Artist: Tony Touch
Album: The Piece Maker
Label: Tommy Boy
Rating: 7 / 10
Reviewer: DJ MF
Tony Touch has been a mainstay in the NY hip hop scene longer than most of you reading this have been alive. While most know him as one of the most influential DJ’s in the history of the NY hip hop underground, he’s also been a major factor in the other 3 elements of the genre as well, staking claim as an accomplished B-boy, graf writer and MC. Over the years, Tony Touch has been known for his amazing mixtapes, which featured new cuts, and exlusive freestyles from the best in hip hop, be it east or west coast. With “The Piece Maker”, Tony makes his first foray into the world of major label “mixtapes”, and the end result is nothing short of amazing, destroying other similar compilations such as those put out by DJ Clue and Funk Flex.
Now to the nitty gritty. The album opens with an intro produced by Psycho Les of The Beatnuts, and while it’s a head nodder, does little else. A decent enough opener, but nothing special.
1) The Piece Maker – Gang Starr
Classic DJ Premier drums and beat, and you know the album has started well. Guru’s subject matter is limited to the greatness of Tony Toca, and as always, his monotone delivery lacks punch, but the beat is the treat here, as Premier’s production, while sounding much like his other work, is still hypnotic. Simple beat, with trademark Primo drums, and what sounds like chimes of some sort accentuating the bassline. The chorus is also classic Primo, with scratched samples of Tony Touch. A great track.
2) Set It On Fire – Flipmode Squad
The beat here is unmistakably a Flipmode production, with frantic sounding keys over a staccato drumbeat paired with a pounding bassline. Strictly for the clubs. The chorus also exemplifies the frantic feel of the cut, with some rapid fire spitting from Rah Digga and Busta Rhymes. Overall, the track works because the beat compliments Flipmode PERFECTLY. The vocal highlights of course come from Rah Digga and Busta, who rip the mic with their distinct voices and flows.
3) U Know The Rules(Mi Vida Loca) – Tony Touch feat.Cypress Hill
Another beat that sounds perfect for the artist on the track. I look, and indeed, Muggs is handling the production duties. I think that’s one of the strong points of the album actually. Unlike other DJ compilations out there, like the ones done by Flex or Clue, Tony Touch lets the groups on his albums produce their own cuts. That way you get the sounds you expect from your guest artist, rather than a clashing of sounds that can often occur (see ‘Cream 2000’ on DJ Clue Part 2). Anyways, back to the song. It sounds very much like something else Cypress has done that I can’t put my finger on. The beat is very dark sounding, but moves briskly with drums that sound very tribal in the background, and a dark bassline. Included are some gorgeous piano keys, that have quickly become Muggs trademark. He switches it up midway, inserting some new sound effects in, this time sounding like an electronic jab of some sort. The only shortcoming is Tony Touch’s verse, but even that isn’t THAT bad.
4) The Abduction – Wu-Tang Clan
Vintage Wu production on this one, administered by Tru Masta. The beat needs to be heard to be believed. Moody as hell, and a beautiful violin loop running through the track. The drums and bass are classic Wu dirty, and that’s good. The RZA shines the most on this track, with lines like, “We teach the kids – you’d rather have a bullet, or a word to your wig?” Good stuff. No Meth, Rae, ODB or U-God on the track though.
5) Likwit Rhyming- Xzibit, Tash, Defari
One of my favorite tracks on the LP. A classic Likwit beat running in the background, which is deceptively simple. A 4/4 beat, with single keys accentuating the beat, and some sick scratching superimposed over it. Defari starts things off, and some don’t like his flow too much, but it works great here. At the end of his verse, an “Oh my God!” sample is scratched in, and the unmistakeable voice of Tash runs in, and he absolutely kills his verse, in what I think is the best one on the entire album. Some more impressive scratching follows, and the booming voice of X to the Z is up next, and he rips it in his signature flow. Tony finishes things off with some sick transforms and chirps at the end of the track. I’ve played this song about a trillion times.
6) Royce The 5’9 (Interlude)
No title, but with Royce, you know quality is forthcoming. A very funky bassline drives this track, with little else. The lyrics are straight up battle ish from Royce, and the track runs about 1 minute. I want more.
7) Return Of The Diaz Bros. – Tony Touch feat. Doo Wop & Pain In Da A$$
The first single off the LP, and coincidentally the first real track produced by Tony Touch for the album. Pain In Da A$$ is the guy who does the Al Pacino impression on all the Jay-Z albums if you don’t know, and he basically reprises the role on this track, whose theme is that Tony and Doo Wop are mixtape makers on the run from Pain. The beat is great, with Spanish horns making up the bulk of the rhythm and low bassline rumbling underneath. Very impressive. The lyrics are good, but you’ll be laughing at Pain In Da A$$ more than anything, mostly due to the threats he throws out during the whole track.
8) No, No, No – Tony Touch feat. Heltah Skeltah & Starang Wondah
A blazing hot hot beat. African sounding drums running throughout, and hot bassline with what sounds like a flute interspersed as well. Starang starts things off with his usual braggadacio, and then the booming voice of big Rock is next as he does the same. The chorus is an absolute riot (at least for me it was), as each MC poses a question, which is replied by a sampled female voice that sounds like a seagull going “Yah, yah, yah.” The funny part is the last question in the chorus posed by Ruck, who asks for a hoodwash, which changes up the sample to “Oh no, no, no.” Funny stuff. Tony does his verse, dropping odes to the old school, and then Ruck blazes his verse with a tale of a girl he picked up, but who ended up smelling a bit too much. Amusing, and a track I liked enough to include on my Top 25 of 2000 for my radio show.
9) The next cut is an R&B flavoured joint featuring Total, that I wasn’t feeling too much, so I skip it all the time.
10) Basics – Prodigy of Mobb Deep
Classic Alchemist production here, as he laces Prodigy with a beat worthy of his solo album HNIC. A horror movieish sounding effect starts the track, and almost immediately P starts up in his trademark monotone vocals. It works perfectly, and Alchemist delivers a slow bassy beat, with an undertone of piano keys. The chorus reintroduces the effect heard at the beginning, and sounds great. A basic Mobb track, but executed well.
11) Pit Fight – Tony Touch feat. Greg Nice and Psycho Les
Classic Beatnuts production. I’ve said “classic” a lot on this album when referring to production, but I can’t help it, as each artist has really made the beats they produced sound EXACTLY like what you expect from them. The beat is simple with some cartoony piano keys, and a dark piano loop riding the drums. Greg Nice does his normal simplistic stuff that sounds fine since he’s always so hyper. Psycho and Tony show their limitations on the mic. Nothing unexpected.
12) What’s That?(Que Eso) – Tony Touch feat. De La Soul & Mos Def
A weird sounding beat provided by Maseo of De La, and the vocals are spit in a mixture of English and Spanish. The beat is weird. Did I mention that? It has a weird droopy bassline, and some synth jabs thrown in there too. The vocals are fun to listen to even though I have no idea what half of them mean, but the beat holds this back I think. I nice try, but it doesn’t work in the end.
13) The Club- D.I.T.C., Kid Capri & Party Artie
Woah. A meeting of some NYC giants here, as everyone involved here has some serious history in hip hop. The beat is pretty basic, with some high pitched strings in the background, and a standard east coast drum and bass pattern. The vocals don’t stand out much either. A disappointment.
14) Cormega (Interlude)
Mobb Deepish sounding track, and I look, and indeed, Alchemist has done the beat again. At only 1:30 long, it’s short, but Mega shows why everyone’s been fiending for something from him for so many years. In his short time on the track, he manages to weave a narrative of his youth in a beautiful manner. Much like the Royce track, I want more!
15) The Foundation – Big Pun, Sunkiss, Reif-Hustle
Underground fave 8 Off Agallar laces this beat, and it’s… umm… different sounding, at least when compared to the other tracks on the LP. Furthermore, it doesn’t sound very Terror Squadish. It’s got a syncopated bassline and drum kicks, with some chimes thrown in here and there, and a weird sound effect near the end of the chorus and bubbling throughout the rest of the song. Spacy sounding actually. Pun phones in his verse, sounding pretty lazy, and the other two don’t do much. A dissappointment.
16) Get Back – D12
Dark dark beat and feel to this track. Everything about it just screams “horror”, from the drums to the bass, to the eerie sound effects in the background. The lyrics are standard D12 shock ish, with traces of braggadacio sprinkled in. Pretty good track, if not anything we haven’t heard before.
17) Adolf “8 Off” Agallar (Interlude)
8-Off’s got a unique flow that some will love and others will hate. There’s no in between. I love it. He’s pretty jerky, but it works here with an old school sounding beat. Again too short at only 1:30, but I guess that’s why they called it an interlude.
18) Class of ’87- Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap, KRS-One
Great idea here, and a veritable hall of fame of hip hop on the track repping for 1987. The production initially sounds messy with too much going on, but I think it’s more a levels problem than anything else, as they mixed the drums in too loud. The beat is comprised of some atmospheric sounds layered over some very dark piano keys, and a 4/4 drum and bassline. BDK does alright, but has lost much of what made him great. Kool G is still awesome, and the young bucks out there today spitting their thug ish could learn something from him. After those two, we get an extended scratch session, and KRS sermonizing. As he starts his verse, the beat changes up to a very old school sounding vibe, and KRS drops a pretty unspectacular verse in my opinion after all the b.s. he was talking. A good track that could have been much better.
The last track is sort of a Puerto Rican allstar fest, featuring a ton of artists, that is very unlike anything else on the album, as Tony takes it back to his Rican roots. Didn’t feel it too much though, mainly because it’s severely out of place on this LP. The beat is banging though on its own.
So that’s that. In the end, Tony makes some smart decisions, such as allowing the artists to produce their own tracks, and keeping himself off most of the tracks, that makes this album above most other compilations out there. The only downside to the album were the two tracks that didn’t fit with the theme of the LP, and some uninspired performances. However, neither are enough to derail the quality found elsewhere on the album.