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Artist: Tony Touch
Album: The Piece Maker
Label: Tommy Boy
Production: Psycho Les, DJ Premier, DJ Shok, DJ Muggs, Tru Masta, DJ Scratch, Tony Touch, The Alchemist, Maseo, Showbiz, 8-Off Agallar
Guests: GangStarr, Flipmode Squad, Cypress Hill, Wu-Tang Clan, Liwkit Crew, Royce the 5'9, Heltah Skeltah, Total, Prodigy, Greg Nice, De La Soul, Mos Def, DITC, Kid Capri, Big Pun, Sunkiss, D-12, Eminem, Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap, KRS-One, etc.
Stats: 2000; 21 Tracks at 69mins38secs
Reviewed by: Eitan Prince aka Supafly

Tony Touch is virtually the mix-tape King of New York. With a reputation for delivering exclusive freestyles and with a number of prized tapes under his belt, he finally makes his major-label debut with 'The Piece Maker'.

Tone basically invited a whole host of big names to drop jewels on this album, while he adds his own Latin flavour by dropping the odd solo joint or sharing the mic a la Pete Rock on 1998's 'Soul Survivor'. In fact, this album is not even really a mix-tape, it's a Tony-and-friends compilation album, but let's not get stuck on technicalities because there are many gems to be unearthed from Tony's mine of rap stars (underground and over).

GangStarr start off the proceedings with the title track and it's a typical DJ Premier banger - hard drums, crazy scratches - so you know you'll like it. Busta Rhymes leads the Flipmode Squad on 'Set It Off', which is on some ol' club shit, but the track tires quickly despite a solid performance by Rah Digga.

Cypress Hill step up with Tony to give us the forgettable 'U Know The Rules', but things pick up quickly with Wu-Tang's 'Abduction' - easily one of the album's highlights. Xzibit, Tash and Defari bring that alcoholic energy on 'Likwit Rhyming' over fairly 'jigged-out' DJ Scratch production. Now some will feel that jiggy is distasteful, or perhaps beneath them, but there's a place in Hip-Hop for different styles and besides, this is fun stuff. In his attempt to be 'hard', Prodigy of Mobb Deep fails completely, when neither his incoherent thug poetry nor Alchemist's uninspiring beats can save 'Basics'. But Tony knows how to have a good time, and with 'No, No, No' - featuring Boot Camp Clik's Heltah Skeltah and Starang Wondah - and the R&B-driven 'I Wonder Why?' he keeps your head nodding and fingers snapping.

DITC pull out a commendable Wu-Tang-like effort on 'The Club' and Greg Nice joins Psycho Les (The Beatnuts) for more club-hopping madness, but in between Mos Def and De La Soul disappoint with 'What's That (?Que Eso?)', an attempt at bilingualism that is only memorable for Mos Def's Spanish stylings and punchline, "Y'all niggas wack in one language, and I'm nice in two".

'Class of '87' with its line-up of Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap and KRS-One has classic written all over it, but fails to deliver as none of the MCs adequately handle Agallah's rowdy production, and this leaves one feeling robbed of a great collaboration at the end.

All in all, 'Piece Maker' is a bit hit-and-miss. Some of the half-assed efforts bring it down badly in places, but the album still manages to flow rather smoothly because it's comprised of tracks that make for quite easily listening. Hell, it's no 'Soundbombing 2', but what is? [7/10]

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