Hip Hop Headquarters sits down with Romanian-born, Canadian-based emcee Florian Gray
How did you get your stage name?
Originally – and I’m referring to circa 2006 – I went by the stage name Flow P. It’s a name I still reference in my music, and a name that will always be a part of me in some way or another, for the impact it had on my upbringing was quite massive. But when I left Canada to travel overseas in 2011, I felt myself distancing from the name. As time rolled on and as I focused my creative energy into writing and reading, I felt a change was needed. Flow P was the name I identified with before my life on the road, but I needed something new to signify the change, to signal the birth of a new version of myself. I wanted the name to somehow connect the strings between my literary roots and influences. Long story short, Oscar Wilde’s classic novel The Picture of Dorian Gray always resonated with me intensely, and the fact that my first name rhymes with the title character – well, you can see how Florian Gray came about.
What made you decide to become a rapper?
I’ve always had a deeply-rooted love for words and for beautiful images. Film, music, books – this is what my childhood consisted of. When I was 15, my brother’s best friend was a well-known local rapper in Windsor, J Jones. I suppose J saw something in me because his constant words of encouragement convinced me to get into the studio, to write my own lyrics and music. I recorded with him for several years. I learned everything from him. Mixing, mastering, flow, inflection, delivery – before his guidance I thought rap was writing a quick 16 and reading it off the page. I took several years off from music during my travels, but I was always writing and filming with hiphop in the back of my mind. I knew I would come back to it someday, and in 2016 I did just that.
What’s the first rap song you ever heard? Describe the moment.
Oh man. It had to be something by Eminem. The Marshall Mathers LP was my first album. I don’t know which song was first but I recall the first time I heard the song ‘Kim’ – I was stunned, in a good way. I was blasting the album at home when my parents were at work, and my brother came down and we both just kind of listened to the song with our mouths wide open. I didn’t know you could do something like that with words, with poetry. It opened my mind to a whole new world of possibility, musically and creatively.
How did “Night Tide” come together?
Night Ride came together because of Sean Rey’s unrequited love for Blues music. That and a lot of gin. I had this beat and this verse done, and I needed to fill in some gaps, and Sean was listening to Sonny Boy Williamson at 2AM in the kitchen one night. I came upstairs and we listened to this song about Sonny Boy warning one of his ladies to keep her mouth shut – you know, to keep their business to herself. Well, that turned into Night Ride – An agressive, booze-soaked, hip-hop version of a lost-in-time Blues classic.
What are your thoughts on the state of Canadian hiphop?
Canadian hiphop is booming. There’s dope talent everywhere. Toronto is the obvious spot, but I’m hearing talent coming out of many other places too. My hometown Windsor has so many underrated rappers it’s almost criminal. J Reno, Braaks, Kayyce Closed, just to name a few. These are guys who’ve put in work, guys who have doubtless talent, but maybe don’t shine as brightly because they’re not from Toronto or Vancouver. I could name dozens of great rappers, guys on the way up, guys up next. Let’s just say I don’t really classify myself as a Toronto cat – I don’t have a Toronto sound. There’s tons of great rappers in Toronto, and all over Canada. Guys going after a certain sound that’s maybe hot or popping at the moment. Tons of orginal cats too, don’t get me wrong. But I’m confident in saying that Florian Gray doesn’t sound like any of them.
Check out Florian Gray’s latest single “Night Ride” here