The Away Team
The Away Team has certainly been on the road since their underground arrival two years ago. While Khrysis has produced tracks for Jean Grae, Masta Ace and Smif N' Wessun, Sean Boog has matured as an emcee, having more to say than the "we're better than you" mantra that the Justus League introduced themselves with. Training Day finds the two-man brigade back at it, carving a lane, despite another piggy-backed release date from the Little Brother umbrella.
Despite North Carolina's recent reputation for mild-mannered emcees, Sean Boog demonstrates a new ferocity on several of Away Team's new joints. Psycho Ward, assisted by Sean Price, furthers the chemistry between the two rappers, who play not into gore, but rather the unpredictability both have in their craft. The track, which is backed by thick keyboards from Khyrisis updates the sort of imagery and production that helped not only Heltah Skeltah get discovered, but Mobb Deep. In the same vein, Boog is capable of stepping beyond the subject of his craft. Look is another grittier delivery. Raspy vocals, short bars with emphasized cadence that reminds listeners of the glory years of twelve-inch underground rap, a la East Flatbush Project and Non-Phixion. The single, Sum of Me, featuring Evidence and Darien Brockington is a compassionate look at one's self and the others of the world. The track is pensive, but presented in a manner than is tangible to hardcore Hip Hop listeners. Whether with featured acts from east or west, Boog is proving that he can keep up, stay interesting, and further his lyrical identity within the pack.
With a seemingly endless bag of tricks, Khrysis' work is a draw-in to the Away Team for many. Reworking a familiar sample to many on Steppin' on Toes, it is the producer's use of filtering and volume control, not his chop or percussion that gives him a unique spin on an old friend. That chopping ability does however come into play with I'm a Fool, which follows the Styles P "I Get High" playbook of taking sweet '60s Soul choruses and shortening them for updated meaning. The soul still finds its way between the kicks and snares, and without sounding like 9th Wonder's protégé, Khrysis reminds us why his state's time-traveling beats are recognized for two people. Awesome however is a quirky, circus-themed composition that loses its intensity, feeling disjointed from the others. Like any great musician in his first 10 years, Khrysis appears to be experimenting, and he constantly reminds listeners why he's dynamic behind the boards.
Training Day serves as a throwback to the working method that some of the greatest groups in rap used: One producer, one emcee, and a few friends coming through. With their brightest single to date in Sum of Me, The Away Team promises a lot, and delivers a sophomore album that shows tremendous maturity from their cult-cherished debut.