A near reverential dedication to truth is the foundation of Tory Lanez’ artistic identity. Unabashedly introspective and keenly observant of the outside world in equal measure, the rapper born Daystar Peterson in Toronto, Canada, spent his early adolescence honing the sure-footed, narrative-led lyrics that have become synonymous with his singular style of rap. Lanez sophomore studio album, Memories Don’t Die, comes as a follow up to his 2016 debut, I Told You, which was met with critical success, and featured the number one, Double Platinum singles, “Say It” and “LUV.”
One part personal confessional and one part victory lap, the album sees Lanez place his feet firmly between the now and the then, walking the blurred line between what has transpired and what is to come with all of the surety and dominion of a modern day Chronos. “This album is nostalgic because a lot of the stuff I’m rapping and singing about is from my past,” said Lanez. “These memories are very vivid, very real and very true. They’re memorable to me and I know if they’re real to me they’re real to other people too.”
The sprawling musical opus, which highlights moments in the 25-year-old’s history spanning from early childhood through 2017, is held together by the rapper’s innate talent for uniting genres into new, hybrid soundscapes. With seemingly little effort, Lanez always experiments as he creates, fusing together a mish-mash of influences into a nuanced, self-mythologized genre he has dubbed “swavey.” And while Lanez scored a Grammy nomination and number one single with the tropically-infused, hip-swaying, familiar rhythm of “Luv”—produced by Cashmere Cat and Benny Blanco—Memories Don’t Die is defined by a revisitation of more traditional hip-hop and R&B conventions; Lanez embraces the world of knocking 808s and the growl and punch of unembellished instrumentals alongside the polished gloss of his trademark croon. Touting features from 50 Cent—an homage to the part of his adolescence spent in Jamaica, Queens, Future, Wiz Khalifa, Fabolous, NAV and more.
With practiced finesse, Lanez matter of factly spins larger-than-life tales of betrayal at the hands of friends and finding solidarity in former foes. Yet even while working within the comfort of his own personal history, Lanez is never monotonous. Instead he is positively effusive, slinking between moods and pivotal moments as if trying to reclaim and preserve the memories seared into his soul. There are moments when he thumps his chest, claiming the spoils of a hard-won victory, and proudly embracing his self-perceived status of underdog and voluntary outcast. At other times he is unapologetically vulnerable, falling down the rabbit hole of reflection with an unguarded transparency that resonates with the emotion of a distant moment.
Lanez explores his past, recalling tender memories of the death of his mother—a woman who he remembers as “True Happiness”—and his upbringing zig-zagging across the U.S. and Canada, dodging the cycles of violence that his saw his family subjected along the way. He also looks forward, promising the world to his newborn child and his mother.
In short, memories truly have not died for the Grammy award nominee—he is able to recall his own life story with remarkable clarity, and keenly translate its impact on his present with pragmatism, verity and true emotion. When Lanez details the loss of his mother he does so with the sheen of salt from unshed tears. When he reflects on the nature of love (and his own shortcomings), there is a sense of genuine regret and desire. His honesty is unfailing and unrelenting, but also feels universal. We are seeing Tory Lanez for what he is—a young man growing, progressing and learning in an ever-changing world that can be capricious and cruel, but also wildly beautiful and filled with warmth.