Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A brief review of Skyzoo & Torae's "Barrel Brothers"

Skyzoo and Torae have all but made their name on the underground scene, definitely two of the more underrrated MCs you'll find. In addition to guest appearances and mixtapes here and there, Skyzoo has 2009's "The Salvation," 2010's "Live From The Tape Deck" with producer Illmind, and 2012's "A Dream Deferred," just to name a few (that I own), while Torae has "Daily Conversation" from 2008, which played more like an album and less like a mixtape if you ask me, the joint project with Marco Polo on 2009's "Double Barrel," "For The Record" in 2011," and an "Off The Record" EP the next year, which included songs that didn't make "For The Record", which I also own as well. So between the both of them, they have quite the excellent package of GOOD music and I highly recommend you check those aforementioned albums out if you haven't done so already. When this "Barrel Brothers" album was announced, I couldn't wait for it, complete with an iTunes pre-order. It goes without saying that I'm expecting more greatness, so with that being said, let's get to it!

Release date: May 27, 2014


After the New Jack City influenced intro, we go right into this Oh No produced banger. I could hear the inspiration and hunger in their voices throughout and it makes for a damn good opener. "We the only ones in it who ain't alter the sound." Yes indeed. 

From here, the rest of the album is top notch quality. "Make You A Believer" (produced by Jahlil Beats) is dope. If you doubted them before, you'll be a believer when this song is over, mark my words. Skyzoo is ill here, but man Torae just kills it with his verse, especially when he metaphorically throws in lines using the Roc-A-Fella and Juice (the movie) names, respectively. The dopeness continues with "Tunnel Vision" (produced by Illmind), which Torae just goes in on and Skyzoo's energy alongside him is present and comes across well,  the unmistakable boom bap sound of DJ Premier on "The Aura" (co-produced by AntMan Wonder), "Memorabilia" (produced by AntMan Wonder), the creative "4 Bar Friday" (produced by The Stuvesants), in which they go back and forth with 4 lines each, and the terrific throwback vibes of the album's first single, "Blue Yankee Fitted" (produced by Illmind) & "Albee Square Mall" (featuring Livin Proof, produced by Praise). The skit/song "Movie Album" (produced by Aureli a.k.a. TIGA) was sequenced perfectly because after the 5-6 songs, we needed a mellow, laid back moment.

When it comes to guest appearances, this album has that, highlighted by the apply titled, Blu assisted "Rediscover," which is simply awesome, no question (produced by MarcNfinit) and the tight "All In Together" (featuring Sean Price, who sounds a little different, but still dropped a dope verse and Guilty Simpson), produced by Black Milk, another underrated talent. Last but not least, the iTunes and Vinyl versions have the Apollo Brown produced bonus track "Got It From Here," and if they're claiming to be the next heirs to the NY hip hop throne, I'm cool with that.

Wow, just wow. It's albums like this that make me proud to be a fan of hip hop and its culture. I can't give enough props to Skyzoo and Torae for this excellent album, definitely fast paced without sounding rushed at all. Lyrically, it's about what you expect and then some, strictly on top of their game, and I don't think I've heard Skyzoo sound so energetic, which complements Torae SO well. The production suited them well and all involved contributed in a top notch fashion, as well as the guests. THIS is what hip hop is supposed to be: dope beats and lyrics complete with NO gimmicks or any of the nonsense that dominates the game today. An outstanding 4.5 star album, one I would strongly recommend, and although we're still in the middle of 2014, this is my pick for best album of the year. I hope they connect again for more collaborations in the future!

Album of the year candidates
1. Skyzoo & Torae - Barrel Brothers [4.5 stars]
2. Pharoahe Monch - PTSD Post Traumatic Stress Disorder [4.5 stars]
  3. Prince Po & Oh No - Animal Serum [4.5 stars]
4. EMC - The Turning Point [4.5 stars]
5. Locksmith - A Thousand Cuts [4.5 stars] 
6. Ray West & O.C. - Ray's Cafe [4 stars]  
7. Onyx - Wakedafucup [4 stars] 
8. Mobb Deep - The Infamous Mobb Deep [4 stars]
9. Freddie Gibbs and Madlib - Pinata [4 stars]
10. Step Brothers (Alchemist & Evidence) - Lord Steppington [4 stars] 

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