I first became aware of Big Toast through his being a third of the TPS Family, their excellent 2014 release 'Hot Water Music' being a high point of the year. His sharp wit and acute social commentaries stood out - as did his liberal use of the word "cunt"! I've followed Revorg a fair bit since and picked up most of their releases so was pleased to hear that there was a new project on the way.
Initially starting out as an EP, the unapolgetically-titled 'The Wedding Fund LP' grew as Toast found he had a lot more to get off his chest. Just under a year in the making, this 15-track full-length solo features production from 15 different producers and guest contributions that include Efeks, Jack Diggs, Luca Brazi and Oliver Sudden - all topped off with mastering by Chemo, who it seems never stops working.
'My New Record', the intro track, is handled by Beat Tsar and features looping piano keys whilst Toast drops a short verse introducing us to the album and admitting his panic over the financing of his upcoming nuptials. Ogre Drool produces and features on 'Waste Days', a track that explores the life of a wage slave. It's a decent track and there's a good chance some of the lyrics will resonate with most listeners.
The Ill Move Sporadic provide the slightly dramatic backing for 'Wedding Fund'. With references to his bride-to-be (opening with "Wanna give you the life you deserve"), Toast describes the struggle of saving for his wedding in the face of rising rents and static wages which leads him onto making the album itself as a potential means of reaching (or at least contributing to) his goal. Let's hope his employers don't listen too closely to the ending...!
"Never be a mobster, never be a gangster / Never be a doctor, never be a banker / I'm shocked that I've still got a job, wanna make cash with the skills that I've got" - Big Toast
The posse cut of the album is 'Unbelievable Krimewave', for which Sam Zircon contributes a brooding, booming soundscape that feels like it could have been the backing to a 90's New York track. Jack Diggs, Oliver Sudden, Ogre Drool, Gee Bag, Stinkin' Slumrok and FlowTecs are along for the six-and-a-half-minute ride and drop their braggadocio verses in quick-fire succession. Not quite sure what the closing lines that sample a 12 Oz. Mouse episode relate to here but they certainly add some humour.
The Downstroke-produced 'Sheep' covers "Tory types" and casual racism ("what the fuck's up with these Dog-and-Duck Hitler's?") before a Revorg reunion of sorts sees Efeks and Jack Diggs join Toast on 'Set This Straight', dropping bars over Mankub's superb production. It's a shame this one only lasts 2:42 as the beat is so smooth and it feels as if they're just getting going - Efeks with a particularly scathing verse, taking aim at fakes and phonies while Diggs and Toast keep it more straightforward. 'Sell Units' finds Toast lambasting the state of modern music, his chorus of "Sell units, speak to the stupid / people love fame, people don't love music" perfectly epitomising today's want-it-all-now attitudes. 2Late's production pairs well with Toast's style whilst another 12 Oz. Mouse snippet can be found at the beginning - someone's clearly a fan of that particular series!
In a recent interview about the album, Toast says "It's dropping 6 months before I get married so there’s time for it to gain some viral cult status shit and raise a few quid for sausage rolls an shit!!". I'd hazard a guess that the viral aspect was clearly a consideration when the video (and subsequent #FuckOffTarquin Twitter hashtags) for the next track, 'Fuck Off Tarquin', was being planned as it's definitely something that could be grabbed onto - though admittedly the language levels may be a barrier to some outlets covering it, whilst the subject matter definitely would be for others!! With an almost four-minute onslaught against the 'invasion of Tarquins' Toast, Datkid, Strange Neighbour and Jack Diggs make a stand against the trust fund mafia / hipster revolution that has seen the skinny-jean wearing types that love over-priced branded drinks take over London - it's brutal (but true!) stuff. DJ Al Mighty provides the cuts and the BadHabitz beat is perfectly matched with the rhymes and mood of the track.
'Play' continues the theme somewhat as Toast comes out with memorable lines like "I wish we could sterilise ITV viewers / the mugs that bump the music of bump Ke$ha / Daily Mail-reading cunts are no better" - brilliant, and a much more laid back beat from 184 is another good choice. Toast is in more reflective spirits on 'Good' as he outlines his desire to live a good life, be a good husband and have a really good time. Frequent collaborator and TPS Fam partner Strange Neighbour is behind the boards for 'Graveyard Shift' which is actually an older joint (possibly a track meant to be on the original solo EP?) where Toast describes his double life, the hip-hop side of which is done post-work in the night time hours.
Oliver Sudden and Luca Brazi guest on 'Shit Pub', a eulogy of sorts to the great British institution that is the traditional public house - fast becoming consigned to history as more and more close down to be replaced by "Tarquin boozers" and establishments serving craft beers at £4 per half pint. This is a track that will definitely feel close to home for some listeners! Oliver Sudden provides the beat and both he and Luca Brazi contribute solid verses here. On 'Old Cunt' we find Toast considering whether he should still be rapping, what with his impending marriage - perhaps he should be growing up?! Of course not, he's a "Peter Pan cunt" after all.
'Married Life' explores the sterotype of marriage - your girl turning into the nagging wife, the sex drying up etc - with Toast questioning whether his life is about to change completely. 'Departing' brings the album to a close, production handled by younger brother Jack Diggs. It's clearly a fitting title for a final track and is a good one too; socio-political rhymes weave their way over the sombre Diggs beat as Toast paints a picture that as night falls, he departs from "their" world.
There are obviously numerous extra pressures when you're an artist known as part of a group, branching out with a first solo record. Extra focus on your rhymes, for a start. Picking the right beats, coming up with a theme or a concept for the piece and knitting it all together ensuring you separate the wheat from the chaff. For me, Big Toast has definitely done more right than wrong here. He's kept a high standard of lyrical content and paired it with a selection of decent-to-good/very good beats - there aren't really any turkeys. The guests are relatively limited and those that do appear do well in the main. There's plenty of humour mixed with the more serious musings on the (very real) problems addressing today's society.
Any downsides, then? As ever with UK hiphop, the overseas audience will probably struggle with some the British-centric slang and topics, but that's unavoidable. Some songs (notably 'Set This Straight') I found a touch too short and whilst it's a theme of the album, I can imagine some may find the 'us-vs-them/class war' narrative a bit tiresome and maybe even a reason to switch off, depending on their particular political leanings - if that's the case though, this album was clearly not for them anyway.
Overall this is a very good album - well produced with enjoyable, humourous lyricism that also addresses some serious topics all paired with a good selection of beats. Plus a physical copy is a fiver, which is next to nothing for almost an hour of good music today and less than a pint in your Tarquin boozer too ;)