We talk to the BC rapper about the personal struggles that fuelled his gorgeous new video.
Your hometown in Canada shapes the way you think, the way you feel, the way you process the world. You can ask Drake, ever the municipal cheerleader, about repping where you're from (or maybe not?), but you should really be asking Vancouver's Cityreal. The rapper, who draws from blues as much as he does hip-hop, has been extolling both the virtues and darker side of Vancity on his mixtapes for a few years now.
His new song "Grow Op" is about the tenacity that comes from living through addiction and other hardships and coming out on the other side wiser and stronger. Its accompanying video displays Kanye-sized ambitions, with striking images such as a live string section, a ballerina dancing in an alleyway, and a whole bunch of Vancouverites singing along to the song's refrain of "live through all these nights / and brighter days." Watch the "Grow Op" video below, and read on for our conversation with Cityreal.
Noisey: How do your personal experiences inform this song?
Cityreal: This song is about my battles with depression that came from things like family illness, such as the breast cancer that took my mom and personal issues like the fact I've never really gotten along with my dad. Also, my struggles with the coping mechanisms of depression which is the substance abuse that causes addictions. Addictions to things like opiates and cocaine to weed and drinking, all of which I've experienced. Even commentary on other relationships and friendships and feelings of abandonment, being ignored or other people's selfishness that have negatively affected me. I reference all of it either directly or indirectly or symbolically in the song. Everyone goes through struggles in their life experience and my music is all about my life experience. I just use my music to vent my issues. Just kind of always done that.
This song sounds hopeful to me, where does that hope come from and what is it going towards?
Well, I have hope, don't you? Art reflects life. What's a life without hope? Being hopeless about anything fucking sucks. I am hopeful about my future. As much as I use my music to vent shitty stuff I mentioned earlier, I definitely like to include the feeling of hope in there as well. That way my music can hopefully also act as something that other people who are struggling with personal struggles can relate to and draw hope from.
I'm hearing and seeing a Kanye influence here with the vocal samples, the ballerina, and the strings. Was that conscious?
Probably subconscious… He's definitely a strong influence of mine. He's like the leader of the millennial generation in many ways. Who isn't influenced by Kanye these days? If people say they aren't, they are liars. Even their disdain for him influences stuff. I was raised listening to Kanye West, the impact he had on the game bringing in rich orchestrations and bringing back soul into hip-hop music, and he's one of my favorite artists, if not just my favorite. Kanye is the king now.
Who are the various people singing along in the video and why did you pick them specifically?
They are all people from the Vancouver music scene that have helped me along the way. From people I have recently started working with like DJ Flipout or photographer/choreographer Liz Rosa to singers that are on the album either in the choir that's on the album or featured like Tonye Aganaba. Just Vancouver people basically. I love my city.
Phil Witmer is a Noisey Canada staff writer. Follow him on Twitter.