P REIGN IN NEW YORK, SEPTEMBER 2015. JACKET: VISVIM. HOODIE: T BY ALEXANDER WANG. STYLING: ELIN SVAHN. HAIR: TOMO JIDAI FOR ORIBE HAIR CARE/STREETERS. MAKEUP: SALLY BRANKA/LGA MANAGEMENT. MANICURE: MAKI SAKAMOTO FOR TOM FORD BEAUTY/KATE RYAN INC. SET DESIGN: NICHOLAS DES JARDINS/MARY HOWARD STUDIO. SPECIAL THANKS: FAST ASHLEYS.
By material standards, Raynford Humphrey has been living well as of late: fancy cars, rides in private jets—such are the trappings of being the most famous Canadian rapper not named Drake. No amount of money, however, could buy Humphrey the high he experienced this past spring when he emerged from baggage claim at LAX and promptly kissed the pavement. “I was like a kid in a candy store,” the 29-year-old rapper, otherwise known as P Reign, says of crossing the border for the first time in 12 years, following a decade-plus travel ban to the States stemming from a teenage drug arrest.
Finally free to take advantage of the massive U.S. hip-hop market, P Reign is making up for lost time. In October, the RCA-signed MC—who scored his biggest hit to date with the Drake-and-Future-featuring “DNF,” off last year’s thunderous Dear America EP—released Off the Books, an album-quality mixtape showcasing his quick-witted rhyme schemes and crisp enunciation born of battle-rapping in his Toronto-area high school’s lunchroom and honed in the six years since his debut single. Like Drake (a close friend of P Reign’s since the megastar’s Degrassi days), P Reign is highly self-aware; he’s completely unafraid of airing out his raw emotions, notably the struggles he endured growing up in the rough Scarborough neighborhood. “I’ve been through so much in my life,” he says. “I don’t think there’s any ground I can’t cover.”
Though P Reign will be touring relentlessly over the coming months, his label wants to pick up the pace even more. “They want me to drop my first album right now,” he says. Instead, he’s holding off and plans to release the album early next year. He’s also making a point to step out of Drake’s shadow. “I need to show that I don’t need to put him on a project to be successful,” he says of his decision to not feature his friend on Off the Books. But encouragement from his rap idols‚ including Kanye West, who grabbed P Reign’s hand and said, “This shit is dope!” after hearing one of his tracks in a Toronto club (“I was like, ‘Did Kanye just grab my muthafuckin’ hand?’ ”), has helped validate his growing self-confidence. “I’m finally ready to clash heads with the big boys,” he declares, “and compete with anybody at any level in the hip-hop industry.”