There are two prior attempts to discuss Fortunato on RapReviews. The esteemed Matt Jost found him to be “another run-of-the-mill Canadian boom bap rapper” while in a slightly more generous review I found him to be “just barely above average.” You probably wouldn’t expect Hand’Solo Records to come back for another write up, but label owner Thomas Quinlan seems to be an eternal optimist — it’s either that or he appreciates that brutal honesty and the fact we don’t mince words. I certainly can’t fault him personally because he’s never been anything but pleasant to deal with. He epitomizes the stereotype of “Canadian nice” to a tee no matter whether we praise or diss the artists on his label. Keep in mind that it is just a stereotype though — there’s bigotry and homophobia in Canada just like anywhere else (eh) — but never mind that. Let’s talk about “The Coalition.”

“My rhymes like tsunamis, you barely causing a ripple
You’re useless like dudes with a third nipple”

My first impression had me tilting a little more in Mr. Jost’s direction. I like the vibe here that Calgary based producer The Dirty Sample brought to T-Dot native Fortunato’s bars though, very reminiscent of The Alchemist in mood and tempo. I think that brings the “battle rap” style of Fortunato’s lyrics up a little bit. “The 1’s” would be almost painfully slow without that production, but the methodical delivery is well matched by the symphonic samples TDS brought to the table. F has a chip on his shoulder he’s anxious to get off with lines like “I ain’t got time for no tiny checks/I got respect, and that’s a lot more than most of these dudes.” Aight, cool.

When he says “this ain’t performative” on the hook though it’s a bit contradictory. It’s 100% performative and he shouldn’t kid himself about that. Any time you talk about “keeping it real” in rap and valuing props and pounds more than loonies and toonies, you’re making a performative statement expressing your allegiance to the perceived values of the culture. It’s not a diss to point this out. I don’t mind when O.C., Chuck D or anybody else past to present espouses said values. I treasure the fact some rappers would “rather be broke and have a whole lot of respect” but it’s not a trait shared uniformly across the rap diaspora. If anything it may unfortunately be the minority view given that most commercially successful artists go to great lengths to show how wealthy they are — and that’s performative too. The truth lies somewhere in the middle and not at either extreme.

I’ll tell you what I didn’t need performed though — the bars from some dude named Ol’ Gorilla Bones on “Will to Survive.” He sounds like a crusty mammal who escaped from a cage in some laboratory where they were trying to clone Vinnie Paz. It didn’t work. I’m not saying Bones should be put down, but I’m putting this track down and not coming back to it. I’d much rather listen to “The Grime,” an aptly named presentation given TDS put the dirtiest samples he had on this track. “I heat it up until my critics are silent” quips Fortunato, and on this particular song you can believe every word of it.

In nearly a decade of Fortunato’s name being mention here on solo albums or compilations I can at the very least praise his consistency. If you like the vocal tone and his battle rap attack style he’s stayed true to it on every song I’ve ever heard. In a small way he even benefits from the fact that the scene has been watered down by a lot of mediocre rappers and singers who are forgotten after one listen. The vexing thing about F is that he needs to be pushed into a great performance and that they only happen sporadically. He’s competent in all the basic attributes of being an emcee yet raps like a journeyman MMA fighter who trades wins and losses and never rises up the rankings. “The Coalition” may be the best Fortunato can do, and if so he’s fortunate that The Dirty Sample linked up with him for this release. He needs this level of production to inspire him to rise above 500.

Fortunato x The Dirty Sample :: The Coalition
6.5Overall Score