Tony Touch :: The Piece Maker II :: Koch Records
as reviewed by Fat Tony

Everybody loves Tony Toca. Not only is he the embodiment of true Nuyorican soul and flavor, he has also become one of the fundamental pillars of New York Hip-Hop. Tony represents solely for his peoples on the block, and for that he is loved. His tireless presence has been felt all over Hip-hop culture for close to two decades now, permeating every aspect of the culture with his exponentially prolific efforts. Tony Touch has proved that he can do it all; from touching the mic to controlling the 1's and 2's (and everything in between), Tony has had some impact on everything that is Hip-Hop. He has successfully elevated the medium of the mixtape to an art form by making it the truest form of expression for the DJ, and he set the standard with classic releases like his "50 Emcees" series of tapes. Years of self-produced tapes and continuous gigs behind the wheels for just about everyone in Hip-Hop led to his full-length album debut, The Piece Maker in 2000 (considered a classic in its own right) and since then everyone has been eagerly awaiting its follow up; Piece Maker II.

This time the sequel not only meets expectation, but, at times, actually manages to exceed the original. Just about every track on Piece Maker II is fire. Tone Touch collects the exact vibe of a late summer, uptown block party and puts it straight into the music. That party is loud and drunk, and always the best party of the whole summer. He brings every aspect of his game to the forefront, and his enlisted arsenal of MC's and producers is a perfect complement to his skill. Again the roster is filled with some serious guest spots (over 50, as usual) and Tony's musical intellect is displayed in the savvy configuring of artists and tracks, as well as in his ability to match styles and flows. At the same time he keeps his identity intact by constantly repping his own flavor, regardless of who else is on the track with him. No matter what the vibe, or who is spittin', you always know that it's a Tony Toca joint because of how it feels. From the jump Tony picks right up where the first Piece Maker left off. He re-establishes his ongoing Spanglish cultural and musical dialogue, bringing together heritage, language and history with Salsa legend Ruben Blades warming it up over a sinister intro beat. "Non-Stop" teams up Tony with Diddy, G-Dep and Black Rob over a thumping track that's got one of those driving, instantly- recognizable choruses. Redman, Eric Sermon and Keith Murray bring it over "How You Want It" with their trademark energy and create another club classic.

And then, just so you don't think it's all about the club, Tone brings it hardcore with Joey Crack, N.O.R.E, and JuJu by straight killin' it on "Capicu," while Raekwon, Method Man and U-God spit over a vintage RZA beat. Tone's counterpart Doo Wop returns as the other half of The Diaz brothers on the venomous-sounding "Click Bang," and Tony's vocal delivery is, as always, sly and understated and deadly casual. Toca keeps the sound worldwide live with another club-thumper: "Ay, Ay, Ay," which features the hit-machine that is Sean Paul. "Spit 1" is easily he sickest joint on the album. Fellow Rock Steady alum Q-Unique is razor sharp over a hypnotic and loping piano sample that is just too bugged out to describe. Not only is Q's wordplay savage and precise, but the track beneath it almost sounds like it's drunk. For real. "Out da' Box" is another banger with its legendary lineup of Pete Rock, Large Professor and Masta Ace, while the inimitable Slick Rick paints a lyrical portrait of a drive gone awry due to overzealous fans on "Trouble on the Westside Highway." Dead Prez bring their socialism and consciousness and add a nice touch to the album with the high-energy unity anthem: "Touch 1 Touch All."

With so many stellar MC's and producers all involved in one project like this there is always the danger of over-hype and the ultimate disappointment that inevitably comes with it. Fortunately, Piece Maker II suffers none of these maladies. This is largely due to the presence of Tony himself. His very real, everyday-man approach to what he does is fully evident and it brings with it an inherent sense of integrity that goes beyond the music itself. But, ultimately, it is the music that speaks loudest, and Tony Touch has come up with a collection of tracks that not only define a moment of time in Hip-Hop culture, they celebrate it.

Music Vibes: 8.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 8.5 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 8.5 of 10

Originally posted: February 17, 2004