Sound Advice: Dreamchase by Devon Tracy
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Sound Advice: Dreamchase by Devon Tracy

Don't let the babyface fool you, 18-year-old rapper Devon Tracy is a dangerous man on the mic.

It would be easy to write Devon Tracy off as some sort of hip-hop Justin Bieber—an ever-so-slightly edgier version, who doesn’t require a swagger coach. It’s not his fault, but the 18 year-old MC’s non-threatening teen idol looks, slightly nasal voice, and dance background make it a little hard to take him seriously as a rapper.

The problem with this rather pat analysis is that it gets completely ripped to shreds in the first two minutes of Tracy’s latest mixtape, Dreamchase. By the time he’s done spitting his first verse, it’s abundantly clear that while he may not look like much of a threat, he’s an absolute monster in the booth.

A Toronto native who’s spent time working in Los Angeles, Tracy is able to switch styles like a much more seasoned performer, spitting rapid fire on the high energy, soul clap-filled intro, then getting comically, swag rap-y slow on “Gossip.” He shows off his dexterity by intentionally cramming too many words into his verses on “Best Day,” then smoothly stickhandling his way through the busy track. He even sings his own hooks, and while he’s no Frank Ocean, he does a pretty passable job on tracks like “Noise” and “Whatever You Want.” And yet he displays enough restraint not to try to carry an entire song with his own voice.

He’s equally mature when it comes to selecting his beats. Tracy uses 15 different producers over the course of Dreamchase, ranging from Angelenos like Sean Divine and DJ Reflex to Torontonians like Watts, Boi-1da and Tre Mission. This results in an album with a wide variety of sounds, particularly soul samples and keys, which Tracy has a distinct, almost retro-ish preference for. Sure, there are a few of the skittering hi-hats and indecipherable synth-sounds that are de rigueur for a young rapper in the post-Lil B era, but those sounds are distinctly in the minority. Tracy may be fresh out of high school, but musically speaking, he’s an old soul.

In 2012, it’s almost unheard of for a rapper, even a veteran, to carry a 50-minute long release without using a single guest vocalist. That a relative newcomer like Tracy manages such a feat, seemingly without breaking a sweat, shows that the young MC will likely be a force to be reckoned with for years to come.