René-Charles Angélil is not your average 17-year-old — his mother happens to be one of the world’s most famous pop stars. But he shares at least one trait with millions of other teenage kids: he wanted to do something without telling his mom about it ahead of time.
So he went and recorded two rap songs in his home studio, in the garage beside the family home in Las Vegas. He released them Monday on the streaming platform SoundCloud under his stage name, Big Tip, and he only got around to telling his mother about all this after the songs went to No. 1 and No. 2 on the Canadian SoundCloud R&B charts. His mother being Céline Dion.
Catwalks, which samples Toronto rap/R&B superstar the Weeknd’s Sidewalks, held the top spot on the SoundCloud chart on Thursday. His version of the Weeknd’s Loft Music was No. 2.
Since then, Angélil has released three other songs: Never Stop, The Apple and The Kid. He said it took him 15 minutes to write The Apple and 45 minutes to record it.
The release of the songs led to a highly unusual conversation at home with his mother on Wednesday.
“It’s kind of messed up, honestly,” Angélil said in a phone interview from his Las Vegas home on Thursday. “I played it to her for the first time (Wednesday). I just felt like keeping it on the low. But she loved it. She was just kind of stunned at first, because she’d never heard anything from me. It was kind of a weird conversation: ‘Ma, I’m No. 1 and No. 2 on the charts right now.’ She was like: ‘Why didn’t you tell me first?’ But she’s very supportive of my passion for this.”
Of course, Angélil could have used some of Dion’s music-biz contacts to get his songs out there, he said, but decided not to on principle.
“That’s way too easy,” he said. “My mom’s the greatest singer of all time and she’s got all these outlets. I could have been like, ‘Hey mom, I’m kind of into this music stuff, let’s do something about it.’ But I wanted to prove to myself that I’m able to do it. Not just because my mom is who my mom is. At the end of the day, that’s what matters to me the most: to make a name for myself.”
Angélil’s lyrics are clearly autobiographical; he raps about what it’s like to grow up in Vegas as the son of famous parents. (His father was Dion’s husband and manager, the late René Angélil.) Catwalks opens with the verse: “I ran out of tears when I was 16 / so your bulls–t don’t faze me / so many people wish they knew me … but I’m choosy … I’ve been living the high life, but it comes with a high price.”
“All my lyrics are very personal,” said Angélil. “I’m trying to do something here that no one has ever done before: it’s the son of one of the greatest singers of all time trying to be a rapper. If I was trying to be a real vocalist, that would make sense. But a rapper? All the lyrics are about my personal experiences.”
There is quite a bit of Auto-Tune used on the tracks, which has already led to no small amount of criticism online. The Apple, which he wrote this week, is a response to his critics, with some obscenity-laced words for the naysayers. It includes the lines: “The apple don’t fall far from the tree, so this is God sent … dropped two chart-toppers and they said it was cheesy.”
“It just drives me more,” said Angélil. “I kind of look for that. I’m scavenging the internet looking for people who are trying to bash me. I kind of get motivation from that. I want to prove these guys wrong.”
Angélil says he wants to do a full-length album, for which he’d consider working with a major label. And he won’t rule out the possibility of recording with his famous mom at some point.
“That would be very interesting, because we have two completely different styles,” he said. “I’d love to do that. That’d be very cool.”
The Big Tip moniker, by the way, is a nod to his skills on ice. He has played a lot of hockey, and it comes from a nickname he had a few years back.
“Second-year bantam, with my hockey team, I had the most tipped goals,” said Angélil. “It was insane. I’d go in front of the net, there’d be a shot from the point and I’d tip it and it’d go in every time. It was beyond belief. They just started calling me the Tip Captain.
“Then I started rapping and it was like, ‘I have to find a rap name.’ Now, everyone these days has ‘Little’ in their name. But I didn’t want to be ‘Little.’ I wanted to be ‘Big.’ So I was like, ‘Big Tip.’ I know it’s up for interpretation as well, but that’s where it came from.”