Vernon son sees his hip hop star on the rise
Those who surf the hip hop channels or have checked out Rapcity on MuchMusic have probably heard of a certain MC who goes by the name of SonReal.
Now one-half of the duo known as The Closers, with Toronto hip hop artist Rich Kidd, as well as a rising star in his own right, SonReal (born Aaron Hoffman) has come a long way from that 15-year-old kid who used to rap into a Radio Shack mic.
Now 26, he has become one of the biggest names in Canada’s hip hop scene, and also hasn’t forgotten where his proclivity for beats and spoken word all started — right here in Vernon.
In town for the holidays, SonReal is sharing the love by performing in front of some of the first fans he ever had, plus some newer ones, with a show at Vernon’s 2929 Nite Club on Boxing Day Wednesday.
And according to SonReal, and the show’s promoters, 13th Floor Entertainment and Bassbong Records, the concert should be one for the memory books.
“Coming back home to Vernon is great. My mom and other family are there. I’ve only been back there a few times this year and although I’ve been in Vancouver for almost seven years, Vernon really does still feel like home,” said Hoffman, chatting with The Morning Star through Facebook.
The last time the Vernon-born and raised MC was in his hometown to perform, he had just released his highly anticipated full-length project titled, Where’s Waldo?, in February of last year.
The follow-up to The Lightyear Mixtape, Where’s Waldo? featured some of Canada’s most respected artists such as Eternia, Saukrates and fellow up-and-comer Rich Kidd, and launched SonReal into the hip hop world as a serious player. The album not only turned some major heads in the industry, it went on to be nominated for Best Rap Recording at the 2011 Western Canada Music Awards.
But years before going on to release huge selling mixtapes and albums, Hoffman was a high school student attending W.L. Seaton Secondary, who started rapping as a hobby.
“I had a little Radio Shack mic and a horrible digital editing program and I would just sit in my mom’s basement, download random hip hop instrumentals, and record my raps to them. I was absolutely horrible,” he said. “I was actually horrible for years. But yea, I loved manipulating the sound of my voice, and I thought I was good, so I kept doing it.”
Lucky for him and his fans he did.
Later adopting his rap name SonReal, Hoffman found it hard to get shows in Vernon, as well as connecting with other artists, or even recording at better facilities, so he ended up moving to Vancouver to pursue music.
“That kind of led me to getting here,” he said.
SonReal started to gain notice after his first recording, 2008’s Good Morning. Upon the release of The Lightyear Mixtape and Where’s Waldo?, he was awarded the opportunity to shoot his second straight VideoFACT-funded video for the single off Where’s Waldo? called Haunted, featuring Vancouver singer Ali Milner.
Haunted and his other single, She Gone, both received more than 100,000 views in their first month online.
This past summer, SonReal not only signed a two album deal with BlackBox Records/Universal, he also joined The Agency Group, North America’s largest booking agent. (Other artists represented by The Agency include the likes of Mac Miller, Macklemore, A$AP Rockey and B.O.B to name a few.) He also flew to Hollywood, Calif. with Rich Kidd to record their newest album The Closers.
Released in October, the album debuted at No. 3 on the iTunes Canada HipHop charts ahead of Kanye West’s Cruel Summer.
The album has catapulted SonReal’s popularity, with songs off the album receiving consistent play on MuchMusic. He has not only shared the spotlight with some of rap’s biggest names, his song, Money, Money, featuring Rich Kidd, hit number two on MuchMusic’s Rapcity charts.
The others on the top five of that list included Rick Ross, Drake, Lil’ Wayne, and Kanye West.
But more importantly, SonReal has kept doing what he set out to do in the first place, consistently put out interesting, innovative material for his ever-expanding fan base.
“I still mix and engineer most of my own songs, so I guess having that little Radio Shack mic and editing passion as a kid paid off,” he said.
And he hasn’t forgotten where his fan-base lies.
Wednesday’s show at 2929 will feature opening act Immaculate, yet another example of the talent Vernon is producing in the hip hop scene, as well as longtime SonReal collaborator, DJ Rich A.
Advanced tickets are on sale and going fast at the Downtown Internet Lounge, 2912 30th Ave. with pre-sale tickets priced at $10, regular tickets $15 and $20 at the door.
To top things off, the boys at 13th Floor and Bassbong have secured creative stage design and massive sound from Envasion, a Kelowna-based company well known for many of the big production shows throughout the Okanagan.
For those younger fans unable to enter the 2929 show on Boxing Day, don’t despair, Hoffman is also doing a meet ‘n greet. He will be signing autographs, pictures and CDs, and selling his #WEGO clothing line at Vernon’s Dunas Skate Shop, a place where he used to hang himself.
“We thought this Christmas season it’d be cool to give back to some of the younger fans that never get a chance to come to any of the 19-plus shows. So Boxing Day, from noon to 5 p.m., I’ll be in Dunas Skate Shop giving out free stuff, working, meeting any kids that come in, signing CDs and all that. We figured it’d be a good way to show love to fans that can’t make a lot of the shows,” he said.
For more information on SonReal, visit sonreal.ca.