When the highly anticipated Chixtape V dropped last friday, the internet had mixed emotions. Some people were pleasantly pleased with nostalgia, remembering the golden days of 106&Park or the burned CD’s they used to stack up in a case. And some people felt like Tory Lanez dropped the ball, claiming that the project was underwhelmingly not worth the wait because it made them want to listen to the sampled songs as opposed to Tory’s flip.With that being said, there’s one question that floats across our minds: what were you expecting? Since its second installment — which featured samples from TLC’s “No Scrubs, Ginuwine’s “Pony”, and the All That theme song — the Chixtape series earned its stripes by serving as an R&B project that cleverly gave us just enough of the songs we’ve previously appreciated with a new twist. There should have been no expectation to hear the old songs in full, or they would’ve been played initially rather than someone choosing to click on Tory Lanez’s version. Fans who understood this idea got Christmas a little early in the form of a 18-song pack. But “fans” who didn’t, immediately underappreciated the best R&B project of the year.
Mostly from Tory’s iteration of The Proud Family theme song, Chixtape 4 marked the mixtape evolution from underground to mainstream. After breaking the internet upon its release, Tory Lanez opted to drop the fifth edition officially (for sale), but with that decision also vowed to make sure that it was worth all the extra emphasis he was putting on it. His marketing was impeccable, catering to the young crowd of twenty-something’s that exclusively remember the first silhouette-based iPod commercials that he used for one of his teasers. The website for Chixtape V had the same layout as a Myspace page. His exclusive album merch ranged from airbrushed t-shirts to gold nameplate necklaces. Just days before the album dropped, Tory released a promo video that urged fans to guess what samples would be on the project, crossing CD’s over one another with a Nokia phone in the corner. And of course, he had Murda Inc.’s first lady Ashanti looking tastier than a warm honey bun on the cover. Everything about this project screamed throwback, even more so than any other Chixtape before. And to make that point even clearer, he recruited nearly each and every artist that ran the charts in the 2000s.
The albums single, “Jerry Sprunger”, was assisted by T-Pain, whose banger “I’m Sprung” lived as the original sample. When the song was teased months ago on T-Pain’s Instagram story, it didn’t resonate that he would be one of 16 artists that would go back in the booth and refine their old classics. The feature list of this project was as strong as it could get, bringing older artists like Mya and 112 out the cut, while also using artists like Ludacris and Fabolous to take us back down memory lane. In the previous tapes — other than one feature from Jacquees — Tory Lanez respectively took the featureless route. But as he revealed in an interview with Billboard, the idea of enlisting T-Pain and Ashanti on two records gave him inspiration to keep adding on artists. Not only did 16 artists agree, 16 artists showed up as well. Although their music already connected at a certain point in history, our favorite singers and rappers used the Chixtape V opportunity to regain the crowns they once held. With the return of Carribbean Tory that murked Drake’s “Controlla” and DJ Khaled’s “Wild Thoughts”, Lloyd penned an impressive verse on “Thoughts”, effortlessly stamping heavy heartbreak lyrics in full soprano tone. On “The Take”, which was an instant favorite, Tory Lanez and Chris Brown traded verses in what felt like an R&B cypher, using the same speedy flow that will lose you in its melody. And Uncle Snoop famously rode the beat of “Beauty in the Benz”, giving us at least one “izzurp” to laugh at. Despite fans having mixed emotions about there being features on majority of the project, with over 40 samples, adding another prominent voice to each song was a carefully curated move to keep listeners interested. It was widely said on Twitter that Tory should’ve just ripped these songs by himself. But when he was solo, the project hit its only low points.
The album’s anticipation seems to have breeded pressure. So much even, that between selecting artists and clearing samples, Tory Lanez didn’t even have the chance to put his best foot forward. There were a few notable moments on this album where his flows felt forced. On songs like “Blowin’ Mine’s” and “Luv Ya Gyal”, Tory Lanez was so focused on creating something special that he lost himself in the world of musicality that he’s previously mastered. His flow doesn’t sync with the beat, abruptly turning your ears off of the project that was likely flowing well before. It’s just, off – a sound that’s also heard at the end of “Jerry Sprunger”. When the song was first teased, there was no slowed down outro, and it should’ve stayed that way. “Jerry Sprunger” is one of the catchiest songs on the project but the ending disrupts the entirety of the melody. It comes in rough, and even Tory’s ad-libs seemed accidentally delayed. These moments occur one too many times on Chixtape V, making it harder to listen to than it should be at some points. When Tory’s flows were off, the album was saved by the backend work of Play Picasso.
Throughout everyone on this album, Play Picasso is the real MVP. If you’re not hip, he’s the one responsible for bringing these Chixtape’s to life with their production. Sampling is essential in the worlds of hip-hop and R&B, but Play Picasso’s method allows the samples to hit more than usual. In most cases, it’ll go like this: the sampled beat quietly cooks up as an introduction (“Yessir”), letting listeners know exactly what hit they’re about to hear. Seconds later, Picasso adds his flare with simplistic cadences that are mounted perfectly within the rhythm (“A Fools Tale”). And lastly, throughout the song, he interpolates the catchiest parts of the sampled chorus, allowing you to sing along as you dive in and out of the old and new songs that are simultaneously being presented together (“Best of You // Busted”). Play Picasso has showed out on each Chixtape, laying the smoothest foundation for Tory and his recruited guest features to glide across. As mentioned earlier, Chixtape V tackled a deep archive of songs that includes Fab’s “Can’t Let You Go”, 112’s “U Already Know”, and Mario’s “Crying Out For Me” in the same flip that samples Kanye’s “Runaway”. The production from Play Picasso works as a rewind button, taking you back as many times as you please to the scene where you fell with these artists, beats, and melodies. Aside from the beats, the skits are “must see” auditory previews.
In Tory’s situation, things have gotten a little messy if you couldn’t tell. Why? Please allow us to explain. These Chixtapes are given to girls as Tory’s form of expression, starting with Chixtape 2. In the intro, Tory Lanez reveals his love for a classmate named Jalissa. Being the self-proclaimed smooth talker that he is, he bags her but like most adolescent young men, feels the need to get a little extra serving on his plate. So he links with another shorty named Keisha, who’s interestingly Jalissa’s best friend. In “Keisha’s Intro” on Chixtape 3, it’s clear that Tory doesn’t care about dealing with friends, but once she finds out, Jalissa does. How could she not? Tory’s homeboy tries to warn him that the two girls are onto him and his shenanigans, but Tory brushes it off. Bad idea. Chixtape 4 is an ode to Tory’s next fling which is Keisha’s sister. And in Chixtape V, the three girls announce in true Powerpuff Girl fashion that they’re aware, and out to reclaim the embarrassment Tory caused them. So they set him up to fall in love with a girl named Leah, who’s introduced just a few songs in. At the end of the album, after making love to her in the back of his car, Jalissa, Keisha, and Keisha’s sister pull up on Tory and explain that it was all a $500 gig that Jalissa fronted to get revenge. Leah feels uncomfortable with it all because it’s not only grimey but she also ended up legitimately falling for Tory in the process. Disappointed, Tory excludes himself from the situation but to get his final words out, he sends Leah Chixtape 6, teasing the next installment.
The evolution of Tory’s skits is one of the many gems that live within Chixtape V. In a now deleted tweet, Tory Lanez explained that listeners couldn’t nearly catch everything he put into this project from the first few listens. He was right, there is certainly a lot that you won’t catch musically and theatrically, not even after reading this. But one thing you will catch is a flashback to when R&B prioritized sound over vibes. And if you forgot what that sounds like, or more importantly feels like, go ahead and click on Chixtape V.