In January of 2014, San Jose emcee Rey Resurreccion told Metro that his then-brand new Heart of the City was the first record he’d made after carefully studying what his fans liked. Considering that, his new EP—Sweet Tooth Tony, released earlier this month—makes total sense.
At less than 30 minutes, his latest effort is as quick-hitting as it is surgically focused. “I want to make something that people can fully digest,” Resurreccion says of Tony, an album he hopes people will listen to in its entirety.
“People have so much these days,” he continues, noting that for a rapper of his stature, a full-length like Heart can get easily lost in the deluge of new music that comes pouring from the internet daily. “I’m an up-and-coming guy,” Res says. “I’m still new to a lot of people. I’m trying to figure out ways to reintroduce myself.”
Sweet Tooth Tony definitely plays like a proper introduction. The EP features a conceptual opener, which introduces Rey’s character, Sweet Tooth Tony. At the beginning of “Act 1,” our hero untangles from a woman with a voice full of money, before striding past backstage regulars toward the swelling sound of an excited crowd. The rapper and producer proceeds to unspools an effortless verse about his career’s burgeoning momentum. He then directs the listener’s attention to the backing band that riffs on some hypnotic lounge grooves.
The thumb-over-the-shoulder gesture mirrors the album’s highlights. Rey’s scratchy, baritone flow pops and crackles and his lyricism is competent and clever. But the project is at its dopest when he nails quick-witted references to his neo-retro production.
Throughout Tony, the stylishly-tattooed Filipino American demonstrates his scholarly knowledge of the genre. On his website, he describes his style as “old rust, new bang”—distilling influences from prior legends into his own concoction that blends homaging and trailblazing.
The son of immigrants and an active graffiti writer, he makes music with the persistent, no-nonsense approach of a veteran underground rapper propelled by the midlife crisis detailed on his hometown ode, “Heart of the City.”
On “In The Cut,” he rhymes about blunts and his “lightweight” fame, then huffs through a stomp-clap hook. Halfway through, he flips the beat to knead in the table-pounds and twinkling flip-phone chirps of E-40’s hyphy anthem “Tell Me When To Go,” before parroting the thesis from another hit by the bespectacled big guy, “We Out Here Tryna Function.”
On “Goodfellas,” he lays down double-time claps between a stuttering melody that remixes a melancholy lady cooing: “baby.” He samples a Ray Liotta monologue from the 1994 Scorsese picture, then delves into an old-school record-scratching bridge with the distinct “Woo” and “Yeah” from “It Takes Two.”
“Who,” stands out for its earnestness. Over snazzy synths and jazzy guitar licks, Rey puffs his chest out, but semi-self-consciously inquires about a wishy-washy lover’s late-night plans. Unsure if she’s down, he offers an ultimatum to the effect of “we smoking and fucking tonight, or what?”
The song bleeds into a chopped and screwed outro that leaves her answer ambiguous—either they’re getting lit and freaky, or his request is ricocheting around his brain as he falls asleep waiting for a response that never comes.
Next, he fully flexes his ability to stitch together disparate sounds into a coherent composition on “Bounce.” He starts over booming kicks and serpentine buzzes, dropping his best threat, “I make your face Ragu.” Then he stretches and distorts the beat, samples Kanye’s “Power” and plunges into tinny N64 glitches and dizzying power-up bloops that sit below a steamrolling flow.
Finally, he closes with “My God,” where he laments children’s addictions to “sugar and prescriptions.” He name-checks oppressive public schools, stagnant politics, inescapable racism and gang violence before wondering if “God forgot about us” over 808 booms, tinkly wood-block taps and dreamy wails that slowly fade in the mixtape’s last seconds.
The project won’t make Rey world-famous. But it’s smooth as hell and his beats zag away from national trends. He cultivates a refreshingly throwback vibe that radiates warmth and drips with the optimistic grit of a man who wants more than just a taste of the sweet life.
Nick Veronin contributed to this story.
Sweet Tooth Tony EP