New York underground MC Torae releases his second solo studio album, ‘Entitled’. The Brooklyn rapper has built up a great reputation as one of the underground scene’s most consistent and intelligent artists, with a smooth flow, honest content and a classy overall vibe. This new LP includes appearances from Phonte, Saul Williams and Pharoahe Monch as well as production from beatsmiths such as Apollo Brown, Mr. Porter, Pete Rock and many more.
The Pete Rock produced ‘Get Down’ is an early highlight; a stripped back boom bap beat and humble, proud writing from the Coney Island MC makes it clear what Torae is all about. It’s rare that a rapper mixes raw, street-smarts with a down-to-earth attitude with such results. The writing is technical too, with internal rhymes and solid flows throughout.
‘Clap Shit Up’, which features Phonte from Little Brother, follows and is another excellent cut. The gritty production, courtesy of Nottz, is outstanding; crunchy drums and menacing sample-work backs aggressive, believable lyricism from the two MCs. Phonte spits “Not here to lollygag/I specialize in bodybags” and “Don’t really claim to be a tough guy, but never been the shook type/Last name, Look Like, first name, Fuck I”, showing why he’s maintained an impeccable reputation.
‘R.E.A.L.’ is a punchy, powerful soulful track, with beautifully chopped samples and an expertly authoritative flow from Torae. Apollo Brown’s contribution ‘Coney Island’s Finest’ is great too, with crisp cymbals and a sinister piano line backing Torae’s personal reflection on his upbringing and neighbourhood, displaying lyrical prowess throughout. ‘Troubled Times’ is another dope one; Torae is a versatile MC, as he sounds good on gritty production as well as on the softer beats exhibited in this case by New Jersey’s !llmind.
‘The eND’, the closing track on the standard edition of the album, is one of the best. Torae explains his opinion on the use of the n word, and he displays his social awareness with honesty and intelligence over a smooth MarcNfinit production. The deluxe edition includes two excellent bonus cuts. ‘Saturday Night’ is a stellar DJ Premier crafted track, and the Pharoahe Monch featuring ‘What’s Love’ is a potently soulful track, with groovy deep basslines and drums guaranteed to get your neck a snappin’.
Torae has once again demonstrated his capability with lyricism, and his ear for beats is flawless; a list of deservedly reputable producers provide a cohesive backdrop for ‘Entitled’, and the features he enlists for the project are well selected and placed. Torae’s second full length LP is a welcome addition to his growing catalogue, and it’s a promising sign that real hip-hop is here to stay in 2016.
By Sam Bennett