Tabi Bonney doesn’t want to impress you with towers of alliteration or half-baked tales of struggle. He’s not concerned with killing it lyrically—and he doesn’t rhyme about killing—nor will you find him hugging the block on some “keep it real” shit. Instead, Bonney keeps things cool and eclectic, with homegrown twang and hipster swag. He’s equally comfortable uptown and downtown, on the avenue and in a Whole Foods. If it wasn’t clear when he spent a 2010 video biking around the city in Tweed Ride gear, it’s obvious in 2012, a year in which Bonney has released a couple of mixtapes and directed a sightseeing promo video for Destination D.C., the local tourism promoter: More than any other rapper, Bonney bridges several shades of D.C. cool.
More impressively, Bonney’s two sides—the Northeast native of his 2006 breakout single, “The Pocket,” and the cosmopolitan “jetsetter” persona he developed a couple of years later—never feel like two different rappers. From the loose-fitting baseball cap to the skinny jeans, it’s all Tabi.
Bonney’s latest mixtape, the estrogenic Lovejoy Park, doesn’t capture the all-in urgency of 2011’s The Summer Years or 2010’s Fresh, both of which found Bonney embracing his broader exposure over breezy electro-pop compositions. Lovejoy Park is more of a victory lap, a streamlined nine tracks in 30 minutes. It’s dedicated to—if not necessarily for—the ladies, from its NSFW cover art to its playful anecdotes of romance gone awry.
Take “High School Jam,” in which Bonney describes an unusual date at a movie theater with an unexpected ending. “I lift up her shirt,” he says, “and then, she had hairy nipples. I was done.” The track, produced by InnerLoop label leader J-Scrilla, also contains the tape’s most memorable one-liner: “If I take you to Denny’s, then we go together.”
The playfulness persists on “Need a Girl,” on which Bonney and singer Raheem DeVaughn lament their poor dating prospects through sugary nursery-style rhymes. “I’m just so tired of the ones that ain’t shit,” Bonney groans. “The ones that never ever been ambitious.”
Compare that to the deceptive “Breaker,” with its carbonated, ‘80s-pop synths: When Bonney isn’t sketching out lovelorn angst, he’s shouting out the Black Cat and stalking his lady love. “One More Time” is more aggressive: Over a summery wash of warm keys and ambient “oohs,” Bonney and Phil Adé fondly recall a string of brief romances.
That’s about all Bonney’s going for on Lovejoy Park: He loves women, and sometimes they don’t love him back. Whatever corner of D.C. you’re sitting in, you can understand that.