The fact that Tory Lanez’ real name is Daystar is almost ironic, because I can’t think of someone’s good name rising so high before being so quickly extinguished. If you had told me this time last year that the Toronto rapper would go from his rapid upward trajectory to being one of the most hated figures in R&B since Chris Brown, I’d have called you a liar.
Because up until just a few months ago, Tory seemed like he couldn’t lose. After not really paying him any mind, hearing him being bumped on radios and barbershops, to watching him engage in a heated rap battles with everyone from Drake to Don Q, to most recently the Chixtape album and the entertaining Quarantine Radio - with rumours of an MTV show off the back of it - Tory was catching W after W.
Then, in the middle of the first wave of quarantine, it was reported in the news that Megan The Stallion had been shot. And shortly after, it was reported that Tory Lanez had been arrested for a gun charge. And then out of nowhere, it appeared that these two incidents were one in the same - in July 2020, Tory had shot Megan Thee Stallion.
The rumour mill (and the social media joke factory) went into overdrive, but the host of Quarantine Radio was radio silent. Up until now.
Last week, Tory Lanez released his fifth studio album, the self-titled DAYSTAR, out of the blue and with little to no warning. And while I initially wasn’t going to review it because I’m pretty neutral on Tory, it looks like no press is bad press, because it’s set to chart in the top 10 first week.
Albums are being streamed, music videos are being shot, guns are going off - and Tory Lanez isn’t going anywhere.
And the album is a testament to that; it’s a ballsy, defiant move in which Tory shoots back at every shot he took in the public eye. Any attempt to separate the art from the artist is impossible, because whether you’re a Chixtape stan or one of Meg’s Hotties, this is undeniably a concept album all about the controversy. Every thought that seems to be going through Tory’s head in the midst of ‘allegations’ and ‘cancellations’ are expressed on Daystar.
On the face of it, it’s clear Tory put his all into this project. It’s incredibly well structured, well put together and well made. Starting with the fury embodied in the intro, ‘Money Over Fallouts’, the singer turns rapper once again, with a tense, but beautiful and atmospheric beat to pour his heart out onto.
Sampling every talking head that had a word to say about him, you can tell as the pianos enter that Tory is going unleash on these people. And he does - he brags about posting 30k on bail, he calls out Meg for snitching (on an innocent man?) and he takes the last laugh, dropping some decent punchlines to the downpour of short jokes he received.
The thirst for blood continues later down the line on ‘Sorry But I Had To…’. Tory namechecks anyone and everyone who dared to have a word for him. It goes beyond a simple diss track for other rappers; this is Tory Lanez v. ROTW, and he’s playing into extra time.
Not every song is a response though. On ‘A Poem From Me 2 You’, Tory draws a line in the sand, speaking on the loneliness caused by everyone turning their back on him. Some of the most emotionally potent songs are where Tory digs deep and makes a number of love songs which you can only assume are thinly veiled olive branches to Meg. On ‘A Woman’ he gives us a heart wrenching ballad, and on Friends Become Strangers, he reminisces about flights to Houston to see her.
The best one in my opinion though, is the soulful and powerful ‘Solar Drive @ Night’, which geniusly manages to sound both stripped back and personal, and anthemic and orchestral - balancing the modern and the nostalgic.
However, the further you get through the album, the more things begin to unravel. The first issue is Tory’s habit of being a remixer rather than an artist. It is undeniable that Tory is a multi-talented artist but there’s a reason why his best album is a mixtape of R&B remixes. For the most part, DAYSTAR sounds like it could be named Aubrey, or Abel, or Meek.
Then there’s the act of dropping an album in response to the controversy in the first place; Kanye invented the insanely narcissistic move with My Beautiful Dark and Twisted Fantasy, but there’s a difference here. Kanye humiliated a woman, and didn’t shoot one; he apologised, and didn’t deny it, and crucially here, Kanye is leagues and leagues above Tory in terms of talent. A comparison to Chris Brown is also necessary here, who savagely beat Rihanna over ten years ago, and while he’s never been the same since, he definitely didn’t handle it like this.
The final issue arises from the last; that is, an album that is all about a specific, painful incident can’t be removed from what you already know about it. There is a constant uncertainty that exists in DAYSTAR. You feel like you’re being lied to - and I think it really speaks to the deterioration of the news in social media, when Meg has to pull up hospital reports showing bullet fragments to refute bars like ‘not hitting bones or tendons’.
There’s allegations of being blackballed and accusations of a smear campaign from Roc Nation, but it all comes across as a conspiracy theory, with no proof or substance to anything he’s saying (which defeats the purpose of defending yourself while making everything rhyme). He also constantly brags about being independent, but hey, any artist can go independent if they shoot one of the most famous female rappers.
He constantly drifts between wanting forgiveness from Meg (while proclaiming his innocence) and accusing her of lying. But if we follow that logic to the end - could you write so many love songs for a woman who is trying to end your career and put you in jail? It just doesn’t add up.
There’s also the fact that I don’t care enough about every single minutiae of this incident as it affects Tory. Bittersweet suffers from focusing the whole song on Kehlani taking him off her album; wasting a good beat, a good flow and 4 minutes of my good time on these petty short-man-syndrome bars.
That brings us to the close. In my opinion, you won’t get what you want out of this album. If you’re a Tory fan and you want him to go back to what he does best, this is a hollow attempt, with good songs littered throughout a shallow, shortsighted project. If you’re a Meg fan and you want an apologetic tone, you won’t get that either.
If you just want to know what actually happened - that’s tough.