“I always felt the police had stolen something from me that was mine and I wanted that back,” Preme says of shedding his former moniker P. Reign. After years of being “trapped in Canada” because of longstanding legal issues, the 32-year-old delivered his much-delayed debut album Light of Day earlier this month (May 4).
The bristling project features 15 tracks and 52 minutes of enthralling story-telling with cameos from some of the best hip-hop has to offer, including PARTYNEXTDOOR, Lil Wayne, Post Malone, YG, Ty Dolla $ign and Offset. Soothing production on the effort definitely doesn’t disappoint either, with superstars in their own right behind the boards, such as the scorching Murda Beatz, CuBeatz, DJ Mustard and Pro Logic.
In addition to narrating his come up, the father of two told Billboard he remains in awe of Drake‘s work ethic even after all that he’s already accomplished in life. Preme was tightlipped about Drizzy’s forthcoming Scorpion album, explaining that OVO’s in-house producer Noah “40” Shebib oddly cursed him out over the phone for vaguely speaking on the project via social media recently.
Billboard caught up with the “DnF” rapper for an in-depth phone conversation last week, during which he touched on how the Toronto native became NBA legend Kevin Garnett’s favorite rapper, collaborating with Lil Wayne for “Hot Boy,” Drake’s progression as a songwriter, rebranding as Preme, his plans to drop multiple projects in 2018, and much more.
Check out the rest of our conversation with the artist formerly known as P. Reign below.
Starting off, what inspired the name change from P. Reign to Preme?
I was Preme before I was even P. Reign. I got the Reign from Raynford, which is my first legal name. The “P” was from Preme and I combined those to come up with P. Reign. Really, it was a name I created to elude the police, to be honest with you. I was coming up trying to transition from a hustler into an artist and create a legal lifestyle for myself.
I couldn’t make any money because I was well known to police and they would come to my shows and where I’d be hosting events. They’d tell the venue owners, “This is a really bad guy. He’s from a bad neighborhood and you’re going to have problems if you have him.” So it was literally impossible for me to make any money. I changed my name to get off the radar and it worked for the beginning and the first few years but the more successful I got the more the police caught on that P. Reign was still Preme.
I was trapped in Canada my whole life so I couldn’t cross the border to go to America. The minute I was finally able to come to the United States a few years ago I changed my name back to Preme. I always felt the police had stolen something from me that was mine and I wanted that back. I’m back to Preme and I got some money now.
How tough was it to see music from your city go global, and all you could do was essentially watch from a distance?
That’s the worst feeling in the world. You literally want to kill yourself. It’s crazy because one of my best friends my whole life was Drake and he did it as big as any artists just about could do it. He’s reached levels only a small handful of people have reached. To see that whole process unfold through television or FaceTime with my homies was heartbreaking. I was there before [Drake] was rapping from the very beginning. I’ve known Drake longer than 99 percent of the people that are still with him to this day. To see that unfold in front of my eyes, unless he was home in Toronto, was crazy. Such is life.
How would you say this album tells your story?
I feel like any type of music I put out helps tell my story, because I always pull from real life experiences. Anything I kind of rap about is usually true. It’s usually an experience in my life, or somebody close to me. The album’s just a collection of memories and pieces of my life that I’ve been through. “Ill Life 4” is a series I’ve been since the start of my career and that basically tells you about different chapters in my life and experiences at that particular time.
You have the outro with “One Day,” which speaks on some of my closest friends’ experiences with some of them serving life for murder. The project is basically a collection of thoughts to tell my story from the beginning until now. It’s called Light of Day because being trapped in [Canada], I never put any music out until I could travel. I feel like my career and the music I’m putting out is finally getting a chance to see the light of day.
I noticed women and relationships are a popular theme as well. Is that something you wanted to get across?
Yeah, I got two kids with two different women so you go through a lot as a father, especially when you’re not with the women anymore. I wanted to speak on those experiences because it’s something a lot of us go through, whether it’s growing up without one parent or raising a kid by yourself. Even going through the experiences, where you’re not in the relationship with the person and it’s like, “Oh I want the kid today.” I like to speak on real-life things people could relate to and maybe help them get through their tough times. I always get hit up by my fans and the number one thing they have to say mostly is, “Man, you got me through something.” I want to continue to do that.
Do you want to be known more for your music, rather than your personal life?
I’ve been trying to change that since I’ve been rapping. It’s crazy because sometimes the myth is bigger than the person. I was always trapped in Canada and people would hear stories about me through Drake or different things from coming to the city and meeting me and seeing how my crew gets down. My neighborhood already has a crazy reputation from people that came before me. There’s been this huge question mark over my name. People wonder, “What’s his relationship with Drake?” There are always a ton of questions I get asked and the best way to clear that up is through music. I’ve always wanted my music to be bigger than me. I’m hoping putting out music can speak louder than anything else.
What was it like to have Kevin Garnett call you his new favorite rapper?
One of my homegirls from Toronto, Mona, is actually close with [Kevin Garnett]. She must’ve been playing my music and he was really feeling it. So she FaceTimed me and was like, “Yo, Kevin Garnett wants to talk to you.” She put me on the phone and then I saw his face and he goes, “Yo, you’re my new favorite rapper. I don’t know you or never spoke to you before but I want to let you know you’re my new favorite rapper.” I was like, “That’s fucking crazy. It sounds insane.” That was a moment for me [last week]. I’m a huge [Kevin Garnett] fan. I know a lot of athletes, but he’s a legend.
Does LeBron officially own the city of Toronto now after sweeping the Raptors for the second year in a row?
LeBron definitely owns Toronto. I’m a honest man that tells the truth [and] not a bullshitter. As much as it pains me to say it, LeBron owns Toronto after that performance. I’m heartbroken, embarrassed and I don’t know what to say. It’s LeBron’s city right now until we get our revenge. I tip my hat to him. That shit was amazing.
What stood out most to you after hearing Drake’s Scorpion album?
The last time I went on Instagram saying, “Drake’s album was amazing,” I got in trouble. [Noah “40” Shebib] called me and cursed me out. He said he “hates when people speak on the album before it comes out.” So after getting cursed out, I’m not going to say anything about Drake’s Scorpion album.
How has Drake progressed as a songwriter from Views until now?
His musical growth continues to blow my fucking mind. It’s so impressive that he’s even able to stay motivated after breaking every record, having all the money in the world and probably checking everything off his list that he’s wanted to do in this lifetime. Not only is he motivated, [Drake’s] still outworking all of his peers and I know that for a fact. That guy’s in the studio every day which is incredible. To see him stay inspired and come up with all these new ideas and finding new ways to continue to make music is really inspiring. That guy is unreal — it’s like [Drake’s] not from this planet.
How did “Frostbite” with Offset come about?
“Frostbite” is a record of us talking our shit. We both wear a lot of jewelry. I’ve done this for a long time. We recorded that out in Las Vegas. I went to one of the [Migos] shows and we ended up recording in [Offset’s] hotel room in [Las Vegas]. We were just having fun. “Frostbite” is about the young guys shining.
What was the studio session with Post Malone like that led to “Jackie Chan?”
I was staying at Drake’s crib for a while there. I brought [Post Malone] through and he brought some of his homies. We were just having fun and hanging out. He had me trying the beer bong for the first time. We were really drunk by the time we were ready to actually work on some music. I think that actually helped the whole creative process.
He made the beat with just the chords and then he started humming the melody and the hook. I was like, “Jackie Chan would be crazy. Let’s just do some fun shit.” We finished that song in like ten minutes and I threw my producer with his to finish the drums. That song came together really quickly. It’s always better when you’re vibing and having a good time with someone before you work on the music because it helps get the creative juices flowing.
You had a star-studded video for “Can’t Hang” with PARTYNEXTDOOR and cameos from Drake, 21 Savage, Metro Boomin’, Murda Beatz and more.
That was just a pool party that I threw in L.A. at my homie’s crib. I had a cameraman and pretty much just told him, “Let’s shoot.” I told everyone to come through and they just showed up for a party and I figured that would be the best video. Just capturing what young dudes are doing and having fun.
On “Tango” you rap, “She got an ass like Khloe and a face like Kendall.” You also shouted out Kylie Jenner on “Coastline.” What is your relationship with the Kardashian clan?
I know them. I’ve met them all a ton but I don’t have a speaking relationship with any of them. It’s more of a what’s up when I see them type of thing. I’ve been to their cribs and whatnot. I really know them through mutual friends. It’s not like I have a personal relationship with them. They’re the biggest women in the world and they’re considered the most beautiful women in the world. It’s hard to ignore that when you make music.
What was the process of securing a Lil Wayne feature on “Hot Boy” like? He gave you a vintage verse on a track named after his former group.
I was actually in the studio with PARTYNEXTDOOR. We were working on some music and I came up with the “Hot Boy” record, which was supposed to have him on it [before] “Can’t Hang.” He didn’t want to do a verse and wanted me to kill this record on my own because it suited me way more.
One of my friends thought it would be crazy to get Lil Wayne on it because we were talking about “Hot Boy.” He was like, “Yeah, but you can’t do that. It’s going to be impossible to get Lil Wayne on there. You don’t even know him.” It was kind of like a personal mission of mine to prove my homie wrong and get Wayne on the record. It took me about a year and a half but it ended up working out and he sent me a legendary verse.
It’s dope that I got a classic verse and it’s a vintage Cash Money record we were trying to recreate. I met him a few times with Drake but we never really spoke. I met him again at the video shoot for “Hot Boy” in Miami. It was like a fan moment for me. He’s a legend and the G.O.A.T. and that was one of the things on my bucket list to work with [Lil Wayne]. To do a video was ten times crazier. I was in awe to be in the same room as him.
“One Day” closes out the project with a powerful message, exposing the unjust sentences people you know have received.
That song is four or five years old. It’s really just a tribute to my guys. Those are my OGs that are locked up serving life for murders. I’ve seen people go to jail for crimes they didn’t commit that I know for a fact they didn’t commit. I have friends in jail for life on things they didn’t commit. It’s crazy because one of the guys I talk about on that record that speaks at the end of the song had an appeal a few months ago and won. [CD’s] free now. They found new evidence that showed he was innocent 15 years later. That’s life.
So the record was to encourage them to keep their heads up and stay motivated and be positive. Let them know I never forgot about them. We got one of them home. It was a tribute record to them. I strive to make therapeutic music. Sometimes it may not be the person in jail that needs the motivation, maybe it’s the mother or sister outside that’s going through a rough time.
What would you see as success for Light of Day?
Everything I wanted from this project is what I’m getting now. I just wanted people to say like, “Yo, this is a great project front to back and I don’t skip a song.” That’s all I’ve been hearing. That was my ultimate goal to reintroduce myself to the world as Preme but that I’m also still here making music at the highest levels. I’m finally being recognized for that and I couldn’t ask for anything more.
Do you plan on releasing any more projects in 2018?
Yeah, I got a couple more projects that are almost done. I got hella music. I’m really trying to kill every single person that’s in my lane or considered competition. I’ve waited way too long to get here and I got a point to prove.