Tory Lanez turns up the nostalgia on “Chixtape 5”

As the 2010s comes to a close, the one thing that this decade will be remembered for is rap music’s complete embrace of R&B aesthetics. Rappers of the 90s and early 00s dipped their toes into R&B through samples and features in their songs. Nowadays the average rapper is both the MC and vocalist. An artist that exemplifies this perfectly is Toronto’s own Tory Lanez.

Heavily influenced by Drake, Tory Lanez for much of the last decade has created a lot of buzz for himself through his distinct sound. On top of showing a knack for mutli-syllabic flows and braggadocios raps, Lanez has shown great versatility as an artist mainly through his signature Chixtape series. The Chixtape series for Lanez has not only been a way to showcase his vocal chops, it’s also been a way to pay homage to a much beloved era of R&B music many younger millennials and older Gen-Z grew up listening to. Specifically, the era of the late 90s to mid-2000s before the rise of Young Money. A time when guys rocked un-tied durags and cartoonish baggy clothes, and when MySpace and 106 & Park was all the rage. The Chixtapes are a celebration of R&B and rap becoming the soundtrack to our daily lives.

Chixtape 5 is the first in the Chixtape series to be on streaming platforms like Apple Music and Spotify; the first four are only available on YouTube and websites like Datpiff and Soundcloud. From production value to the cameos, this might be Lanez’s most ambitious project to date. Like most albums in the series, its production consists of reworked versions of hits like ‘‘I’m Sprung’’ and ‘‘Trade It All’’ made famous by Jagged Edge. But what separates this album from previous ones is Lanez’s recall of the original artists to guest feature on remixed versions of their songs. Notable features include Snoop Dogg who made his appearance on “Beauty in the Benz,” Ludacris for “The Fargo Splash,” and Ashanti for “A Fool’s Take.”

Nowadays, sampling has become the standard operating procedure in pop music, but the best bring something new while keeping the integrity of the original. “A Fools Take” took what was a bare bones piano loop on “Foolish,” replaced it with drum kicks, and essentially turned it into a dancehall song. On “Blowin’ Mine’s,” a piano version of “Let’s Get Blown” is boosted by snappy drums, as Lanez croons on about his resentment for a girl who broke his trust. This is concluded with a brief improvised piano solo that leads as a segue to the next song. The producers took their time to really break down each sample to a science and remake it into entirely different tracks. This way, it gives Lanez free rein to play with whatever flow he chooses. However, that speaks less about Lanez and more about his producers.  

While Lanez is a decent songwriter, his singing voice in auto-tune gets tiresome after a while. Similar to Lil Uzi and Bryson Tiller, he sings the way most rappers try to sing. He just doesn’t have a natural singing voice the way Brent Faiyaz and Chris Brown do and it shows. The skits played between songs weren’t out of place, but did feel somewhat forced, especially with the story’s plot twist in the end. Though, given how these skits are part of an overarching narrative being told in the Chixtape series, this is only a mere nitpick.

While the remixes were creative enough to stand out on their own, it only brings comparisons and attention to the original, taking away much of this album’s replay value and overall appeal.

All that being said, Chixtape 5 was an enjoyable listen despite its length. It appeals very well to a certain niche of R&B fans. The project is much more elaborate than its contemporaries with a few exceptions. Overall, Chixtape 5 is a solid yet unremarkable concept album of today’s R&B.