WHEN Vancouver artist SonReal was a teenager performing hip-hop was something he did with his friends for fun. A little more than a decade later that fun has become a very promising music career.
"I started when I was about 15-years-old and at the start it was just a hobby," SonReal says.
On Aug 4., SonReal, 26, will be performing at the 2012 Centre of Gravity festival in Kelowna. The three-day festival runs from Aug 3-5 and includes recognizable artists such as Lupe Fiasco, Chris Lake, Nero and Anjulie.
With his latest album Good News released this week, SonReal is looking forward to performing in the same lineup as one of his idol's, Lupe Fiasco.
"There are some names there that I really respect," SonReal says. "I am just going to go there and do what I do best."
The album features top producers such as Arthur McArthur, Chin Injeti, and MoSS. McArthur has previously worked with Drake, Rick Ross and Lil Wayne.
"This is my best stuff there is nothing really more I can say," SonReal says. "It's me growing, the singing is better the rapping is better my confidence is better."
In 2008 SonReal released his first album titled Good Morning which garnered positive responses from hip-hop fans. Despite the reviews SonReal began to lose the passion he once had.
It took walking away from hip-hop entirely in early 2009 to realize how much he really loved it.
"I was working construction and I was trying to do the music thing but I wasn't quite going for it . . . I was telling myself that music was what I wanted to do but I wasn't actually going for it," SonReal says. "One day I just kind of quit."
The decision to leave music for good didn't last very long and later that year SonReal released his second album The Stroll. The disc featured appearances from Eternia and Joe Scudda with production from Rich Kidd and DJ Crown.
"I realized that I quit because of fear and I was scared of following my dream," SonReal says. "But I realized once I quit that the scariest thing ever is quitting because of something you know you can do. From that moment on I worked super hard."
2010 turned out to be a very good year for the Vancouverite. He released The Lightyear Mixtape, an 18-track project that was recorded in four months. The mixtape included SonReal's first hit single "Already There" featuring Rich Kidd.
"Already There" along with it's music video went on to capture SonReal his first ever VideoFact Award and was added to the Much Music Top 30. The song was also nominated for Single of the Year at the 2011 Stylus Awards in Toronto.
"When I get an award I feel like wow people actually support me with what I am doing and it makes me just want to work harder," SonReal says.
Songwriting has been the biggest improvement for him since his first album in 2008.
Following the release of The Lightyear Mixtape, SonReal released six music videos and in early 2011 he came out with a new mixtape Where's Waldo?
That latter production received instant recognition and was nominated for Best Rap Recording at the 2011 Western Canada Music Awards. Waldo's hit singles "Haunted" (featuring Ali Milner) and "She Gone" received extensive views from listeners around the world. Within their first month online both videos had been viewed more than 100,000 times. According to SonReal, his biggest improvement since 2008 has been his songwriting ability.
"Starting out is the hardest thing," he says. "For one you don't know your style . . . You don't really know what you're doing."
He admitted that getting fans was challenging at first, but it's not an issue for him anymore.
SonReal currently has over 14,000 likes on Facebook and more than 4,000 followers on Twitter.
"Just getting off the ground and getting fans is the hardest thing," he adds.
Aside from his love for music and hip-hop SonReal has another passion, skateboarding.
"Skateboarding is what got me into music," he says. "When I am not doing music, travelling or touring or whatever I am skateboarding with my friends in the park . . . Eric Koston and Paul Rodriguez those were my favourite skaters as a kid."
To find out more about SonReal visit sonreal. ca and follow him on Twitter @TheRealSonReal
NEW CD RELEASES
Joss Stone - The Soul Sessions, Vol. 2.
Antibalas - Antibalas;
Lianne La Havas - Is Your Love Big Enough?;
Niki & the Dove - Instinct.
Dead Can Dance - Anastasis; The-Dream - Love IV MMXII.
Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Mature Themes; Bloc Party - Four; Four Tet - Pink; Ry Cooder - Election Special.
Divine Fits - A Thing Called Divine Fits (Spoon's Britt Daniel, Wolf Parade's Dan Boeckner, and New Bomb Turks' Sam Brown); Wild Nothing - Nocturne; Wiz Khalifa - O.N.I.F.C.
Cat Power - Sun; Bob Mould - Silver Age; Stars - The North; The Vaccines - The Vaccines Come of Age; T.I. - Trouble Man.