Published Mar 09, 2020Plenty of gangsters gloat, but few have braggadocio like Jay Whiss. "Eatin' lobster bisque / Watchin all my enemies do the opposite" the Toronto MC (famed for his work in supergroup Prime Boys) spits on "Don't Change on Me," the thoroughly catchy opening track on Peace of Mind, his major label solo debut.
Fun as such Tony Montana-worthy lines are, Whiss also balances such 'hood hedonism with genuinely thoughtful bars that make for a well-rounded listen. Mere seconds after that seafood guzzling line, for instance, Whiss rhymes insomnia with nausea and gives us a peak at the neurosis behind his rugged trap facade.
On other tracks, Whiss pries his heart wide open; he thanks the Heavenly Father that he's nothing like his old man on "Back Track," as sampled guitar riffs growl. "Please" finds him recalling his defiantly independent streak in high school, as sinewy synth drones and equally minimalist percussion ring out. The rapper also vividly describes the rivals encroaching like overcast on his once sunny days on "Dark Cloud" (yes the title's on the nose, but Whiss sells it). Better still: Whiss's Prime Boys cohort Jimmy Prime makes one of his trademark melodic guest turns on "Left Me For Dead," before the pair lament the women that broke their hearts, and then pine for "better days." Torontonians will swoon while hearing Whiss and Jimmy lay their pain relatedly bare.
Most gripping of all, however, is Whiss's vivid depiction of grief on closing track "Mind In a Maze." Just try to not shed a tear while hearing his rhymes about visiting a slain friend's grave, as melancholy bass notes flow forth.
The beats (courtesy of star producers like Drake and Migos cohort Murda Beatz, along with Richie Souf, Damian Birdsey and Cubeatz) are as dark and threadbare as the album's 33-minute runtime. And that music creates a tense and foreboding backdrop that subtly thrusts Whiss's more vibrant vocals to the fore.
Many of those instrumentals are danceable, just like many of Whiss's rhymes are full-throated and anthemic. But there are also plenty of surprising nuances in both those notes and the MC's rhymes, making Peace of Mind a powerful solo debut from a member of Toronto's hottest crew. (Universal)