Reviews are a pain-free way of combining writing with what I love (for example, music), in a way that generates interest.
Review: "The New Toronto 2"
Canadian rapper, singer/songwriter and producer Tory Lanez kicks off 2017 in the same way he did 2016 - with the release of two mixtapes. This year's instalments are entitled ‘The New Toronto 2’ and ‘Chixtape 4’. Both mixtapes benefit from being handled by a modest number of producers. Cuban-born, Miami raised beat maker Play Picasso is particularly impressive across the two titles.
Occasionally sliding into R&B territory, ‘The New Toronto 2’ is a collection of self-possessed trap and hip-hop efforts. The shadowy textures of ‘The New Toronto 2’ feel fleshed out and become absorbing very quickly. All of the tunes on the tracklisting operate within the same sedated standpoint, this strengthens the mixtape's overall allure. The all-conquering waviness of ‘The New Toronto 2’ takes the lead on ‘New Year / $auce Baby’, and peaks within the choppy, groaning trap of ‘Bartenders & Spenders’.
Audacious, Instant Grat and Easy-to-Like
In terms of its subject matter, there’s nothing overly substantial to be heard on ‘The New Toronto 2’. While 24-year-old Lanez has tons of hip-hop flair, the Canadian’s rap lyrics are never too sharp. He impacts absent-mindedly during the mixtape’s most banal moments.
Some of Lanez’s stylised rap performances evoke the memory of other current hip-hop/trap artists. The Canadian’s straighter R&B delivery is more successful in separating Lanez from his contemporaries, and many of them could release audacious, instant-grat tunes like ‘Dancin’ or ‘DopeMan Go’. Admittedly though, these kinds of cuts are easy to like, and genuinely become reasons to revisit ‘The New Toronto 2’.
A Bold Mesh of Contrasting Ideas
‘Bodmon Song (Extended Version)’ is a bold mesh of contrasting ideas. Lanez’s Caribbean vernacular is paired with chiptune loops and unrelentingly deep hip-hop beatwork. On paper, these different elements shouldn’t work together, but they do on ‘Bodmon Song', and the cut makes the most of it.
‘Set It Off x Better’ doesn’t reinvent the wheel, however the lusty, bedroom-focused moodiness of the tune is engulfing. The cut’s overt sexual ideas are offset by its murky, serene backdrop. Before ‘Set It Off’ morphs into ‘Better’, Lanez can be heard complimenting his partner’s physical attributes and explicitly describing getting intimate with her.
Rick Ross Guests on "Super Freak"
It’s satisfying hearing Lanez take a break from the mixtape’s superficial bouts with hip-hop and engage in more direct and consistent rap delivery on ‘Lick x Drive You Crazy’. The track plays with a persuasive soul sample while throwback funk elements decorate its background. Lanez sounds present on ‘Lick x Drive You Crazy’. That said, it’s not hard to guess who Lanez’s rap inspirations are from his performance on the track.
Following ASAP Ferg’s guest appearance on ‘Bal Harbour’, Rick Ross fills the second of the mixtape’s two guest slots on ‘Super Freak’, a track which dives head first into Lanez’s carnal lusts. Based around a fun, stupidly offhand hook, ‘Super Freak’ has Ross and Lanez preparing to infiltrate a harem of sexually adventurous women. Rick Ross’ rap presence is welcome on 'The New Toronto 2', however his performance is generally surprise-free.
"I Feel Marvellous by the Way"
With another run of sexually aggressive lyrics, Lanez gets down to business on ‘Anyway’. The track’s unconfined trap beats, stately production loops and scattered, unconventional backing vocals are soaked in touch and go replay-ability. The combination of Lanez’s hooky, singalong melodies and the cut's busy production makes ‘Anyway’ stand out.
Wielding boy-next-door type charm, Lanez sings longingly to a lady from his past, who he's now separated from on ‘Came Thru’. 'Came Thru' isn’t wildly complex, yet its elementary refrains and unperturbed execution flicker with long-term appeal.
Produced by Rhode Island’s Araabmusik, Lanez refuses to play nice over the big, brash beats and large, ceremonious loops of ‘Wraith Talk’. After opening the track with the quip, “I feel marvellous by the way”, Lanez spends the rest of ‘Wraith Talk’ protecting his turf and putting down his rap rivals with casual lyrics about the joys of having excess money.
Verdict: ******* 7/10
Review: "Chixtape 4"
Aimed at the ladies (the "chix") and motivated by matters of the heart, ‘Chixtape 4’ is an intimate, sensual collection of R&B/trap efforts. Revisiting throwback songs like Pretty Ricky’s ‘Grind On Me’ and Ginuwine’s ‘Differences’, Tory Lanez uses ‘Chixtape 4’ to put his contemporary spin on a selection of early-Noughties R&B love songs. Anthems like Fat Joe’s ‘Whats Luv?’ and Bobby Valentino’s ’Slow Down’ are boldly deconstructed by the project’s woozy, nocturnal mood.
The release’s sense of nostalgia actually contributes to its romanticism. That said, in spite of its affectionate presentation, ‘Chixtape 4’ is assured, it never sounds hesitant. The mixtape’s production is one of its main attractions. The beats aren't scene-stealing, they’re not always polished. However, ‘Chixtape 4’ is distinctive, varied and steadfast. Undaunted by the task of remaking R&B classics like R.Kelly’s ‘Ignition’, the release’s grand vision unfurls purposefully.
Showcasing Lanez’s Frisky, Playful Vocals
The better moments on ‘Chixtape 4’ repackage its modern R&B standards in a spellbinding trap daze, whilst showcasing Lanez’s frisky, playful vocals. The mixtape’s worst offerings free-fall, and sound like Lanez is performing karaoke.
The necessity of Lanez’s impassioned remake of Baltimore-born entertainer Mario’s 2002 single ‘Just A Friend’ is debatable. ‘Chixtape 4’ can sound like listeners are being invited to witness Lanez raid his personal music collection. On a random side note, it would be interesting to know how the project’s sampled artists feel about Lanez refixing their much-loved hit records.
An Intriguingly Broken, Abnormal and Eerie Edge
Backed by Atlanta singer/songwriter Jacquees, Lanez uniquely updates R&B/hip-hop group Pretty Ricky’s 2005 tune ‘Grind On Me’. The original's backing vocals and group harmonies are recycled ingeniously throughout the new version’s midsection. The bass sounds that make themselves heard as Lanez’s ‘Grind On Me’ supercharges towards its finish are very memorable.
P. Diddy’s 2002 hit ‘I Need A Girl (Part Two)’ is taken in a temptingly intense new direction for Lanez’s very own ‘Need A Girl’. An intriguingly broken, abnormal and eerie edge is brought to the upfront Diddy track. Instead of sounding like a amateur, sluggish remake, ‘Need A Girl’ feels truly evolved from its original.
Giving R. Kelly and Fat Joe the "Chixtape 4' Treatment
Boasting an appearance from previous collaborator Nyce, New York rapper Fat Joe and singer/songwriter Ashanti’s smash hit ‘What’s Luv’ is given the ‘Chixtape 4’ treatment. Contributing no additional appeal to the 2002 chart-topper, Lanez spends his new rendition of ‘What’s Luv’ crooning over the original’s chorus. At best, the updated ‘What’s Luv’ is lazy. It unintentionally highlights why some landmark songs should be left alone, or at least redone with caution.
R. Kelly’s ‘Ignition' (Original Mix) is the inspiration for a tune of the same name on ‘Chixtape 4’. Despite Lanez simply backing up the sexually forward, innuendo-laden thrust of Kelly’s career-defining song with his own lyrics about getting closer to a lover, Lanez’s ‘Ignition’ is a worthy listen.
A Male Perspective
Mississippi-born performer Bobby V’s 2005 debut single ‘Slow Down’ is tackled next. One of several tracks on 'The New Toronto 2' and ‘Chixtape 4’ that has Lanez credited as a producer, ‘Slow Down’ 2017 overturns Bobby V’s glossy R&B smash and injects it with sullen, haunted trap. Lanez's 'Slow Down' is an accomplished after-dark concoction.
The Canadian speeds up and revamps Washington-born singer/songwriter Ginuwine’s Noughties classic ‘Differences’. Lanez’s re-envisioning of ‘Differences’ is spacious. A whole new level of mystique is introduced to it. Ultimately though, the unstoppable melodic charms of Ginuwine’s original outshines all of Lanez’s newer ideas.
Lanez brings late R&B songstress Aaliyah’s ‘I Don’t Wanna’ out of the late-Nineties and into 2017 on ‘Aaliyah’. ‘Aaliyah’ is a well-intentioned, eager tribute to the sorely-missed R&B great. That said, it’s not a particularly enduring one. Reclaiming the lonesome sentiments of ‘I Don’t Wanna’ for himself, Lanez enthusiastically introduces a male perspective to the track.