Tory Lanez is finally an independent artist. After spending five years locked into a contract with Interscope Records for five albums, The New Toronto 3 marks his final project with the label. Lanez clearly understands the insatiability of fans today and in those five years, managed to also drop a handful of mixtapes. Every year, fans stick their hands out looking for a new batch of songs cooked up by their favourite artist. And every year that recipe has slightly more high hats, a few more synths or more auto-tuned inflections. But that core flavour is still at the heart of it.
As time passes, it’s become harder to determine what Tory Lanez’s flavour is anymore.
Versatility is an asset in 2020, it just needs to remain grounded. Tory Lanez’s longtime collaborator, Play Picasso‘s production spans over the vast majority of The New Toronto 3 and yet constantly changes shape. He paints an epic space filled with stomps, choir and grand strings for Lanez to brag about his “Shooters on go” on ‘Pricey & Spicy’. It’s grand, braggadocious and nearly morose in a way that makes it uniquely Lanez’s work.
And yet, descending through the track list also means the dilution of his presence. Instead of becoming a chameleon, Lanez turns copycat, xeroxing other rappers flows and sounds. The single ‘Broke in a Minute,’ is a ‘Shotta Flow’ clone but in flow only, using a whirling sax and Lanez’s uninspired lyrics to mask the difference. All the while, ‘Letter to the City 2‘ and ‘MSG 4 GOD’S CHILDREN‘ are Drake songs all the way down to the keys, backup vocals, reminiscing, “shrimps, scallops, and calamari.”
Lanez is a man of many voices and yet very few of them are original. ‘Do The Most‘ is one of the albums few highlights, it’s a pop-rap romp fit with LA stomps, trap high-hats and a boisterous Lanez. But it’s also done with a rework of Lanez’s hook on 6ix9ine’s ‘KIKA’ two years ago, and an Offset impersonation for the chorus. And by continuously bouncing between styles The New Toronto 3 morphs into an collection of sounds instead of a consistent, toned project.
Soon, the album shifts to Lanez singing over slow romantic strings and rattling high hats on ‘Penthouse Red’. With layers of effects, Tory Lanez can work wonders and his catalogue is a testament to that but when isolated as it is on The New Toronto 3, his voice can’t hold its own. Every lovesick line is formed from strained vocals instead of dulcet tones. The clarity in Lanez’s voice that once propelled his songs is absent, leaving tracks woefully unpolished and short of his calibre.
Indiscriminately, songs slam against one another without any regard for cohesiveness. Braggadocio meets gloom and strings meet keys without anything to sew them together except Lanez’s lacklustre lyrics. Lanez isn’t a wordsmith and doesn’t need to be – ‘P.A.I.N’ is proof of that – yet he consistently leans on beat pauses (as if The New Toronto 3 isn’t jarring enough) as if his lyrics are truly profound when he’s really dropping bars like “Shit, I used to hit that pot up with that finger-roll” and “Then I puff with my girls like Buttercup with a Blossom.”
Through Tory Lanez’s (sneakily) 11 year run he’s bounced between sounds and repurposed old ones. Tory Lanez has admitted to holding back his best material from Interscope and The New Toronto 3 looks like a casualty of that quagmire. Somehow, so far into his career Lanez is still stuck imitating his contemporaries instead of expanding his own recipe for success.