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Review: Sarah Jay breaks down I Told You by Tory Lanez

Toronto, ONOriginally published Aug. 27, 2016 – Aug. 19 marked a major milestone for 2016 Canadian rap because Tory Lanez officially released his album debut, I Told You (available now via iTunes and other outlets).

This album comes to us after Tory (finally) inked a deal with a major label and signed to Interscope back in 2015. It’s the debut album we’ve been waiting on from young Fargo for years. It’s the backstory behind everything that’s led Tory to where he is now.

Was I Told You better than VIEWS? Definitely. Was I Told You the album Tory could have made? Definitely not. He’s capable of much more. But this was the album the masses needed to induct Tory into the mainstream market.

My biggest beef with the album was the skits. Don’t get me wrong, a strategically placed skit is a goldmine. And a skit that serves as a transitional bridge between songs is a beautiful thing. But aside from the album opener, most of the skits seemed unnecessary. Writing this review actually forced me to dig into the storyline behind the skits. But I still don’t think it works.

Tory Lanez releases album debut, I Told You; sits at No. 2 on iTunes Album chart - HipHopCanada.com

It was pointed out to me by the homie Mizzy (from the KIDS crew) that the album was split (for streaming purposes) into 28 tracks on Spotify and Apple Music. He also pointed out that the skits were likely included more so for business reasons, as opposed artistic ones.

In case you’re not familiar with how album sales are calculated: 1,500 on-demand audio or video streams amounts to one album sale. And 10 single track purchases equates to one full album sale. So while we’re all over here complaining about how there are way too many skits on the album, Tory is banking in on those useless skit streams. I hate that. But it’s mad brilliant.

Here the skit storyline: Basically, the skits (and the tracks on the album) follow Tory through his come up. Tory gets booted out of his grandmother’s house at an early age and finds himself caught in the trap hustle. He gets involved with his homie Nyce who convinces Tory to attempt robbery with him. The robbery doesn’t go as planned and Nyce gets shot. Then Tory’s squad retaliates. Then Tory’s girl leaves him. Then Tory gets signed to Interscope. And here we are, now, today. It’s a great story but it doesn’t translate well on to the album. I feel like the kid should have just made a feature film, instead.


1. I Told You / Another One (Skit 1)

“American raised. Canadian born. My name is Daystar Peterson. One day I’ma be the biggest artist in the whole world. As for right now, though… the year is 2008. I’m 16 years old. This is where my story begins.”

This is the opening skit, and one of the most important bits of dialogue on the album. It’s a condensed backstory of Tory’s come-up. And that first line weighs mad heavy. Geographically speaking, Tory was born in Canada and moved to the U.S. when he was seven years old. But I feel like it could also be a shot fired at the Canadian sheeple for not supporting Tory’s come-up. He had to make it in the U.S. before Canadians started f**king with his music.


2. I Told You / Another One

This two-parter opening track is flamey fire. The song takes on anecdotal form as Tory starts off his album the way a debut album should start off. Tory tells us the story behind how he got into the rap game, how he got into the trap game, and everything else that went down between 2008 and 2009.

This isn’t a track you’ll want to bump in the club or play in the background. If you’re listening to “I Told You / Another One” you’re going to actually have to listen to it. This is the middle finger flipped at anyone who slept on Tory or wouldn’t help the kid out. It’s also a recognition that success is a journey, and that you actually need to be in the rap game for the right reasons. If Tory was only in it for the money, he probably would have just stayed hustling. It’s also a reminder that people will usually only ever start f**king with you after you’ve made it and gotten famous. There is also a bunch of wordplay in reference to former world champion ice skater, Kristi Yamaguchi.


3. I Told You / Another One (Skit 2)

The entire purpose of this skit is to tell us that this one time Tory moved in with his girl.


4. Guns and Roses

I still don’t get how people can hate on Tory for being a singer. This guy is part of the reason why panties can still actually get wet in Canada without freezing over: “What if I told you/ When we make love its like war is going on/ Don’t leave me wounded in this battlefield/ This fight for love, is for sure the prologue.” Like… WHO WRITES LYRICS LIKE THAT? That’s beautiful.


5. Guns and Roses (Skit)

In this skit, Tory is in bed with his girl and his friends want him to go out with them. So he tells his girl to wait up on him so he can go flex with Keisha, Teisha, and the twins.


6. Flex

“Flex” could have easily been titled “I Told You” because it’s the song that brings everything on the album full circle. It’s Tory’s homecoming. He uses the track flex hard and show everyone that he came up from the bottom (like literally… this dude actually started from the bottom), and made it. It also follows the theme of flexing that Tory’s been riding out on lately. He did a collaboration with Joe Budden and Fab titled “Flex”, as well as a collaboration with A$AP Ferg titled “Line Up The Flex.”


7. Flex (Skit)

Tory’s homie Nyce drove Tory and squad to a party and now he wants $5 gas money from everyone. Tory has to give him $10 because Nyce also drove Tory’s girl. It’s like those math problems you had to do in grade school… like how much money Nyce finna get?


8. To D.R.E.A.M

This song is Tory’s encouragement for everyone to keep on dreaming and pursuing what they love. I make it sound super cheesed. But it’s got some of Tory’s best bars on the album: “I came from the bottom of the O/ Never had a pot to piss in but I had the stove and got richer/ N**ga you know what we doin’/ I’ve been hustin’ just to get myself a cuban/ It was all about the butter/ I ain’t stutter/ Ain’t no Ruben.”

Boom! Shots fired at Ruben Studdard! Also Tory brings us – again – this whole idea of people only wanting to f**k with him after he made it big. I feel like that’s messed him up a bit. Because he brings it up on most of the tracks on this album.


9. To D.R.E.A.M. (Skit)

In this skit, Tory’s homie Nyce convinces Tory to rob a man named Chino.


10. 4am Flex

This track follows suit with Tory’s whole “Flex” theme. Tory’s post-robbery plan is to come home to his girl at 4 a.m. so they can have their 4 a.m. flex. Unfortunately, the second half of the song is where things unfold a little differently. The robbery doesn’t go as planned and Nyce gets shot. So instead of going home to his to his girl, Tory has to drive Nyce to the hospital. You really have to be following the album story line to listen to this one. This track is very Kendrick-y, circa Good Kid, M.A.A.D City.


11. 4am Flex (Skit)

Tory and Nyce are driving to the hospital but Nyce insists on Tory dropping him off on the street corner so Tory can hurry home to his girl.


12. Friends with Benefits

Tory makes great love songs. But he also makes great songs about smashing. Dude doesn’t always need to be in love to make a good sex song. The song’s placement (right in the middle of the skit storyline where Tory and his squad are trying to rob people and shit is getting messy) is key. I feel like Tory uses his females as an escape from the rest of his life. A lot of the guy’s tracks are scattered with stories of a struggle come-up, and hunger to push past the obstacles. But whenever he’s under the covers with a female, he don’t seem to have as many problems.


13. Cold Hard Love

“Cold Hard Love” is one of my favourite tracks on the album. That co-production by Play Picasso, Happy Perez, and Tory is too smooth. I love how Tory crafts up these love songs that don’t sound like love songs. He doesn’t stick to this predetermined formula of love songs that we’re so used to hearing. Like… dude is not about the soft warm love. He’s more on the cold hard love tip. But even then, he’s not afraid to fess up that he’s taking it real slow with his girl in the bedroom. And then he catches feels when he sees his girl in his t-shirt.


14. Cold Hard Love (Skit)

“After our little robbery attempt on the East side went bad it was best to lay low. I kicked it at my girl’s house that whole night, the plan was to smoke weed and get high. Little did we know that plan was soon to be cut short.” This skit killed my vibe so hard. “Cold Hard Love” and “High” are the two sexiest tracks on the album. And Tory’s little sideline robbery-and-life decisions storyline killed the mood.


15. High

This is an amazing, amazing afterhours joint. Especially if you are high. This song is pure carnal sexuality, rolled up, sparked, and smoked in a blunt.


16. High (Skit)

Tory is being pulled in two directions. Tory’s homie wants him to gang up and retaliate against Chino (the dude they tried to rob who shot Nyce). But Tory’s girl doesn’t want him to do that. Tory really just wants to make music. But he has to make a decision between his friends and the hustle, or his girl and the music. Despite the fact that this story line is mad difficult to follow, I really like this skit. It’s a universal struggle that I see a lot of guys dealing with. It’s the struggle between music and all the other shit that comes up in life.


17. Dirty Money

This song bangs so hard I think my head exploded. “Dirty Money” is all about the paper chase, and the paper trails. It takes us through a timeline, from Tory not having any money and hustling, to Tory making $20,000 off a verse and therefore being able to spend $20,000 out on a single course of a meal.

You know how Wu-Tang said “Cash rules everything around me”? I feel like this song bodies that. It shows us how cash has always infiltrated everything that’s led Tory to where he is now. But Tory takes the time to stay humble in the second part of the track: “And touching million ain’t gon’ change where we came from.” He knows that no matter how rich he gets, he still has a history and a past that made him who he is today.


18. Dirty Money (Skit)

Tory didn’t listen to his girl and decided to join Nyce in retaliation against Chino.


19. Question Is

This is probably the rawest track on the album because it’s a stripped down, vulnerable look at Tory as a man. This is Daystar Peterson; not Tory Lanez. He’s not trying to “flex” on us, or brag about how much bank he’s making or how much pussy he’s smashing. He uses this track to ask forgiveness. He kicks off the track by admitting that one of his females had three – YES, THREE – abortions for him. And he admits that he knows he’d deserve it if he doesn’t ever get to become a father. He raps about his strained relationship with his father, and how he has step-siblings he has never even met. He raps about wanting to kill another man. And he admits that he still prays to God for forgiveness on the daily.


20. Question Is (Skit)

Tory’s girl broke it off with him because she thought he loved hustling more than he loved her. Tory thought it was important to make a skit about this to foreshadow the next track on the album about him reaching rock bottom.


21. Loners Blvd.

This song is the downfall of Tory Lanez. This is another key backstory behind Tory’s come-up. When I talk to people about Tory Lanez, a lot of people seem to be under the impression that the kid just came out of nowhere and blew on to the scene this year. What people don’t know is the struggle that had to happen in order for Tory to reach his greatness.


22. Loners Blvd. (Skit)

TL;DR: Tory eventually got signed to Interscope.


23. All the Girls

This song is so corny. This is Tory Lanez bubblegum pop music.


24. All the Girls (Skit)

Tory uses this skit to introduce “Say It” and to plug his label. This skit also low-key shows us an artistic transition from underground mixtape mastermind Tory, to major label signee hit-maker Tory: “It seems like things were finally adding up. I had got my music in the right hands and the right people. They signed me to Interscope. It was finally that moment… big boy you making hit records! First record I made was this…”


25. Say It

“Say It” may very well be my favourite Tory Lanez song of all time, mostly because it’s such an anthem. That Pop Wansel beat, and the Brownstone sample. God damn. This song is equal parts turt up, and soft sensuality. This song also bodies Tory’s obsession with people only liking him because of his fame. The hook is aimed at a female who Tory is suspicious of. He wants the ting to prove herself to him and show that her love runs deeper than wanting to leech off young Tory and his wealth.


26. Say It (Skit)

Tory uses a red carpet interview with Angela Smith to bridge the transition between “Say It” and “Luv.” No one cares.


27. Luv

This joint is already a Tory Lanez classic, and one of the 2016 summer love anthems. In case you didn’t already know, the track is basically a remake of “Everyone Falls In Love” by Tanto Metro and Devonte, which uses the riddim “Up Close and Personal,” which was produced by Donovan Germain. I actually chatted about this song with the Deephead fam when I was out in Montreal and the guys brought up a very valid point: this song is deadly (and not necessarily in a good way) because there’s a very real chance you could fall in love while listening to it. This song is a great album closer because it’s exemplary of the new “Interscope Tory” who makes hit songs that everyone knows and loves. And us older Tory fans can’t even be salty about it because the hit songs Tory makes are too good. This is what the entire album has led up to: the 2016 Canadian rap game resurrection, brought to us by the swavey king Tory Lanez.


28. Luv (Skit)

Did Tory really need a 24-second outro of white noise to wrap up the album? Who okayed this?


Twitter: @ToryLanez


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Sarah Jay

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Sarah Jay is HipHopCanada's Associate Editor in Chief. Sarah is based in Calgary and works as a freelance journalist and photographer. Sarah is also a former A&R talent scout for the Universal Music Scouting Program, and runs a vintage store during the day. Sarah has juried the JUNO Awards, The Polaris Music Prize, and The Prism Prize. She has been fortunate enough to interview and photograph some of hip-hop's greatest influencers including Future, ScHoolboy Q, Ghostface Killah, Moka Only, Maestro Fresh Wes, Shad, Joey Bada$$, Mac Miller, and more. Follow Sarah on Twitter: @ThisIsSarahJay

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