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Nobody Believes in Tory Lanez As Much As Tory Lanez

The Toronto artist has accrued more beefs than hit singles, and he isn’t shutting up anytime soon. Is he determined to be a star or is he merely delusional?

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

One of the lesser-known laws of nature is that people reveal way more about themselves than they mean to when playing pickup basketball. So if you don’t know much about Tory Lanez besides “Hey, there’s that guy from Toronto who loves album skits as much as he loves murky trap’n’B,” then you should know about his jump shot. I can’t remember what I had for lunch yesterday, but I can recall, with clarity, when I first encountered Lanez’s jumper online three years ago. It’s, uh … compellingly odd, and a useful prism through which to view a strange music career that’s much more dramatic than you would think it needs to be, by some distance.

Let’s start at the start, with the way he clears out with his off hand, even though the defender’s playing way off him and doesn’t even respect his jumper. (OK, that last part we can’t know for sure, but it’s implied by the rest.) More broadly, when you look at the shot, it’s hard to know whether Lanez is joking, or whether he’s making things harder than they should be.

Which, if you’ve followed his music career, makes perfect sense. “All you boys in the New Toronto wanna be me a little,” Drake said on “Summer Sixteen”—a line that most believe was a reference to Lanez’s New Toronto mixtape, which came out Winter Fifteen. Also, it’s just a fact. There’s a YouTube clip from 2010 titled “Drake’s Lil Brother Tory Lanez Freestyle in The Room,” where Lanez reads lines like “I’m not dying till all my chips in the Pringles case” into a floor mic. Whether Drake and Lanez are related was a question that bounced around forums and message boards for a short time that was answered by none other than Lanez himself, in another video. He clarified that the two were not related and offered Drake $10,000 to listen to his music. This was the earliest indication of Lanez’s lack of shame, which props up his talent for raising intrigue by, well, compelling him to do some truly wild shit. (The two are headed out on the “Assassination Vacation” tour this spring.)

Perversely, this is also a part of Tory Lanez’s charm. If we don’t remember “Hate Me on the Low,” or “Teyana,” or “Say It,” or even what the name of his latest album was without Googling it (Love Me Now?) we will remember, so long as we live, “Are we apologizin’ or you wanna shoot the fade?” It doesn’t matter what the argument with Travis Scott in the video below was actually about, but it likely stemmed from Tory Lanez’s zealous, almost delusional belief in Tory Lanez, above all else. He pointed to the fence on Instagram to start 2019, proclaiming unspecific but definite Ws. It’s admirable. It’s energy.

But back to his jump shot. Notice how everything moves in the wrong direction. The way he shoots from his collarbone; the way he cranes his whole body toward the basket; the exaggerated leg pop. It’s amazing that it stays on line after release. On January 23, Lanez tweeted this:

Listen, Tory Lanez is pretty good at rapping. I mean, certainly better than most. But the assertion that he is the best rapper alive right now raised a few eyebrows, and more questions, since he’s not primarily known as a rapper, never mind the best. It was also normal, since Lanez is generally willing to suffer any slight to his reputation if it means more eyeballs. The man loves beef. He’s had so many. XXL has a helpful roundup: There was Drake and Travis Scott, obviously; and also R&B singer Eric Bellinger, that guy who remade “Accidental Racist”; and Royce Da 5’9”; plus all the new beefs he welcomed with his “BEST RAPPER ALIVE” tweet. New York rapper Don Q was first, leveling biting accusations. Both had appearances on Hot 97 alongside Funkmaster Flex, Don Q in 2016 and Tory the following year; both rhymed over the same beat and had similar bars. Q then released “I’m Not Joyner,” suggesting that he and Lanez couldn’t agree to disagree, like Lanez and Joyner Lucas sort of did. Lanez replied, and then Q, and on it’ll go until the sun implodes, maybe, if someone from Dreamville doesn’t finish off Lanez first. Lanez intends to fight his way up J. Cole’s roster, to get to the man himself. At the moment, the Torontonian has his hands full with DreamDoll, who clubbed him with “On Your Head” earlier this week for involving her in his spat with Don Q. Lanez claimed that he’d planted his flag first, and Doll responded by exposing, well, basically all of Lanez’s sexual history.

Honestly, at this point, you need a tree chart to keep track of who is and isn’t involved, and I have neither the time nor the patience to make one. It’s more fun to take in secondhand, as other artists look on and wait to be dragged into the madness. Please watch this whole Ari Lennox Instagram Live video. Please read Sir Michael Rocks’s tweets.

Let’s also acknowledge that the shot went in. Lanez is an occasional worker of miracles—he just … decided to grow his hairline back, and did. Also, Lanez’s take on “Controlla” is easily the best behind the lost Popcaan version we still demand justice for. His knack for manipulating melody is on full display, realizing the most ideal and, incidentally, the horniest version of a snake charmer’s song. It’s one fluid motion, is what I’m getting at. And yet “Controlla,” the original version, the one that’s easily accessible on all the streaming platforms, belongs to Drake.

Despite Lanez’s prominence, he has yet to register a top 10 record to date. And for whatever else we can say about his barking up every available tree, if you step back a little, all this does organize itself into an aggressive campaign toward … something. With any luck Lanez will come up with another “Controlla”-type moment, one entirely of his own making. Beef it into existence.