Tony Touch

The Piece Maker, Vol. 2

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Taking his mixtape skills to another level, Tony Touch shepherds a sprawling guest list deep into his world of hip-hop underground beats and spicy Latin flavors, with excellent results. Touch blends the diverse styles of Sean Paul, Slick Rick, Rubén Blades, and some Wu-Tang-ers by keeping his beats very New York Hispanic, and very real. Most tracks feel like stream of consciousness freestyles -- especially when Touch grabs the mike -- but here and there Piece Maker, Vol. 2 offers up a song. A direct tale of trouble in the hood, Slick Rick's "Trouble on the Westside Hwy" returns the rapper to his rightful place as king of the gruesomely humorous. Sean Paul's cut is welcome reggaeton rather than limp crossover, and N.O.R.E.'s swaggering Spanglish bridges the gap between Fat Joe and Juju's hard raps and Touch's salsa breaks. The skits are actually funny, the ghost of the S.O.S. Band turns up, and it's all blended so well the album feels more effortless than ambitious. It's the album's biggest problem, and one wishes the producer had come up with that extra track that would have turned Piece Maker, Vol. 2 into a classic. But for a casual and languid ride through the downtown, you can always turn to Touch.

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