Published Aug 19, 2016"American raised, Canadian born," spits 24-year-old Tory Lanez as he introduces I Told You.
Although Lanez's feels like an overnight success story, his debut record has been nearly a decade in the making. In 2009, he gained the attention of Sean Kingston, who quickly signed him to his label, Time Is Money Entertainment, which he then followed up with the first instalment of his Chixtape series. By 2012, Lanez would once again become an independent artist, releasing several mixtapes including 2015 double-releases Chixtape III and The New Toronto.
The 16-track I Told You is a coming of age story that begins in 2008, five years after the death of his mother at the age of 11. Zigzagging his way through the album, Lanez touches on themes of love, loss, life in the streets and the events that got him to his final destination. Lyrically, he offers an intimate view into some of the most troublesome years of his life, including time spent in varying Toronto regions: Driftwood, St. Clair W and, of course, on the TTC 53 Steeles bus route.
Despite cohesive and bold production, largely by Play Picasso, at times it feels as if Lanez has delivered singles here that we've heard before. "Loner's BLVD," one of the stronger singles, is unfortunately a direct offshoot of Drake's "Look What You've Done," and he borrows Kendrick Lamar's cadence in the latter half of "4AM Flex," another could-be strong single otherwise. Lanez channels his own hit single, "Diego," on "Another One," making it feel like something of a repeat.
With the exception of "Question Is," Lanez sounds his best when he's singing, rather than rapping. "Guns and Roses," "Cold Hard Love" and, of course, "Say It" are prime examples of this intersection, while "Luv" and "All The Girls" highlight Lanez's ability to cross genres, if not to perfection, enough to make it believable.
If the goal of I Told You was the make a breakout statement that Tory Lanez isn't hanging up his gloves any time soon, he's succeeded, but he's also did it piggy-backing off of some of the most successful sounds we've heard in music in the past five years. Although I Told You is rich in content and production value, the underdog can only rise to the top when they push everyone out of the way — not when they pickpocket them on the way up. (Universal)