Drake is a master strategist. Capping off a wildly successful 2013 which saw him win a Grammy, have Kanye West acknowledge him as a "Rap God," and take over the charts with his latest album, Nothing Was The Same, he set the stage for 2014 with a line off one of his end-of-year releases. On the "We Made It" freestyle, Drake put the world on notice: "OVO, Reps Up, and P. Reign is next up/Watch Gway go crazy."
This is not the first time Drake has referred to Galloway's P. Reign. On a 2009 song, "I'm Still Fly," he said, "My brother P. Reign knows we fuck with the same hoes/Plus he taught me how to spot an officer in plain clothes." Their relationship goes much deeper than that. Drake has been in Reign's corner throughout his career, taking him on the Away From Home tour across Canada in 2010 and helping him with his legal issues.
Legal trouble has been an obstacle in P. Reign's rise for years now. He has been battling drug possession and weapons charges for over five years and while most of the cases have been dismissed, they've prevented him from crossing the border into America. He's still trying to work out his situation, even as he released songs like his A$AP Rocky-assisted "We Them Niggas" last year. At the very least, it has resulted in a unique journey to stardom and has set the stage for his aptly titled upcoming project, Dear America
We hooked up with P. Reign to talk about his early beginnings in the music industry, his relationship with Drake, and Dear America. With Drake declaring him next up, it's time to find out Who Is P. Reign?
As told to Dharmic X (@DharmicX)
Being From Guyana
"My parents are Guyanese so I grew up with a Caribbean background. My mother has 12 brothers and sisters. I went to Guyana as a kid, my mom took me and my brother for a month in the summer. She wanted me to see how hard it was for her coming up and how good we had it.
"She took me to where she grew up and showed me how far she had to walk to school each morning, walk back for lunch, walk back to school, and then walk back home. And it was a half hour, 45 minute walk. That's just what they were accustomed to.
One thing Guyana is popular for is cocaine. So they are into all the rap stars who speak about that.
"I was last there four or five years ago. My mom lives in Guyana now so I went to visit her. I bought her a little crib out there because she can't stand the winter cold here.
"There's a rap scene all over the Caribbean, and Guyana is a part of that. I have a half-brother who lives in Guyana and he reps me really hard out there. They're into Rick Ross and all those guys. Guyana is known for drugs; the number one thing Guyana is popular for is cocaine. So they are into all the rap stars who speak about that.
"I actually have some of my music on the radio out there. And this is before I even started to bubble like I am now. They just embrace their own. They are happy to see anybody from Guyana doing anything remotely popular so when I went back, they put my songs on the radio. So now I got a little following out there."
Listening to Music Growing Up
Influences in Rap
"The first rapper I remember hearing was LL Cool J, when he was doing his thing back in the day with one pant leg up. I remember I used to try to emulate everything he did. He would probably be one of the first artists in hip-hop that made me feel like, 'I want to do this.'
One of the guys I really wanted to be like was Nas.
"Others that come to mind are 2Pac, Nas, 50 Cent, and even DMX right before his whole crack addiction hit and obviously before he dissed Drake. I also remember watching Ja Rule when he first came out with 'Holla Holla' when he was on Miami Beach with the bandanna.
"One of the guys I really wanted to be like was Nas. I remember watching his videos, especially 'Hate Me Now.' He was lightskin, had the waves, the medallion chains, his whole Queensbridge clique with him. I definitely was trying to emulate some of that. He was a legend in the game but he was still fly."
Starting to Rap
"I probably started rapping when I was 12 or 13 years old. My cousin, Anon, [who was a few years older than me] had moved from Montreal and he was really into rapping. We would have nothing to do in the house all day, so he would teach me what bars were, how to count bars, the different flows, and he put me on. We used to download Fruity Loops and start making beats in our basement. We would be locked in that room for hours writing and making beats.
I graduated school and I had a son, so that was another wake up call for me.
"I started taking rap seriously when I was around 15 or 16 years old, I started paying $40 an hour to go to a studio and tried to make records. I was in a group called The Reps in high school with my best friend and the same cousin that taught me how to spit. We did a mixtape as The Reps called Magnum Force and we printed like 50 copies and just gave it to our friends at school.
"I ended up going solo because I thought that I was taking it a lot more serious than everybody else. I graduated school and I had a son, so that was another wake up call for me. I was like, 'Man, I got to provide.' So if this is something that I'm going to do I have to take it to the next level."
His Brother's Shooting
"We were at a huge, outdoor Halloween party and a fight had just broken out, and a shot went off. It was that simple. I remember hearing the shot, I don't remember who did it or even where it came from. I ran back and saw him laying on the floor.
I remember sleeping in the hospital that night and they were like, 'Man, we don't think [your brother is] going to make it.'
"They took him to the ambulance. I remember sleeping in the hospital that night and they were like, 'Man, we don't think he's going to make it.' I couldn't even say anything. We woke up the next morning and they said he was doing better, so from there it was like we really had to do something with ourselves. It was really an eye opener for me. I said to myself, 'Man, life is short. If you really want to follow a dream it's now or never.'
"My brother still has long term injuries from it. He's good and he can move, but he still has pains that he goes through."
"I met Drake through a mutual friend of mine, Hollywood. He's like one of the older dudes from my neighborhood, Galloway. We were listening to the radio one day and I was like, 'Man, who is this?' And he said, 'This is Drake. He's a new kid coming up.' Then I was like, 'Man, I might have to go at this kid. He sounds nice.' I was already trying to be that nigga in Toronto. But he said, 'Nah man, that's family. It's better you guys come together. I'll introduce you to each other rather than you two taking each other out in competition.'
When he says, 'Make them catch a body like that' what he's saying is he has people that love him enough that probably would catch a body for him. I can definitely vouch for that.
"So we ended up meeting and I remember the first time I met him being like, 'Yo this is a cool ass nigga. Like, he ain't from the hood but he's just a real down to earth dude.' And because we had mutual friends it was real easy for me and him to click. I think we built on that relationship because we were both young. We were the same age and were two light skinned dudes in the same city rapping.
"People sometimes don't understand where Drake's music is coming from. When he says, 'Make them catch a body like that' what he's saying is he has people that love him enough and have been his friends long enough that probably would catch a body for him. That's just the type of loyalty that the people around him have. He doesn't have to be speaking about himself, per say, but he's saying that people around him care about him enough to do that for him. And I can definitely vouch for that.
"I'm OVO, that's tatted on me till I'm gone and Drake will always be my brother. But I never wanted to be that guy where people said, 'Oh, you only got on because you had a song with Drake. You only got on because Drake signed you.' I want to show that I can hold my own weight.
"There has never been a P. Reign, Drake song yet but if you get Dear America, you'll most likely hear something crazy on there. I'll leave it at that."
"I was always a straight A student. I used to win spelling bees, I used to ace tests without studying, and my parents were really happy with my whole education. I wouldn't say a nerd because I was cool in school, but I was still good with my books. They always wanted me to be a doctor or something like that.
Me and my mother ended up getting evicted. She went back to Guyana and I was basically left out here on my own.
"It just got to the point where I was more focused on the music than anything. It definitely wasn't the way that my father wanted me to go. I remember his exact words, he said, 'Only one in a billion ever make it. So, you're wasting time and money.'
"My mom was always a strong believer. When my parents broke up it was just me and my mom on our own, and we used to live right around the way from Metro Housing, the Galloway area. We were in a crib and we just couldn't afford it. I started hustling, I was doing everything I could to pay for the music.
"I had a kid on the way, I was trying to pay a mortgage because my mother wasn't working and my father left us, but we ended up getting evicted. She went back to Guyana and I was basically left out here on my own."
Early Mixtapes & Touring With Drake
"I did a mixtape called Canadian Dream. Then I followed that up with another mixtape called When it Reigns it Pours. I went on tour with Drake across Canada when he did his Away From Home tour.
I couldn't do the American dates with Drake because I still had a gun charge pending.
"When it Reigns it Pours actually debuted Top 10 on the Canadian charts for albums with how much I sold within those two weeks on tour. Me and my niggas were just selling those CDs out of our backpacks. That's when people started coming up to me in the street asking for autographs and pictures.
"I had a lot of labels calling me from that and a lot of people flew out to the city to come meet me, but the fact that I couldn't travel always scared people away. I couldn't do the American dates with Drake because I still had a gun charge pending and I had some past charges that I needed to deal with, which I am still dealing with right now."
Battling Criminal Charges and Having Drake Pay His Lawyer Fees
"I had nothing to do but hustle, and I ended up getting caught up with that. I caught a few crack charges here and there. Most of them got tossed out but there is still some pending charges. So for that reason, that's why they are denying me entrance into the States. They take drug charges really seriously. We're in the process of handling all necessary the paperwork so I'm able to get a waiver to enter America.
"On top of that, I was around people that are hustling too. So I ended up getting caught up with a gun charge. I went through that for a couple years and I was lucky to beat that case. I mean, they're still hounding me about the old conditional discharge from when I was hustling.
Drake was like, 'I'm going to ask my lawyer if he knows anyone who can help you out.' They hired me one of the top lawyers in North America and he represented me.
"I was headed to a club downtown when we were pulled over, and they found three handguns in my Cadillac. Me, my brother, and a friend were arrested. My brother and my friend ended up pleading. I couldn't plead because that would have been it for the whole American dream.
"We're as close as brothers can be. They tried to ask us to testify against each other, you know how that game goes, but I roll with solid dudes. My brother is a solid dude, the other guy I was with is a solid dude, so they pleaded and then that was it. It would never be a situation where one of us was tattletaling on the other. The cops tried as much as they could but that's not something that could happen with us.
"I was obviously innocent so we took it to court. I had my own lawyer, I went to pre-trial, and then Drake just came to me. We had gone to the hospital because his grandmother was sick and he was just like, 'I know you got trial coming up, I really need you out here. I can't see you go away.' They were asking for four to six years and he said, 'I can't see you go away for that long. Let me see if there's anything I can do. I'm going to ask my lawyer if he knows anyone who can help you out.'
"They hired me one of the top lawyers in North America and he represented me. We went to trial and we won, thank God. I really owe it to him. It was definitely a large lump sum of money that he put up for me to take care of me. We beat that case, and it's because of him that I even have a shot to try and go to America now and do my thing."
Working With A$AP Rocky
"I met A$AP through Drizzy and my brother Chubbs who is always on the road with Drake too. They had a good relationship with A$AP and all of us being down here together, whenever A$AP was in town we just clicked. Then I was like. 'Yo I got a record you would sound crazy on,' and he was like, 'Hell yeah send that shit.' He took a long while to get it done because of the passing of his father. He was going through a lot at the time, but he got that record done for me.
If there's anybody else in the industry besides Drake that I definitely look out for it's A$AP Rocky. Without a doubt, I would put in some work for Rocky.
"For the video, he was in Toronto for the Rihanna tour, and he told me, 'Yo I got a day let's just shoot it quick.' So we just came up with the ideas and shot that real quick. He's cool as hell man, if there's anybody else in the industry besides Drake that I definitely look out for it's A$AP Rocky. Without a doubt, I would put in some work for Rocky.
"We were on set and he was like, 'Yo, P you gotta put on these skinny jeans and these Givenchy shoes and all these designer clothes.' I don't dress like that, I don't rock that type of shit, so he was putting me on all this weird European-designed expensive shit. I was like, 'I don't know if I can do this.'
"I remember laughing in the changing room with a couple of my boys. He was like, 'Trust me.' And he put me in these crazy jackets and shoes and I was like, 'These shoes are crazy,' they were some $4,000 pair of Givenchy shoes and he was like, 'You want those? Oh that's you, hold that.' That's the type of love, that's the type of down to earth person he is. So I definitely rock with him all day."
Reps Up Gang
Dear America & The Future
"My intention was to drop Dear America on July 4th, that was the day I was always aiming for. But, because so many labels reached out to me recently and they are so excited about everything that's on the project, this might just be an album.
Dear America is an album written as a letter to let them know I'm coming across that border and I got the music to compete with everybody across that border.
"The title Dear America is two words sum my life up in a nutshell. I've been fighting for a goal, it's almost inevitable that I have to go to America to do that. That's where hip-hop is. As a major artist you have to be able to travel there. Dear America is an album written as a letter to let them know I'm coming across that border and I got the music to compete with everybody across that border. My dream is to get across that border.
"Production wise, I got Pro-Logic and Bass Line. That would be the closest thing to 'my 40.' They've been with me for years and are my main producers. I definitely got a lot of great production from T-Minus. Him and Boi-1da. Just from Toronto, I've known them for years, before they were T-Minus and Boi-1da.
"Feature wise, I have that song with A$AP Rocky, 'We Dem Niggas.' I got a song with French Montana, a song with Waka that we shot a video for already. I got a record with Drake and somebody else that I don't want to give away too early, but that's going to be the record of the year hopefully."