Preme Doesn’t Want to Live in Drake’s Shadow
Two years ago, Preme was a big fish splashing around in a puddle. The Toronto rapper and Drake affiliate was confined to life north of the U.S. border due to weapons charges that barred him from entering America. While he'd reached peak popularity in Canada, he had to let the legal system play out before he could manifest his destiny: a flourishing career that extended into the States.
After releasing his debut single "You Know I'm Fly" in 2008, Preme, then known as P Reign, had planned to blow up and put on for the 6, taking his downtempo and mostly serious brand of rap past his country's borders. He toured Canada with Drake in 2010, and while 2011 saw the clearing of his charges, he was still legally unable to realize his American dreams. So Preme kept pumping out music, collaborating with artists like PartyNextDoor, A$AP Rocky, and Drake. His 2014 Dear America mixtape references Preme's inability to come to the U.S. legally.
Things changed by 2016, though, when he finally touched American soil once again—he hasn't been back home since. His aptly titled album Light of Day, three years in the works, has given him his first true shot at stardom. The 15-track offering boasts big-name features such as Offset and Post Malone, while focusing on Preme's journey and lifestyle.
Preme sat down with XXL to discuss his new album Light of Day, learning about the music industry under the tutelage of Drake and PartyNextDoor and why he feels forever indebted to Kevin Durant.
XXL: Have you always wanted to make music?
Preme: Always. Really young age, probably about like [pauses] I remember like 9, 10 years old.
Who do you remember listening to back then?
Coolio, "Gangster's Paradise." That's not the artist that made me wanna rap, but that's a record that sparked in my mind, "I like hip-hop, and I'm capable of rapping." I was in 4th grade, a bunch of friends were rapping it word-for-word in class and I felt left out. I remember putting in my lil' tape, taping the song on the radio, rewinding it 50 times 'til I memorized that song. That was the first rap record I ever memorized. Then I feel like that kinda sparked in my brain, "I can probably write my own record."
What's the story behind the title Light of Day?
Just the fact that this album finally seeing the light of day, that I'm seeing the light of day. Being able to be in America now, being able to really share the music.
Why was it important for you to drop Light of Day now?
I've been wanting to drop this project for years now. Light of Day is something that's fuckin' evolved 20 times. I didn't really even have a name for it back then, but the project's been done. We changed records, moved things around. Times change and the wave changes.
Light of Day was like a fucking revolving door. When I got a [release] date, then I was like alright, these [songs] sound like today. But there are still a lot of old records on there that I felt were really important and crucial to telling my story. Like the outro, which is called "One Day," that's definitely like three to four years old, but I felt like that story was so important to tell that I couldn't take it out. [There are] media people or fans that wanna know who I am—I feel like they're always interested in knowing more about me.
Did you ever think Lil Wayne would be on your single, "Hot Boy?"
Never. I didn't make it with the intention of putting him on it. I was in the studio with PartyNextDoor, we were doing a bunch of records together. If you listen closely, you can hear he's actually in the background vocals of the chorus. I was like, "It'd be crazy if we put Lil Wayne on this, 'cause the record is called 'Hot Boy,' and he's the original hot boy." He was like, "You can never get Lil Wayne on this record." So it's actually something I set out to do to prove him wrong. I knew it would be dope, but it was more of a thing for me, "I bet you I could get Lil Wayne on this record." Now I'm signed to BPG, which is through RCA, and that record label is owned by Lil Wayne's manager. I was like "Man, first order of business, I have this record, you need to fuckin' get Wayne on it."
"No Defeat" is dope.
Tell my manager that. That's one of his least favorite songs, but everybody else that I speak to, it's one of their favorite records. It's great to prove him wrong sometimes.
It's different from "Hot Boy" in every way. Is that something you purposely went for?
When I go in the studio, I pull up whatever beats I got, just try to find some sort of inspiration. "No Defeat" was a record where I searched for a beat like that and tried to make a record like that. I really just wanted something hard, man. I get caught so much making music that means something to me, and it's usually more of a down vibe. So I really wanted to make something that I could just play in the clubs.
When did you get cleared to come to the U.S.?
We dropped Dear America in 2014. So I think I came in 2016? 2016, yeah.
How has that ability to travel back and forth between Canada and the U.S. changed things for you?
I've been in America for two years—I've never left. I've never been back to Canada, period. And I've done more in this two years than I've done in my entire existence, musically.
Is it because of the access?
It's 100 percent access. I just feel like as a hip-hop artist, America is definitely the place you need to be. Producers, artists, the outlets, the people, the business side of the music—it's all in America. There's nothing in Canada. I've taken it as far as it can go there.
When did you first realize that you'd taken things to the limit in Canada? Did something happen, or you just knew?
I just knew. I've seen how far hip-hop artists have gone in Canada; I've seen how far they've gone when they left Canada. And I've toured that country five times over. I knew there was nothing else for me to do. There's only so many times you can go to Saskatchewan before you realize, "I need to get the hell outta here."
Have you always aimed to deliver some of the more personal type of songs on the new album? To make music that's based in reality?
It's funny, I think its a lost art. A lot of people are like, "Why don't you just drop singles? It's a singles game now, you don't even have to drop an album anymore." I guess its true, with the way things have changed with streaming and things like that, but I like to make an album. I grew up listening to people's albums; that's the reason I fell in love with hip-hop.
You're really loyal to Kevin Durant. How did you two meet?
I met Kevin Durant backstage, like four or five years ago, at OVOFest in Toronto. I remember watching Drake perform and Kevin Durant walks up. I'm used to seeing celebrities at OVOFest, so it was no big deal to me. But then he said, "Yo, I really like your shit." I was [thinking], "This nigga must think I'm somebody else." I guess he saw in my face, so he was like, "'P Reign, right? Man that fuckin' 'Pon Tour' song!" I got a record called "Pon Tour," which was on my Dear America mixtape. He was like, "Yo, you went off, you can really spit, I really love that song, I listen to it all the time." He's looking at me like "Aren't you used to this type of shit?" So that was a funny moment for me. Those are the times in life where you get that type of validation that really helps to keep you going.
It's funny too, because just a month or two after, my boys would be in the club with him. I remember Drake and my boy Chubbs were in the club with him, and they were like, "Yo, he played that 'Pon Tour' song and rapped every word! We were all in shock." I got double shocked by KD. When I'm done with my albums, I play it to KD, before I play it to anybody else. And he always like, "I wanna be the one to premiere it and share it to the world." I'm indebted to that guy for the rest of my life.
What kind of effect does it have on you to see someone like that—a professional basketball player—truly support you?
It's crazy because when you watch a guy like him get on the court every night, you realize how important it is to be at the top of your game. If he doesn't perform well, especially in games like Game 7 of the NBA Finals, it's over. Those are the things that stick with you for the rest of your life. You'll get roasted, memes, all that shit. So it's crazy to see the type of pressure that those guys have to really have to put up with, day in and day out, and how they handle it. They're handling that type of pressure with a whole country looking, on national television. It's really inspiring to see those guys go out there and give it their all.
Does being Canadian add any burden now that you're making music in America?
I never think too deeply about it. When I make music, I really just wanna get it out and hope as many people as possible enjoy it. But I really do think there's a personal responsibility as the dudes that are at the forefront of this whole new movement of putting the country on the map. Me, Drake, Weeknd, PartyNextDoor—I really think there's a responsibility for us to help keep the light. Not only on the city but the country, forever. And whether that's mentoring niggas who are coming out the city or continuing to make the best music possible, to make sure we keep making noise for the city. It's very important.
How has working in that wheelhouse alongside Drake and Party helped you develop?
I learned so much from those dudes. PartyNextDoor, to me, is a genius. That's why I work with him so much, because he inspires me so much. And his thought process is so different from the average artist. He pushes you. Doesn't matter who he's in the room with. I've seen the guy in the room with the biggest and tell them do it again. "Do it again, do it again, not like that." And not give two fucks, because he really just thinking about the best quality of music. He's not a yes man. You gotta really appreciate that, because I don't even know how far I would go with certain people in the room, telling them how much I like a line or don't like a line, to be honest with you. So I really respect that, and he's always honest with me and pushes me to make the best music I can make. And with guys like Drake, if there's one thing I learned from him, it's "Don't rush it, take your time." I've seen that guy sit in the studio, rewrite a verse 10 times, take a week with one verse, then stop and do the hook and the next verse. I really think the work ethic and just paying attention to the fine details are things I learned from all the OVO dudes.
You may forever be tied to those guys just out of loyalty, respect and affiliation. But what do you think it would take for people to see you in your own right?
It'd take exactly what I'm doing right now. Putting out projects of my own. I got a project, Light of Day, with no Drake features, and that's a phone call away. The last project I put out, Off the Books, no Drake feature. I think that's really important. I never wanna be remembered for being that guy's friend, whatever guy it is. I don't work this hard, night in and night out, to not be able to be respected and hold my own weight. That's why I purposely haven't put out another record with Drake. OVO is family, Drake's my brother for life, that's way deeper than music. But I'm not signed to OVO. RepsUp is my own thing, that's my clique in my city.
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