Detroit, or The D as those in the know call it, likes it's hip hop like it likes it's streets: grimey. Well that might be a bit offside as I've only ever driven by Detroit, not actually been in it, but it looked mighty grimey in 8 Mile. What I'm trying to say is that Detroit produces hip hop that is for the most part, pretty non-commercial. Royce 5'9, JayDee, and Slum Village have all come out of Detroit and had some success, but they've done so making music that is tilted more towards the underground than commercial rap sounds. Next out of the Motor City to try his luck at the big time rap game, is Big Tone, a rapper/producer who's releasing his debut album, The Drought.
I believe Big Tone did all the production on his album, and really, I'm not mad at it. He usually has some boom bap drums in the mix, which gives his tracks an old school sound. He's also a fan of samples and he mentions the jams he sampled for the beat on One Hour Session
, but they're bleeped out to preserve his secrets. Or perhaps it's because they didn't clear the samples. Unless I'm mistaken, the drums are from Express Yourself of NWA and Charles Wright & Watts 103rd Street Rhythm fame. Tone does use a few of the sped-up soul samples that people seem to be shitting on since Kanye drove them into the ground, but it doesn't bother me much. I mean, they still sound cool. The fact that Kanye "Sweater Vest" West used a crapload of them shouldn't ruin it for everyone. Good Ole Days
reminds me of a Ghostface track with the soul samples playing in the background the whole time. Girl
is a catchy ode to the independent ladies built on a drum track that almost sounds like a beat box and a bouncy baseline. Come My Way
and Turn My World
are a couple jams that use the "sped up soul samples" I mentioned earlier, but they're really both just classic hip hop beats with deep banging drums, so I enjoy both. Perhaps the only beat that didn't work for me is It's So Hard
as it sounds a bit like a Karaoke backing track.
Lyrically, Big Tone is sort of a solid blue-collar MC. Tone speaks on his world, on getting his rap game hustle on in the D. He's got a good flow and he keeps things pretty realistic, not thugged out, so it works pretty well. But I would suggest that the next time out, he might want to investigate some different subject matter. Girl is a positive jam for the ladies, and Good Ole Days talks about Tone's memories of back in the day, but the rest of the songs all seem to be variations of kicking it in the hood and trying to make it in the rap game. Which is I guess where Tone's at these days, but it does sort of blend the songs together.
Quick thought: if you're an unknown MC (outside your hometown) and putting out your debut album on a small(ish) record label, you might want to re-think titling a song Rap Stars
. Especially when it's the most generic song on the album and features a guest MC (not sure if it's Phal or Beej) who sounds like a cross between a female MC and Lil Romeo.
Of his debut, Tone says "'The Drought' is my 'Illmatic'. It's my 'Reasonable Doubt'". Pretty big expectations for your debut, but if Big Tone goes on to do big things, the comparison might ring true. That won't happen unless lots of people hear this album, so if you're looking for a straight-ahead hip hop album with some underground style, The Drought is worth a listen.