I Can't Call It: The Barrel Brothers - Skyzoo & Torae

Yo…I won’t even hold you, I’ve never heard a Torae or Skyzoo album. And that’s not a knock on either one of ‘em cause I know they’re both dope MC’s. But for some reason I just never gave either of ‘em a chance. For the most part with Sky it was cause I’ve never been a big Illmind dude, and since money does the bulk of his production an entire Sky album never got any run with me. Not sure what my deal with Torae was but the sad thing is that this evil cycle was about to repeat itself again with their new album together “The Barrel Brothers.” First up, I’m like “not another brother album.” I mean, we already got Evidence & Alchemist’s the Step Brothers, the Bodega Brothers, Little Brother, etc. etc. we gotta start using “cousins” or something. So, I’d see 'lil adds here & there for their album but again, I never really paid ‘em no mind. That is til I was on okayplayer and cats were talking about how dope the sampler for their album was. So with my Nas philosophy for checking out music nowadays, (Nas once said that with SO much music out that there’s no way to listen to it all. But if something is dope enough, it’ll find him) I was like “aiight, I’ll bite” and all I can say is damn...I’m glad I did cause these songs were sounding BANANAS! 

The set starts off with the Oh No produced “Talk of The Town” which is just flat out sick and has Torae & Sky both blacking out while the 808 heavy “Make You A Believer” has me wanting ask myself what did the five fingers say to the face cause I’ve REALLY been sleeping on Torae, “the second coming of dumbing is humming through your monitors/momma named me Torae Carr never no moniker/take my verses personal it’s Monica/gave you niggas life all week, thought is was hanukkah/blue yankee my yamaka/known to ride the rhythm like a Yamaha/wheelie with your biddie pop the clutch and then I’m poppin her/told you she a rider huh, that just means she’s riding us/metro card through the box, run the train, she riding bus/who wanna collide with us/it’s obviously obvious/the north won the civil war, it’s better to side with us/McFadden and Whitehead shit, there ain’t no stopping us/on the freeway with the mac, that state prop in us/it’s bleak, if I jigga and dash there ain’t no roc in us/ready to die, sky’s the limit, that big pop is us/poetic justice got me the juice, and that’s the Pac in us/make you a believer and lead ya, to make a lot with us, talk to ‘em.” And this is the dude I’ve been sleeping on?


“Tunnel Vision” is another 808 heavy beat that freaks the Digable Planet quote “we be to rap what key be to lock” lovely, the album’s 1st single “Blue Yankee Fitted” has Illmind using the Long Red break and the Albino Gorilla sample made famous in Tribe’s “Midnight” and the Black Milk produced “All In Together” featuring Guilty Simpson and Sean Price has the later losing his mind as usual. “Triangle Offense” featuring Sha Stimul has Tor setting it off, “you f-cking with the best in the borough, the Barrel Brothers of Brooklyn/ain’t nobody give us a lane, fuck it we took one/niggaz were hooked from the door, peep Skylar and Tor/more like Walter White and Jesse the way we cook it up pure” while Sky kicks, “got em when they calling me Tyson in ‘86/I get that in involved when handing off to make a flick/know I handle bars, like handle bars and play the grips/turn the canon on and handle ya’ll when I’m laying dick/my rep is great as it gets, I’m young, pretty I hit hard, I’m in the best shape of my life, I’m on my lift off/my fan base is going state to state in a zip car/and my only downfall is my belt is covered in lip gloss/played the nickels and nines, made a grip on the side/been dancehall on the bass, I’m Jadakiss of the Stuy” and on “Albee Square Mall” Sky and Tor give you their 2014 version of the Biz classic. “Four Bar Friday” has the Stuyvesants lacing Sky and Tor with the perfect soundscape to have them both going back and forth on some ole EPMD ish, the horns on the Ant Man Wonder produced “Memorabilia” are just flat out sick and the album ends with “The Aura” which is cool but it’s mos def the first time in my life I thought 9th Wonder produced the track when in reality Primo produced it…and that right there ain’t a good thing. 

But my two fave jawns off “Barrel Brothers” are “The Hand Off” and “Rediscover.” On “The Hand Off” Krysis freaks the Soul Children break made famous by Nas’ “On The Real” but the illest part of the song is how he flips the same sample two different ways for both Tor and Sky’s verses and maaaaaan, does Sky go in on his verse, “my delivery heaven sent/like Biggie blew his breath in it/glock 30 lyrically, I drop murder wizardry/my block murder literally/one way or another, either blues or crews, I peruse in better shoes/nowadays you’d be surprised how much clapping in the air get you/the shit is a thirst trap like a Tahiry picture/learning jewels over Ronnie Jordan loops, pops read the Final Call, glock set behind the wall/and my number never changed, just the motherfuckers calling it/my jumper never changed, just the spots where I can water it” and “Rediscover” featuring Blu is just too damn smooth not to rock with it. So at the end of the day, if by any chance you’ve been on the same train I was (the key word is “was”) of sleeping on both these cats, PLEASE do yourself a favor and get off not now but right now and do the knowledge on both of these dudes ASAP cause if ya’ll don’t there’s absolutely no way I wanna hear cats talking that “real NY hip hop is dead” ish cause these two are reppin’ NYC and hip hop sumthin’ lovely. 

4 outta 5


I Can't Call It: & Then You Shoot Your Cousin - The Roots

When I first heard that The Roots were naming their newest album “& Then They Shoot Your Cousin” I had this strange feeling that this album was gonna go right over my head. And after sitting with it for a minute…I was absolutely right. I mean, come on ya’ll, let’s cut the bullshit…what’s going on with The Roots? Is it being Jimmy Fallon’s house band? Is it the new Tonight Show set? Are they not hanging around enough hip hop heads? Have they been slow jamming the news with Jimmy too much? Is it the 30 new band members they got? I mean, for real…what’s wrong with these dudes? It’s to the point, I don’t even know where to start OR end with this album. But, first things first, this is suppose to be a concept album, right? Then I’ve got two questions dealing with that. Number one, didn’t they learn their lesson the last time they tried a “concept” album with “Undun?” (and before ya’ll Root’s stans get started with “it was such an epic storyline”…stop fronting cause ain’t nobody know what that shit was about) My 2nd question is, if this is a concept album, then what the hell is it about? But let’s hold tight for a sec before we dive into nobody on earth understanding what this album is about. It's so bad I saw another review of the album and the reviewer said, and I quote "there's really no story here." Really?!?!? A "concept album"...but with no real story to it huh? You gotta love hip hop in 2014! But let’s first deal with the most important thing at hand, which is the music itself.


The first thing that’s strange about “&TYSYC” is the way the album sets off. To be honest, I don’t know if I’ve ever heard an album start off with another artist’s song. See, Nina Simone’s “Theme From the Middle of The Night” sets the album off so from the door…I’m confused. I mean, who does that? That’s like throwing on an Outkast album and the first thing you hear is Sade’s “Love Is Stronger Then Pride.” But neither here nor there, “Never” featuring Patty Crash reminds me of those hot summer nights back in Philly when you’d have your window open and would hear stray cats screeching throughout the night. I have absolutely no idea who this Patty Crash shorty is but after hearing this hook, I know she ain’t my cup of tea. But the funny thing is, bad singing aside…I actually like the song. Now don’t get it twisted I have absolutely NO idea what character Thought is supposed to be or what storyline I’m supposed to be following or if this is the beginning of the story, etc. but nevertheless, I mess with it. When I first heard “When The People Cheer” let’s just say I wasn’t blown away…in fact I was kinda disappointed like THIS is the Root’s lead single? This jawn sounds like something that wouldn’t have made it off the rehearsal floor back in the day let alone be the 1st single but I guess that’s just the stuck in the 90’s nigga in me talking. More confusion sets in when the interlude “The Devil” comes on cause it’s yet ANOTHER artist’s song but this go ‘round it’s Mary Lou William’s “The Devil.” So, let’s do ourselves a favor and just brush past that and move onto “Black Rock” featuring Dice Raw. Now, whenever I see “featuring Dice Raw” on a Root’s album I’m ALWAYS terrified that they’re gonna let this dude sing the chorus. Now, why they let Dice sing choruses truthfully is beyond me. Maybe Quest and Thought keep losing to dude in rock, paper, scissor and with “Black Rock”, Dice’s win streak obviously continues. Let’s sum the song up like this, banging beat, dope verses from both Thought and Dice but of course ANYTIME you let Dice sing the outcome is never gonna be positive and the chorus ruins an otherwise dope song. And if that wasn’t bad enough, guess who’s featured on the next song “Understand” and has me shaking in my boots again? Yup…good ole Dice. 

But at least this time they don’t let him sing the chorus, he just rhymes it…and it ain’t bad. “People ask for God, til the day he comes/see God’s face, turn around and run/God sees the face of a man, shakes his head, and says man will never understand.” Plus Thought and Porn both take us to church on this jawn. Thought sets it off with “gravedigger, dig a hole that fit a black nigga/my body’s stiff as a Madame Touissant wax figure/my transformation, a caterpillar from crack dealer/and backpedaller was no less than spectacular/yeah I was trappin money, flippin like a spatula/now put that sucker in a box like Dracula/I led the devil in a dance/an electric slide across the line I drew up in the sand” while Porn adds “holy, sugar, honey ice tea/I guess that’s a prayer for a player like me/in my church clothes baking buzz on the bible/the sweet temptation of my grand daddy’s rifle/got me thinking ‘bout doing a jihad with these guys/who only true religion look better than levi’s” More confusion sets in with “Dies Irae” because I simply don’t know what the hell it is. It sounds like someone searching through the radio back in the day with synths and yelling throughout. See, it’s ish like this that has me thanking God I don’t have this on vinyl cause this is the type of shit you play backwards and say candy man 3 times in the mirror and you die or some dead spirit crawls out you flat screen like on “The Ring.” And PLEASE don’t think the confusion stops on “The Coming” featuring Mercedes Martinez from Jazzyfatnastee fame…cause it doesn’t. Why am I confused AGAIN? Well, simply put it’s a song on a Roots album but umm…nobody rhymes on it. It’s just a Mercedes solo cut. Word? Of course I’m petrified by the time “The Dark (Trinity)” featuring Porn and Dice Raw (again) comes around cause ya’ll already know what I’m thinking, but thank God they kept Dice FAR away from the chorus this go ‘round but at least Thought brings it. “The Unraveling” featuring Raheem DeVaughn is aiight and the last bit of confusion sets in as the album ends with “Tomorrow” because it’s Raheem going dolo this time ‘round with no Black Thought in sight.


So, let’s do the math real quick. We’ve got a Roots album on tap with 11 tracks. The intro and one of the interludes are other artist’s songs, 1 interlude is actually just noise, which leaves only 8 complete songs and only 6 of them actually feature…Thought. Oh, and my bad, I forgot, this is supposed to be a concept album…but I (or anyone else listening for that matter) will have absolutely no idea what the concept is. So to keep it short and sweet, at the end of the day we’re left with a short ass album, full of confusion. Now I know a rack of Root’s stans (I swear Root’s stans are damn near just as pathetic as Jay stans…and ya’ll know I feel about Jay stans) will say this review is preposterous and call this the most beautiful piece of music since Mile’s “Bitches Brew” and I wouldn’t expect anything less from them. Hell, Thought could literally just breath on the album while Quest drums off beat and Root’s stans from across the globe would call it a masterpiece of music…a gift from God himself while the rest of us normal folk would simply call it wack. It’s crazy cause I’ve been rocking with the Roots since ’93 and I’ve copped every album since. (I even copped all 5 different covers of “Things Fall Apart”) Nuthin’ was more important then supporting cats from my city who not only repped Philly to the fullest when nuthin’ else banging was coming outta the city but who also opened the door for a slew of other artist like Jill Scott, Kindred, Musiq, Jazmine Sullivane, Jaguar, Musiq, The Jazzyfatnastees, etc. to not only rep the city too but to introduce a new age of modern day soul.

But somewhere along the lines, things fell apart. (no pun intended) The Roots started putting out subpar albums, they started hanging out with Jimmy Fallon and The Real Housewives of Late Night and the same way you see the signs of a relationship coming to an end, I knew this day was coming. The day when I would’t spend my hard earned money to buy a Root’s album to support them. The day when I’d stop looking forward to them making music all together. The day when I could honestly say that the best thing I liked about a Root’s album is the cover. (which is a Romare Bearden piece called “Pittsburgh Memory”) I can’t front, listening to “& Then You Shoot Your Cousin” was like watching KG in the playoffs this year. Cause as much as I love KG and what he’s done for the league throughout his career, it’s obvious that his time in the game is over. And after this album, I’d have to say the same about The Roots cause the days of making dope music for these cats have come and gone. But the great thing is, we can catch the new and improved Roots crew every night Mondays through Fridays, at 11:30 doing what they do best nowadays, which is slow jamming the news with Jimmy, using toys to back up Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus, playing beer pong with Cameron Diaz and having Thought use his pen and pad to come up with lyrics to the Mario Brothers theme. And with that kinda resume, who on earth would wanna go back to making dope music?