Dream teams aren’t having much success this year. While it often looks good on paper to combine the top talent available in a quest for the elusive championship ring, problems with chemistry, personality conflicts and differences in style are frequent roadblocks to success for these types of arrangements. Thankfully, Brooklyn emcee Torae doesn’t encounter these issues on his latest release, For The Record.
On the follow up to 2009’s well-received collaboration with Marco Polo, the Young Vet ups the ante with a who’s who of boom-bap legends (DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Diamond D, Large Professor) and a group of their talented disciples (9th Wonder, Khrysis, Nottz, !llmind and the aforementioned Marco Polo) behind the boards. Even with that level of star-power providing the soundtrack, Torae’s lyricism does not take backseat to the production. The Double Barrel chemistry between Tor’ and Marco Polo remains cobra venom potent on “You Ready” as the BK native plows right through horn stabs, crisp percussion, wailing vocals samples, and guitar licks like crepe paper. Little is left to the imagination with lines like “I make niggas miss you/you can send shots with hashtags/I’ma send my shits back with the pistol.” 9th Wonder’s simple horn loop keeps pulse rates racing as the canvas for Torae’s fed-up rant “Shakedown.” On “That Raw,” Pete Rock slows it down a bit, while The Young Veteran spits some some Brooklyn slick talk over bright vibraphones and a muddled bassline.
Taking a note from his Heart Failure mixtape, released earlier this year, Torae’s ruminations on love lost advance the more topical side with “Over You,” an ode to an ex that the brolic rhymer hasn’t quite gotten out of his system. His lyrics are earnest and the story rings true. On the Extra P-produced “Do The Math,” Tor’ turns Jadakiss’ “Why?” into “What If?” with butterfly effect changes to Hip-Hop history tidbits and key events. A bit more disappointing is the collaboration between Torae and DJ Premier on the title track. The beat is tepid, for Primo’s standards, and Tor spends a good bit of the song rapping about how happy he is to be working with the Gang Starr legend.
That said, For The Record adheres to the “half short and twice strong” mantra espoused by The GZA some time ago. Clocking in at just under an hour, there is no room for pauses and giggles, or self-absorbed swag boasts. No, Torae doesn’t reinvent the wheel here nor does his choruses. He rhymes skillfully over well-produced beats based in an aesthetic that seems to be heading towards extinction. Still, nothing about this album seems outdated or soaked in the bitterness that plagues many albums that eschew the trends that pervade today’s Hip-Hop music. While it’s a given to applaud any artist attempting to break new ground and innovate, there is something to be said for doing one’s job and doing it well. It pays off to remember a time when hard beats and rhymes were enough to satisfy. Do you?
Label: Internal Affairs Entertainment | Producers: DJ Premier, 9th Wonder, Diamond D, Pete Rock, Marco Polo, !llmind, Khrysis, Large Professor, Nottz, E. Jones, Eric G., Fatin “10″ Horton, Filthy Rich