Tory Lanez – I Told You
Released: 19 August 2016
It’s his story and he’ll paint it in any way he pleases. Tory Lanez blesses us with his vivid debut album, I Told You.
There are 14 songs and 14 skits on this album. The skits appear to be trying to paint the hustle-like vibe that Tory had to endure to get to this point in his life. Simultaneously, Tory is also trying to paint us a picture of Toronto – a place where, apparently, crime and licks are a frequent means to an end.
I Told You opens up hard and fast with the title track “I Told You” where Tory tells a story about his humble upbringings (a theme in this album) which then quickly develops into a braggadocio trap song. Tory Lanez raps, “Ring so swole you would think it did time”. Tory takes the braggadocio a step further on the song’s B-side, “Anotha One” where he brags,
“My wrist so froze like Kristi Yamaguchi/
I’m skatin’ on em, Kristi Yamaguchi/”
Tory Lanez is talented; he’s able to sound like a couple of different people on this album. On the intro track, he sounds like a trap rapper. On the 2nd track, “Guns N Roses”, Tory falls into his R&B pocket, delivering a love song over some silky smooth drums and a heavenly acoustic guitar. The acoustic in the background and overall vibe of the song is reminiscent of a Frank Ocean track.
Tory Lanez is able to draw a line between himself and the hundreds of other rap-singers today who use R&B vibes in their rap music by delivering vocal performances that the average person cannot achieve. Tory separates himself from other rap singers with vocal performances such as on “Guns N Roses”, a song that is drowned in deep falsetto and on “High” another vibe-y, falsetto-laced song.
He’s mostly telling the story of his struggle to his musical ascent on this album. On “Loners Blvd” he reminisces on his humble music upbringings over a gentle piano loop. It’s hard not to empathize with Tory on this song when he raps,
“Niggas like “Next year Tory
It’s all good, you’ll be next year’s story”
Then I say “Man, you don’t even understand
Man, I’m droppin’ out now, ain’t no next year for me”
On “To D.R.E.A.M” we get more struggle-to-ascent storytelling raps. I love how the “Just a Little Bit” sample sinks into the deep piano notes, setting the mood somber before Tory roars “All I had to do is dream, baby” on the hook. Tory’s rap flow is very sporadic and peculiar on this song, but at the same time rhythmically in-pocket. It’s hard to dismiss Tory Lanez as simply a singer that raps when he’s spitting verses with a delivery like that. Also, his vocal inflection favors Jay-Z at times on this song.
There’s a fair amount of sing-songy crooning that rappers Fetty Wap and Travis Scott are known for on this album. But Tory doesn’t use it as a crutch though, but rather as a compliment on songs like “To D.R.E.A.M” and “Friends With Benefits”.
Out of all the varied approaches at songs and and rap/vocal techniques, my favorite moment on this album is perhaps “Cold Hard Love”. The production on “Cold Hard Love” almost feels like indie rock or indie pop, like Imagine Dragons or Foster the People. In my opinion, “Cold Hard Love” favors the band “Arctic Monkeys” at some points in the hook’s vocal stylings and also in the production with the depth and tempo of the kick drum. I love how Tory Lanez breaks into rap verse after the short celestial, reverb-y bridge. The track is very cohesive and well-put together. There are so many imperfect nuances in the production alone that make this track a standout favorite.
Some moments on this album can become derivative like the preachy Travis Scott/Fetty Wap-ish crooning singing voice as seen on “Dirty Money” and “4am Flex” and the continued presence of trap drums and snares, which aren’t necessarily overdone, but can become tiring to listen to if you’re tuning into this album for R&B. Also, the rapping content can leave something to be desired.
As a whole, this is a cohesive album with a lot of high points. What’s most impressive is that there are no features on this album. Tory took on the challenge of performing an entire album without a feature, a task that too often proves too tough for even music’s most seasoned veterans. Tory is able to pull this off though because he has multiple styles that he convincingly deploys. There are times on this album where you forget you’re listening to one person. In a good way.
RATING: GOOD album, recommended
Standout songs: “Flex”, “Friends With Benefits (what’s up with the static breaks throughout this song?), “To D.R.E.A.M”, “Luv”, “I Told You / Anotha One”, “Cold Hard Love”, “Guns N Roses”
Sidenote: I caught that Kendrick “The Art of Storytelling” flow/delivery at the end of “4am Flex”!