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Backpacker breaks down what it takes to be SonReal

Submitted by on April 1, 2012 – 6:46 pmNo Comment

Born and bred in big hills and under the beautiful sunsets of the West Coast, Aaron Hoffman – who spits under the moniker SonReal – has trekked the Canadian countryside on a mission to leave a lasting impression. From the oceanic Atlantic coast to the rugged, rural outposts of Northern Ontario, SonReal has marked his territory with a brand of hip-hop that finds its roots in a white middle-class home in a North Okanagan suburb. Martyr’s Devin Size had a chance to catch up with Hoffman recently to discuss his home turf, 1851, skateboarding, and his transformation to SonReal.

What’s being real mean to you Son?

To me, it’s everything. Whether it’s positive or negative, it needs to be real to me.  If I can’t look myself in the mirror at the end of the day and just say ‘Hey man, that was me, that was real to myself, I feel good about that’… I have to tell myself I didn’t do my job. My job is being real, to me.

Do you ever find it hard to keep up that realism, either because the well runs dry, or how the industry pushes people to commercialize?

I’ve got a song on my new record about how people are always trying to judge me as keeping it real and being a real rapper, but if I kept rapping about the same shit all the time, you just get played out. I’m trying to incorporate stories and more songs about love and real things that affect me now, and challenges I face along the way. [I’m] not just “keeping it real” anymore. There comes a time where you have to go outside your box and evolve.

There’s been a definite progression from your first album to your latest work. How do feel about your evolution as an artist?

Well, my next record is my best shit to date. To me, it’s my realest. I’m always going to be doing emotional records, things about me, things about girls, whatever. But at the end of the day, is the music getting better? Am I getting better as a writer, an artist, a songwriter and MC? That’s what it’s all about. That’s something I feel I continuously do.

What’s the significance of “1851” and what does it represent?

Oh man, our house is getting famous! I live there with my manager, my team manager; two amateur skateboarders that are doing their thing; a motivational speaker who tours high schools; then there’s the calculus freak who lives in the closet. The house is legendary. It’s the realest spot in Vancouver. Everybody’s just grinding [and] we all basically killed general society, and made it work for us.

Can you tell me about your childhood growing up in Vancouver, and your transformation from Aaron Hoffman to SonReal?

I grew up in a small town called Vernon, B.C. I was a skateboarder – that was my main thing. A lot of the older skateboarder kids liked rap and rapped, so I looked up to them and started rapping when I was like 14-15. When I was 16, moved to Vancouver and went to audio engineering school to get better at producing. In 2009 I was about to give up and throw in the towel. It wasn’t working for me; I didn’t know if I had what it take. I was frustrated with money and life, and was thinking about going to school again for something else. But something clicked, telling me that if I did that, I’d be mad at myself forever if I didn’t go all out with this shit. I use that scar as a boost on my down days, and on good days I think, ‘man, you were gonna give all this up?’

What exactly caused you to forget about school and focus on your music career?

I think I was basing me quitting on fear, and that’s what my song “She Gone” is all about. It’s not about a girl at all. It’s all about failure, and the girl is metaphorical of that. She represents failure, and the fear of failing. And now she’s gone, and out of my life, my mind. Before I was afraid of failing at this, so I was going to quit. I realized the scariest thing in this world is not going for your dreams, and that’s the lowest fail you can do – shy away from what you want to do. So I overcame that.

In your words, what is it about Vancouver that produces down-to-earth hip-hop artists?

First off, I think Vancouver has a lot of talented artists. But I don’t think we have a specific sound. We really have a diverse range of artists. I’m trying to unite people and put my city on my back. Vancouver is like that because we don’t have anyone specific [artists] to look up to. Because we don’t have these mogul-types in my city, we all do our own thing, and we’re all over the place. There’s no one to follow in Vancouver.

Interview by Devin Size; photos by Patrick Leung

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