Pressa explains how he's evolved as an artist since breaking out, whether he prefers living in Toronto or the States, being attracted to Coi Leray because she "looks like" him, and more for HNHH's "On The Come Up."
Pressa is just starting to build a name for himself in the States but in Toronto, he's already a legend. One of the most consistent forces coming out of Toronto's celebrated hip-hop scene, Pressa has been around for years, telling tales from the streets of one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the city: Jane & Finch.
The corner of Jane & Finch in North York is infamous for gang activity, with some of the highest crime rates in all of Toronto. Pressa rose up from the neighborhood's Driftwood community, spending some time in Vancouver before relocating to Los Angeles to continue pushing for superstardom in the American music industry. He's gone on tour with Drake, and he's one of the pioneers in the city's rap output, making an introduction to the market down South through his romantic partnership with Coi Leray, which has also resulted in one of his biggest songs to date, "Attachments."
Photo provided to HNHH by SME Canada
As he pushes to become a household name internationally, Pressa has been thriving artistically, releasing Gardner Express, which is arguably his most cohesive effort yet. To celebrate his rise, we caught up with Pressa for the latest episode of On The Come Up.
Check out the new episode of On The Come Up with Pressa below, where he discusses his move from Toronto to the States, the new deluxe edition of Gardner Express, his relationship with Coi Leray, and much more. Check out the video below to see Coi make a cameo during the interview, as well!
Read the unabridged editorial version of the interview below, edited for clarity.
HNHH: Who is Pressa?
Pressa: My name is Pressa. I’m from Jane and Finch, Toronto, Canada. I’m half-Filipino, half-Jamaican, and I grew up in the roughest part of Canada.
What was life like back in the Driftwood neighborhood of Jane & Finch?
It’s just like every high-poverty neighborhood. You ain’t got no money, but you got the most love. You might not have more money than people out in the suburbs, in Brampton or anything, but you for sure got more love, people love you more, and it’s more genuine where you’re from, because people are sharing there. People are sharing bread.
Do you miss Toronto at all or do you prefer being in the States? You're living in LA now, right?
I miss Toronto a lot, but I just want to [have] dual citizenship and be able to go back and forth.
What are your favorite things to do when you’re in Toronto?
I like to be in the hood outside of Driftwood, I go to get food at my childhood corner store.
Where did you get your name?
I go by the name Pressa because my father, his name was Prestige. It’s short-form for him. He got life in prison and stuff like that. He was a big street guy coming out of the neighborhood, so a lot of people showed me love just for him. I dedicated my name to that.
What’s your relationship with your dad like now?
I love my dad. You would think that if your father got life, you wouldn’t know your dad or nothing like that, but my dad been in prison since I was 6 months old, so I grew up with my dad over the phone. I saw that was how my dad was there for me, just because that was all I knew. If you get a pup and you raise it this way... you know what I mean? I wasn’t mad at life. I actually did have a father telling me what to do and guiding me.
And what was life like with your mom and older brother?
My mom worked a lot, 9 to 5, and then just left the boys at home, me and my brother, just trying to figure it out every day.
Photo provided to HNHH by SME Canada
You spent some time out in Vancouver facing your own legal issues. What was Vancouver like for you?
It’s dope. I had never been there before till I was like 13, and once I got up there-- now that I’ve been to California, the weather is like the same. It doesn’t snow as hard out there. I would always just be out there, staying inside rooms. In houses, some people will just rent out their back house or their basement apartment. We would just take that for $700 a month, $1,000 a month. And then we just figured it out in Vancouver. That’s why I got a lot of people in Vancouver.
You said you were in a rough area growing up, and you've done some time yourself. A lot of your music deals with your experiences overcoming these obstacles. What kind of lessons have you learned from going through so much adversity early in your life?
Just morals, loyalty, and being genuine and organic.
How do you transfer your street experience into music?
I just rap about what I be going through, do it on the mic and paint a picture, tell my story-- something that other people could relate to.
You talk about your childhood friend Wassi a lot in your music, and it was his death that ultimately led to you making music. What did he mean to you?
Wassi was my best friend before I was rapping. I ended up losing him, and I knew that I had to just start rapping. I made a song about him, and ever since that, it blew up. I just took it to the next level.
How did his passing influence you to pick up the mic?
Just by his death, and me wanting to make a song to show the world my friend is the biggest G in Canada.
Going back to when you were in school, were you a good or bad student?
I was a good-bad student. They would put me in gifted class because I was bad, but I knew how to manipulate all my friends and knew how to get what I wanted in school. I was smarter than everybody else life-wise. Survival skills, I was so advanced. Kids didn’t really understand. Kids are learning from me. I was just going back, trying to do other shit.
What was your favorite subject in school?
Math and geography, because I wanted to tour the world. I knew everywhere in Canada when I was like 13.
Did you have any extracurricular activities?
Basketball. I used to play a lot of basketball, and I would ride a lot of dirt bikes.
Your biggest song to date is “Attachments”. Originally, the song featured Taliban Glizzy. After it started to make some noise, Coi hopped on the song. Can you speak on that decision, the remix, and how Coi landed on there?
I recorded the song in Paramount, and then I put it out and it performed well. I wanted to get Coi on “Attachments,” so I reached out and got it done. The rest is history from there.
When did you first meet Coi? Was it around that song?
Yeah. I met her a long time ago when I was in the studio, but she didn’t remember me.
What initially drew you to her?
I thought she looked like me. I thought she was like me. We have the same birthday, basically.
True! You're both Taurus, right?
Yeah. May 10 and 11.
Being that you’re both Taurus, what is the dynamic of your relationship like?
The relationship is awesome. It’s sweet. We don’t clash. No clashes over here.
Your celebrity status has elevated since you started dating her and moved to LA. A lot of people are getting to know you and your music, but at the same time, your comments are often filled with rude, hateful messages. Do those ever get to you?
Nah, man. We outside getting all this money. We ain’t worried about no motherfucking comments. It ain’t coming from nobody that ain’t got shit in life to do. We ain’t worried about no motherfucker that lives out their mama house, tweeting. They gotta figure out their life before they try to figure out our shit.
"We ain’t worried about no motherfucking comments. It ain’t coming from nobody that ain’t got shit in life to do. We ain’t worried about no motherfucker that lives out their mama house, tweeting."
Does it ever bother you when you see haters making fun of Coi?
I don’t see nothing.
Let's talk about your breakout song "Deadmihana." How did you start getting traction with that song?
Yeah. “Deadmihana” was my second song out. I was just rapping about crazy shit. People were fuckin' with it so much, it just went crazy, and then I dropped “TBH” for the girls, on the pop side. Once I dropped “TBH”, I knew that I could rap about girls and still be certified in the streets.
How do you think your flow has evolved since those two songs?
It’s like basketball. The more you’re in the gym, the better you get. I be in the gym.
Things were much simpler when you dropped those songs. You were really just starting out and had so much to prove. Do you prefer working under pressure like that, or are you more comfortable now being in an elevated position?
I got a lot to prove. I still got so much to prove.
Do you like that? Does that make you work harder?
Yeah, I got so much to prove right now, because the bigger you get, the better you got to be, and the more you’ve got to deliver.
Your project Gardner Express saw you hit a brand new level. It’s debatably one of your most polished projects to date. What does that project mean to you?
My project is dope. It’s about my transition from Canada to America, Gardner Express, and it’s just a little EP on what I got going on in America.
What was the biggest difference between this project and your earlier catalog?
My earlier catalog, I ain’t never really had features. This catalog, I had features.
Considering the sound is so refined, did you work with any different producers or engineers?
Yeah, the producers and engineers are much more of a vibe over here [in Los Angeles.] They got their shit together. They’re like stars. Working with a producer or engineer, you’ve got to have star producers and star engineers to create a great song.
Do you have another album in the works?
I’ve got the Gardner Express deluxe coming out. You’ve got to check it out. Make sure you look out for it. [Ed. note: The deluxe edition was released last week. Check it out here.]
Where are you going sound-wise on the deluxe, or is it an extension on the project?
It’s just an extension of my project.
Let’s touch on Toronto. Toronto arguably has the most exciting music scene in Canada. What are your thoughts on the state of music, and especially hip-hop, in Toronto?
I think Toronto’s dope. They’re a lot different, and you can bring a lot of different sounds to America, just by being an original Toronto person. Smiley’s dope right now. He’s bringing America to that real Toronto culture.
Are there any other artists coming up from Toronto that have your co-sign?
Yeah, Burna Bandz. Houdini. J Neat. J Neat’s really dope. J Neat’s probably my favorite over there right now.
You have a solid relationship with Drake, having opened up for him a few years ago on tour. How did you end up linking up?
I just know him from back in the day when I was on tour with him. That’s how I linked up with Drake. He brought me out on tour.
Have you worked in the studio at all?
No, not really. I be around all the time.
Recently, you linked up with Post Malone for the "Motley Crew" video. How did that come together?
I fuck with Post. Post been fuckin' with me from “Novacane”. Post fucked with “Novacane” back in the day, so that’s how I knew him. I knew Post for over 3 years now, 3 or 4 years.
"Post been fuckin' with me from “Novacane”. Post fucked with “Novacane” back in the day, so that’s how I knew him."
Can we expect any music from you two in the future?
I don’t know. You’ve got to just wait and see.
What’s next for you?
We’re ‘bout to go crazy. We’re ‘bout to drop my deluxe.
Coi Leray interjects: ‘Bout to drop this deluxe! Go over to Canada! Fuckin' 'bout to go on tour, go crazy! That’s what we got to do!
She answered it for me. You heard her.