There's no real getting around it, Tory Lanez is the rapper as pastiche. A true rap chameleon, he's heavily channeled both Kendrick Lamar and Drake. An early mixtape, Conflicts of my Soul, might as well have been a love letter to Good Kid, m.A.A.d City, and the Aubrey influence is omnipresent in his entire presentation. While this has remained a harping point for his detractors, plenty of fans are more ready to point out just how damn successful his chameleon act has been. Lost Cause arrived amidst, for some of us, peak Drake fatigue, and Lanez' streetwise persona was mercifully less grating than Toronto's reigning champ's 'Started from Degrassi the Bottom' posturing.

Drake, naturally, began to take offense and the two engaged in the shade and dismissal typical of modern beef, only helping Lanez profile. Gradually, they made nice, Drake perhaps sensing his ire at someone borrowing his style rung a tad hollow with him cherry picking vibes from Houston to London. It was a small ting, man.

All this made Lanez' major label debut, I Told You, feel like a missed opportunity. The Canadian upstart suddenly felt far less confident, bloating his narrative with unnecessary skits and back peddling on his greatest strengths.

Arriving less than two years later, Memories Don't Die (stylized in all caps) feels like everything his debut should have been. Slicing off the fat of a self-important back story, Lanez lets the music speak for itself. When he does chat, it feels pointed, as he recalls a walk home in a storm only to his learn of his mother's death on penultimate track 'Happiness', its the most human he's yet sounded on record, with gently plodding piano keys mimicking the sad rainfall behind him. He's also back on his A-game, splitting seamlessly between his emotive singing and deft rapping. The divide flows more seamlessly than ever; right from the get go on 'Old Friends x New Foes', he softly begins, only for the full beat to come slamming in, to which he instantly responds with a tenacious flow.

What's more, the juxtaposition of songs tilted towards one side of his style or the other is well considered, with the triumphant trumpet blasts of lead single 'Shooters' offering ideal contrast to the sensual click-clack of R&B jam '4 Me'.

The chameleon factor is still present, with the outro to 'Benevolent' in particular finding him, surprisingly, putting on his best Rick Ross impression. By and large, however, Lanez feels more comfortably his own than ever, addressing the copycat claims with a snarl on 'Tell Me', “Tell me that I bit the styles of artists that done been around me / Ain't influence every artist that done been around me.”

Keen to prove his point, when going toe to toe with Future on 'Real Thing', Lanez holds his own and doesn't cede an ounce of presence from his album, no small feat when facing down Hndrxx himself. In fact, by and large, features prove unnecessary. Aside from an unexpected 50 Cent cameo rooting the dark tale of 'Piece', guests slow down affairs, Fabolous and NAV providing predictably blasé appearances, and a regrettable Wiz Khalifa (seriously, everyone: stop it with the mids, Curren$y and Snoop are surely available) altogether stopping the fun of 'Hillside' in its tracks with his lifeless, limp braggadocio.

Generally, however, Memories Don't Die is maintained as Lanez' show, moreover, something of a proving grounds. The rapper-singer seems more determined than ever to prove there's a space for him in the forefront, and he's never stated his case more strongly than here. Hell, even Drake thinks it's nice.