An irrepressibly confident debut album...

Edmonton’s Tion Wayne has come a long way from the backstreets and blocks of ‘The 9’ - where he created a buzz around his name with a series of charismatic YouTube freestyles in the early 2010s. Coming to terms with that journey is the central theme of his highly anticipated debut album ‘Green with Envy’.

“All my life had to hustle and slip / Cah my teachers told me I wouldn’t be shit” Tion raps on the hook of opener ‘Where were They’ - a slick drill cut loaded with contrasts between his past and present, from feds at his door to offshore bank accounts. But financial freedom doesn’t necessarily equate to psychological or physical freedom when you’re from the trenches, and he keeps his rivals in his peripherals. “Even though I’m up, ain’t shit changed / man will line you up, no skin fade” he warns on the same track.

It’s the first of a quartet of drill bangers. ArrDee-assisted August single ‘Wid It’ follows. He makes space for Edmonton’s rising drillers 3x3s on ‘Anything Grr’ - a brutal, road-ready riser that’s loaded with local ‘if you know, you know’ references. When Tion enters the fray he concedes that the life he’s led has left him in a state of paranoia and then nonchalantly dismisses his enemies with a flick of his Rolex-adorned wrist - “couldn’t give a fuck about opps, I’m rich” he boasts. He then trades explosive verses with Chicago’s Polo G on ‘Rock Dat’ as the album’s pace becomes frenetic; picture Tion accelerating out the ends in a green lambo.

‘Green With Envy’ then glides into cruise control. Tion might’ve conquered U.K. charts with drill, but across the last decade he’s built both his fanbase and his rep as a certified hitmaker by releasing hustle-driven aspirational rap and breezy afroswing anthems concerned with the finer things in life. He leans into these sounds as the album progresses, reconnecting with NSG on ‘Loyal’ and longtime collaborator Afro B on ‘4 Life’. After a ferocious beginning to the project, these tracks unfold like audio velvet in your headphones. ‘Wow’ and the all-star remix of ‘Body’ are a sudden injection of venom later on. And then it’s back to warm soundscapes. ‘Spend a Bag’ features Atlanta’s 6lack. Both artists are renowned for their mastery of melody; paired with a gorgeous saxophone line, the late-album track is silk smooth.

While Tion is at his most fierce on the album’s opening four songs, the closing four find him at his most open. He recruits Joe Black, Potter Payper, Rimzee and Edmonton legend Scorcher for motivational posse cut ‘Make it Out’; all five men are as real as it gets, have known the brick and steel of a prison cell and subsequently turned their lives around. Tion spins bars about jailhouse scraps, robbing to pay for videos and survival. “I’m glad I made it, was a real crook / but this money make me feel good” he raps.

He fully embraces vulnerability on ‘Homecoming’ over twinkling keys and choral vocals, reflecting on the poverty he grew up around, his mum’s illness and how the roads felt like a rational choice. “I was smart but I lost my mind / I think it was when she got cancer twice / I had to roll with my grams on bike” he admits before addressing how music saved his life. The track closes with a hymn and prayer from his mum. It’s a poignant moment.

After the raw emotion of ‘Homecoming’, final track 'Road To Riches’ feels like a victory lap. “All them hours done on basic / but now I’m rolling in a spaceship / They say life is what you make it” he raps over a bright production, complete with electric guitar licks fit for stadium shows that are destined to be announced in the near-future. It’s a glorious closing statement to a cohesive, irrepressibly confident debut.

8/10

Words: Robert Kazandjian

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