Torae & Marco Polo

Double Barrel

posted June 05, 2009 01:25:00 PM CDT | 48 comments

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There is always someone, somewhere, who is complaining that they miss that 1990s sound, the so-called "golden era," or the boom bap gritty raps of their earlier years. Enter New York's Torae [click to read] and Canadian producer Marco Polo. The duo's Double Barrel is here to satisfy those nostalgic cravings while maintaining  21st century relevance as well. And if anyone wanted to question whether they pulled it off, the legendary DJ Premier says it all on the introduction when he states, "You know if I cosign, it's gotta be real."

Wasting no time, DJ Premier's words lead right into the title track of the album, and the listener is confronted with powerful lyrics from Torae as well as a forceful instrumental from Marco Polo. Gunshots and bombs drop in the background as Torae begins to give listeners a sampling of his lyrical abilities. This is followed up by "Party Crashers," which, although saying a lot about the concept of the album, feels lackluster in comparison to the vibe that "Double Barrel" was giving off right beforehand. However it makes one think that Torae and Marco Polo are crashing the Hip Hop party of today by changing things up and proving how well the style of yesterday can still be done.

"Smoke" featuring Lil Fame of M.O.P. and Rock of Heltah Skeltah [click to read] boasts an incredible Marco Polo beat that is slowly being fed energy by Lil Fame throughout the song. Although the hook is nothing more than single words being thrown together, it works surprisingly well and could even be called catchy, in some abstract sort of way. It helps that the last four words of the hook are something that many can relate to these days: "helpless, heartless, jobless, broke." However, Rock's verse feels awkward paired with the instrumental, and other tracks on Double Barrel, such as "Danger," seem more tailored to Lil Fame's style.

Standout tracks come in the form of "Lifetime," featuring DJ Revolution, "But Wait" [click to read], and "Crashing Down," featuring Gilla House rapper/producer Saukrates. "Lifetime" presents the audience with yet another menacing Marco Polo beat, and Torae confronting today's breed of emcees and their styles. He raps, "George Bush don't fuck with blacks, Torae don't fuck with wack, emcees and they garbage tracks, back to the drawing board with that, the fuck you doin' recording that?" Meanwhile, he proves himself worthy of saying such bold statements by showing off his solid lyrical skills. He really shows off on "But Wait," when he takes off multi-syllabically at the end of the track with Twista-[click to read] level speed stating, "I be, spectacular spittin', vernacular hittin' with accurate wisdom, not to mention I rap with precision." "Crashing Down," featuring Saukrates, is the last track of the album and provides it an extremely strong ending. A song of music industry frustrations over an exquisite Marco Polo beat leaves the listener something to think about, as Torae addresses issues such as poor sales and bootlegging. Saukrates' vocals are soothing, yet match up well with the grimy style that the rest of the album maintained.

Low points will be hard to find on Double Barrel, and the project offers up something for those craving the boom bap as well as something that feels relevant in the present. Although Marco Polo holds down all production on the album, his style never feels redundant, and the album maintains its high-energy street vibe from start to finish. Meanwhile, Torae continues to prove that he is a lyrical force to be reckoned with, while utilizing tracks such as "Coney Island" that are sure to make Brooklyn dwellers proud to call him one of their own. All of these aspects combine to make Double Barrel an album with significant replay value that will keep listeners attentive throughout every track.

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