You Think It’s A-Game: Examining the Toronto Rap Sound

If you haven’t read Slava P’s interview with Donald Glover, you should. One of the only things that Torontonians can agree upon is  that A-Game, the local identical twin rappers, had...
By    November 1, 2013

novxchasewebIf you haven’t read Slava P’s interview with Donald Glover, you should.

One of the only things that Torontonians can agree upon is  that A-Game, the local identical twin rappers, had last year’s song of the summer with “Money Made Me Do It.” It was catchy, joyous and illogical (who buys a crib after they’ve already bought a villa?). This helped it dominate the local radio waves and attract the attention of the second most famous Toronto rapper alive – Kardinal Offishal – for a remix guest verse. In spite of the song’s 2012 release, A-Game stretched out the mileage by waiting over a year to release the accompanying video, and using it as a springboard to promote their new mixtape: Boarding Pass.

Let’s address the elephant in the room. Since they’re identical twins, there’s absolutely zero distinction to the way they sound in your headphones. They don’t even mention their individual identities when they start a verse a la Migos … or at all. I literally had to search out the fact that their individual monikers are Chase & Nova since it’s never mentioned in the music. This means that unless there’s going to be an accompanying video for each song to help me understand which rapper is rhyming which verse (this still won’t help, since they also sport matching haircuts and tattoos), I’ll be to referring to A-Game in the singular.

HIS mixtape, Boarding Pass, comprises 12 songs that don’t break any new musical ground, but does a lot to reinforce the idea of a signature Toronto sound. What are some of the commonalities in the music coming from Toronto, as illustrated by the music on Boarding Pass? Aquatic beats, punctuated by heavy drums and rapid snares; unbridled worship towards the Houston music scene with an emphasis on slowed-down beats and booming vocals; attempting to sing in spite of an obvious lack of talent in that field; and employing Drake-colloquialisms throughout your project (both the phrase “best I ever had” and “started from the bottom” are mentioned with no wink). Although a lot of these sonic techniques were made famous by The Beige God, A-Game seems to be placing a bet on the fact that success will strike twice if the formula is followed.

There are some memorable cuts on the album, like the chopped-and-screwed “F.O.S” or the infectious “Uh Huh”, proving that A-Game is still capable of creating hit songs like “Money Made Me Do It.” The songs on the project aren’t meant to be overly lyrical, nor are they flash-in-the-pan attempts at creating something for right now. It’s a plateau that’s above average, but it’s still a plateau. The missteps on Boarding Pass come at the tail end of the album, which contains the porn-sampled “Just Like That” and teeters on annoying and Tyga-esque. While on the penultimate track “It’s Nothing,” A-Game makes the mistake of putting Rich Kidd on as the only guest feature – and having his verse eclipse all of the raps you’ve listened to since pressing play.

Nothing on Boarding Pass is new if you’ve been following popular music in the last three years. As far as blatant Toronto paint-by-numbers projects that were released in 2013 go, I enjoyed A-Game’s attempt at a braggadocios So Far Gone more than I enjoyed Torey Lanez trying to make a version of Good Kid Maad City that sounds like an R&B album. It’s not different, but it makes a statement in the way that it’s similar. Drake and 40 have been around long enough to start impacting new artists, so maybe projects like Boarding Pass are the result. For better or worse, this is the Toronto sound.

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