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Tory Lanez Has Turned Quarantine Radio Into One of Our Great Isolation Pastimes

The Canadian rapper and singer broke all kinds of Instagram Live records in the run-up to his latest project, ‘The New Toronto 3’

Torey Lanez’s Instagram account/Ringer illustration

Every week, Micah Peters surveys the world of music—from new releases to bubbling trends to anniversaries both big and obscure—and gives a few recommendations.

Tory Lanez’s Chixtape series is music that doesn’t seem fit for any specific time or place other than active—as in, body-rolling after a love interest in a conspicuously empty city street—courtship. The name is a clumsy portmanteau of “chicks” and “mixtape,” and all of the songs are earthly come-ons over old boner jams. Like me, Lanez is in his late 20s, which means he was also in high school for the choreographed cat-calling of the mid-2000s hey shawty–ssance. He mined that nostalgia for five Chixtapes installments to ever-diminishing returns, with the latest proving the most ineffectual: The congratulatory thrill of identifying street harassment anthems, and surprise features from the likes of T-Pain, Ludacris, Lil Wayne, Mario, and others weren’t enough to sustain 2019’s Chixtape 5 over 18 tracks. People showed up for the first commercial iteration of the project, but costly samples meant that Lanez lost money on it, despite Chixtape’s debut at no. 2 on the Billboard albums chart. Throw in his assertions about being the King of R&B, and Lanez, at the end of last year, had cultivated a reputation not only for being creatively bereft, but delusional.

And then came Quarantine Radio, making him more than just a going concern.

What is Quarantine Radio? A piece of driftwood in a tempest. A breeze in the hapless doldrums. A light April shower in an endless desert. A place where Tiffany Haddish plays drinking games and retired porn star Kelsi Monroe twerks to “Back That Azz Up” while a friend pours strawberry milk on her, which according to my Trending Topics this past weekend was as important as Donald Trump leaning into some light authoritarianism. Imagine if Nappy Boy Radio were an actual radio station, and you’re 98 percent of the way there.

The concept is simple: Lanez sits on his couch with a blunt and a hand mic, durag untied, and hams it up for several hours while playing some playlist favorites and inviting guests “onstage” to wild out. He’s a great showman: Behind maybe last Saturday’s DJ Premier–RZA beat battle, it’s been some of the best content on offer since IG Live became the new radio a little over a month ago. It began with Lanez watching DJ D-Nice’s much ballyhooed Club Quarantine and figuring it might be fun to have sound clashes with his friends. It’s a much better medium for him to express horniness on main, as well as his affinity for great pop songs: His first set consisted mainly of old stuff “from the ’90s, like ’NSYNC and Britney Spears.” Then Bryson Tiller joined the livestream. And then Justin Bieber. And from there it continued to snowball—there have been as many as 310,000 viewers at a time (when Drake was on).

You’ll have seen Quarantine Radio pop up in relation to the term “demon time,” which is more a declarative statement than a temporal period. “Demon time” means it’s time to “put a demon on,” meaning it’s time for the host to cede some ground to a guest with strong knees and loose inhibitions. I say all that so you can understand this sentence: “Demon time” happened so frequently on Quarantine Radio that Instagram shut it down for a while.

It’s already back, and at the time of writing, Tory Lanez is offering cash prizes for answers to trivia questions about this newest project, The New Toronto 3. At 16 tracks it’s long, but it practically flies by compared to 2016’s I Told You, which had 28, including countless skits. New Toronto is allegedly his last album with Interscope. “I’m going to go completely independent,” he said in a recent interview. “I’m not in it to play games. I’ve been in it for 10 years, and I’m still relevant.” Duly, there’s a lot of paranoid rapping about the loneliness of success and the unbearable weight of all the money he’s making, but “10 F*CKS” is New Toronto’s only true standout moment. Speaking to DJ Ebro on Beats 1, he said that the world hasn’t even experienced his best music, that he kept some “golden songs” from the label.

Sure. At the moment I’m more concerned with the status of Quarantine Radio—it happens every other day, but depending upon whether or not the Canadian government chooses to “open” the country at the end of the month, Quarantine Radio may be discontinued. “If we are [still in quarantine] we will bring back another month of QR,” Lanez said on Instagram. “If not THEN WE OUTSIDE NIGGAAAA.”

Now for some recommendations:

“Leader of the Delinquents,” Kid Cudi

Kid Cudi’s first solo single in three years is a marked change of pace from his last three albums, the Kanye collaboration Kids See Ghosts, Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’, and Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven. Each mainly relied on Cudi’s voice as an instrument, each defined by a sound that could loosely be identified as rap music.

Now, I am not here on Al Gore’s internet trying to tell you that Cudi was ever a rapper’s rapper, just that he can and once did better than listlessly moan “her vagina is moist!” “Leader of the Delinquents” is as boom-bappy as Cudi is capable of being, and he gets some clever lines off in here, for the first time in what feels like a while.

“She Think,” Buddy

If you make somewhat melodic rap music in Los Angeles, chances are you’ve called in one or both of Buddy and OverDoz alum Kent Jamz to make things snap into place. They both have a penchant for padding out songs with a bunch of immediate mini-hooks like, “She see me on TV and now she think she fallin’ in love / She smoked up all my weed and now she think she fallin’ in love.”

If this and “Hollyhood” are anything to go on, this eventual joint project is going to be absolutely perfect for that summer we’re not getting.

“Gin & Juice (Quarantine Remix)”

Every part of this is slick, but I was absolutely outdone by “I don’t like 2020, 2020 I don’t like.”