Artist: Ms Toi
Album: That Girl
Rating: 3 / 10
Reviewer: A to the L
Ms. Toi? Who the fuck is that? You know that girl, you just may not KNOW you know her. She’s the one you thought was Lil Kim on Icecube’s ‘You Can Do It’ on the “Next Friday” soundtrack. Aahhhh… see? Now its all coming back. Well, on the strength of adding her vocals to that cut, and a damn foine appearance in the video, Universal offered Toikeon Parham (that’s Ms. Toi to you, from now on) an album deal. The result is “That Girl”, an attempt by this ex-Chicago, now Inglewood, CA resident to finally throw it down after 10 years of hard work trying to break into the game.
Things kick off with the title track, and its quite an impressive beginning. Producer Dame Grease lays down a beat that is extremely similar to Eminem’s production on Jigga’s ‘Renegade’ track. Lyrically Toi comes off pretty nicely, sandwiching her verses between a ragga-tinged chorus, as she explains exactly how she got to this position, with additional (and to be frank, forgettable) lyrics added by Classifyd Lady Cl’che. Next up is first single ‘Handclap’, a bouncy party track, which is a little too polished for these ears. Again, the resemblance to Lil Kim is glaringly obvious – close your eyes and it almost could be the Queen Bee herself.
‘Love Me Or Leave Me’ is superb, mainly because of the sample of Sade’s ‘Pearls’ that the whole track is built around. Lyrically Toi again performs adequately – not bad at all, but nothing that really stands out, apart from an occasional breath control problem. A remix of this cut pops up later that has a much harder edge, but for me its all about the original. The downside of sampling also rears its head though with the inclusion of ‘Can’t None Y’all’ on here – its ANOTHER cut that jacks Chaka Khan’s ‘Ain’t Nobody’. Give it up people! This track needs to be retired.
As the album continues, things start to go downhill though. The syrupy ‘Fly Chick’ causes death by sugar overload, while ‘My Dogs And My Locs’ and ‘Well Say That’ (despite an initially funky guitar bassline) are both smothered by dull lyrics and uninspired production. Meanwhile ‘Wonder Why’ is a second rate copy of 2pac’s ‘Wonder Why They Call U Bitch’, and ‘Here To Stay’ is a poor woman’s attempt to walk the ground laid by the already mediocre ‘What’s My Name’ by DMX. In between, tracks like the summery ‘C’mon’, the mellow vibes of ‘Bonnie Ride’ (where Ms. Toi sounds uncannily like the late Left Eye), and the 70’s gangster flick-inspired ‘When I Bust’ all provide some relief, but being brutally honest these aren’t great either – just better than some of the other tracks already described.
The other big failing I found was that Ms. Toi was constantly being overshadowed by her guests. E-40 brings his unique brand of Bay Area funk to ‘Work A Twist’, and succeeds in dominating the entire track – let’s be fair, up against Mr. Forty Water, Toi really never had a chance. Elsewhere Nelly, Ali and Murphy Lee appear on ‘Be Like Me’, which really sounds more like a Nelly cut FEATURING Ms. Toi rather than the other way round. Despite this, it is one of the highpoints of the album, due to its extreme bounce factor. ‘Bangin’ on the other hand is just horrific – both for the tortuously dull beat, and for the fact that MC Ren comes off in an extremely pedestrian fashion, and STILL manages to top Toi’s verse.
The absence of Icecube on this project is telling… was he perhaps already aware of the fact that Ms. Toi would be his own personal Amil, and got ghost before the truth came out? Maybe I’m just being cynical and bitter, but in a Hiphop world that features such talents as Apani B Fly, Jean Grae and even the rapidly improving Angie Martinez, its gonna take a lot more than this for Ms. Toi to make an impact. The question is, does she have the ability to come back and come better?