Sound Advice: Don't Sleep 3, by Roney
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Sound Advice: Don’t Sleep 3, by Roney

The latest mixtape by the much-hyped local MC shows promise, but is bogged down by filler.

00   Roney Dont Sleep Volume 3 front large

For the last year or so, various blogs—most notably Vice’s music blog, Noisey—have been talking about 19-year-old Regent Park–raised, Parma Court–based MC Roney as the next big thing in Canadian hip-hop. He’s been called “Toronto’s gangsta rap wunderkind.” His menace-filled lyrics and raw, emphatic, slightly manic delivery—punctuated by the onomatopoeic gunfire of his already trademark “baom boam” adlib—have drawn comparisons to Chief Keef. His debut live performace was opening for Method Man and Redman at Polson Pier.

His third, Don’t Get Close Volume 3, both shows why bloggers are so high on the young MC and highlights the reasons he’s not ready for prime time.

As the Chief Keef comparison might lead you to believe, Roney isn’t super lyrical. No one is going to be blown away by the complexity of his rhyme schemes, and he tends to lean pretty heavily on hashtag punchlines. (Although some of those hashtag punchlines are pretty good—our favourite being “neck on my gun so long, ostrich.”) That said, he’s considerably better than he gets credit for. While he’s best known for a rhyme style that sees him throw the words out like they’ve wronged him, he’s able to switch things up and almost playfully ride the beat on “Abduct.” (Or at least he’s as playful as one can get while talking about hostage taking.) He also does a little rap-as-storytelling, crafting a pretty decent narrative on “Lil’ Luke.”

What sets Roney apart from the pack is his voice. When you hear Roney rap, with an accent that’s equal parts Jamaican and Bob-and-Doug Canuck, a tendency to over-pronounce certain consonants, and a slit-eyed growl that occasionally skips up an octave into a sort of a demented yawp, there’s no doubt who you’re listening to. While some MCs, particularly young ones, try too hard to adapt to production, Roney sounds like Roney over both the dense synths of “Caught Up” and the stripped-down “Nowhere to Run.” That’s a good thing.

There are two major problems with Don’t Sleep 3. One is that, at 26 songs, it’s too long by half. There are some bangers in here, but there’s also a lot of filler. (“Mr. Smith,” a thank-you note to the makers of Smith and Wesson firearms, stands out as a track that could go.) The other problem is that too many of the songs are mixed badly, with the vocals way too low in the track.

Even if you’re put off by Roney’s subject matter and left cold by his less-than-mindblowing lyricism, it’s still easy to see why so much bandwidth has been spent talking about an unsigned rapper who’s barely old enough to drink. He’s compelling. Even if you don’t like him per se, you feel the need to keep listening. Roney can improve as a lyricist, or hire a ghostwriter—but that sort of magnetism is something you can’t teach.