I've referenced the Rap Is Outta Control satellite radio program before, and it is on that show that I was introduced to Torae. Honestly I had no idea that this dude been in the game as long as he has. So this weekend I'm def gonna scoop up a few Tor tapes and school myself a bit. But before that, I made some time to hear the Brooklyn emcee link up with his borough-mate Skyzoo for their collab effort, Barrel Brothers. The duo kept the features low (4 out of the 14 tracks) with just 5 emcees: Sean Price, Guilty Simpson, Sha Stimuli, Livin Proof and Blu. Production wise, damn near every track has a different producer. From millennial hit makers like Oh No and Illmind, to underground cats like Black Milk, and vets like DJ Premier. Lyrically both emcees attack each instrumental with sharp metaphors and bravado. While I will admit that the main reason I wanted to cop this album was for Sky, Tor has shown that he can hold his own with the pen (no shots though, I still feel Skyzoo took the alpha emcee title throughout).
The "first" (technically second) track, Talk of the Town, is an Oh No produced joint that provides an intricate instrumental evocative of that early 90's sound. Torae jumps right into the track with energetic lyrics that ride the beat like a vet. You can def tell his golden era influences in his rhyme patterns and bar structures. Skyzoo follows up with his insane flow and cool cadence. They each split the emcee duties with two verses each. Torae ends with the chorus, "You talking about us?/ You talking about the talk of the town/ We the only ones mentioned when there's talk of the crown/ We the only ones in it that ain't alter the sound/ That ill shit, that we bringing you now."
The final track, Aura, might have some story behind its inception. Earlier this year (or maybe late last year), DJ Premier was on Rap Is Outta Control (which he does from time to time) and Antman Wonder called in. I believe they were discussing An Ode To Reasonable Doubt (peep review here). Preem congratulated Antman on his production of the album. Antman thanked Preem and praised Preem as one of his biggest influences, and boldly asked him to work together someday. Preem agreed, and I believe this might be the track that came from that convo. It def has the orchestral vibe that Antman provided with his previous Skyzoo collab. And of course Preem came in with the breaks, the boom and the bap. Both emcees maintain the lyrical quality on this track that is consistent from the beginning to the end of the album.
The Brooklyn duo managed to combine their lyrical efforts to achieve a very solid album. There was a lot of thought that went into the lyrical arraignments and production selection. For the most part this sounded like a proper hip hop duo album, and not just an album with an individual emcee featuring the other. This is not a flashy fancy collection of tracks, it is just good old timeless raps with top notch production.
Stream album below. And peep the music video for the single Blue Yankee Fitted.