Tony Touch is a hip-hop renaissance man; a jack-of-all-trades; a b-boy, producer, emcee and deejay. He is the unofficial king of mix tapes, flooding the streets with more than 75 of ’em. His 2000 release and first for a major label, The Piece Maker, elevated the mix-tape genre into a marketable commodity and reintroduced Touch to a new generation of hip-hop listeners.
Enter 2004 and Tony Touch’s second major release, The Piece Maker 2, a solid album that provides a unique blend of classic hip-hop with Puerto Rican soul. What separates The Piece Maker 2 from your average mix tape and compilation album is Tony Touch’s Nuyorican perspective on hip-hop. In the annals of hip-hop history, Puerto Ricans are often forgotten for the role they played (and continue to play) in the development of the culture. Like any good deejay, Tony Touch wants to move the crowd with a selection of records that represents his identity and tastes in music.
He infuses the Nuyorican sound into nearly every track. The album kicks off with “Tony Navaja,” featuring salsa great Ruben Blades. The intro sets the tone for the entire album: hip-hop with a shake of Puerto Rican flavoring. This combination works well in tracks like “Capicu,” “Dimelo” and “Como Suena,” which was influenced by Reggaeton (i.e. Tego Calderon). But it fails to reach expectations in “Spanish Harlem 2,” featuring the Cocoa Brovaz and Hurricane G. That track falls short in comparison to the original and suffers from a weak Hurricane G verse.
Don’t get it twisted. In addition to the Spanish-tinged tracks, Touch provides a series of throwback joints. In “Trouble on the Westside Highway,” Slick Rick shows that his skills are still sharp after his trouble with the INS. The Wu-Tang Clan reunites on the Rza-produced “Rock Steady,” where Raekwon, Method Man and U-God give fans a flashback of ’93. Tony Touch gives fellow Rock Steady member Q-Unique time to shine on lyrically impressive “Spit 1.”
The best track on the album is the politically charged “Touch 1 Touch All,” featuring Dead Prez. M-1 steals the show with an incredible verse, spittin’ “The only way we winning is black and brown power / No backing down now is the time to get ours / If you Touch 1 you Touch all/ It’s more than a rhyme / We in this together son your beef is mine.” Throughout the album, Tony Touch is attempting to bridge the gap between Nuyorican and hip-hop culture.
The Piece Maker 2 brings together an impressive roster of emcees and producers, but there are a few filler tracks by big name artists, including “Non-Stop” featuring P. Diddy, Black Rob and G-Dep and “How You Want It” featuring Redman, Keith Murray and Erick Sermon. And some may need a translator to comprehend some of the Spanish-heavy tracks. The album is consistent from beginning to end, but it lacks that one extraordinary track to elevate it.
That said, Tony Touch brings that Puerto Rican sound that is often disregarded in hip-hop. He is more than a novelty act; he is an embodiment of hip-hop. In order to fully understand him and The Piece Maker 2, take a trip to your local Spanish neighborhood and absorb the sites, sounds and smells. You’ll probably catch me there.