A 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 scorcher. 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.
If 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.