Jack Of All Trades
I was beginning to think the day would never come. Tommy V. is back with a new solo joint. When the news broke of this, I couldn't wait to hear what this crucial artist in the Cali underground would sound like after an absence for so long - It's been 5 years since his last work with Toca, and a decade since his last solo effort. And it's evident from the first listen of Mockingbird that this artist has grown in his time away from the spotlight. The self depreciatory humor and unique "dollar-bin delectables" may still be present, but much more has changed. The recording quality is cleaner and glossier than I've ever heard on a TV release, and his voice is polished to the point that at times it's barely recognizable from the Eeyore-voiced character he portrayed on his old work. His delivery has been upgraded as well; it's on-point and direct, in contrast to the comfortable, meandering, sing-song raps he used to spit. And as far as acutal singing goes, he's become quite the bad-ass.
He actually sounds self-assured. Despite the familiar hang-dog attitude and rain cloud over his head, this is the work from a man who has come into his own and found his particular rhythm.
"Remember Me, I'm Tommy V, I fell off long ago," he sings happily on the aptly-titled "Remember Me?", but then really, TV was never actually "on". He always did his own thing in his own style, which was one of the reasons I was so drawn to his work to begin with. His music may have been hip hop informed, but it incorporated elements of Vaudeville, jazz, pop theater, or more often then not, some frankenstein combination of all of it. He was the patchwork singing transient of hip hop, relating his trials and tribulations in a down to earth, working man's voice, in a language that anyone could identify with. And paradoxically that is why no one ever sounded like TV but TV - nobody else captured that quality quite like he did. That truly unique persona is still evident on Mockingbird, but his time spent with Toca, and specifically David and Ceschi Ramos, is present as well. Now amidst the familiar dick jokes and absurdity, and the circus side-show music that you'd expect from Tommy V; there are also quiet, folky moments far removed from any of his old work with Imprints, Awol One, or EXII. These are some of the most accomplished tracks on the album, although at times they can be a little overly-ernest in their "Ceschiness," but they are easily forgivable in their quality and subtlety. The record also has its bold moments that nakedly demonstrate a beauty that only comes with mastering a craft - especially the two closing tracks "For Infinity" and "Can You Hear Me". I was surprised only for a minute on listening, but when framing them within Tommy V's musical evolution it is evident that this is where he'd be heading. He's evolved, he's been through some shit, and he's grown up.
Mockingbird is a slight, airy record, and at 25 minutes it goes in at least as many directions. Despite the lightness, it manages to carry the weight of TV's history with it, and points to the many possible futures of his music. I hope he continues on, preferably sooner than 10 years from now.
Check out the link below to the Fake Four Bandcamp site, where you can get Mockingbird for Free!