Toro Y Moi’s Clout Continues to Build with Contemporary Visuals, Gangster-ish Mixtapes, and Another Classic Album.
Before Toro Y Moi, aka Chaz Bear, helped form the infamous chillwave genre with his seminal debut, Causers Of This, he released a handful of demos (pre-2010) that some fans would argue still contain some of his best work (see “Eden”). Back then, Chaz was nowhere near the cultural force he is today, and what’s gotten him there may have just as much to do with his talent, as it does with his race and social media presence.
Simply put, Chaz fills a cultural void for people. Much like Drake did before he started getting wrapped up in actual rap beefs and going from celebrity artist to bordering a full-on studio gangster. But for those who want rap without it’s brutal reality and trap beats without drug-infested rhymes, Chaz stands ready to deliver a multi-racial, suburbanite perspective on the the most dominant force in music today. And if that doesn’t make him contemporary enough, he’s an actual designer too, sporting some of the most hipster art and clothing ideas you’ll find on social media. He’s an Indie kid’s dream.
It still surprises me how relevant this quote from prolific outsider artist Dean Blunt remains today, “Craig David is the original Drake, everything about him. The mixed-race thing; he’s not sure if he can be gangsta enough, he’s quite a nice boy, but then he gets popular and he gets really arrogant, and starts to believe he’s this thing that he’s not. It’s amazing.”
I’m not ready to say Chaz fits this description perfectly, but he might be working his way there. Up to this point, his foray into rap has been fairly genuine. And let it be known, Chaz’s knack for moody beats is nothing to be slept on. Take “Windows” from Boo Boo for example. Its wandering intro comes to a bridge at the 1:30 mark as subtle arpeggio synths pulse to a crescendo. The last phrase spoken, “out my window”, fades into an echo chamber and crisp auto-tune vocals join in, “this is not fantasy, this is as real as me”. It’s an understated moment of pure euphoria. And almost reminiscent of the effect Kanye’s epic bridges provide on “New Slaves” and “Bound 2”.
But even prior to Boo Boo, from featuring on Travis Scott’s debut album to dropping the ambient trap rap mixtape, Samantha, and now the Soul Trash mixtape, Toro has become the rap appropriating, taste-making Drake or (considering his love for design and constant artistic evolution) even A$AP Rocky of the Indie underworld.
He’s adorable, he’s quiet, he’s full of grooves–some funky and some hard. But with lines like “wasn’t wishing to be known world-wide, figured it was better than the southern life,” from Boo Boo or “I’m done with the bridges, I made enough to live with,” from Outer Peace or even “got the fans, I don’t need reviews / got the bands, get my momma food” from Soul Trash, Chaz is delving evermore into a self-made, self-realized world of internet thug/rapper. And the more his fans feed into it, the more likely we are to see an actual rap album from Chaz one day.
But rap dreams aside, Chaz’s most recent album, Outer Peace, is one hell of a classic. It’s an ode to aging millenials (see “New House”) filtered through some ambient trap like you might expect but also Chaz’s nuanced take on dance music, which I can only refer to as contemporary disco (a thrilling musical space he inhabits alone). Outer Peace also gives us more of his continued flashes of brash or sarcastic confidence with meta references like “James Murphy is playing at my house, spinning all rare shit from Flying Dutchman”. As an LCD Soundsystem fan, my mind was blown when I first heard that line. It’s such a pure insider reference, and done so tastefully that, the moment I heard it, Chaz’s iconic status in the Indie music world became solidified in my mind.
Outer Peace marks Chaz’s sixth album, and the diversity in his musical catalogue up to this point is astonishing (from chillwave and hypnagogic pop to power pop, dance music, and psychedelic jazz). Like someone as talented, withdrawn, and obsessed with hip-hop culture as Post Malone, Toro Y Moi is one of the finer products of growing up in the internet age. And wherever he goes from here, rapper/legitimate rap producer or not, he’s built a lauded musical legacy strong enough to withstand the test of time.