Published Aug 08, 2014"This is for the 416," croons a sombre Tre Mission at the start of Stigmata, the 22-year-old Toronto emcee's first label-backed album. Known internationally as a rising grime rap talent, at home Tre remains somewhat obscure. Familiar hometown cues, like "5 in the morning" Danforth and Don Mills bus shout-outs seep into this album's lyrics, but Tre's musical scope, for better or for worse, aims for much more than just The 6. Production takes equal parts modern hip-hop and trap and blends them with U.K. garage and grime sounds, sprinkling in hints of dubstep.
Lyrically, Tre's rapid-fire, youthful braggadocio is flanked by glimmering moments of introspection along the way. Canadian veteran rappers K-os and Saukrates add fulfilling — if a bit tired — features, but it's English grime rapper Skepta's standout appearance on "In The Hallway" that really shines, delivering an apt shot at Miley Cyrus and the duality of popstar relevance. Stigmata's title track, with its yearning theme and emotionally quickening beat, showcases Tre Mission's delicate artistic balance of two different musical worlds.
And therein lies Tre Mission's current challenge: simultaneously playing the roles of North America's chair ambassador and chief export of U.K.-influenced grime rap. There is conceptual maturity, lyrical reflectiveness and instrumental variety on Stigmata. That it's tightly packed into 13 tracks makes a good case that Tre Mission might just be up to the task. (Big Dada)