Just a few months after his spring-launched Dirty Old Mixtape, Burnaby-based spitter Ill Tone is back with a new four-song EP, Hope?. It’s a telling title for the rapper, who recently kicked a serious crack-cocaine addiction; the guy is clearly exorcising his demons and finding inner peace through his work. Despite the positive message the dude delivers, though, the EP isn’t all good.
Opening number “People in My Life” lays out an important life lesson about taking solace from your inner circle (“Man, I’m a mess but I can’t get depressed/So I lean on the ones who understand me the best”). But Mother Mother member Jasmin Parkin’s slightly off-key delivery of the self-motivational hook, as well as a clunky improvised scat session beneath one of the verses, makes an argument for Tone needing to go it alone sometimes.
The rest of the EP is better, however. Tone delivers a ghoulishly grin-worthy pan of himself in his drug phase on “Bringin’ the Hope Back”, likening himself to The Lord of the Rings’ resident obsessive, Gollum. Musically, the set progressively gets better via the strings-and-bass thump on “If Only for a Second” and the soft ’80s-doctor-drama synths of closer “Seize the Day”. No doubt, Ill Tone has impressively jumped at the chance to start his life anew while laying some rhymes down along the way. Hopefully, by the time he delivers a meatier effort, he’ll know where to trim the fat.