Movements: Alternative R&B, Old School R&B
Lane: Drake, early The Weeknd, SWV
Toronto is a city of heartbreak and longing in a time where relationships are murkier than ever. Naturally, Toronto’s sound reflects that, sombre, dark ambiance floods the city. But 96 grew up listening to 90’s and 2000’s R&B, where yearning and heartbreak tracks were almost danceable. 2019’s R&B exists on the opposite end of the spectrum and yet 96 grasps both at the same time. GOIN96HOST 2 is distinctly today’s Toronto but its brilliance lies in 96’s ability to pull other times and sounds to the 6ix.
Off rip, 96 wears his influences on his sleeves, ‘comedowns’ and ‘interlude’ draw directly from House of Balloons. The Weeknd’s hollow ambiance permeates GOIN96HOST 2 but never fully envelopes it. 96 finds the meeting point between old and new as the album pours on. GOIN96HOST 2 mostly trades rumbling 808’s and rattling high hats for kicks and claps. And that hollow ambiance plays backup, creating space for 96 pushing the track from glossy hook to hook on ‘brand nu benz’. Between an addicting Pokemon-like jingle, claps and delicate hi-hats 96’s vocals while “ridin’ round town in my brand new benz” give just enough to leave you asking for more.
GOIN96HOST 2 always has elements pulling you back through the dance video worthy production, smooth hooks or slick samples. Even when incorporating voices from the past, they slide through the filter of the 6ix. While 96 tells women that “he’s nothing like these other dudes” SWV deliver their vocals with the underwater effect on ‘time’. Between dancing synths, humming 808’s and light kicks the vintage (yes the 90’s are vintage now) trio seamlessly act as 96’s wingwomen telling his muse to “use your heart and not your eyes” when it comes to loving him.
96 likes to position himself as the unrequited lover or spurned partner but the reality is nebulous. The lyrics of longing on ‘wifey’ morph into “trying to get bitches in a mood” on ‘brand nu benz’. The (Toronto slang riddled) skit at the end of the track also reveals that the girl 96 thought was his was just playing him. 96 claims he’s “nothing like these other dudes” but is vindictive on ‘dsrve’ and doesn’t “give a fuck “bout who came with ya” while singing over a plodding piano, punchy kicks and claps.
96 is a product of his environment and he perpetuates it; his relationships are as murky as they are mercurial. And after getting caught caring too much about someone that saw him as a single night, he calcifies. Even when the sound of 96’s music distances it’s self from Toronto, GOIN96HOST 2‘s narrative he never truly leaves the 6ix. GOIN96HOST 2 is Toronto all the way down to the voicemail at the end of ‘interlude’ so when 96’s sound slides along R&B’s spectrum it still resonates.
Fire: brand nu benz, time, fine time, dsrve
Ice: wifey, mary jane