Token started rapping via his YouTube channel at age 10, spitting with a furious cadence that strayed dangerously near word-vomit territory. As he matured, he honed his formidable lyrical talent, culminating in 2019 with a hydrogen bomb of a Sway In The Morning freestyle. The gimmicks had dissolved to reveal a rapper with legitimate promise. He finally received the call in 2020, signing a distribution deal with Atlantic.

Now 23, Token has proven he can rap, but the debut is where many lyrically minded up-and-comers go to die. Clearly aware of the multifaceted challenge of album building, Token took his time on Pink Is Better, a labor of love that harnesses his insecurities. It’s a formidable entry into the ring for a rapper who by sheer force of will overcame the YouTube rapper mark of death.

The title, Pink Is Better, comes from Token’s two warring personalities: the red and white. The white takes some unpacking, but the red is as recognizable as color based symbolism can be. The rage, lust and vibrancy that enthralls his dedicated fans but may repel the general public falls into this red category. By mixing the mass appeal white with the ravenous red, Token makes pink. It’s a blatant compromise album, where Token openly admits he’s looking to reach middle ground. Pink Is Better does accomplish this to a point, though it doesn’t have any obvious radio candidates. Instead, Token’s compromise is more in his pace and content.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Token (@tokenhiphop)

With acid drenched basslines, as well as gloomy, forlorn reflections, Token has a great beat for all the moods he gets into. But even more notable is Token’s talent as a songwriter. He plays around with structure with a deftness not usually found on a debut, easily carrying songs without a chorus (as he does on “A Little Different,” “Caught On Camera” and “White Turns Red,” among others), but elsewhere using skit-like bridges and hooks to great effect. He’s not after the earworm chorus, which further adds to the meticulously balanced listening experience.

Pink Is Better benefits greatly from Atlantic Records’ resources. His distributors sprung for some hard-hitting producers such as Ronny J and Digital Nas, as well as explosive features from JID (“Boom”), Benny The Butcher (“Amsterdam”) and Rico Nasty (“High Heels”). These industry cosigns add credibility that Token was previously lacking.

Ironically, if there’s a weakness in the album, it’s Token’s bars. The percentage of lyrics about cheating on his girl in hotels, clubs and cars (anywhere really) is simply too high and becomes grating quickly. On occasion, there’s a monumentally stupid bar (“Gotta get a bag to my dad, that’s Baghdad”) or a section of off-beat oddity (second half of “ROUND OF APPLAUSE”). These are played as jokes, but they don’t land. For the most part, Token doesn’t amaze and he doesn’t disappoint, he firmly sits in the middle.

He’s admirably vulnerable and honest about his trials and tribulations as a romantic partner, family member, rapper and trauma survivor. However, his focus on the more personal parts of his life leaves little room for the fascinating wordplay and dragon breath delivery featured on his freestyles.

If nothing else, Pink Is Better is proof Token is a dedicated artist trying to hit the next level. He sounds deeply committed to his craft and seems to have a knack for building cohesive albums. Token doesn’t reinvent the rap wheel, nor does he blow the doors off the place, but he steers clear of gimmicks, makes his own sound and displays noteworthy acumen when it comes to song structure and features.

But in an effort to appease everyone, he ends up still disappointing core fans and not quite breaching the mark for mass appeal. Pink Is Better is a solid artistic compromise but ultimately, a reminder striving for the middle in music leads to middling results.

Repeat Me:


Fan Feedback: