"Drake is, like... he's the big cheese." Daniel Caesar, a 19-year-old artist originally from Oshawa, Ontario (now based in Toronto), pays expected homage to the rapper who, to him, has most successfully put his city on: "He's unstoppable. I find it incredible."
But, these days, Caesar is focused on his own come-up. After debuting his EP Praise Break, the unique quality of Daniel's sound — feathered R&B with tufts of rock, soul, and gospel against bright, opaque instrumentals — is earning him some well-deserved attention. Billboard branded him as "a new artist that's bound to break out," while Noisey praised Praise Break, as "classically good without being rigid."
BuzzFeed News spoke to Ceasar over FaceTime, where the kid appeared to be just hanging out in his room in Kensington. The connection was terrible, but after a few hiccups and call-backs, we delved into his influencers, his faith (overtones of which are all over the EP), and, of course, Tdot.
But first, listen to this:
What You Need To Know About Daniel Caesar:
He describes his music as a "collision of all the sounds I appreciated growing up," but you can just call it: "new soul."
"I've had it described to me as 'new soul', so I kind of ran with that," says Caesar. While he says soul is an obvious element to his sound, he tries to collapse and play with a range of genres. "My producers only produce hip-hop music and more classic R&B, so it's been an adventure for all of us making [the EP]."
Some of his biggest influencers right now are Kanye, Kid Cudi, PartyNextDoor [fellow Torontonian who's signed to Drake's OVO label], and The Beatles, who "really opened my eyes when I first started messing around with different types of music," he said. "I used to listen to a lot more rock than I listen to now. They're one of my favourites."
Religion has shaped him as an artist, but he won't be pigeonholed.
Daniel recalls that the "sounds in the church" growing up had greatly shaped his music today: "The way I structure songs, and the way I sing..." But he's careful not to let the gospel influences isolate any of his listeners: "My music is for absolutely everyone — religious or non-religious," he says. "What I'm doing with my music is telling a story. So while there's a lot of religion being discussed, there is a lot of sinning being discussed as well. I like to keep things — not to sound cliche or anything — I want to sound as real as possible."
He thinks Toronto's music scene is "on fire right now" but still fighting for the recognition it deserves.
"It's budding really quickly, but it's still relatively small," he says. "I feel like all eyes are on us. I believe there's a renaissance going on. We've become excited, and now everyone's doing their thing. There's a lot going on. "
And, like other musicians from his city, he doesn't think being emotional is a bad thing.
"As far as hip-hop music goes, one thing I hear people talking about is referring to Toronto artists as more emotional than most," he says. "Not just to Drake but to a lot of artists, but that's just how things are out here. There aren't that many 'gangstas' out here."
Daniel says being earnest and real is what resonates with people. "Whether or not you're a goon, everyone has feelings," Caesar says. "[Toronto artists] are bringing real things regular people experience. Not just goons. That's why people mess with it."