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Interviews

Lais is Canada's Sad Boy

The Pakistani rapper went from posting his mixtape on Reddit to contributing his own flavour to the Toronto sound.

af Tania Peralta
07 august 2014, 9:00am

A Pakistan-born, Brampton and Virginia-raised artist with a past in freestyle raps has become Toronto’s first sad boy. Lais’ combination of rapping and singing about relatable life experiences, like having two girls you want to copulate with at the same time, has gotten him attention from an unlikely source: Reddit.

It started back in July with the release of his debut project Session One, which Lais decided to post on Hip-Hop Heads, a subreddit filled with fans that typically appreciate lyrical-miracles over sadraps. But to his surprise, all the feedback he got (including the criticism) showed Lais that there exists a fanbase that could connect with his music. He attached the tape with a post that read “Hey HHH, I got by the name Lais. Fresh out of Toronto with no fans yet, I’m hoping to gain at least one today with my debut project, SESSION ONE. Take a listen.” Not only did the community listen, they interacted. Over a 128 comments were posted in reply, with support from Vancouver to New Zealand reaching the young rapper overnight. Lais went from being non-existent on the internet to having producers and artist scattered throughout the states reaching out to him for potential collaborations. He sounds sad, really sad, but he also sounds like he doesn’t care. His music is dark and moody — a default of the city he’s coming out of — but it's still incorporated with enough detached melancholy and sadness to keep it from being unrelatable.

With a combination of slurred words and a unique vocal style, it's inevitable that Lais be compared to other Toronto artists like PartyNextDoor and The Weekend. We sat down with the young artist and talked to him about his own writing process, and why he doesn’t care about social media even after his success on Reddit.

Noisey: So what happened with Reddit?
Lais: That's basically where it all sparked. I made this mixtape - Session One. I wasn't really expecting a reaction as big as it got on Reddit. I made it, I put it out, and then got crazy amounts of love. I got management offers and blogs picked me up and it just popped off from there. It got me a lot of views and downloads and made it what it is.

Aside from the traffic on Reddit, did you have any additional marketing plan for the project?
I'm not really big on planning. I don't even really tell people about my music. I don't go out of my way to socialize for my music. Self-promotion isn't something I'm big on. I just hope the project speaks for itself and that it keeps going off the hype like it did on Reddit. I usually keep it quiet on social media as well, but if I get a bigger following it would be a great way to push my songs. For now, the music's going to promote itself. I mean, that's what happened originally when I put it on the internet. That's when I got all my followers. I don't just want to be active on social media for no reason. I definitely don't want to be one of those spamming artists.

Since you're not putting much work into marketing the project through social media, what are the goals for the project that you're currently working on?
I do things sporadically. I usually just live my life and then record it. I don't revolve my life around the songs, the songs revolve around my life. I try to keep recording all the time. If I think of a song, I write it down and I record it. If I can record right away I'll do it, if not I save it for another time and see if I still want to do it.

So the music is a reflection of your lifestyle?
It's emotionally disconnected, if you want to call it that, but it is almost just my lifestyle. If it was just a song for the sake of being a song, it would be hard to relate to, but if it does have meaning behind it then it sounds more well put together and polished, and more people will be able to relate to it.

In order to keep the music relatable do you try to tell a story in each song?
Sometimes there's a story. I just remember the event and I just base the lyrics off the event because that way it's going to come down to the same topic regardless of how I write it. I combine the feeling from the writing with the feeling from the sound.

Is that sound in Session One something we can expect from you again in the future?
My projects are done in the spur of the moment so I can't say or suggest anything. There is a sound that is captured in my music that I kind of want to keep going with but there's different ways to do that. I'm working on new songs but I can't say that it will have the same feel as Session One. I don't want to be labelled as one specific kind of artist because I want to keep moving and evolve my sound.

Speaking of sounds, did your music sound the way it does before you started working with producers like Eric Dingus, and how did you start working with him?
Yeah, I have two tracks with him on Session One. Basically I was just recommended here and there, and eventually my name got around and I ended up with some of his beats and I used them to make the tracks. His music had a similar feel to what i was projecting, but the producers don't really affect my music like the people I know do. There was a time when I was focused on rap and eventually that evolved into what you heard on Session One, which is a mix of the rap and singing.

As a result of working with Dingus and the rap/singing mixture in your music, do you find that people often frame it in relation to artists like Drake and PartyNextDoor?
Yeah, but just because there's one style it doesn't mean there can only be one artist doing it. There are different ways of pulling out that style. My music is dark as well. To some extent there is a Toronto sound in my music but I've even read in a few blogs that they see a country music style sound in my songs because of my Virginia accent. I don't worry about what people compare it to though. If I feel a way then I feel a way. There’s no strategy behind anything I do.

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