In many ways, Memories Don’t Die is a reintroduction for Tory Lanez. Criticized for emulating other artists to the point of being a simulacrum of them, Lanez struggled to find his own sound when he became mainstream. His ability to emulate other artists is impressive, but potentially meretricious when evaluated to the merits of his own artistic contributions. Memories Don’t Die, unlike his recent mixtapes and first album, I Told You, sees the artist singing and rapping with completely original production. On the heavier rap cuts, especially those which use luscious bass and staccato high hats — like “Old Friends x New Foes,” “Benevolent” and “B.B.W.W x Fake Show” — Lanez returns to the ferocity that makes songs like “Diego,” “B.L.O.W.” and “Lord Knows” fan favorites.
Production has always been a strong trait of his music. The grandiloquence of “Shooters” utilizes horns in a way that surpasses Drake’s “Trophies.” “Hate To Say” touts a stellar modern boom bap beat with haunting vocal loops. The dancehall-inspired cuts “Skrt Skrt” and “4 Me” are noticeably more genuine and less skeletal than today’s profusion of modern reggae-pop tracks. While the departure from remixing and gratuitous sampling is welcomed, Memories Don’t Die can’t help but feel derivative of some of Lanez’s contemporaries. “Hypnotized” is the most pop the project gets, but it feels reminiscent of something Justin Bieber and Major Lazer would construct.
The most heartfelt track is undoubtedly “Pieces,” which features 50 Cent. In addition to the phlegmy voice, the sampled beat from Nas’ “The Message” makes it feel extremely outdated. Lanez’ collaboration with Nav, “Dance For Me,” sees a surprisingly more impassioned vocal rendition from the typically monotone rapper. He also touches on relevant topics on “Hate To Say,” such as his newfound friendship with fellow Toronto native, Drake, and his near-feud with fellow voice modulator, Travis Scott.
Most of the content feels like a regurgitation of I Told You, rehashing the same themes of proving detractors wrong and having to escape the trap. The “Memories” opening monologue, reminiscent of I Told You‘s opening lines, is not only contrived, but unabashedly over-dramatic. These pretentious pieces of narration have become a bad habit at this point. Not missed is the abundance of skits that the last album abused.
Overall, Lanez provides a dense compilation of songs displaying both his most indomitable strengths and most enervating bad habits. Lanez is situated at the border of versatility and chaos, currently relying on references to be sufficiently described.
Ironically, he addresses this same criticism directly on the latter half of “Happiness x Tell Me.” He says, “tell me how you feel about me…tell me how I sound like Drake or [The] Weeknd or [PartyNextDoor] or any artist from the city round me.” Also apparent is his insistence that other artists popped with a sound he pioneered, particularly in the song “Old Friends x New Foes.” Whether Lanez emulates other artists or it’s the other way around, it’s time for something fresh in hip hop. I’m excited for what he can deliver next.