If you want to know Tory Lanez, give a listen to "I Told You," his major label debut.
On it you'll hear the music he calls "Swavey," a blending of styles that incorporates hip-hop rapping, R&B singing and melody and drive from pop to Jamaican raggae. The songs are autobiographical, telling the story of his life and revealing his unbridled ambition.
Lanez compares the creation of the record to making a movie.
"I tried to do my best and make it a real cinematic-feeling record," Lanez said. "The album plays as a complete movie, it has skits, interludes, everything....It was a lot of work doing it. You have to get great songs and make them into a film. That's a hard thing to do."
Lanez had plenty of help with the tracks on "I Told You," recruiting producers and writers Benny Blanco, Andrew "Pop" Wansel and Happy Perez. But the songs are all about Lanez.
"There's a story from me being like 16 to right now," Lanez said.
"It's going through how I came from there to here and what I encountered along the way. More and more, it's the sound of my life, what I went through, the mental and physical parts of doing this."
And those songs aren't just filled with standard hip-hop braggadocio.
Rather, Lanez said, they're as honest as they can get, even if it means dropping any kind of tough guy persona.
"On this one, I'm trying to get me, but vulnerable me," he said.
"Whether I have bad judgment or good judgment, this is my life, take it or leave it."
That life has combined hard-scrabble survival and the revelation of a major talent.
Born in Toronto 23 years ago, Daystar Peterson took the name Tory Lanez as a nod to the Notorious B.I.G. He's the son of a missionary who moved young Daystar to Atlanta, New York and Miami. After his mother died when he was 11, Lanez returned to Toronto to live with his grandmother, who at one point kicked him out of the house.
In 2009, Lanez put out his first mixtape and created some YouTube videos to promote it. Justin Bieber found the videos and "discovered" Lanez. Bieber didn't get Lanez signed, but Sean Kingston did.
Lanez' childhood journeys and living in multi-cultural Toronto exposed him to a wide variety of music. All that, he said, comes together in his distinctive music.
"I try to make music, all kinds of music, whether it be singing or rapping," he said. "Swayve,' it puts more than one genre of music together.
"Subconsciously, the things you listen to and you believe in, those things are going to come out, you know what I mean?" Lanez said. "I think you take that and make it your sound. That's what I do when I'm putting together genres of music."
Lyrically, Lanez goes with the flow – literally.
"I just freestyle," he said. "I don't actually write the words on paper. It's just whatever comes into my mind. I'll record 3-4 lines at a time, get a good take and do three or four more. It may be whatever comes into my mind. But I care about my craft at lot more than a lot of other people."
That combination of freestyled, personal lyrics and "Swayve" sets Lanez apart from the pack in any genre -- which is precisely his intent.
"The thing about it is, you have to be a trailblazer," he said. "You always have to come up with something so nobody can say you can't come up with something new."
Lanez is now taking "I Told You" on the road.
Asked what his shows are like, Lanez replied "You're going to get the best show you'll ever see live." Then he expounded on his answer.
"I'm a very social person, very down to earth," Lanez said. "The people there, I know how to relate to them. I jump in the crowd. I'll crowd surf for an entire song. I'll tell the DJ to put me down in the crowd. They think I'm crazy. But I want people to know we're on the same level. We're there forever."
Tory Lanez with guests Jacquees, Kranium, Taylor Bennett and VeeCee
Wed., Nov. 9, 8pm
Midtown Ballroom, 51 NW Greenwood Ave., Bend
$25 adv., $28 door