Ever since we were given the Jerry Sprunger snippet at the beginning of the year, Chixtape 5 has been shrouded in nothing but anticipation. The noughties-inspired project built on the foundations that the previous tapes set; by sampling artists at the apex of the RnB era. As if remixing their songs wasn't enough, he furthered the Chixtape concept and had some of the original artists feature. In a recent interview with Billboard, Fargo referred to this body of work as "inspired by the times when things were golden for us. I think all those pieces and everything that we've come out with has been all about nostalgia". It makes perfect sense why his Chixtape formula has evolved and why it has come about now. There is an ebb and flow to the way RnB has been consumed since the late 90s and arguably peaking in the 2000s. Black people were indisputably the pioneers of the genre and movement, to the point where the influence of the music seeped into other aspects of the culture like fashion, tv and film. Seeing black faces in music videos was normalised until the cultural impact that RnB held started to dip and fade. The current re-emergence of RnB on a big scale is almost cyclical. The cultural impact is steadily growing and branching out into other industries as a result. From 6lack to SZA and Summer Walker, their sounds and styles are different to 2000s RnB but still rooted in the music created before them. It's as if their works were a template for future artists to build upon, and Tory Lanez took it as literally as possible.
You can't talk about the album without speaking about the features. It's easy to see how much faith each feature artist had in their individual song, as well as the entire album by how hard they went for their verses. I really believe that there wasn't a mediocre contribution from any of them- including Tory himself.
He was able to hold his own with all of the guest appearances. With that being said, some of the those involved went above and beyond. T-Pain on Jerry Sprunger reminded every single person listening who he was. His verse and backing vocals blended perfectly with Lanez's interpretation of his own breakout track. Let that sink in. The Fargo Splash came as a surprise to me. Not because I didn't think Ludacris had that in him, rather, it was reminiscent of flows on his 2001 album Word of Mouf. His voice may have sounded slightly different, but the similarity in his cadence was uncanny. Ludacris made that track. And last but not least, The Take was incredibly fitting for various reasons. Tory mentioned that one of the inspirations, production-wise, was Chris Brown's Indigo album. The pitch of the background vocals worked well with sounds from the early 2000s. The fact that their vision aligned musically meant that this number was always going to stand above other features.
Although the feature line-up is something that can only be described as legendary, the tracks I enjoyed the most were the ones with just Tory. The way in which he is able to rework an instrumental that already has bags of notoriety is unmatched. The Canadian rapper does this in a similar way throughout all the Chixtapes, cutting in and out of the original sample with short rests and pauses. But the standout solo track was Blowin' Mine's. He completely changed the flow and tempo in comparison to the original, Let's Get Blown. And the icing on the cake was the piano breakdown that kept the melody of the sample.
A special mention to Yessir. Also to Broken Promises, which was the only original song on the album that fit seamlessly with the overall theme.
Yes, this can be considered a good album but it's far from perfect. When ranking all Chixtape projects (based on concept, samples and quality of music), it's very much middle of the pack. Conceptually, Chixtape 5 is miles ahead of the others with the addition of the features and outstanding marketing. The skits created the story of his love affair with Leah in his most imaginative way yet and the journey is complemented by the order of the tracks. But the depth of the idea is essentially a double-edged sword. Guest appearances from artists were a nice touch but weren't completely necessary. The focus was taken away from what Tory does best, and that's making someone else's song his own. And this is a similar narrative when you look at the samples. Many of the other Chixtapes, especially Chixtape 3, utilised instrumentals just enough to let you know where the song came from but not enough to fixate on the original. Even though he stayed on brand but not using obvious samples, there weren't many he manipulated in his usual fashion. There are 2 or 3 songs that rivalled the originals, whereas Chixtape 4 and 3 forced me to recognize the tracks as new versions- not even remixes.
The quality of Chixtape 5 is undeniable, but that is more testament the artist's growth as a musician and producer. The main critique is one that seems to be a constant problem for him and that is identity. Being nostalgic doesn't exempt him from adding his personality to the music. His character isn't non-existent, just considerably quieter than the sound he is trying to replicate. It's less of a drawback on Chixtapes but it isn't something that he can avoid addressing for much longer.
Chixtape 5 definitely achieved his mission of taking the listeners on a journey through the culturally rich era of RnB. The Chixtapes are all a unique experience that Tory has created but this addition to his catalogue is one I feel will always fall just shy of the top spot.