Marco Antonio Restrepo, better known in the music world as A.Tone Da Priest, has a lot to say. His songs are packed to the brim with verses about life, pain, joy, and rap, and endless onslaught of wise words and well-crafted flows. Where some rappers are content to ride a hook throughout their tunes, only throwing together thoughtful lyrics as a last resort, A.Tone puts the words first, making sure to make the most of every second he spends on the microphone. His songs, like the production behind them, are dense and lush, with never a wasted moment or a lingering note. It makes for an intense listen, and a bit of a draining one, but on his latest, The Address EP, it makes his tracks worth paying attention to.
Album opener “Watch Me” kicks things off with a heavy thumping beat that gels nicely with lightly reverbed and doubled vocals. The lyrics themselves are solid as well; they delve into vocabulary beyond the generic, even if the subject matter isn’t particularly profound. The song’s weakness isn’t in its bars, but in its cadence, where A. Tone occasionally sounds too much like he’s struggling to keep the verses aligned with the beat. As he hits each punctuating syllable a bit harder than the downbeats, it gives each verse a sort of halting, up and down feel that interrupts the track and distracts from the overall song.
Luckily, the EP’s first track is the only song on the album to really suffer from that sort of lyrical stutter step. The second track, “Sinful,” smoothes out more as A. Tone explores important and heavy topics like drugs and crime: “These urges tryna get me to do all evil deeds/For money honies, drugs, guns and an abundance of this greed.” It’s heavier subject matter than the album’s first track, but it comes of easier, as if A.Tone believes it a bit more.
The beats on The Address EP are great, full of bombast and bass. Songs like “They Know That” and “Sinful” have the sort of booming epic sound that would sound at home in a krump danceoff or an arena stage. Over the top of those beats, particularly on “They Know That,” A. Tone adds multi-track vocal verses that create a sort of hip hop wall of sound effect. It’s so thick it’s almost disorienting at times, but it’s immersive rather than distracting. With so much to focus on – and verses that seem to surround the listener – it’s easy to lose yourself in these songs. It may not be the easily-digestible pop rap that you’ll find on Top 40 radio, but it’s the sort of sonic feeling that musicians can use to develop a cult following.
The album’s final track, “You Party,” strikes a similar vibe, although – like the title would suggest – the song has a more joyous and uplifting feel. It’s a real banger, lilting and saccharine sweet. “You Party” is a soundtrack to a life spent out on the town; “You say you party, we say its life,” sings the hook. “You plan a weekend, but see we do this every single night.” This is the type of song that plays in the background when you open the door to your limo and enter the club in slow motion.
The album isn’t without its flaws; in addition to a disjointed flow at times, A.Tone’s lyrics are sometimes lost amid the thick production. “Wild N Cray,” a song by collaborator 1Up, seems like a speedbump in the middle of an album that is very thematically different. The production sometimes sounds too heavy to let the lyrics really shine. All told, though, The Address EP is an enjoyable record from an artist who is still relatively new in the game. His commitment to lyrical density and depth pushes his music forward, backed by big beats that can stand up to a high volume of verses. The Address doesn’t seem like an entirely finished product, but it’s a good move in the right direction, and hints at the potential for better things to come from A.Tone Da Priest.
Review by Chris Barth
Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)