Save Money is here to stay, and the proof is Towkio. Of course, Chance the Rapper sells out shows off of free albums, and yes, Vic Mensa just got signed by Jay-Z, but Towkio and his latest release, .Wav Theory, are proof that the Chicago collective, as a collective, is a true force to be reckoned with. While those two MCs have achieved their success somewhat apart from the larger group, .Wav Theory truly feels like the culmination of the collaboration and development Save Money fosters within itself. Both Chance and Vic show up, as do Leather Corduroys (the crew’s Joey Purp and KAMI). Donnie Trumpet adds some of his magic as well. The whole project is executive produced by Peter Cottontale of the Social Experiment, and to be honest sounds like how I imagined Surf would sound. In return, Towkio reps Save Money very hard and it’s clear that this group of incredibly creative young people served as an integral launching pad. This isn’t at all to say that Towkio doesn’t shine on his own. Rather, he uses the creative support of his friends to allow himself freedom to roam. (Their contributions are almost completely confined to the first half of the tape.) What results is a very diverse tape, ranging across genres and moods.
Title track “.Wav Theory” serves as the mission statement. The song explains Towkio’s life philosophy, that just as “the moon controls the waves, our thoughts can shape the earth” and “the earth controls the moon, so we control the waves.” What he’s saying is that we have the power, through positive thinking, to change our lives and change the earth. The next track, “Clean Up”, grounds this thinking in Towkio’s own path, as well as the ever-present shadow of dying young so specific to his hometown. This elevates his .wav theory from stoner musings to a real coping mechanism and strategy for self-advancement. The rest of the mixtape has Towkio promoting his way of life with endearing earnestness. He sees himself as a prophet with a mission for his peers, but he conveys his message without seeming overly preachy. Whether he ultimately succeeds depends on his next few projects, and what he does when he achieves greater fame.
Towkio’s best songs are the ones that capture a particular state of being, be that young love (or like), confident euphoria, or desperation. In that way his music is truly full of life. Almost none of the songs are skippable, it really depends on what you’re in the mood to hear. Favorite tracks include “Clean Up”, as well as “RN”, which features Towkio in a somewhat more vulnerable state. “I Know You”, a light-hearted break in between more serious songs, perfectly captures dating among our generation – while Towkio is unabashed in his belief that he and his chosen lady could make something beautiful, he makes sure to be clear that he’d be just fine should she choose to swerve. And of course, the most well-known track on the mixtape, and definitely a highlight, is “Heaven Only Knows.” The gospel-influenced cut is pure joy, an example of the perfection that can emerge from loving collaboration. That said, the rest of these standout tracks are solo, showing us that Towkio is truly ready to step out of the shadow of his friends.
.Wav Theory is truly genre-less, with influences ranging from hiphop to jazz to gospel to dance. It’s fitting that in iTunes, it’s simply filed under “.wav.” And yet, thanks to Towkio’s overarching message and Cottontale’s musical vision, the project manages to gel together. However, in future projects, it won’t be enough for Towkio to let us into his new religion – he’ll need to come with more than just a plea for positive thinking. He’ll need to show rather than tell. Perhaps a little more exploration of the depths that require positive thinking is necessary – I would’ve appreciated more about his experiences in Chicago. Nevertheless, Towkio’s philosophy and music are infectious, and he shines throughout .Wav Theory. While he raps that he’ll wait for his turn, it’s clear that Towkio’s time has come.