Lais Was Cosigned by OVO, Zane Lowe & Skizzy Mars: Here’s His Unexpected Success Story

Alright, Toronto, we get it—you’re talented. As if giving us Jazz Cartier, Sean Leon, Wondagurl, and dozens of other impressive emerging talent wasn’t enough, one of our most recent favorites, Lais, is adding to Toronto’s goldmine of soon-to-be-superstars.

Lais, who bolsters his brand on images of luxury and lavishness, released the soulful, in-your-feelings 114 EP last month, which shuffles between drowsy deep cuts and more up-tempo rap crossovers. The project comes rolling off the wave of Session One, his 2014 debut that went viral on Reddit, which can be credited for the launch of his music career. It even caught the attention of Skizzy Mars, who recruited Lais to Penthouse Music Collective, his collaborative team of artists, A&Rs, creative thinkers. Since then, Lais has been blessed with 6 God co-signs via OVO Radio and a premiere placement on Zane Lowe’s Beats1 show.

We caught up with Lais about the story behind the new project—including an unexpected, extremely tight turnaround time—as well as PND and The Weeknd comparisons and what he has up his sleeve for the next release.

Let’s start by talking about this new EP, 114. What does its title mean?
114 is part of the address I moved to when I came to Toronto almost 10 years ago, in 2007. It summarizes a part of my life when I was moving forward.

How do the sounds on that project represent the new state of mind you were in?
I explored new sounds that I hadn’t really done before. There are some techno mixes, and there’s actually a lot more rap on this. Everything I do is a reflection of what I’m doing at the time. It’s very spontaneous and goes with the flow of things. I don’t necessarily go out of my way to talk about things that are relevant at the time, I just talk about what I’m going through.

I noticed your Twitter handle is @LaisLavish and the word “lavish” is a central part of your brand. Where does that come from?
I’ve always been bougie. [Laughs] I like to keep things nice and expensive when I can. I have horrible money saving habits. I’ve been making leather hats and jackets [that say Lavish], and t-shirts are coming. I actually own a factory in Pakistan, so it worked out and I can make my own merch.

You get a lot of comparisons to PartyNextDoor and The Weeknd. How do you feel about those comparisons?
I like to think we sound similar because we’re from the same city. The thing with Toronto is that people aren’t afraid to explore with their sounds, so it’s become a taste making city in whatever’s going on these days. I’m trying a bunch of new things and a lot of times, those things overlap with other styles. It’s also just the feeling of the city—it’s kind of cold, sing-songy, people are in their feelings all the time. So in that sense, we’re similar, but I still make whatever I want to make.

Would you sign to OVO?
No. I want to keep everything as Lais as I can.

You are part of a collective, though, Penthouse Music. How did that come to be?
I dropped this little project in 2014, Session One. Noisey found me after it went viral on Reddit, Skizzy [Mars] found me after Noisey interviewed me, and I didn’t really know who he was. He wanted to do a remix to “For You,” and once we did that, things budded from there. We started working together and I eventually joined Penthouse.

Let’s talk about that time when you went viral on Reddit. How did you initially react to that?
It was crazy. I thought it’d get 100 plays at maximum. I actually dropped it on Reddit at like 5 and went out for the night, and when I came back home, I checked it and saw it had like, 300 upvotes. It was crazy. Up until that point, I didn’t really take music seriously. It wasn’t something I wanted to do as a profession. But afterwards, once I saw the support, I started getting more and more serious with it, and I was like ‘Yeah, we can make this happen’.

For artists that are up-and-coming who may want to be in a similar position as you, what advice would you give them?
Be you and stay consistent. If you just continue to drop music that’s true to yourself, people will eventually catch on. You can’t really deny personal music. I don’t like when artists go out of their way to recreate a sound that’s already been done. It’s one thing to be influenced, it’s another to chase down a lane that someone else has already made. Leave yourself open to things; before I made the music I make now, I was strictly hip-hop. But then when I tried singing on Session One, I thought it was corny at first, but after I saw the reaction, things worked out.

What are you working on now?
I really want to release a project in 2016—maybe a free album. We’re exploring lots of new things. 114 ended up being kind of rushed at the end because we were planning to drop it in January, but my producer’s laptop got stolen and we lost about 75% of the songs. Everything was missing. We had to recreate everything in three weeks. Re-record, re-produce, everything. I could have pushed the release date, but it was already so delayed and my fans were getting frustrated, so we had to rush through it and get it to them. But this next one we’ll be taking our time with to create the most solid project we can.

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