MUSIC

"Chixtape 5" Is Absolute Joy, but Where Will Tory Lanez Go from Here?

The multifaceted musician has become a sort of hip-hop Annie Oakley, but his artistic identity remains a mystery

Tory Lanez has always been incredibly multifaceted.

He's demonstrated a quickfire lyrical ability as a rapper and has proven he can go bar for bar with some of today's best rappers. He's an equally talented producer and is a versatile, self-taught singer with a powerful range that has only improved over the years. He can dominate radio-ready R&B with the ferocity and commercial sensibilities of Chris Brown, but he can also co-exist in an Afrobeats soundscape with ease. Lanez plans to release his first Spanish Reggaeton album, titled El Agua, in October of next year. But his musical ambidexterity has been cultivated out of a need to demonstrate his prowess. His Grammy-nominated breakthrough single, "Luv," is interpolated in a Tanto Metro and Devonte song. One of his most highly streamed tracks is a remix of Drake's "Controlla," with over 17 million listens. He is frequently accused of ripping off other artists and has, in the past, fielded accusations of plagiarism.

But that's why the Chixtapes platform has been the perfect format for Lanez. It's exactly as advertised–each of the projects offers a modern interpretation of a different era in R&B– and gives Lanez the creative liberty to expand on and flip the songs of his R&B idols without having to worry about accusations of mimicry.

Tory Lanez and T-Pain - Jerry Sprunger (Official Music Video) www.youtube.com

Chixtape 5, the latest in the anthology, is a culmination of everything that made the series so endearing in the first place. Its call back to the early aughts is perfectly correlated with today's cultural climate, and his eye for detail, all the way down to the Sidekick in Ashanti's hand on the album cover, is uncanny. His powerful guest list only adds to the project's nostalgia. Hearing T-Pain back in action on "Jerry Sprunger" is an absolute joy, and regardless of your current stance on Chris Brown, hearing him and Tory bring new life to the former's 2007 smash "Take You Down" is electric. While the charm does wear thin at times—a few tracks meander for a tad too long—overall, Chixtape 5 does its job and reaffirms that Lanez can, indeed, do anything.

But four albums in, and it still seems like we're no closer to knowing who the real Tory Lanez is. "I've always wanted to say something along the lines of 'I did this'...I always wanted to have those accolades and accomplishments," he told Billboard. Tory Lanez has a habit of getting in his own way, and over the course of four albums he's chosen to flex his muscles rather than carve out his own identity. He has demanded respect for years and has fought tooth and nail to paint himself as a hip-hop Annie Oakley, but in the process he's backed himself into a creative corner. The indecisiveness of where he wants to go as an artist becomes slightly more apparent with each release, but then again, whatever he's doing is working, and that indecisiveness is not necessarily a bad problem to have.

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MUSIC

Jacquees Remains Cute and Impossible to Ignore

His sophomore album "King of R&B" is nothing groundbreaking, but it's dripping in charisma

It's impossible to hate Jacquees.

His voice is silky smooth, his smile is genuine, he's candid and calm in interviews, he's cute, he can even dance a little. His creative style is unique enough to stand out among his modern-day contemporaries but is referential enough to the '90s that even listeners above the age of 40 will find ways to connect with him. He seems to be an old soul, immune to the petty drama that plagues the current mainstream music scene.

When The Breakfast Club tried to poke and prod at Jacquees's brief online scrimmage with XXL Freshman YK Osiris earlier this year, Jacquees dismissed it with a shrug: "I don't know who that is." When asked about his love life, he emphatically said that he wants a family and that he remains loyal to his love interest Dreezy. He is confident enough in his craft to name his album the King of R&B but humble enough to immediately acknowledge this self-proclaimed title by no means makes him "The Best." "Every day, a star is born," he sings on the T.I.-assisted opener, "and if we talkin' kings, there's more than one."

Jacquees - Fact Or Fiction www.youtube.com

As a result, the 25-year-old's sophomore effort should be viewed more like a mission statement. It trades the sprinkles of creative risk seen in 4275 for a more refined, commercial sound, with songs like "New, New" and "What They Gone Do With Me" existing solely for radio takeover. Moments of mass appeal like this have already begun to draw criticism. "The album's production is synthetic to the point of being shallow," writes EXCLAIM! "Jacquees tries hard to emulate his heroes, instead of letting himself be inspired by them."

The criticism is fair, but in the world of commercial R&B, Jacquees is still circling the A-team, with Tory Lanez and Chris Brown—both frequent collaborators and close friends—touring together this summer and having their biggest year to date. King of R&B, with features from heavy-hitters like Quavo, Summer Walker, Lil Baby, Young Thug, and Gunna, reaffirms Jacquees's well-deserved seat at the table. The tracks are earworms in the best way, and you can't hate on the guy's vivacity. The album is an easy listen, but with tracks like "Fact or Fiction" and "Warning," we also see a more refined Jacquees that should quiet the critics who will inevitably call him a sell-out. King of R&B or not, Jacquees's charisma remains infectious.