Sometimes choosing albums for review is like the old cliche of throwing a dart at a map of the United States or spinning a globe and stopping it with your finger. You’re not planning where you want to go so much as you’re leaving it up to fate to choose where you’re going. Today’s dart landed on ToneyBoi’s “Ugly Luxury“. Since you’re probably as familiar with Toney as I was before the dart left my hand, here’s a little snippet from Toney’s publicist to explain who he is.
“Ugly Luxury (is) the latest full-length from Buffalo, NY emcee/producer Toney Boi. Many caught wind of his rhymes with his 2018 collaborative project with Camoflauge Monk (Westside Gunn, Mach Hommy) ‘Kool 4 Thought’ as well as collaborations with Benny The Butcher, Sauce Heist, Jamal Gasol and Pro Zay.”
Aight. Now that we know who ToneyBoi is let’s break down the nine track, 28 minute long album he calls “Ugly Luxury“. Toney is a slow flow rapper who could out-tortoise Parrish Smith in terms of delivery, though there’s much to be said for an emcee who puts a lot of emphasis on every word to make sure it’s clearly heard and understood. This formula is exemplified by TheRealSkitso produced track “Came Up”, and I’m not surprised they released a music video to go along with it.
“Bruh, we all came from the same mud
We all broke bread with the same blood
You want that funny money bruh that ain’t love
That ice wearing frozen tundra where we came from
These new niggaz playin p—y I ain’t a rookie
+Leader of the New School+ was fellin niggaz for playin hooky”
I thoroughly enjoyed the track but I have to say the video is as low budget as a high definition and well edited clip can get — it’s just Toney standing in a stairwell smoking up with his crew. The counterpoint to that is there’s no good reason to spend a bunch of extra money to shoot a flossy video in some exotic location if you’re rapping about how you came up from nothing in the second largest city in New York. Let me be clear we’re not talking about a drop off from eight million to a milli — Buffalo has between 200K and 300K by comparison. This dichotomy explains why a lot of emcees outside of NYC in the state resent the idea you have to go there to get big. ToneyBoi is not afraid to go his own way with tracks like his self-produced “Pick Ya Poison” starring ENox with cuts provided by DJ Rukkus.
There’s a general air of being “the underdog” to ToneyBoi which is only punctuated by me re-reading the paragraph sent by his publicist that refers to this as “the latest full length” album. The latest huh? Well somehow I missed the last one, or the one before that, not to mention the one before that BEFORE that. That could be the very reason he hired a publicist. It’s fine to be the opening act for larger artists on tour, selling copies of your CD at the merch table to get exposure, but sooner or later you want to BE that artist touring and having other people open for YOU. My best advice for that would be to ride to his own tracks and those by TheRealSkitso or Onaje Jordan, with “40 & a Mule” being a fine example of the latter’s dope s–t.
For an album that was little more than random chance before I started writing it “Ugly Luxury” turned out to be a pleasant surprise. To say there’s room for improvement is not knocking ToneyBoi’s hustle but to indicate that he shows a talent for both rhyming and producing that could indeed take him far beyond Buffalo if he keeps at it. Tracks like “Out the Dirt” and “Blasphemous” don’t keep up the standard that Toney sets at his best, and on an album that’s only 28 minutes long the misfires stand out just as much as the hits. Personally I want to see him tighten it up, only working with his best collaborators or his own production, then come back even hotter.