Speng Squire is all about fun vibes — with substance

Rising Montreal hip-hop artist Speng Squire garnered buzz from his 2017 single “Ways”. He shares his come-up story and reflects on returning to music after a break.
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In high school Montreal’s Speng Squire made the transition from writing poetry to writing rhymes when he started getting interested in artists like Lil Wayne and Drake.

“I started writing to whatever instrumentals I could find on YouTube,” he recalls. “At first, I thought it was for entertainment, I thought it was for fun. Then slowly I got more and more serious in my city and ever since then it just grew into something … it had a life of its own.”

That was around 2014. By 2016, Speng had met his current manager DRTWRK and started on a path that led to projects like 2017’s Expressions of Now, which included standout single “Ways” produced by Sevn Thomas, and  2018’s This Moment Belongs to Us. He earned co-signs along the way from Canadian heavyweights like Lunice and Kardinal Offishall for his music, which mixes a fun, high-energy vibe with substance.

Then in 2018, after his sophomore project, he took 14 months off to deal with personal issues and an artistic “slump” he was in. Speng returned in 2019 with a renewed plan to focus on releasing singles.

“I’m experimenting,” he says. “I felt like in the past something that always bothered me was the fact that I put out albums and I know for a fact that they were dope pieces of work, but it kind of hurts when certain songs get overlooked or don’t get seen. So now I’m going to try with the singles. So far, I feel like people are really paying attention.”

He released a string of singles — from the deeply personal and emotional “How You Feel” and more summer-vibes “Word For Word” to more recent releases “Left Out” and “Live Forever” — that continue to rack up Spotify streams and YouTube views.

He caught up with Urbanology to share his come-up story, reflecting on the ups and downs of his journey so far and what it’s been like to step away from music and return with his creative energy restored.

You want to make the music just naturally and that’s when it comes out best.

Where does the name Speng Squire come from?

Well Squire is my actual family name. Speng, basically before my father got deported to Jamaica, him and his boys used to call me “Speng” as a baby and that was before I was two years old. So, he got deported and that was like when I was turning three. All his boys that stayed here in Canada continued calling me that throughout the years. Me growing up, walking around my neighbourhood I’d always see guys and they’d call me “Yo, Speng”, “Speng”. It kinda just stuck.

How do you describe the music you make to people who are discovering you for the first time?

I’m trying to have fun with it, but I also want to keep a level of seriousness so when it comes to the music thing I really try to always have a little bit of substance and content and try to say things, and not just like make sounds and put it out there because it sounds good. I actually want to say things and have concepts. Even if I’m on a song and it’s like a party song, I always try to have some sort of depth to it.

You said you learned a lot the year you took off from putting out music. What did you learn?

One thing I’ve taken in the most personally, I’m in this to make music and put music out. At the end of the day the business side, money is cool and everything else pretty cool, but I’m in this because I want people to take my music in. That’s why I started putting music out. It was for fun at first and now I started taking it too serious and taking it as too much of a job. That’s when it starts to be like … I’m not passionate about it anymore. So, that’s the approach I’m taking with this, just let me have fun, let me just put out music that I want to put out that I like, that I think people are going to like and that’s it. Then from there let everything else fall in place.

J. Cole talks about how like the minute you focus on the money and the minute that you take it like as a job, it definitely is draining for you. So how were you kind of able to get through that? What were some of the things that you kind of had to do to push yourself and to really get yourself back into the studio?

I don’t want to say meditation but like time with myself if that makes sense. Just like me sitting with myself and actually talking to myself like what’s going on? What are you doing right now? Why is your energy so off? Just lots of nights and sleepless nights, just me talking to myself and trying to get back on top. You’re low like you just know the only way to get out of it is to get through it. You know it’s like this question of time and patience. I feel like you get through it eventually. For some it takes longer than others.

One day I woke up and I said OK now this can’t be … you know I’m getting older and that’s the thing too my birthday was approaching. I was about to be 24 and I know that’s still considered young, but at the time I’m like, ‘no I’m getting older’, every day counts type vibe … I need to start putting my life together and eventually me saying that on a regular basis it made me focus you know and that’s it.

The good thing about getting out of the slump, I feel like once you’re out, you’re out, not for good, but at least you’re on a roll, you have momentum and you’re out of it and that’s the best feeling. The moment I felt that I’m in love with the music again, I’m back. I’ve been just making music effortlessly. You know what? Now that I say it, that’s really what you want — it to be effortless. You want to make the music just naturally and that’s when it comes out best. When I’m there forcing, oh it’s my job, I got to get this done, like no, that is not the right mentality when you’re making music.

What or who keeps you focused on your career?

I’d say my manager, he always preaches to me. He’s my OG also so he tries to spit game and knowledge into my head and one of the main things he always talks about is character, it’s all about character. Talent can only get you so far, but character is what’s gonna carry you in the long run you know and at first I didn’t really understand what he meant by that but now I get it because I could see how people are reacting to me and even when I meet people one-on-one or when I talk to people or anywhere that I am, any city that I go to, that’s what helps me get around. It’s what helps people remember me and I guess it shows in my music because I think my fans and the people that support me feel the same way so it’s like a personality thing just being genuine … being real … having good intentions at all times, little things like that. I guess that’s it. That’s the main thing I’ve learned aside from the music just as a person you know.

I want to push being a good person, being a good human being because I think that’s what missing right now.

Is it important for you to not really follow a formula?

Yes, because when I first started like releasing music locally a lot of people were in the comments on YouTube or whatever, on Instagram. I always get like, ‘oh you sound like Drake’ or ‘yea yea this song sounds like Drake’ … It was kind of bothering me, but at the same time it was a compliment because he’s one of my idols, but I wanted to move away from that and not get stuck in that. I didn’t want to get stuck or boxed in with ‘oh you sound like Drake’ so with time I purposely tried to find my own sound as an artist. Try different things, do a bunch of stuff, different melodies, different flows to find my tone and yeah, with time I found if you want to call it my sound … I found a sound you can hear on my last album.

You said you were directly all your videos and you’re really taking control of your music now. How has that experience been?

I love it. I love it. It’s showing me that in the future I don’t want to just be an artist. I’ll want to write for other artists, I’ll want to direct people’s videos. I want to be like integrated into the industry as far as like you see my credits and see my name everywhere because I’m just involved with everybody and anyone’s creative process. That’s just what I like doing. I have a lot of ideas, I think 24/7, so yeah, I love it. I love controlling my own career even more. I get to put my own vision and whatever I see in my head and just put it out. I’m believing in it more and more.

Do you have anything else you’d like to add about Speng Squire?

I just want everyone to know that like I’m trying to push positivity you know as much as possible. I just want to make good music … I want to push being a good person, being a good human being because I think that’s what missing right now.

Photos © Isa Miguel Ransome + Urbanology Magazine

Gabrielle Austin is a writer who is passionate about all things film, TV, music and culture related. She is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism at Humber College after receiving her Advanced Diploma in 2016. When she’s not looking for her next writing idea, you can probably find her watching some kind of reality show or reading a book.

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