I arrived at Livestock’s new Toronto location on Spadina a few minutes before Portion. Just enough time to take in the walls of sneakers displaying Jordans, Nike Air Max, Air Forces, and New Balances above racks of streetwear featuring colorful hoodies and graphic-covered T-shirts—it was a perfect location to interview a rising rapper from the city. Soon after, Portion hopped out of a black SUV wearing a Rhude hat, gradient Cartier sunglasses, a black Givenchy T-shirt, black G-Star jeans, and fresh Jordan 1s looking right at home in the industrial hype beast environment. His recent single “Eastside” featuring North Carolina’s Toosii, has been playing on airwaves all over the continent and you may have heard his earworm melodies like “Wave” on the Million Dollaz Worth of Game Podcast (Gillie Da King and Wallo267’s shoulders are living proof of how catchy the song is).
As we settle into the casual environment, Portion reflects on his journey divulging that he used to line up at Livestock as a teen (their previous, smaller Spadina location) for sneaker raffles and releases, taking in the full-circle moment of being back here to celebrate his accomplishments. He recently released the deluxe version of his album I Am Nothing Without featuring 5 new tracks and his success as a defining voice pairing the melodies of Atlanta trap with the swag of East Coast hip-hop goes way beyond having the means to acquire Jordans without the raffles. His affinity for music started when he was a youth before Genius was a thing, leading him to write out his favorite songs bar for bar and study the construction of rhythmic storytelling from the likes of Kanye West and Twista. In 2017, he started to organically build a fan base after the release of “Fif’s World” displaying lyrical maturity as he eulogized a childhood friend. His deluxe album is his most personal yet, wielding melodies over palatable trap beats filled with horns, soul samples, piano loops, and beat switches as he paints a picture of the trials and tribulations he’s faced.
Coming a long way from Scarborough, Toronto’s east end where Portion grew up, and recently working in Atlanta and Miami, Portion admits nothing beats the energy of being home. He remains humble with a friendly demeanor as he muses about his recent travels, continuing to build with his inner circle, and making songs he knows are going to be a hit. Our full chat is below and naturally, we had to cover the sneakerhead basics as well.
How did the collaboration for “Eastside” feat. Toosii come together?
We [were] in Atlanta, a mutual friend had some stuff, I went to the studio and played [Toosii] the record and he was really rocking with it. I really thought hard [about] who I wanted on this song and I felt like he fit the most. After that we made it happen and it came out perfectly, it was dope getting the content in with him [and] even keeping up after with his releases and my releases.
In “Dreams Moneyy Can Buy” you have a beat switch before the last verse. At what point in the creative process do you make decisions about sonics and production?
When I made that song, I was in Atlanta, I made the first half and it was pretty dope so I kept adding to it as I went, changed a few lines here, and added to the production in the first half. We were in the AirBnB just cookin’ up and [I said] to my producer yo maybe we should add a second half to this like “Dreams and Nightmares” by Meek [Mill]. So we took the inspiration from that and ran with it.
On your Deluxe album, there are a variety of sounds from horns and piano to samples. It’s not the typical trap production, what was the intention behind that?
I wanted the deluxe to be more soul sampled [based] so you hear a lot of the different types of vocals in “Eastside”, “Blood On The Money”, the end of “Trench Love” [and] even the outro from “Letter to Miami”. The first half of the project, I Am Nothing Without, [is] more kind of turnt and [energetic]. Going forward I want to switch up the sounds and work with different producers, obviously, Hefe produced the whole project but I want to branch out and start going on different drums and maybe boom-bap.
How did growing up in Scarborough/Toronto shape the person you are today?
It’s dope because I vibe off of different things and even growing up in Scarborough I would come downtown. I used to actually line up at Livestock for sneakers, Jordans, and stuff so it’s a full-circle moment even being in here. Toronto always gives me a good vibe so it’s good growing up in Scarborough but also branching out and coming downtown and going to the West End.
Can you remember the first pair of Jordans you got that you really wanted?
I think it was the Jordan 8 [Retro] Aquas and it’s crazy because I was having a conversation with my friend the other day and I was like you can’t come around wearing the Aqua 8s anymore but it’s sentimental. Pretty much every shoe that I get, it’s something that I really want now, I’m a big fan of Air Forces—that’s my main shoe. For a year I was only wearing Air Forces, now I’m starting to switch it up.
What’s your favorite Nike or Jordan silhouette?
Probably the Jordan 1s, I just got a green pair of [Jordan] 5s that are dope, [and] I like [Jordan] 12s.
Are you into the Jordan collaborations?
Definitely, I like the Union [LA x Jordan Retro] 4s, Union [LA x Jordan] 2s are dope.
What is the meaning behind the title ‘I Am Nothing Without’?
I wanted to leave it blank for everybody to fill in what they feel fits best. Some people say their family, some people say friends, whatever really matters to them. For me it’s really family, life, [it] stands for a lot of things I [left] it open so everyone can relate and find their own meaning within my story.
You’ve been making your own music videos since before you were signed to Warner, what is most important to you when making any visual representation of your music?
I’m 100% involved, I always try and do something new every time and be creative. [I] let the director know that I’m willing to be creative and this is what I think [about] doing these concepts with whatever [they’re] trying to bring to the table because I like to give them their space but also add stuff to the visuals. It’s a team thing I let them do their thing [and] at the same time I throw them ideas. But before, we used to just sit there like [for] “Slime Me Out” we went to the horse ranch and [tried different things].
Are you having more fun with it now that you have more resources?
Definitely, I feel like that’s the reason I like coming back to the city the most because I can get my people involved, shoot videos with them, have fun, let them do [do their thing], and when I gotta go back out of the city and work—it’s work time.
Back in the day, you used to write out the bars to songs by hand, can you remember one song in particular that really impressed you lyrically?
Kanye’s first album, College Dropout, [I wrote out the whole album] but that one I had the [physical] album so I read the booklet with [the liner notes, and] I went off of that. I started to figure out bar format like this word rhymes with this word and then you have words in between [and] that’s how I learned that structure. My bro was in jail at that time and he really influenced me to rap but when I couldn’t find that influence through him I had to search for it elsewhere.
When did you make “Wave”? That’s another popular song from the album.
“Wave” I made in the studio regular night just coolin [with] me and my homies in there. That was when I had just come back from the states, probably in the first couple [of] sessions, because I got signed in the States so when I got back it was a good vibe. That’s really the energy that was in the studio and then Hefe did the beat so everyone was excited because they know how far we’ve come.
When you’re in the studio making music, can you tell when a song is going to be a hit?
Yea it’s crazy you feel it, when we made “Wave” we knew right away, just the beat alone we knew it was it. When I made “Eastside”, I was really excited—Hefe made the beat but he was cool on it—I knew right away I texted it to my marketing manager and the label like this one is gonna be crazy get your marketing strategy ready, it was dope.
You spent time working in Atlanta, how is it different from working in Toronto? What do you prefer about either?
I feel like Toronto I always got my homies with me and my family so of course [that’s a] vibe but you’ll always get different vibes everywhere you go. It’s good working on the road but home is always home.
Does it give you different inspirations and ideas?
Definitely, because you pick up on new slang, incorporate that into what you’re doing but also keep [that] home base which is why I always come back. It’s a good vibe here but recording out there is always easier because I can just focus.
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