For singer Tory Lanez’ totally freestyled new album, memories are everything

Tory Lanez is a singer whose memory rivals his voice as his best asset. The mercurial 25-year old R&B crooner from Toronto, Canada, remembers the friends who stabbed him in the back. He also remembers my face from a dimly lit party held months ago when I greet him for our interview at a penthouse office in New York City. For him, memories don’t die.

Lanez’ career soared to new heights thanks in part to memories, as popular songs like his platinum-selling single Luv, have incorporated recognizable aspects of songs millions of people remember, including a popular theme song from a children’s show. Now he’s just released his second album, the 18-track opus Memories Don’t Die, and he’s ready for his memories to give his career a a big push toward superstardom.

We spoke with Lanez days before the release of Memories Don’t Die, and he discussed why social media isn’t the best place to store your memories, the possibilities of Spotify and Apple Music becoming record labels, and the status of his collaboration with fellow singer and Toronto native Drake.

Digital Trends: Why did you name your new album Memories Don’t Die?

Tory Lanez: Just that the memories of what inspired this music won’t die. Things that happened to me as far as friends betraying me, people doing a lot of fuck shit [sic]. People that were friends ended up being foes. Things like that. The good turns to ugly and the ugly turns to even worse. My thing is seeing everything and seeing the way people have reacted to me the last few years. The memories of these things have inspired me to come to this point of who I am today.

Yeah, humans are really just a collection of their experiences.

Exactly. You are.

You first started putting out music in 2009 with the mixtape T.L 2 T.O. So, you’re closing in on your first decade of recording music.

That’s crazy. I never thought of that.

What was it like making music back in 2009? What was your setup?

I was recording on Cubase, for sure. Also, Fruity Loops were where the beats were made. Of course, Logic. I was just running in the closet, recording myself, then running back, then running back in the closet. I taught myself how to do a lot of things because a lot of people didn’t want to help me.

I taught myself how to do a lot of things because a lot of people didn’t want to help me.”

What are some things you do now that you can tie to how you used to make music back in 2009?

Videos. I can shoot videos. I know all of the things necessary to have a cinematic video. I direct my own things. I do my own treatments. I edit. Things like that, because like I said, people didn’t want to help do things for me.

What things couldn’t you afford when you were coming up that you got around in order to be heard?

I couldn’t afford big-budget videos … I didn’t have money to put into radio, so I couldn’t get on the radio. But I did have a lot of incredible songs where I knew if I made a song that was good enough, something would happen and someone would connect the dots.

Now we’re here nine years later, with your second studio album, Memories Don’t Die. What is the biggest difference in how you make music now as opposed to in your early years?

The biggest difference now is just I don’t really write anything. I used to be in my notebook heavy. I don’t really write anything. Now, it’s mainly built off of feelings. When I go in the booth, whatever comes out at that point is what it is. If it feels good, it feels good. If it doesn’t feel good, then it just doesn’t feel good, you know? I still write, only when it’s important, or super intricate. I don’t really write anymore. That’s really the only big difference.

I read that you freestyled most of your first album, I Told You

I freestyled the whole album.

tory lanez crowd stand
Josh Brasted/Getty Images
Josh Brasted/Getty Images

When I saw the title Memories Don’t Die, I thought about how recording memories is such a compulsion in today’s society. Do you think social media apps like Instagram and Facebook are the best ways to store your memories?

No. I think that physically you should try to find the best way to hold on to your memories. Polaroid pictures … things that you can always hand down, physically, that they can hold in their hand, and it won’t disappear if the data corrupts. Or some shit just happens. One day, if Instagram is gone, what happens to all of our pictures and all of our stuff? Of course, it’s on the internet, but what really happens? How can you find that exact picture that one time you wore this exact outfit? I tell people, take a Polaroid and then take a picture of the Polaroid. So you have one digital and one in real life.

The tracklist for Memories Don’t Die had me like, “Yo, these seem like some incredible collaborations,” and 18 tracks is a lot. What was your favorite recording session for one of those songs?

Happiness on the album was crazy. I couldn’t do the song without crying. I tried to do the song, and I couldn’t do the song without crying. It was too sad of a song. Even when I play it for people, people be dropping tears. 

“I couldn’t do the song without crying.”

Let me go back to what you said earlier about freestyling an entire album. Are there different versions of songs you’ve released, with different lyrics.

Sometimes I have different verses, but that’s it. I never have different versions of a whole song. I’ll have different verses.

Any popular songs that fans would be surprised to learn that there is a different verse floating around that they haven’t heard yet? Maybe for Say It or any other popular song of yours?

There was a whole breakdown on Say It that never came out because it was going to make the song too long for radio.

DirectTV 4K HDR Pebble Beach

Some recent memories that I’m sure stand out to you are the two platinum plaques you’ve received in the last two years for your songs Say It and Luv. You’re part of this new streaming era where people listening to music affects sales. For someone who has been independent and is now signed to a major label, do you think streaming services like Apple Music or Spotify could ever become record labels?

I never thought about that, but yeah. I think in a weird way that’s kind of cheating. They curate the music on everything, so it’s kind of bias to their artist. So, if they start competing with other labels, it’s like other labels on Apple Music can’t get the same as your artist. I think it would create a bigger problem.

Would you ever sign to a streaming service?

If I don’t sign back with Interscope, I’m definitely doing it by myself. I will be the distribution. I will find a way to be that.

tony lanez denim jacket

You have such a high level of confidence.

I believe I can do anything. I’m black. I’m a young black man. I have the strength. I have the power. I have God by my side. What can stop me? What can stop me?! [Laughs]

What’s a piece of technology you wish existed that would help you make music easier?

“I believe I can do anything. I’m black.”

Damn, I had a whole crazy idea. I can’t remember right now. I was thinking about this and saying to myself, “I hope no one ever takes this idea.” I think maybe an app where you can always find a studio nearby, or a guitarist, or a beatmaker. All of these people are plugged into this network where it’s like they’re looking for people to work with. So, when you need something on call, you can always find these people.

I have to ask before I let you go. You had a publicized beef with Drake for a few years that recently was resolved. When I saw that, I was hyped because that means we may get a collaboration between you two. What would a collaboration between you two sound like?

I don’t know. It’s going to be dope, that’s all I know. It’s going to be super dope. We definitely spoke about it. So, it’s definitely something that’s been talked about, and something that hopefully in the upcoming time we plan on doing.

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