Should Vancouver-based rhymer SonReal’s career come to an abrupt end, he can always fall back on motivational speaking.
When asked at what age he discovered a talent for writing rhymes, SonReal (born Aaron Hoffman) flashes a humble side that few rappers ever reveal.
“I was about 15,” he says. “I had a crappy mic and a computer, and I just started downloading beats and rapping to them. My friends said I was good so I just kept going. But I was absolutely horrible. Like, the worst! But the passion was there.”
The rapper cut his teeth at little clubs in Vancouver, and considers himself fortunate to even get a few people come and say he was dope.
“My friends said I was good so I just kept going. But I was absolutely horrible.”
“It took me time to find out what I wanted to say, how I wanted to write songs,” he says. “I’ve spent a lot of time doing this, so when situations get crazy, I’m prepared. If I didn’t go through the open mics, horrible recordings, and low-budget music videos, I wouldn’t be here today.”
“Here” is a place at which many Canadian rappers would be happy to reside. SonReal was nominated for a JUNO Award in the Rap Recording category for the last two consecutive years. The album nominated in 2013, The Closer – a collaboration with Rich Kidd – debuted at No. 3 on iTunes Canada’s hip-hop charts. MTV called him “Canada’s latest hip-hop phenomenon,” and the video for “Everywhere We Go” has reached a million YouTube views since being posted last August. SonReal also boasts a prolific work rate: he released three albums in 2012, and has toured incessantly.
So what’s the source of his appeal? He attributes it to his “realness” – being genuine. “I spend time every day replying to fans,” he says. “I work hard at making sure they know they’re the biggest part of my story. I’m just being myself.”
Listen to his lyrics and it becomes evident why so many enjoy him. He can come off as alternately cocky, introspective or vulnerable – or, in his words, “relatable.”
“I think one thing that separates me from other artists is that I’m not afraid to be vulnerable,” he says. “[The song] ‘L.A.’ was inspired by falling in love. I wanted to write about that, but in an indirect way. That’s why the whole song takes place in a kind of ‘horrible day-in-the-life’ format, but at the end of each verse, it ties back to a woman who makes everything feel okay.
“I love writing songs that are open to interpretation.”
Discography: Good Morning (2008), The Stroll (2009), The Lightyear Mixtape (2010), Where’s Waldo? (2011), Words I Said (2012), Good News (2012), The Closers (2012), One Long Day (2014)
SOCAN member since 2009
- “SonReal is hard-working and innovative, has a supreme ear as an engineer, and has a heart of gold,” says singer-songwriter/bassist/producer Chin Injeti, who’s worked with Dr. Dre and Eminem.
- “My love for wordplay goes back to when I first heard hip-hop,” says SonReal. “I was a huge fan of artists like Nas and Outkast.”
- SonReal says the video for “Everywhere We Go” was inspired by the movie Napoleon Dynamite.