Pressa: 5 songs that changed my life

The Juno-nominated rapper reflects on the music that shaped him.

The Juno-nominated rapper reflects on the music that shaped him

Toronto rapper Pressa earned four Juno nominations this year, including the TikTok Juno fan choice and rap single of the year for 'Attachments.' (Courtesy of Sony Music Canada; graphic by CBC)

Pressa's dream was always clear: he wanted to go to Hollywood. 

The Toronto-born rapper grew up in the city's Driftwood neighborhood, a high density and low-income area that has been maligned as a place with a high crime rate. For Pressa, Driftwood is a loving community filled with kind people willing to lend a helping hand, like sharing bread or milk. But growing up, he wasn't sure if he would ever leave, often noting that the life he's living now wasn't what he expected. 

But Pressa put in the work, and as his music began to gain traction, starting in 2016 with tracks like "Deadmihana" and "T.B.H," his dreams were becoming a reality. His honest bars were delivered with melodic hooks and helium-like pitched vocals; he quickly started linking up with other Canadian acts like Murda Beatz and Drake, the latter of whom he opened for on his 2017 Boy Meets World tour. 

Now, Pressa lives in Los Angeles and while he admittedly misses his family and friends at home — as well as the food in Toronto, which he calls "the best food in the world," — he's staying focused on his goals. When asked what comes after Hollywood, the rapper pauses for a moment. "Next step after that," he replies, "I want to really maximize America, and really be a global star and take over." 

Meanwhile, in his home country, Pressa is up for four Juno Awards, his first-ever nominations, including the TikTok Juno Fan Choice Award and breakthrough artist of the year. "It's a blessing," he says, of the recognition. Pressa also notes that the person most excited for his Juno nods was his mother: "She was so happy, she's probably more excited than me; she called me like 10 times when she heard about the nominations, like back-to-back." 

Ahead of this year's Juno Awards, CBC Music asked Pressa to reflect on five songs that changed his life. As you'll see below, Pressa's taste in music is quite varied, something that he says is representative of another goal of his. "You don't want to have just one genre, you don't want to be just one person," he explains. "I would love to be five, 10 people, you know what I mean? I would love to make jazz, I would love to be a rock star — I'm open to doing any type of music." 

'ABC,' the Jackson 5

"My uncle bought me a Michael Jackson CD and a Tupac CD at the same time. I was very young. But when I heard, 'ABC, easy as 1,2,3' — I was so used to hearing Bob Marley, reggae and Tupac that when I heard Michael Jackson on 'ABC,' it was just fun, you know? [Jackson] just gave me that whole melodic aspect. I would go and watch Michael Jackson wherever I could, and I just liked his feel for music. It wasn't hard, it was very uptempo. And I just feel like nowadays, everybody raps like that song now. It's that melody feeling. It gave me an uptempo feel of music." 

'Pain,' Tupac 

"I used to always listen to it back in the day, but when I was around 15 or 16, I was at the bottom part of my life, this song came back and I was like, 'Oh, I forgot about this song.' I went through the lyrics and was like, yes, that is what I'm going through. He'd be like, 'I'm 'bout to crash up on the curb 'cause my vision's blurry,' and he just gave me all that pain. I was really going through it at the time, and that song held me down for a little bit, to get me through my rough times. Tupac did movies, poems — he's a multi-talented person. And I want to rap and do movies."

'Myself,' Houdini 

"He was my friend; he passed away. On that record, he was rapping about, 'I could do it all by myself. Even though I never did it by myself, I did it with a lot of people, but there's some situations I had to do by myself. There are some situations that I had to go through by myself.' 'Myself' is like a self-made song. He was very independent; when he felt like he did a lot of stuff on his own, he was like, 'Yeah, I did it by myself.' He was very saucy, he also knew how to dress. I think Houdini's music is dope. If he didn't pass away, he would be here with me, striving, probably being nominated for Junos as well." 

'I Took a Pill in Ibiza' (Seeb Remix), Mike Posner 

"When I was first rapping, I heard this song and in it, he sings about making it to Hollywood, making a million dollars and spending it on girls, cars and shoes. And I was like, 'Man, I need to make it to Hollywood, make millions of dollars, but I'm not going to spend it all on girls and shoes!' But I feel his pain because he was like, 'I made a million dollars and I lost it all just chasing the Hollywood dream,' you know? So when I finally got to Hollywood and I finally signed my deal, I played that song back like, 'I told you I was gonna make it to Hollywood.' [To stay grounded as an artist], I'm just being me. Me getting in the studio keeps me grounded. Just hustling, making sure my music gets to the people. Seeing how far I came is what gives me my drive because I didn't really expect all of this when I was younger; I was expecting something else. So I have to cherish this and be careful because you can lose it all."

'See you Again,' Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth 

"My friend died, and before he died he played this song a lot. And it wasn't rap; he played this song while me and all my friends were playing like Chicago rap, Future, Drake and all that. But then this came on and it was totally different. So we're riding in his car and he's playing it, and after I listened to it I was like, oh I like this song a lot. And I lost my friend, so when I hear that song it reminds me of him all the time. I think anyone who's lost somebody likes that song." 

Wherever you are in the world, you can tune in to the 2022 Juno Awards on Sunday, May 15. You can watch live on CBC-TV and CBC Gem, listen on CBC Radio One and CBC Music and stream globally at