Over the last year or so, Tory Lanez has been flexing his lyrical sensibilities with some well-timed, friendly warfare. For instance, Tory had a widely publicized back and forth with Joyner Lucas and even took some shots at Dreamville’s J.I.D. While diss tracks are nothing new in hip-hop, Tory’s foray into this world was met with some resistance due to his status as an artist who tows the lines of R&B. What people didn’t know, was that Lanez has been battling MC’s since his teenage years and was more than equipped to give these artists a run for their money. Coming into 2019, fans were curious as to whether or not Tory would keep up his aggressive lyrical ways, or if he would revert back to his R&B bread and butter.

When Lanez announced that his next project would be the fifth instalment in the Chixtape series, we got our answer. For the uninitiated, Tory’s Chixtapes are a masterclass in buttery smooth beats, classic samples, and silky vocals that pine over the difficulties one faces while navigating through relationships and the women within them. Leading up to Chixtape 5, Tory promised us his best instalment yet, filled with a multitude of samples from some of the most classic R&B tracks of the 2000s.

Now that the mixtape is finally here, one thing is clear: Tory has delivered on his promise and then some. The first real track on the album is called “The Trade” and has a sample from Fabolous’ “Trade It All Pt.2.” Lanez starts the song claiming “It feels like forever I’ve been waiting/waiting just to get you back.” Come to find out, Tory is speaking directly to a woman that has been playing too many games with his heart and time, which is a concept that finds its way all throughout the mixtape. Meanwhile, on “The Trade,” we are introduced to Lanez’s desires while he croons with some of his best vocal range yet. In fact, his range is something that remains consistent throughout the entire project and it makes for a more cohesive listen. 

The Toronto singer follows up “The Trade” with the quintessential 2000s jam, “Jerry Sprunger.” Thanks to a feature from T-Pain himself, Tory’s flip of “I’m Sprung” is an instant highlight of the tape and has the potential to be one of the best party songs of 2020. With the next few tracks, Tory weaves his way through some velvety samples on the Snoop Dogg-assisted “Beauty In The Benz” and solo track “Blowin’ Mines.” The latter finishes with a skit that introduces us to Leah, a new love interest of Tory’s. Leah reappears numerous times throughout the project and serves as the source of conflict in many of his lyrics.

Early in the project, Tory makes an appeal to all of the Chris Brown fans out there with “The Take” which boasts a sample from Brown’s “Take You Down.” Not only is the sample immediately recognizable, but Tory’s verses are some of his best on the entire mixtape. In the opening stanza, Tory runs the listener through a gauntlet of relentless sexual innuendos that are assumed to be for Leah. Near the end, Tory blissfully sings about never breaking his promises, something he immediately contradicts on “Broken Promises.” For the rest of the album, that’s exactly what Tory does, breaks his promises.

Sonically, Tory stays true to his word and delivers some of the most captivating sample-based R&B of the year. When it comes to the women in his life, Tory is consistently struggling with being faithful and avoiding being a disappointment. Occasionally, Lanez fails at both of these things in epic fashion. For instance, when Jalissa runs into Tory and Leah on the street, his cover his blown and he never recovers. Never fret though, he makes up for this in spades with his attention to songwriting, impressive vocal range, and enticing production that has you feeling nostalgic and lustful all at the same time.

The-Dream, Mya, Mario, Ashanti, Lloyd, and Lil Wayne all come through with guest verses of their own which adds to the 2000s feel. Ashanti’s track, “A Fools Tale (Running Back)” has a sample from “Foolish” and could very well be the best example of nostalgia on the mixtape. When paired with Ashanti’s playful posing on the mixtape’s cover art, this track takes you back to a time where flip phones, poorly recorded ringtones, and bedroom polaroid wall mosaics were the norm. The track stands as the perfect centerpiece for a mixtape trying to recapture the glory days of 90s babies’ favorite time period.

What makes Tory’s project stand out from other R&B releases this year, is that almost every song is familiar. Songs like “The Take” use samples from the original track’s hook which creates a larger sense of familiarity for the listener. From the jump, this tape has been marketed as a throwback to the biggest artists of the 2000s. With this in mind, it’s easy to dismiss the project as nothing but a novelty to appeal to those seeking their fix of nostalgia, especially considering how on-trend that is right now. Lest we forget, Chixtape 5 is the logical progression to the Chixtape formula, which sees Tory using an abundance of samples catered to rnb. With this latest entry in the series, Lanez has taken the concept behind Chixtape to a whole new level with more samples, more features, and even better songwriting. Simply put, this is the most ambitious project in the series.

Even if you don’t know the songs being sampled, you probably recognize the melodies from listening to the radio and going to house parties. This is what makes Chixtape 5 special. Every song is packed with tiny nostalgic easter eggs that are paired with original elements that create tracks that still sound fresh and unique. Tory is simply using these classic songs to create an aesthetic that illustrates his true thoughts and feelings. When these samples are paired with Tory’s original lyrics, melodies, and vocal range, you are left with a one-of-a-kind project that seamlessly blends two decades of musical styles together.