A report by Brian Capitao for Complex.
JUNO Award-winning rapper Tona is back with a new single and video featuring frequent collaborator Kayo (Winter in St. Lucia).
“Way Up” is a trap anthem for the summer. Think “Bad and Boujee” with a Canadian twist. The track, produced by Memorecks—who fully-produced Tona’s last album, Black Mirror—samples Brazilian baile funk with a creeping bassline and intermittent horn. For the uninitiated, baile funk is Miami Bass with a Portuguese twist, filled with the same motifs of sex, drugs, and partying. But also, it’s a response to the social conditions of the poor living in Brazil.
This background works to contextualize trap music on an international level. From St. Lucia (both home to Kayo and the visual backdrop to the video) to Ghana, to Toronto to even the favelas of Brazil, there exists an African diaspora for which trap music has now become the latest form of self-expression.
On “Way Up,” Tona raps with a paranoia that has become custom in Toronto trap. The theme? No new friends. There’s too much pride. Too much at stake. Around the world, the struggle is often the same. The mistrust an inheritance of colonization. Freedom becomes an act of defiance.
Tona, who was once known for his punchlines, sticks the landing. He brings a couple clever bars for those paying attention. His verses are short and punchy.
Kayo shines on the song with his performance. His triplet flow dominates the track. Out of all the collaborations with Tona, this is his absolute standout performance. His ad-libs feel comfortably nestled in the record, his rapping on point. In recent years, Kayo has learned to create deftly crafted earworm hooks. Building on his Winter in sound, the island-born emcee has hit a stride.
The two rappers have undeniable chemistry. Kayo’s presence brings a moment of levity in contrast to Tona’s well-established anxiety on the track. It can be dangerous for a musician to chase after a hit, but the song works. It’s not just a cheap attempt at a radio hit but an evolution of these two artists working together.
The third single off Tona’s upcoming July 26th album shows a continuation in a trap sound, following the lo-fi trap of “Links” and the conscious trap banger of “Money ft. Bishop Brigante.” For those who enjoyed Tona’s Black Mirror project, its follow up shows great promise.