Read our exclusive interview with Lais, the 22-year-old Toronto artist about to make it "Cocaine Rain."
"Hey HHH, I go 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."
This 2014 post on the subreddit r/hiphopheads was how Lais introduced himself to the world. SESSION ONE, which has since been deleted from his SoundCloud, produced a song called "For You" that Drake played immediately before he premiered "Charged Up" and "Hotline Bling" on Episode 2 of OVO Sound Radio. Indeed Lais' plain, memorable lyrics and mesmerizing, electric piano-driven production capture the listener in a deep spell that even Champagne Papi cannot resist.
We invited Lais to the HNHH office in NYC for an interview to discuss his career to date and the creation of his sophomore project 114 EP, due out February 19th (pre-order here). Lais rolled through at 3 PM, still reeling from an epic night of partying with his labelmate Skizzy Mars. His flamboyant black leather jacket, a prototype from his upcoming merch line that he designed himself, belied his down-to-earth, soft-spoken demeanor. It is true, Lais is something of a walking paradox -- a chill music-having chill dude who gives off the unmistakable whiff of a young man ravenous for success, quietly confident, and savvy enough to get anywhere he wants to go.
What was life growing up in Toronto? When did you get introduced to music? How did Lais the musician happen?
When I moved here -- I moved here right when middle school ended and high school was starting. You know, when you go into high school, you always have cliques from middle school. I didn’t have that coming into it. And I’m a pretty quiet guy, I don’t talk too much. I hate going out of my way to socialize with people. So I didn’t bother doing that, I just started doing a lot more music. I always been into music, I played instruments as a kid, like violin, for a long fucking time. And then I just kept getting into more writing, and I guess the introvert side of me took it home.
I used to play a lot of video games, I had these headphones that had the mic. I would attach that to the computer and record on it. But it was nothing, It was never anything that I wanted to pursue as a career. Even SESSION ONE, it was a bunch of songs I threw together because that’s what I was feeling at the time, like expecting nothing of it at all. I was like, “Bro, if I get 100 plays on this song, I’m gonna fucking go buy 8 bottles.” (laughs) It went viral, it got crazy amounts of plays.
This is in 2014?
Yeah, so my first bit of music ever that came out was just [in 2014]. And then Skizz reached out to me, like “Bro, let’s work.” I didn’t even know who Skizzy Mars was, to be completely honest. There were a few people trying to ask me to join their group. But I chose Skizzy because the contrast was dope. When you hear a song like “Moon & Stars 2,” my shit is like a lot more mellow and downtempo, his vocals are a lot sharper. So when you put them together, it makes the song kinda bounce back. It just sounds cool to me. [Skizzy] had a vision, I fucked with that. I have a vision. Anyone that I see is on the same playing field as me I fuck with.
How old were you when you first starting out recording on your video game headset?
What sort of music were you drawing inspiration from at that time?
A lot of Drake.
This is like around 'Comeback Season'? Or 'Take Care'?
Take Care is when I really started doing the recording stuff. Take Care is when I really got into Drake. When I started writing music, I was actually a lot younger than that. I was like 8 or 9 years old. I would listen to a lot of 50 Cent, The Massacre, that was my shit! Him, Eminem, the whole Aftermath movement was crazy. That was my inspiration definitely coming into music. I can’t say they reflect too much of [my music] right now. But when I started out, I was a lot more into rapping. My hook game was garbage. So after a while, I stopped and started working on hooks.
Does your artistic vision extend beyond music?
Yeah, definitely. All kinds of stuff. I love designing clothes. [Points to his jacket] This is 100% designed by me. I’ve always been into creative arts, so music, fashion, even film, I fuck with all of that. Music for me is just one of the rungs on the ladder. Trying to climb up slowly. So I’m hoping this EP kinda breaks the ice and takes me a bit more than just SoundCloud and hip hop blog premieres.
You straddle the line between singer and rapper. Do you consider yourself one or the other?
I don’t like to put a label on it. I don’t like to say one or the other. I’m not the most talented singer, I’ll admit, I’m not the best lyricist. It’s me, it’s all me on the mic. Whatever I’m feeling, whatever I’m going through, I record it, and people relate. That’s it. I don’t like putting labels.
I thought “Moon and Stars 2” was really good. That beat was so silky.
Funny story, when I made “Moon and Stars 2” originally it was a whole different beat, it was nothing like [it is now]. The day before I was supposed to send it to iTunes, the producer [CVRE] was like, I’m redoing the whole beat. I asked him, like “Yo, you done the master?” And he was like, “I’m redoing everything.” I was like “Bro, how far are you?” and he was like “I haven’t started yet.” I was like “are you fucking stupid?” (Laughs) But he killed it. Like in a day, he knocked it out. And after that, I scrapped my whole EP. I was like “No, you’re doing the rest of it too.”
Everyone I’ve shown it to has shown so much love. There was this one post on Reddit, when I first posted [SESSION ONE], some guy posted, something like “You sound like Drake and Young Thug’s lovechild. Do you bathe in a hot shower with soft red lighting and a half-brick for a bath bomb?” That was pretty accurate (laughs).
How did 'SESSION ONE' come together?
I just did it because I had free time. I had just dropped out of school at that time, and I was just chilling. I was like, why not? So I made SESSION ONE, they were just beats from online and stuff. But I’m very picky, I’m like a perfectionist. Even those beats, it took me two weeks to mix, master, & record the whole project. It took me a month to find the beats. And I fuck with this CVRE dude so hard because I can sit with him and get him to do exactly what I need him to do, and the thing is he’ll do it. He gets it.
Before your song "For You" got played on OVO Sound Radio, did you know ahead of time… how did you find out about that?
I was in the Dominican with my girl, we were just chilling. There was no Wifi there except in certain spots. So I went to the hotel Wifi spot, I opened up my Twitter and I just seen my feed going off like, “Yo Lais, you’re on OVO Radio, you’re on OVO Radio!” And I was like, “What the fuck?” It never sank in, then I came here and I went through it, I was like “Holy shit. Damn, that’s crazy.”
For me, the craziest part of it all wasn’t just that I was on OVO Sound Radio, it’s more like, Drake used my song to open for his premiere for “Hotline Bling” and “Charged Up.” And that "Hotline Bling" became what it was.
To what degree was getting on OVO Radio a turning point for your career? Was it night and day?
I can’t say it was night and day. It definitely helped a lot, because what was happening before that, me and Skizz, we work closely, so my buzz in the States was rolling pretty hard before Drake got on it. But when Drake got on it, obviously, it got so many more ears on it. It balanced basically local city buzz with buzz I had in the States. It leveled out the playing field for me, so it was really nice.
All these songs reference a certain "you" -- "For You,” “Missin U,” “Rather Have U.” Is that a royal "you," or are you speaking to someone in particular?
No music I make has been general talk. It’s everything that I lived. There is a certain 'you' that a lot of these songs reflect to and it’s why these songs exist.
I kind of came up on accident. So it’s like up until now, I’m not really worried about going into music just to talk some shit, make some money, and get girls, that’s not my shit. I can do that a million different ways. I just like doing music because I’m a pretty quiet dude, it’s just a good way to air out my feelings.
What can people expect from ‘114 EP’?
114 was a house I moved into when I first moved to Canada from Virginia. Right at the end of 8th grade I moved to the Toronto area. it’s kind of just going over what I’ve been through during these little times, and I kind of wanted this to be the end of that chapter. So 114 is the end of 114, I don’t want to be in that house no more.
Putting a period on it.
Putting a period on it. I don’t want to be here next year regardless.
This is your parents house?
Yeah. that’s where my family lives. 114 isn’t literally for the house, it’s more about that segment of my life. But yeah, it’s kind of just putting an end to this chapter of my life.
So you’re going on tour? Where are you going?
LA, New York, Chicago, Houston, & Toronto. Knock 'em all down.
You gonna take Skizzy with you?
I don’t think so, I’d love for him to come out for any shows he’s available for because that’s my dude. That’s Penthouse. I’m headlining. The types of songs I make, it’s not really that turn up kind of shit.
Yeah, it’s more like, smoke weed.
Exactly. I probably bring it in for the people, bro.
How is that performing those songs? Turning up is such a big part of shows. It’s harder to engage a crowd if you’re not turning up.
I’ve performed one time in my entire life. And it happened to be at one of the biggest venues in Toronto. I was fucking shitting myself. Because what happens is, you go out there and all of the sudden you see 700 faces that don’t really know who the fuck you are. So I started getting into my songs, and I was real nervous. But by the end of it, I could see them singing along to some of the words. So after that, I started getting comfortable.
I’m excited to tour though definitely, to know that people are paying hard-earned money to see me talk my shit. I respect that.'