DJ Tony Touch’s legendary 50 MCs mixtape series has sparked and supported the careers of countless MCs throughout the years. Where other mixtape DJs may clamor for whoever the hot artists are no matter their sound or content Tony Toca has stayed tried and true to the boom bap blueprint.
With that allegiance to the true school in mind he crafted Return of the 50 Mcs, a sprawling project that aims and succeeds in putting the listener in a 90s state of mind.
With a who’s who of legends from Kool G Rap, to KRS One, and even an Eminem freestyle, his support of a wide range of artists have definitely been reciprocated on the project. Whereas Funkmaster Flex’s recent double CD full of tracks flex his knack for networking, with nearly every radio name accounted for, Touch’s project doesn’t stray from his stalwarts of the gritty, no nonsense sound that’s so lacking today. From the plethora of “where has he been” features to the production this is the antithesis of the DJ Khaled/Dj Drama type of compilation, for better or worse.
Those looking for their fix of 1990s inspired hip-hop will thoroughly enjoy this project, but anyone looking to see some kind of bridging of the gap sonically should look elsewhere. Save an odd Lex Lugeresque moment with Thirstin Howl III the Beatnuts-helmed soundscape stays beholden to hard snares, thumping kicks, and choppy samples. It works best on moments like the sinister guitar chops on “Hold That” (featuring Busta Rhymes and Roc Marciano notably) or the now underused one note loop on BARS featuring the Lox. There are tracks though like “Double A” that leave much to be desired.
Lyrically, any project with 50 different people will obviously have a myriad of quality, and this project is no different. The overall theme for this album though seems to be active artists’ thirst for. From still active vets like Busta Rhymes, Nore (who may have the best verse on the album on “Questions”) and Twista to new school lyricists Slaughterhouse (sans Joe Budden), Action Bronson and Papoose, most of the artists who are still laying it down today seemed invigorated with the chance to spit over beats that remind them of a classic era they were apart of or missed out on. A moment like Black Thought’s aptly named “Thought Process” belies how some of the lyrical passion seems to almost be campaigning for a reintroduction of the boombap and lyrical sparring as standard.
Some verses felt like phoned in favors, while other vets seem like they should have perhaps stayed wherever they were, but nothing on the album is overtly wack. Weaker verses are usually carried by strong showings on the same song. If you’re fiending for boombap, the 25 song long album is meaty and has misses, but is a solid nod to a classic era by a classic DJ.