The cover of the new album by musician, rapper, DJ/producer and Banda Maje's co-founder Tonico 70 features an honest, unfiltered photo his mother took of him with a disposable camera – a photo that is as blunt and sassy as hip hop, but at the same time filled with the sweetness of soul music. The style of Antonico is all there, in that shot of a nine-year-old kid that was just beginning to discover and love music – a passion that, as he says now, "has been driving me for over thirty years."
Coming after many years of songwriting, beatmaking, MCing, live performances and collaborations, this new album, his first released on Four Flies Records, connects the dots between past, present and future, presenting Tonico 70 as a fully-rounded artist rather than just a rapper, and one aware of his own many facets.
Co-produced with Peppe Maiellano, Banda Maje's other founder, Antonico offers an intimate portrait of Tonico 70, who has put his 'tough-music-smuggler' persona aside to let his soulful side shine through, giving us a warm, funk-inspired and very original take on the so-called 'Napoli power' sound.
Lyrically too, the album takes us deeper into his world. Here, Tonico 70 evaluates his personal history, speaking about his joys and disappointments, his highs and lows, and the friends and lovers who are or were in his life.
Sometimes his flow is confidential and nocturnal – in "Vic'l", for instance, where the sound is smooth and sweet, rife with contrapuntal notes and harmonies that are clearly reminiscent of 70s soul, but also in the bluesy rap of "Doppia Chance" and the prayer-like song "For For". Other times he gets bolder and brasher, like in the reggae-inspired in "Quaqquara Qua", or in "The Revolution Will Not Be Telefonin", which is obviously a (cheeky) tribute to Gil Scott Heron.
A number of tracks feature long-time friends and collaborators: rapper Morfuco in "Italia 90" (a funky uptempo song with powerful gospel vocals in the chorus), the Funky Pushertz crew in "Sai Com'è" and, perhaps most importantly, the Salifornian soul-funk collective Banda Maje, who give new life to three songs from the artist's previous discography: "Vir Buon", "Gente Antica" and "Fantasie".
This album shows that Tonico 70 has reached a stage of maturity in his career, one where his music extends beyond rap and hip-hop to incorporate rich instrumentals and multiple genres that carry the echoes of his experiences and encounters in the lively alleys of Salerno's historic district, and of the people whose lives unfold there, in the heart of the Mediterranean.