skyzootorae-bbrothersA trend that has been happening in hip hop lately is artists/producers collaborating for an album project. More often than not it’s just a one-off, and it’s been thrown together. There isn’t that TRUE chemistry that you would have seen in duos in the 80s & 90s, like Eric B. & Rakim. EPMD. Pete Rock & CL Smooth. Method Man & Redman. Mobb Deep. Das Efx. Capone ‘N’ Noreaga. All of which have produced classic albums through the ages.

This latest hip hop pairing was one that was brewing underground that a select few knew about. Careers parallel, you were fan of one possibly more than the other, but you were at least aware of the other artist… and it all started in 2007 with the track ‘Get It Done’ produced by DJ Premier. Just like Method Man & Redman in ’95 with ‘How High’, it was only a hip hop fan’s dream to see an album between the two. Fast forward 7 years from 2007 – 2014, and this dream isn’t deferred. There is no admission of guilt needed. This is Skyzoo & Torae: Barrel Brothers.

The intro presents that classic Spike Lee like 90’s tone and the trumpet of Sean Taylor (Skyzoo’s brother maybe? (Real name Gregory Taylor) and goes into the ‘Talk of the Town’, a track sounding like Sky & Torae recorded and performed it live on a street block. By the end of this album, the pair will have you talking about them.

The producer behind Sky’s ‘Range Rover Rhythm’ Jahlil Beats, is back with another torae2scorcher. Once these guys are the talk of the town, they will ‘Make You A Believer’. Torae’s delivery comes with finesse here: “There aren’t no stopping us/on the Freeway with the Mac/That’s State proppin us/It’s Bleek/If it ain’t Jigga & Dash there ain’t no ROC’in us/Ready To Die/Sky’s The Limit/They be poppin us/Poetic Justice got me the Juice and that’s that Pac in us..” The flow continues on in the !llmind produced ‘Tunnel Vision’. Just like on A Dream Deferred’s Give It Up, if the track doesn’t grab the listener the first time, it soon will. This is that tune that would have been played in the clubs but most DJs are too afraid to play it, because either real heads would act a fool or no one would catch on enough.

Blue Yankee Fitted is the album’s first single. A New York Anthem paying homage to the New York lifestyle and rocking their caps proud. You have to admire the humbleness of the Barrel Brothers… they are not out to claim the so-called ‘King Of New York’, they are just representing the right way, just like the New York Yankees winning the World Series in 1996. This is followed by an album highlight. A colossal posse cut between the Barrel Brothers and Random Axe, as they go ‘All In Together Now’. Whether it is an ode to RZA, GZA & ODB or not (Pre -Wu) All MCs attack the Black Milk track with great vengeance and furious anger… right up Sean Price’s alley.

!llmind returns with ‘Triangle Offense.’ The Barrel Brothers tear the track up that even Funkmaster Flex had to drop the bomb on em.

Time for a little intermission as the Barrel Brothers make that ‘Movie Album’… the vibe sounds like they are about to cater for the laydeez… suddenly you hear  deliberately tone-deaf harmonizing… he may not have made X-Factor but he’s on this album right here!

However producer Praise has other ideas. The man behind Torae’s ‘What’s Luv’ keeps the album running at top speed with ‘Albee Square Mall’. Sky, Torae & Livin Proof have that ignorant sh!t you need and asking ‘where Brooklyn at??’ Then in ‘The Hand Off’, Torae & Sky have your head knocking over the Khrysis beat… that switches halfway through as Torae passes over to Sky, increasing the number of goosebumps on your body. The track is over just after 2 minutes, it’s like a main course meal cruelly taken away from you when the waiter realises they made a mistake.

skyzoo 2If you are familiar with the Jared Evan ft Lil Fame track – Uma Thurman, then you will like this next offering. 4 Bar Friday is a switch up from that track that shows the duo’s creative frequent tag team work rhyming every 4 bars, working so well that even the Road Warriors are not able to keep up. It’s a great look to see Antman Wonder come through to add to this ‘Memorabilia’, the producer behind Skyzoo’s remake of Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt. If the duo’s aim is to enter the game and leave legendary, they are going the right way about it.

As the album approaches it’s finale, it is blessed with another highlight. The beautiful ‘Rediscover’ will have fans hunting down the original sample and rediscovering The Main Ingredient’s soulful medley from 1981 of the same name. The track features Blu who also has a solid album (Good To Be Home) under his belt that has been released recently but Skyzoo shines here: “It’s whatever for this living if this living sublime
How they living in the maybes, subliminal lines/The subliminals they giving you is different from mine/’Cause I don’t get you no subliminals, my sh!t is defined
And if you don’t get it today, then shit, get in the line…”

What better way to end the album the way Skyzoo & Torae first came together in 2007… with a banging DJ Premier track. By now you can feel ‘The Aura’ when these come together. Torae has an award-winning verse making reference to Dave Chappelle’s most notorious sketch:My rep is on some ‘go show Charlie Murphy your t!++!£$’/Running off at the mouth, though the punch will be dealt/My hands all on your pounce, feets all on your couch/The league calling a drought,/We came with a hell of a flood cuz cocaine is a hell of a drug!!”

You are not likely to hear an album this year from a duo that has such chemistry that rather than outshine the other on a track they compliment each other. That’s the difference between this and other album collaborative projects that have been released recently. Not saying they are not good, but rather how the synergy is felt so much here. If you are still not convinced that Skyzoo & Torae are not on the levels of the aforementioned. Hit play on the freestyle below. They don’t do notepads or iPhones over there. This is real skills showcased.

PHAROAHE MONCH – PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)

History of PTSD

Pharoahe_Monch_PTSDCases of PTSD were first documented during the First World War when soldiers developed shell shock as a result of the harrowing conditions in the trenches.

But the condition wasn’t officially recognised as a mental health condition until 1980, when it was included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which was developed by the American Psychiatric Association.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events.

The type of events that can cause PTSD include:

  • serious road accidents
  • violent personal assaults, such as sexual assault, mugging or robbery
  • prolonged sexual abuse, violence or severe neglect
  • witnessing violent deaths
  • military combat
  • being held hostage
  • terrorist attacks
  • natural disasters, such as severe floods, earthquakes or tsunamis

PTSD can develop immediately after someone experiences a disturbing event or it can occur weeks, months or even years later.

PTSD is estimated to affect about 1 in every 3 people who have a traumatic experience, but it’s not clear exactly why some people develop the condition and others don’t.


In the case of Troy Jamerson, better known as Pharoahe Monch, those terrible events may include some of the aforementioned, but there is also a good chance of terrible events such as Kanye West interrupting award shows, artists in the game rocking skinny jeans so tight that their preference comes under question, or artists not representing hip hop in its purest form, or most recently, a young pop star whose name we shall not mention being caught on camera singing racist songs and wanting to join that Klan.

Consider this album as antibiotics to your problem you may have called PTSD… maybe you and Pharaohe can relate.

‘Time2’ (squared) is the album starter sees Pharoahe bring back his stuttering rhyming and voice altering style that was first seen in the classic Simon Says. Have you heard a bad Pharoahe Monch/Mr Porter collaboration? Their latest offering, ‘Losing My Mind’ focusses on the album’s theme and concept. This is followed on nicely by the ‘Heroin Addicts’ of the world, which is the introduction to ‘Damage’, a guitar ridden track which sees Pharoahe’s third installment describing life as a bullet, Pharoahe never fails on this latest chapter. Here’s hoping it gets a video and gets regular play in the Hard Rock Cafe.

Another track that is sure-fire to get the visual treatment is the album’s first single. Pharoahe doesn’t need to remind us that he’s a ‘BAD MF’ man!!!!! We have seen him survive a mosh pit with no scratches in that first video! If you find yourself floored in the middle of one of those, smart money says you’re finished. Not Pharoahe!

The next track that follows could well be the album stealer. It’s not latin, white or blackPharoahe Monch music, it’s that cooked up coke, and crack music!!! ‘Rapid Eye Movement’ features another award-winning verse by Black Thought: “…And my tactical cam that never stood for any national anthems/Whats hood, I am the actual answer/And I’ll prove it/Black attire, rapid fire, rapid eye movement/I’m from a species that is higher, I am not human/Extraterrestrial alien, a monster killer of conscience chillin’/In a barrel of lobster/Ex-Slave, sadomasochist, I that gave the massa of my ass to kiss/A dyin’ breed, I’m the last of this/Black is as miraculous as Jesus of Nazareth/When I vocalize the crowd rise like Lazarus…”

You have heard the Michael and Janet classic… now hear Pharoahe’s version! They just don’t want to be messed with, but being on the World Cup vibe, Pharaohe’s glock will leave you ‘Messi’ like playing for Barcelona! Pharoahe’s war with himself makes him want to SCREAM!

Listen to the Marco Polo produced ‘The Jungle’. Does the beat sound familiar to you??? Like you heard it on a classic track on a popular Wu album back in 1995? That was the first thing that struck me with this track.

Surprisingly this is the first video released from the album. ‘Broken Again’ is a story of one man’s struggle with heroin, knows he’s gotta let go but for some reason cannot get away. If there is one thing that Pharoahe and Jean Grae are great for, is creating thought-provoking videos like the one above, something that is lacking in hip hop videos as of late.

The flow and concept continue with the album’s title track, where you listen to the self struggle continue and reach boiling point at times when Pharoahe looks death in the face and gives a resounding middle finger. Decoding the first few lines of the second verse, Pharoahe refers to a Faith Evans track – ‘Everyday Struggle’, which was also the name of a track by Christopher Wallace himself:  “When your cerebral ceases to administer solace/And the only Faith you have left is a CD/From a singer who had a son with Christopher Wallace/Tomorrow is never/Hope is abolished/Mind and soul have little to no unity/Life threw a brick through my window of opportunity…”

The track abruptly ends to bring Pharoahe and Talib Kweli their D.R.E.A.M.S. The twenty year old Wu-Tang Clan classic hit continues to be the main influence behind this track as both emcees break down the word DREAM and come with multiple acronyms.

The album closes with a clever remix of The Grand Illusion from Pharoahe’s W.A.R. We Are Renegades album. This time entitled ‘Eht Dnarg Noisulli, Citizen Cope tags out, The Step Kids tag in for the hook. As great as this track is, as far as outros go, Pharoahe may never be able to top the previous album’s outro, Still Standing with Jill Scott.

4 albums in and Pharoahe Monch has created yet another solid consistent offering and never disappoints. At this point, his only competition is himself: Someone that is never caught under pressure of creating another project every so often. Someone who takes his time, making sure that the concept, lyrics and delivery are right and exact. If I was to nit-pick at any negatives in the album, it’s that right after it was released, Pharoahe released another track called Get Down, which could have served well as a bonus track at least. On the flip side, the mood of this track is strikingly different to the album itself.

The race for Album Of The Year has begun. Good luck Pharoahe, with upcoming projects from Common, Phife and the Wu-Tang to name a few, you will need it.

Michael Grant – RePPiN4U