Artist: Tone DeffTitle: ArchetypeRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Paine
In a rare move of Hip-hop selflessness, Tonedeff has put others before himself. Besides a short-run, but much talked about debut EP, Underscore, Tonedeff has lived off of 12s and released his friends music first on his QN5 label. Still, from his guest shots, the battles, and his touring, Tonedeff is still a luminary within the underground community. The years were long rumored to have built up to an earth-shattering debut LP. The title lives up to the hype, but will the musical contents of Archetype (Freshchest) match up?
In 2003, Tonedeff revealed emotional vulnerability and personal accounts amidst a slick flow and pounding wordplay on Cunninlynguists Love Aint. That trait and theme is furthered on the albums runaway moment, Porcelain. Like a Rock ballad, part of the songs magic is in the ego behind it. Tone reveals failure on his part, as well as strong disillusion in recounting chasing the it girl of his youth. Quotables is another great moment, connecting Tone to his Efamm crew. Although every member delivers, perhaps it is Wordsworth that beckons to be quoted in his uncompromising verse with These are similes, stop mixing the two/ A no-talent ass, thats a description metaphor for you. Other moments, such as Pervert are extremely self-indulgent, and caught somewhere between goofy and playful. Tones subject matter varies greatly, as does his delivery. Singing in several places, the MC can begin his speedy flow at any given point. This feels new in Tonedeffs body of work, but sets a precedent that the mainstream may have over-simplified. In any case, Tonedeff didnt tread lightly into this new water.
Although Tonedeff has rapped his way into a reputation, his production hasnt. Archetype features the usual suspects in DJ Kno, Elite, and Domingo. However, Tone carries the bulk of the weight himself. From classic drum tracks with horn arrangements on Quotables, to pure piano solo on Overture, Tone runs the gamut. Throughout most of his work, Tone proves his deft keyboard skills much less electric sounding than Just Blaze or Fred Wreck. That thicker sound is delivered courtesy of Domingo on Case Closed. Musically, this album takes plenty of risks. As with the singing, it puts Tones abilities in a vulnerable place. Lets Go and Politics bode stronger than Gathered or Children.
Archetype challenges Tonedeffs audience. This album puts a great deal of trust in the listener in terms of subject matter, style, and everything. However, for a dearly awaited debut, it satisfies all of Tones audience in various places: the witty cypher, the nymphomaniac, the torn isolationist, and the social commentator. Individually, these moments work strongly. As an entire unit, the rapid program changes feel sudden and risky. Just as Pigeon Johns Sings the Blues, this album may win ears while shunning others, but Tonedeff has courageously delivered his magnum opus with supreme individuality to cut away from a densely populated Hip-hop community.