Though millions of people are camped inside their homes longing for freedom, Tory Lanez already quenched his thirst for escape when he released his mixtape New Toronto 3 earlier this month.
Lanez’s 16-track collection not only fulfilled his contractual obligations with Interscope Records, but debuted at No. 2 this week on the Billboard 200 with 64,000 equivalent album units moved, surprising the multifaceted star. “It’s a mixtape. I don’t even know how!” Lanez tells Billboard of the achievement. “I didn’t promote it. I put out the cover to it like a week before it came out. I thought it was gonna sell like 10,000.”
With Lanez surging as the top free agent on the market, he’s savoring his new-found freedom at the expense of major labels vying for a chance to bring him on-board. On his standout song “Letter to the City 2”, Lanez reaffirmed his independent status when he rapped: “The next move is goin’ fully independent /And any label offer under hundred mill’ is just offensive.”
“To be 100 percent, there’s so many labels offering me so much money — like millions of dollars,” says Lanez. “I’ve gotten offers that are life-changing offers, but I don’t care. I already own my masters and publishing and everything. So I don’t see any reason to give that to somebody else.”
With Lanez’s last five projects all securing top five debuts on the Billboard 200 (since his 2016 rookie campaign I Told You) the hybrid artist continues to flourish in his role as a double-threat. His 2019 project Chixtape 5, which was his last project signed under Benny Blanco’s Mad Love imprint, displayed Lanez’s showmanship as a vocalist. By aligning himself with R&B heavyweights such as Chris Brown, Trey Songz, and Ashanti, Lanez thrust himself into the conversation as one of the genre’s slickest crooners.
On New Toronto 3, he moonwalks his way back into the rap circuit with voracity, proving his abilities as radioactive MC. Songs such as “Dope Boy’s Diary,” “P.A.I.N.,” and “Adidas” serve as poignant reminders for detractors who once doubted his mastery as a wordsmith. And if fans craved the singing Tory over the rapping one, he and his first signee to One Umbrella, Mansa, baked a sticky earworm in the form of “10 F*cks” to stave off their hunger.
“That kid is probably one of the most talented individuals that I know. I think out of everybody, he was the first person that I did sign, gushes Lanez. “That kid is a problem. He’s a real-life problem.”
Lanez’s golden eye for promising talent is also a grossly underrated skill of his. His One Umbrella imprint currently houses rising New York star Melli, Mariah the Scientist — who will perform at Coachella later this year, Mansa, Davo, and also R&B upstart Kaash Paige for management. After being previously signed to Sean Kingston and Benny Blanco, Lanez says he’s looking to protect his artists and help them avoid any roadblocks he encountered during his younger days.
“When I went through these situations, I told myself there’s good things that came out of these situations and bad things,” Lanez explains. “I never want an artist to feel how I felt. And because I have that [knowledge], that now gives me a better insight on what not to do and how to pay more attention.” He adds: “At the end of the day, you gotta go at things unselfishly.”
Lanez’s smoldering run the last few months hasn’t solely been on the music side, either. Last month, he created Quarantine Radio — a daily show on Instagram Live that includes guest interviews (Drake, Justin Bieber, Young Thug) and action-packed twerk competitions. His five-minute interview with Drake garnered over 300K viewers, raising questions about whether Lanez has a second career as a radio host. “MTV offered me something like a little 30-minute segment, but I don’t know what I want to do,” he reveals. “But I want it to be something that the fans decide. If I end up coming up with an idea for it, hopefully, it’ll be on MTV.”
Watch Lanez’s interview in full above, as he dishes on becoming a better father, his full-circle moment with Adidas, his admiration for Tupac, and more.