These are among the first words uttered by Jazz Cartier on "Guardian Angel," the opening track off the 22-year-old Toronto rapper's highly anticipated debut project. He first landed on people's radars last year after a string of well-received singles, but Marauding In Paradise has been in the works for several years. Perhaps that's why for a debut, it's incredibly cohesive and well-sequenced, a portrait of a young artist coming of age and grappling with paranoia, personal and professional allegiances and his own mortality.
While there's no denying the light Drake has cast on the city — a fact Cartier (a.k.a. Jacuzzi La Fleur) nods to when he says "I'm from Toronto where they call it the Six, tell labels don't call unless they offering six" ("Secrets Safe/Local Celebrity Freestyle") — he has more in common stylistically with A$AP Rocky's braggadocio or Travi$ Scott's bloodcurdling yelps. Cartier's Toronto is a more sinister mecca, a downtown landscape of basement apartments, drug-fuelled nightclubs and smoke-filled after-hours'.
The bulk of the production is handled by Michael Lantz, the rapper's right hand man who has described the project as "cinematic trap," a fitting descriptor for the dark electro and orchestral flourishes. Many of the best songs here are suites; the beats dovetail, changing tempo midway, frequently taking left turns like incorporating '90s Atlanta R&B youth group Mista's "Blackberry Molasses" ("Guardian Angel") and sampling Toro Y Moi and dialogue from a 2011 indie rom-com ("Rose Quartz/Like Crazy").
Over the course of 16 tracks, Cartier proves himself to be a captivating and versatile storyteller, equally comfortable dispatching competition on the no-holds-barred "Switch" and "The Downtown Cliché" (the latter the musical equivalent of a string of flame emojis) as he is recounting a doomed relationship on "Too Good To Be True." In an age where people argue about the distinction between albums and mixtapes, Marauding In Paradise arrives more fully formed than many major label premieres, and serves as a compelling introduction to a rapper who clearly plans on being around for a while. (Independent)