If you’ve attended your fair share of hip-hop shows, this has happened to you at least once. You discover a new rapper, fall in love with their music, and seize an opportunity to see them live. But right after they take the stage, they inexplicably start cupping the mic, distorting their once-intelligible lyrics into gobbledygook. It can really put a damper on things, even when they’re clearly giving it their all. So when you watch a seasoned emcee prove their worth as a “mic controller” in what could’ve quickly become a garbled cacophony, it’s refreshing as hell.
Considering Ray Villareal’s various public-facing side hustles – as an esteemed stadium sports announcer (for NCAA, UT, and beyond), frequent Double Toasted Bites podcast contributor, or as an outspoken pal determined to buy a round of Buds for the whole bar – it makes sense that Tone Royal treats microphones with a lot of technical understanding and respect. Tomorrow night, the San Antonio-raised, Austin-based vocalist assumes the headlining throne for Empire Control Room’s all-ages “Slow Roasted” 4/20 showcase, preceded by openers MCs Unknown, Shrt_lyf, Daddy Nat, and ZC3, all alongside DJ Buck Rodgers.
This morning Tone Royal sparked up the anticipation with his first single since last August’s “I Hate You”. While the straight-laced often associate 3AM with the witching hour, lonely partakers of the herbal persuasion can relate to the red-eyed reflections and retro re-runs that reside shortly before the day’s first 4:20. Somewhere between a modern torch song and a blunt-rolling bop, “Nick at Nite“ picks up where Passion Pit and Timmy Trumpet left off with a fresh interpolation of Mary O’Hara’s “Óró Mo Bháidín” baking under hazy sax in the background. Tone Royal’s trademark laid back swagger (on both the studio and live version of “Nick at Nite”) has us begging for a full-band full-length follow-up to 2018’s Late some time in the near future, but until then, we’re just fine with putting the remote in the freezer and letting the dial collect dust.