The Toronto Rap scene has steadily been gaining traction in the wider musical community in the past decade, with artists like Drake and more recently The Weeknd establishing themselves as world famous artists. The pair have paved the way for lesser known Canadian artists such as Jazz Cartier, Roy Woods and Majid Jordan to develop a rap and hip hop sound now known as “Toronto Sound” within the rap community. With punchy, bass heavy beats, and artists with lyrically meaningful and powerful flow, the combination has created a burgeoning scene that Canadian based artists are very proud of.

‘Penthouse’, the debut album by Nixxon (formerly known as JesseRay, real name Jesse Dempster), very much keeps to these principles, and the eight tracks submerse you in a world of heavy bass lines, auto-tuned vocals, and powerful lyrics.

The opening track ‘Red and Blue’ opens with auto-tuned lyrics speaking of his difficulties growing up and his relationship with his mother whilst heavily layered bass kicks in. This is a strong opening sound to the album and prepares you for the bass heavy journey to Toronto you’re about to be led on.

This album is a progression of sound and experience from an artist that has close ties to The Weeknd. Dempsey was in a group called Bulleez N Nerdz, in which the other half was Abel Tesfaye (of The Weeknd fame), having learned their hip-hop trade together as teenagers before going on separate paths.

This is the third project that Nixxon/Jesse Ray has released, following from his project ‘For no good reason’ and ‘1990’. Nixxon continues to develop his production, lyrics, and ability to curate a project. This is most evident in tracks such as ‘Savage’ and ‘One Way’. Both of which have very layered produced sound, not just a simplistic bass heavy beat. The tracks flow from bass line hitting a cadence that compliments the rhyme scheme and lyrics that Nixxon performs with aplomb, to chorus structures that have softer, auto-tuned lyrics over a lighter, very layered beat. These create a dynamism and flow to the tracks that did not deliver in his earlier work.

Those not frequenting the north American rap scene may claim this album his heavy on auto-tune and be thrown off by the sound. However, in degrees of autotune it is more Kanye rather than T-pain and it brings a necessary layer to the production.

Title tack, ‘Penthouse’, is musically powerfully and well developed. Slow moving layered piano with synthed bass and vocals creates a variation within the album that keeps you listening. Listen back to back against the track ‘No Idea’, and you wouldn’t believe they were the same, young artist. It’s a sign of what Nixxon has in his locker, both lyrically and musically.

Rating: ★★★☆

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author: Anthony Glanville

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