'll push myself to say something they’re gonna feel, because it matters to me."

My style’s been compared to: "I don't really wanna be anybody. I wouldn't say 'I'm the next Jay-Z, 2Pac or Drake.' I want people to be like, 'Yo, that Pressa kid, he's been doing his thing from young.' You gotta respect my grind here. I'm not tryna be a character, I'm tryna create a character."

Most people don’t know: "I really wanna be an actor. You see how Tupac [Shakur] would rap and act at the same time? I love that, he's a legend for that shit. He was a sick actor, too. He was fucking talented.”

My standout records to date have been: "Right now, my biggest song is 'Canada Goose.' It's doing numbers that I never did before. When I first did 'Canada Goose,' I had that song on repeat, I never listened to no other song [for] weeks straight. Everybody I gave that song too—my boys—they were listening to it for weeks straight. So I knew it was a banger. My boy played it as his wedding, before it was out."

My standout moments to date have been: "I told my brother, 'Fuck it, they’re not gonna let me perform in Canada, I'm just gonna open up for Drake, in [Toronto's Air Canada Centre], he's just gonna bring me out, randomly. That's gonna be my first performance ever.' But then I went to Europe and I just did it in Birmingham, [England]. I predicted it a little bit. They didnt know me, but they're cheering for me. They liked what they were seeing. They didn’t even know my shit, I'm just there dancing, doing me."

My goal in hip-hop is: "I wanna be a global superstar, but I wanna do it independently. Everyone keeps telling me I can't do it that way. Me and my team think we can. We think we have enough talent and enough of a machine behind me, my record label Blue Feather Records. It’s only getting bigger."

I’m going to be the next: "I'll always be Pressa, the next artist that can potentially have the whole world rockin', have the whole world loving me. That comes with time and work and ambition."

Follow Pressa on Twitter and SoundCloud.

Standouts:

"Wass Gang" - Robin Banks Feat. Pressa, GD, FB

"Deadmihana"

"Novacane"

"Canada Goose"

Press A Brick

"Basically"

See New Music Releases for February 2018