Straight outta Baguio City, Philippines, Lyrique is showing out for Canada’s West Coast and immigrants the world over. In 2014, he moved to Calgary at the age of 22 as a temporary foreign worker. The next four years would be a grind; he’d live out of his luggage for a while before finding work as a caregiver, doing what was necessary to get by. After finally attaining permanent resident status, he was able to attain better employment opportunities, which afforded him the time to focus on his real passion: music. “Cliché as it may sound, hip-hop saved my life or mental health, so to speak,” he says. “I went through a period of self-isolation and then eventually found contentment in my adopted home; I try to convey those experiences and emotions in my music to connect with listeners.”

Earlier this year, Lyrique dropped his debut album P.I.M.P. (Poetry Is My Pleasure). Over soulful, conscious boom-bap with shades of early Outkast and Kendrick, he spits some truth about the immigrant experience, the Filipino diaspora, and the struggles he’s faced in pursuit of the Canadian Dream.

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What’s the biggest thing you learned about yourself this year?
I had experienced isolation during my early years in Canada. But the isolation brought on by the pandemic has shown me the value of self-care, particularly mental health care. As an artist, I think it’s easy to get caught in the loop of creation without even realizing how much of ourselves we expose and tap into mentally. I learned that the music I create will never really develop unless I develop myself. Character development in hand with artistic development was really huge for me, and I am grateful to have also solidified a team and trusted circle amidst these challenging times.

Fill in the blank: the Canadian music industry needs more____.
The Canadian music industry needs more exposure and support. But more so exposure. I talk to friends in the Philippines, and even in other parts of the world, such as Europe, and some of them are not familiar with Kaytranada—who was just nominated for three Grammys! Canada has so many talented artists that need more light overseas. I’m always hyping up my favourite Canadian artists with my friends in the Philippines and elsewhere. In terms of support, I think it’s out there if you can find it. But finding it can be a challenge sometimes. Navigating the world of grants can be overwhelming, but I’m slowly figuring it out. Programs like First Up with RBCxMusic make me hopeful. It’s nice to see corporations investing in the future of Canadian artists.

Tell me about one of the songs you're proudest of and the story behind it.
That song would have to be “Live Well,” off my debut album P.I.M.P. (Poetry Is My Pleasure), which I released in October. The song touches on themes of mental health, self-care, and perseverance. I’ve endured hardships and have been blessed to be able to turn nothing into something. I think the song is a reflection of my journey from 2014 up to today. It’s also one of my favourite tracks sonically, from the chill atmosphere to the blissful melodies, all of which were elevated by my sound engineer, DJ Rocswell. 

Check out Lyrique’s performance for First Up with RBCxMusic on IGTV.