Exclusive Review: Tone Spliff “Ardore Melodico”

By Alex P80 Parks

Los Angeles DJ and Producer Tone Spliff drops his full length LP Ardore Melodico (roughly translating to ‘blazing melody’). Grounded in an east coast sound and steeped in tradition with an ever present emphasis on the DJ, Tone links up with some talented emcees to deliver a solid album. Sounding like a beast on the drum machine and the 1’s and 2’s, it’s apparent Tone Spliff has some skills to flex on his latest project.

The beat-creator, originally from Utica, NY, said he made around 70 beats between February and April of 2017. He then started hitting up emcees he’s worked with in the past and new emcees he wanted to work with for the album. Tone details that “All of these tracks were made in 2018, so some of them have only been stashed for a few months maybe.”

The subtlety of his samples may not always create an element of tension, but his beats aren’t necessarily meant to be ominous or dark. The intention is fun and nostalgic or almost sentimental. Do not confuse fun and nostalgia with soft or cute, though. These are pure east coast beats with a heavy emphasis on dope lyrics and some serious scratching. The old heads will, no doubt, get a kick out of trying to name the joints that Tone pulls from for his vocal scratches.

Tone shows he can slice and scratch dope vocal samples and also produce bangers with some of the game’s biggest talents and brightest young spitters. The album is full of sharp cuts and scratches. I had to ask Tone about his thoughts on DJ’s doing their thing on tracks and about that 2nd golden era sound.

DRHH: In my opinion, Hip hop needs more dope Dj’s adding on to tracks. How essential is scratching?

Tone: I wouldn’t say it’s essential for scratches to be on every song an artist makes. Really depends on the vibe of the track. However for me, when I would hear a scratch hook on a song, the song would become 100x better. So being a DJ first, It’s a huge part of my production to have scratches on everything. But I have some songs without cuts too.

DRHH: It’s definitely an east coast/2nd golden era/ boom bap kinda style. Can You talk about that specific type and how it’s been a huge part of your “sound”?

Tone:When I first started DJing (in the early/mid 90s), thats when the 2nd golden era was getting started. So I was studying Nas “Illmatic”, Wu Tang “36 Chambers”, Big “Ready to Die” etc. It was a sample heavy, hard drums/boom bap style that stuck with me til this current day. To me, it never gets old. It just keeps getting better with age.

Tone carries that tradition in his own style of production. It’s evident on this album full of hard-hitting drums, plenty of bass and short samples/loops and of course, some sick slices everywhere. With 18 joints and clocking in at over an hour, Tone comes with plenty of ‘blazing melodies’ on this album.

Big ShugFe Fi Foe Fum” The Gangstarr Foundation members struts tough on the album opener. Shug is one of those cats whose presence is enough to make anybody shook, whether in-person or through the speakers.

GCM and PRR affiliate Realio Sparkzwell brings his slick rhymes and shit-talking game over a crackling piano loop on “Sun Dial.” Sparkzwell is able to balance some thoughtful rhymes and entertaining bars from the first single off the album.

Check the video here:

Baltimore’s Ill Conscious showcases his intelligent lyrics on “Ill Flows.” IC spits some sharp, rapid fire rhymes, seeming to barely take a breath. A quick, yet precise emcee for fans to check for.

Ren Thomas, Supreme Cerebral and Zagnif NoriHigh Potent.” The 2nd single off Ardore Melodico brought the heat with chopped keyboards, digi-sounds and the appropriate slices for a standout track. All three emcees come correct on the track. Supreme Cerebral has been extremely consistent of late and this track shows off his skills on the mic. Ren and Zagnif are not to be overlooked either as they come equally ‘potent.’

Check it out here:

Recognize Ali Recreational Rec” is another heater with a rhythmic piano loop allowing Rec Ali to go off with his usual hard and raspy flow. The scratch hook is quick and crisp and bound to engage hip hop heads. Recognize Ali continues to work with the best in the game and creates some of the hardest hip hop around.

Check the dope animated video here:

C Rayz Walz Oxygen” C Rayz gives us his unusual but unique flow over a vocal sample with Tone slicing up the track. Always seeming to have fun with his rhymes, C Rayz Walz varies his cadence and twists his flow adding his inimitable vocals.

Sadat XGot Wise” One of the standout tracks on Ardore Melodico, Sadat X is ageless on this one. Bringing memories of his Brand Nubian flows, Sadat is singular with his voice. His flow is distinctly odd, yet always successful in his rhyme schemes. This joint has a throwback feel, hearing Sadat X, even if the vet hasn’t ever stopped recording.

Kool Taj The Great What Glitters Ain’t Gold” with a measured delivery, Kool Taj brings a signature grimy NYC flow over strings and vocal samples.

LocalBlac provides a smooth flow over a couple of slick guitar chords chopped up on “Streets.” LocalBlac gives some distinct vocals on this upbeat end-of-summer track. The Los Angeles emcee’s rhymes tumble into one another creating a refreshing sound.

On “Mental Perfection,” Shabaam Sahdeeq sounds as sharp as ever, reminiscent of his early Rawkus days. Shabaam has always had his own slang and creative wordplay which he provides on this futuristic-industrial sounding background.

Suezar delivers quick-tongued lyrics over a melodic sample on “Rhyme With The Finest.” Playful with his words, Suezar stretches his rhymes across the bars on this track. Tone’s cuts are especially quick on this joint.

Tha God Fahim and Daniel SonReal Az it Getz” Fahim and Daniel trade verses over piano chords. Fahim doesn’t mince his words here, admitting his paranoia and skeptical thoughts. Daniel Son keeps it real, telling how he lives with his brand of creative rhyme patterns and unique swagger.

Boston legend, Ed OG connects with Born Talent on “Appreciation” showing their contrasting yet complimentary styles. Ed OG carries his slow husky flow while Born Talent picks up the pace. Tone uses a beautiful vocal sample, creating a nostalgic soulful feel.

New Jersey’s Pace Won is sure to make some heads chuckle with his witty punchlines on “The Craft.” The legendary Outsidaz co-founder provides his brand of amusing lines and in-ya face grimy rhymes. Tone provides a dope foundation of chopped horns and vocal cuts along with more sick cuts on the hook.

Solomon ChildsBetter Days” The Wu affiliate gives both a poignant and ordinary look into life when things go his way. Tone creates a hopeful mood with his arrangement of samples and punching drums for Solomon Child to rhyme of being fortunate and appreciative.

Illa Ghee’s grimy flow contrasts with the soft flute chops and subtle guitar riffs in “No Way Out.” Illa Ghee provides heads with some introspective rhymes but never too far from that brand of Brooklyn bully-rap that he does so well.

Kool Sphere and Young Lo connect to deliver “Hollywood Life.” With unique vocals and dope chopped piano samples, this joint has a great balance in the beat and lyrics. Well-paced and evenhanded, this joint shows off both emcees with different yet compatible styles

Rustee Juxx Get Paid” is a fitting way to end the album with Tone Spliff creating a subdued mood with slow, chopped single piano notes and plenty of ill slices on the hook. Juxx comes tough with his hard as nails lyrics. Rustee Juxx has been a consistent emcee since his early days as Sean Price’s protege. His flow hasn’t slowed down and his energy and aggressive demeanor on the mic are as focused as ever.

Tone mentioned that his influences include DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Alchemist, J Zone, Marco Polo, Nottz, Q-Tip and more. I think they’d appreciate his vision and the feeling that he has brought with his own production, certainly with this latest release. To completely immerse fans in that throwback 2nd golden era feeling, the album will not be available on streaming services (iTunes, Spotify, etc.). Tone Spliff is fittingly releasing Ardore Melodico ONLY on CD.

Tone never really pushes his beats out of his comfort zone, which some may see as too derivative or unimaginative, however, these are the type of east coast beats that fans always complain they don’t hear enough of. The constant on the album is the solid production from Tone Spliff, creating a consistent LP. Ardore Melodico is a project worth checking out.

Cop the album here:

https://tonespliff.bandcamp.com/album/ardore-melodico

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