Where most artists spend a few years (literally) begging for shares on their social media pages or to like, comment and subscribe to their channels, LB has been able to accumulate an envious following all before graduating high school. He’s already amassed two million and counting views to date on YouTube and has already received the notorious Drake co-sign for his song “My Phone.” But for LB, which stands for Loyal Boss, who is part of a collection of artists from the city, specifically from the Jane and Finch area – like Pressa and Friyie – who have been able to turn their hobbies into careers, this is just the beginning. “I’m 16 from Jane and Finch. I play a lot of sports, I rap with my friends. Just a regular kid, but,” he says matter of factly, “I’m special.”
Like any contemporary creative, LB has used social media to get a headstart into the game, posting now-deleted videos on YouTube of him and his friends freestyling. He attributes his growing fanbase to word of mouth through high school and middle school but also explains that a lot of his records were repurposed in NBA 2K reels on YouTube which, in turn, exposed him to an international audience. “There were a lot of 2K players that listened to it because a lot of YouTubers were posting it in their mixtapes, so a lot of people online from the States were listening to the music.”
Unlike many artists who prefer to work alone, most of the records in LB’s earlier catalog are collaborative. The artist works alongside his friends to produce his music, particularly 14-year-old Peppa Baby, part of his collective CashFlow along with FK and G-boy, itself part of an even bigger collective, Gangflow, comprised of other local artists. Their sound is comprised of Zaytoven-like production with earworm hooks that echo the cadences of Drake or Migos, but mired in local slang. LB and Peppa recently sat down with a local media outlet talking about the power of collaborative work effort, which is a philosophy they truly live by. “If we succeed, we all succeed. If LB goes to the top, we all go to the top,” Peppa mentions in the interview.
Even with this newfound attention, LB says there’s been little to no difference to how his peers treat him outside of a joke or two that prod at his local celebrity. “Most of the people I go to school with, they already knew me from before so it’s the same,” he says. “And I was always popular so it didn’t – it changed a little, but not really. They’ll sing my songs to try and get at me.” The record “No Time,” featuring Iraq and Lanks, was the first of the videos posted on his page to reach one million views, but LB explains that the milestone that got him the most excited was when it reached 100,00 views. “I think I felt better when it was 100,000 than a million. When it was [approaching] a million I already knew it was gonna go to a million, it kept going up.”
His mom and manager says that she knew LB was always destined for big things, sharing that he first started out dancing, picked up an interest in basketball, and found a home in rap, even though he had plenty of dance-related opportunities available. Still overwhelmed with the amount of traction he receives, she says that she’s handling her role as "momager" with ease. “Right now, it’s like disbelief. I don’t know what it is. We’re just tryna live it like, the way how he’s out there and known, I guess it hasn’t hit us as yet cause we’re still living everyday life the same way.”
It’s a great time for the young artist to be entering the scene as Toronto’s position in the global music world is at a pivotal stage. The gripes of many seasoned industry people have been that the talent in Toronto is overlooked, the writing on our artists are uninformed and that institutional barriers limit the success of our artists past local level. The scene has drastically changed since. The visibility of Toronto artists has increased immensely: SXSW bills, curated Apple Music playlists, the Grammys and international music festival stages. Still, the city’s new crop of artists, including LB's peers like K Money and more, are approaching their artistry differently in comparison to previous generations. Through platforms like YouTube and Instagram they're building their own digital hubs which allows them to pull in large numbers from a strong and vocal audience, locally and internationally, without need or opinions from the mainstream . Effectively, creating a burgeoning new rap community for the next generation that's centred on the only thing that matters: audience engagement.
Still, LB has his sights set on the local level right now. He’s performed in different venues and clubs across the city, is scheduled to perform on a few more over the summer, and wants to continue doing live shows. In comparison to other well-known acts from the city, LB is relatively young but sees that as advantageous. “I see myself as a big factor for the youth because there’s not a lot of youth rappers,” he says, “A lot of kids look up to me because they can relate to me more than to the older rappers.”
Just recently, LB released his debut album, So Spliffy earlier this a month: a collection of bravado records that [what do they sound like] feature more than a handful of artists from his locale. Unsurprisingly, he has a clear vision of what he’d like to accomplish beyond this album. “I’m gonna go quadruple platinum. I plan to work with a lot of artists, plan to be successful, [and] plan to be rich” before adding confidently, "But right now, I’m just tryna better myself.”
Sharine Taylor is a writer is also a boss of many things, too many actually. Follow her on Twitter.
This article originally appeared on Noisey CA.