With a confident mix of elegant and cool, Toronto’s Jazz Cartier delivers a solid offering with Hotel Paranoia. In 15 tracks, the 6ix-based artist shows off an epitaph that is self-reflective and skillful, mixing together a healthy balance of personal and political introspection with unapologetic swagger.
Right in track one with “Talk Of The Town,” Cartier is declarative with his musical prowess. “I am the prince of the city,” he confidently croons, a sinister hook that weaves between call outs of his hip hop colleagues who fail to work as hard as him. The track then ends off with a theatric dialogue that introduces the story of Hotel Paranoia, with Cartier checking in and looking for 100 roses, which he sings about in his next track.
“100 Roses” turns up the energy from the relatively calm first track, with Cartier mixing in skillful raps with nuanced vocals that show off the production of the album. Cartier aptly demonstrates the performative side of his craft, swirling in an overt dose of angst and emotion.
The album then churns out “I Know,” a catchy and dreamy hit that shows off a softer and smoother side of Cartier. The hook is tremendous, with Cartier’s vocals sounding more loving than preaching throughout the track.
“Illuminati Love Song” is another soothing track, but don’t be fooled by its soft persona. Cartier sounds more melancholic here, lamenting over being in love with a girl that he equates to “dancing with the devil.” This is a surprising track that fans will appreciate for its raw emotion and performance.
One of the strongest tracks come in on track 8 with “Black And Misguided.” Here, Cartier sounds desperate and angry, speaking about violence in black communities and at the hands of police forces. This is an important track, not only to show off how skillfully Cartier uses his craft to speak on real societal issues, but also that these issues are not free from Torontonians and Canadians. Cartier shows off an admirable fearlessness in singing about important and personal grievances.
Cartier reverts back to his smooth swagger with “Tell Me,” featuring River Tiber. This track has a more 90’s R&B feel to it, with Cartier’s deep voice rapping in a more sensual manner compared to the rest of the record. Compared to the masked anger and sadness in “Illuminati Love Song,” “Tell Me” is a genuinely sugary cut that fully shows off the gentle side of Jazz Cartier.
“One Day/Feel Away” is a lovely introspective cut that contemplates a troubled relationship . Cartier sounds both melancholic and thoughtful, rapping softly over a jazzy instrumental that emanates spoonfuls of chill vibes. The sleepy nature of the lengthy track allows the listener to contemplate on their own pasts with Cartier as he sings about the struggles of maintaining a healthy relationship. The song then transitions into the “Feel Away” portion of the track, with Cartier sounding more resentful compared to the first half. “I hope that you catch that bouquet” implies that he hopes the girl he is singing to finds someone else, which exemplifies the bittersweetness that comes with drifting away from someone you love. Cartier delivers a solid lengthy cut that aptly combines thought and performance.
“Tales” returns to Cartier returning to having fun with vocal production, the overall composition skillfully bringing out the frustration that emanates throughout the track. It offers a nice build up to “Save Me From Myself,” the conclusion to the record where Jazz Cartier finally unleashes himself in a flurry of anger.
Cartier sounds the most aggressive he’s ever rapped on the record, all while still maintaining his thoughtful energy. We would’ve liked to see him do this more throughout his record, but the cathartic impact of finally seeing him explode here is satisfying.
Hotel Paranoia shows off an artist who is unafraid to wear his emotion on his hat. Mixing together technical performance, nuanced production, and emotional writing, Jazz Cartier delivers a record that is genuine. Its regrettable to admit that the overall tone of the album, however, comes off a little monotonous. Despite the instances here and there that give the journey a turn, Hotel Paranoia maintains its cool and calm energy all throughout. This is both a good and a bad energy, as it maintains consistency, but it offers no surprises that would otherwise make this album truly stand out.
Nevertheless, Cartier gives us something juicy to bite into, with Hotel Paranoia offering just enough to satiate your thirst for good music.
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