Published Jul 26, 2019To know the full story behind Toronto rapper Tre Mission's new album, Orphan Black, you've got to go back a few years — and to the UK, where he's split his time for the better part of the past eight years. Since Tre's love of grime took him across the pond, he's found himself shoulder to shoulder with the genre's royalty.
"I hopped on a plane, went out there, and dived headfirst into the culture... that's the difference," Tre tells Exclaim! in an interview. "I lived the culture, not just the music."
This, he explains, is the stark difference between him and others who may have hopped on the wave as grime experienced its second wind, with a little help from Drake, a few years ago.
"It was dying when I went out there... [but] I just loved it," he says.
His infatuation with British culture and music in general was cultivated at a young age — which is also when Tre notes he knew he wanted to make music.
"My mom is super into music, and my grandpa was a musician. My uncles and the older dudes on my end used to rap and make beats. So, I've been around music from forever. My mom was also into British music since she was a teenager, so she put me on lots of things."
The overwhelming sense of authenticity and organic growth he had as he worked his way from square one in an environment with roots unlike his own can be heard in his music. Endearingly, though it has a far more worldly feel than many regional contemporaries — and it manages to remain very Toronto.
"You obviously can hear all the time I've spent in London in my music, but there are certain things that you'll hear me reference and be like, 'No, that's a real Toronto man,'" he says with a laugh.
Tre is quick to acknowledge that he doesn't quite sonically fit into the defined parameters of "Toronto's sound" right now, but he nostalgically points to some of the city's icons, who made waves across borders back in a time when sounding too local was a more of a setback than a badge of honour.
"They didn't wear it on their sleeve," he says, "I couldn't tell you what neighbourhood those guys were from. I could not tell you. And to me, that's crazy."
It's been roughly five years since his last full-length, the Juno-nominated Stigmata, dropped, and Tre seems excited to share his latest body of work, Orphan Black, with the world. Though his last album was mostly successful, it wasn't wholly the album Tre himself wanted to make.
"I let people around me, the label, and management convince me what I should be doing with my music. I told myself that's never gonna happen again."
This time around, the creative process was different, with him making music himself before letting anyone shape or direct his vision — similar to when he first decided to make grime, though he was faced with a chorus of confusion. It's a rekindled sense of self-conviction that he says has led to his most robust collection of music yet.
"I made what I would want to hear when I get in my car, you know, and what my friends want to hear when they get in their car," he says. "This album is some of my best production ever. You can hear the maturity in my craft."
More importantly, he describes the project as more fun than the last one.
"I tried to have fun with making music rather than taking myself too seriously as an artist and also letting outside factors influence me," he says proudly.
"I think that that's what the people who are friends with me want from me — and the people who will become fans, that's what they'll appreciate."
Orphan Black is available July 26 via Last Gang Records.