Tory Lanez on Recording 'Love Me Now' Album After Near-Death Experience: 'Now I'm the Puppet Master'

Tory Lanez

Tory Lanez

Tory Lanez isn’t a fan of taking things slow. Just five months after he released his sophomore album Memories Don’t Die in March and dropping the sultry “Pa Mi” collaboration with Ozuna in June, the Toronto star quickly emerged with a new project, Love Me Now?  

But the overload of new recordings didn’t faze Lanez. “In this day and age people don't listen to artists that long as they used to anymore -- you gotta be fast with music because the attention span of kids got shorter and shorter,” he tells Billboard. “You now have to create a system -- especially with your fanbase -- that is like, 'I'm gonna drop consistently and I hope you guys are used to it. But if I do drop, just know it's always going to be quality, so look at it the same way.'”

Released on Oct. 26, Love Me Now? is Lanez’s third consecutive top five-charting album on the Billboard 200. In between the usual boastful lyrics and handful of guest features, the album is weighed with themes about shaking off an old flame and getting over a heartbreak. But according to Lanez, he’s in a great place personally. 

“It's the first time that I made brighter music in a long time,” he continues. “It feels like the music is in color, and I think that everybody should be able to experience what’s on the canvas.” Following the album’s release, Billboard caught up with Lanez to discuss the set's introspective lyrics, his upcoming collaborative projects and a near-death experience that birthed his new music’s mindset.

Just based on this album cover, it seems like you are in a good space. It's kind of like your interpretation of The Brady Bunch

Well, the actual little Tory puppet was from a video that I did with [electronic trio] Keys N Krates [in June] called "Music to My Ears.” They gifted it to me after the fact, so I just kept it going. The puppet started having the deeper meaning to me. I kind of look at it when you first get into the industry, you're kind of like a puppet in a weird way. 

When you're first starting in this business, you don't always have a say in your craft.

I always had a say at least creatively, but at the same time when you're supposed to make certain moves -- you go where they tell you to go, you know? Because there’s so many other people and other factors that go into listening to my music, I feel like their opinionated comments kind of make you change your craft. I don't let them string puppet me anymore, you know what I'm saying? I don't let the opinions and the crowd and what the industry says and what the standard is dictate how I'm going to move. 

You've created your own lane, no pun intended. 

Yeah, now I'm the actual puppet master, if you will.

The first thing that I noticed about Love Me Now? were the love themes on the first three tracks alone: "Why Don't You Love Me," "She Told Me" and "Duck My Ex" back to back to back. Were you going through a breakup through this recording?

Kinda, yeah. Me and my baby mother were probably going through a couple things, the mother of my son. It was just a period where the music was giving me this freeness. I did a lot of things differently this time. Normally I would never start with a song like "Why Don't You Love Me." 

Are you looking for a relationship? 

I'm not against it. I feel like it's something you have to let happen naturally. Sometimes people, I think, they rush it and they want love so bad that love never really comes to them because a relationship to me is not something that you go out trying to look for. It's something that falls into place with the right person, because it was so meant to be that you guys wanted to be in a relationship.

The album has the most features you’ve ever had on one project: Trippie Redd, Bryson Tiller, 2 Chainz, Chris Brown, Trey Songz, Meek Mill, etc. Was this a conscious decision to work with all of these artists?

It was definitely a conscious decision. I almost had a near-death experience with a plane crash before I made this album.

Wait -- expand on that. I didn't hear about this!

Pretty much our autopilot disconnected at 39,000 feet, and we started falling through the air. In a matter of a minute and thirty seconds, we fell from 39,000 feet to 13,000 feet. But I think we had 36 or 37 seconds before we would have impacted if we didn't catch it back.

I started thinking: "If I was to go at any given time, what would I do? Did I give my fans enough music? Did I get to influence my peers? Did I get to be a part of the music that they were doing?" No, I didn't get to do that, so it was just like I wanna do these things now. I wanna start. And being more collaborative and making more efforts to do things like that.

You’ve worked with Chris Brown a lot even before this record. Are there any more collabs in the works?

Yeah, me and Chris got a lot of stuff. We worked on 8, 9, 10 records that we're gonna drop.

Are you just saying that, or is it gonna happen?

No, no. They are. They really are. We was thinking about doing a joint collaborative project. 

I have to call you out on this because you always talk about collab albums and I'm always waiting for them! You have the one with Chris, I know you wanted to have one with Meek Mill -- and maybe one with Drake?

[Drake and I] never spoke about that, but like that would be tight. I think if any Canadians and got together and did joint albums, whether its Drake and Weeknd or it's Weeknd and Tory, or it's Tory, Drake and whatever, however it goes, I think that it'd be dope. It would be crazy. 

So going back to Chris, what is it about the chemistry that works so well?

He's just a cool dude. I like people like that, who don't be doing too much but they're huge stars. He's a very down-to-earth person and he works very hard. His work ethic is really what drew me to him more than anything. It’s out of this world.

And how did it feel getting Meek on this new record after he was released from jail?

I was kind of more so happy that my dawg was out of jail. I knew he was going to do it regardless, because we have held each other down for a long time, as far as us trying to making something of nothing that we had, you feel me? I've been making music with Meek since my first mixtape. People don't even know. It was a song I had called "10 Times" on a project called Swavey [in 2011]. We knew each other from before he had "I'ma Boss" or any of that stuff. 

Compared to Memories Don't Die, this new album has a lot more Auto-Tune. 

I don't know if this project actually had more Auto-Tune. Every single person who’s in the industry has Auto-Tune in their voice. Let's start it with that. It's not necessarily something we use all the way up to the T-Pain effect. But the thing about it is, unless your Auto-Tune is up to the T-Pain effect, Auto-Tune does not help you sing.

Memories Don’t Die was me trying to make sure I have a great album and be authentic. This is more so, like, “Yo, I just felt free. Fuck it. Take this, I’m making music.” Because of that, you know, the sounds are a little bit different. Plus, I recorded all this stuff in my room. It wasn’t like I went to the studio every time I felt something. Whatever I was feeling in the moment was right then and there on the spot.

Why didn’t you explore more Caribbean sounds on this album?

It wasn’t about that. For like “Pa Mi,” and stuff like that, those records are gonna live on El Agua, which is a predominantly Spanish project. It’s got some of the hottest dudes on it. We’re also getting other people right now just to finish their verses.

Can you talk about who’s on it?

Yeah, for sure. I did the one with Ozuna, of course. There’s Nicky Jam. We’re trying to finish the stuff we’re trying to do with Maluma. J Balvin we want to get on it, of course. Me and him were supposed to work from years ago, but we never got a chance to. I feel like I’m missing a lot of people. Anuel AA. Darell. Nina Sky. I was gonna put it out this year, but I think it’s a little too much music. I’m going to wait until maybe the top of next year and release that.

Is there a reason why you wanted to have more of a Latin-focused album?

I live in Miami, and I like where the culture is. I wanted to bring my own flavor to it. I don’t know at what point, but it’s written in the stars for me to be the biggest artist in the world one day. You know? And because of that, I feel like I gotta be able to cater to all of my fans -- not just ones who can speak English. Like, I’m going to have to make songs in French next. I’m going to have to make songs in Chinese one day. But I’m going to make hits in each and every one of these brackets because I know one thing, and that’s melody. 

You also have a song called “Miami” on Love Me Now?. I want to highlight this lyric that stuck with me: “And all this Actavis and drank, it make me numb/ The only time when I feel at peace is when I'm dumb high” Are there times where you struggle with inner peace?

I mean … I don’t drink anymore. Like, I don’t sip lean or anything. But I smoke a lot. I smoke very avidly. I know I have some sort of ADHD or something, because of how fast my brain moves and just how many things that I deal with on a day-to-day basis. And I know I smoke as a dependency. But for me personally, I feel like the deeper issue is not necessarily my habitual smoking patterns. It’s moreso the mental awareness of why I smoke so much. I don’t think that a lot of artists are -- when they hear “mental awareness,” for some reason they just throw it away.

Yeah, I feel like a lot of artists, especially now --

Our whole culture, our whole generation is a little bit mentally challenged, in a weird way. With different influences and different reasons. I’m not, like, [ignorant] to what mental health is. I’m not neglectful to the fact that we need to be aware of certain things. But, what I did for myself the other day, I was like, “Let me stop smoking for two, three days.” There was a time when I couldn’t stop smoking. I realized like, “Wow. This has more control over me than I have over it.”

Recently, I did the same thing again, but I stopped this time. And I was straight. And then I realized that at the end of the day, it’s something that we put in our own mind, like “Yo, I need this.” It’s just something that we depend on because we’re so used to it. You know?

I’m gonna switch gears here. In regards to working with Tekashi69 on the “Rondo” record in the midst of his sexual assault allegations earlier this year, you previously told our hip-hop editor Carl Lamarre: “I don’t care, man. I’m the type of person where it’s like, unless you did something to me personally, and I can say I’ve been there to see you do some fuck shit to people, I can’t put that on you.” Has your thoughts changed now that 6ix9ine was sentenced to four years probation?

I mean, nah. From the times that I’ve met him, I feel like I know him a little bit more intrinsically. As far as like just like him as a person, and on the inside, he’s a really nice kid, you know? And another thing is, he’s a very good entertainer. And I think that sometimes, with the entertainment aspect of it, a lot of things get misconstrued when it comes to him. Like I said, I wasn’t there, so I can’t ever speak on what was done and what wasn’t done.

But from speaking to him, he always just seemed like, “I’m very aware of what I’m doing. I know the repercussions, the actions. I’m not stupid. I’m not saying that this can’t happen to me. You know, this probably will happen to me if I don’t do things right.” So, I kind of feel like, for him to be in a situation -- and I don’t know if this is for something new or old, or whatever the case is --

It occurred when he was 18. He’s 22 now.

Yeah, like, at the end of the day, I can’t speak on it, you know? I just don’t think, personally, that he’s, you know, this, like, demon or some like kind of crazy, wild guy.

Okay, here’s my final question: what has been your biggest lesson of the year?

As a person, I think that you need to have time to have your own peace. The day is controlled by drama, at all times. That means that you’re going to have multiple problems of the day Some problems are going to big, and some problems are going to be small. Big drama and small drama. But the answer to everything, I think, is to find whatever gives you peace. Every day when I wake up, if my room is clean, I’m very peaceful. And I’ve learned that there are little, tiny keys and things that you can help to make yourself be more peaceful, ultimately resulting in your work being better.


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