Jan 21, 2016

Review: Entitled - @Torae; A Niles P. Joint

Recently, some emcees have taken to crowdsourcing websites to help fund the completion of their albums. Coney Island emcee Torae joined those ranks this past fall when he set up a Kickstarter to fund his sophomore solo album Entitled to the tune of ten stacks.  I knew of him from his Barrel Brothers collaboration album with Skyzoo and his Sirius XM show The Tor Guide. Since I’m cheap and hadn't funded an album before I was hesitant. But in the end I had to practice what I preached, as I tell my fellow WTM staffers and anyone else around me to “invest in hip hop.” The culture doesn’t continue without dollars behind it. Torae hit his goal and the album was funded and delivered to me late last week. Since production is key on this album, I’m going track by track with producer credits.

Introview - In a clever skit/album intro, Torae is on a job interview with a random company during which all he can think about is rapping.  Instead of becoming a corporate drone, he opts to be an emcee.

Imperial Sound (feat. Saul Williams; prod Praise) - The horns are incredibly triumphant and upbeat, which makes for a great first song.  Tor is sharp as he sets it off with gusto.  Saul Williams delivers some profound words towards the end as only he can.

Get Down (prod. Pete Rock) - This is the first single, which I covered upon its release in November.  It retains replay value and works as a more subdued companion to the previous song.

Clap Shit Up (feat. Phonte; prod. Nottz) - Torae spits the toughest bars on the album on this track.  When you get laced by Nottz and have Phontigallo as a guest, you're pretty much mandated to go hard.

Let ‘Em Know (prod. Jahlil Beats) - To be completely honest I thought this would be the weak point of the album as Jahlil Beats has never impressed me.  But it fits within the framework of the album and might be the most car stereo worthy of the 16 tracks.

Override (ft. Jarell Perry & Roni Marsalis; prod. E. Jones) - After a short skit where he lightly chastises his friend for street harassment, Tor gets into his “95 LL” flow and makes an airy romantic type song for the ladies.  It’s cool but it runs long with both a spoken word piece and guitar solo at the end.  

Crown (feat. 3D Na’tee; prod. Mr. Porter) - At first I thought this was about simple rap bravado but it gains depth as it’s more on the Black power tip.  Na’tee proves one to watch with her bars about innocent Black folks turned hashtags.

R.E.A.L. (prod. Praise) - Realness is the topic here as Tor discusses the perils of the rap game, amongst other things.  The sample laden beat, strings and all, is reminiscent of mid-2000s New York rap, which was a fun time for the genre.

Coney Island’s Finest (prod. Apollo Brown) - Anybody who talks glory days of their hometown (me and Ramsey do this with Neptune) can appreciate this song.  Torae talks about his own rise in the rap game and frames it with the success of Coney Island’s best basketball players, especially the Marbury clan.  Apollo Brown continues his hot streak behind the boards.

Troubled Times (feat. Mack Wilds; prod. !llmind) - First things first, I love the drums here.  The title is telling as this is about the darker side of life.  Mack Wilds is one of the most talented/underrated artists in all of R&B and proves immensely talented on the hook.

Together (feat. Kil Ripkin & Shaquawna Shanté; prod. Praise) - This isn’t a bad song but it covers the same ground sonically as track 8, only this time with guests.  Both are equally as good, although this has more musical depth.

Entitled (feat. Teedra Moses; prod. Eric G.) - The title track is the third song in a row featuring a singer on the hook and fourth overall.  None are bad at all they're just all of the same ilk, which seems vaguely redundant.  In my opinion it’s the best of the bunch as Eric G. crafts a superior beat which is complemented by Teedra Moses.  

The eNd (prod. MarcNfinit) - Let me be clear as I say that this song is fine as far as the instrumental and overall flow go.  The subject matter can be divisive.  Torae laments the use of “the N word” in everyday vernacular.  If you agree with him, you’ll enjoy it.  If you disagree, it will be a hard listen, no matter how well done it is.  

Shoutro (prod. Khrysis) - As a cool concept, Torae has his album notes as a track.  I kind of wish this beat was used elsewhere as Khrysis once again does a stupendous job, but it works for what Tor is trying to do.

Saturday Night (prod. DJ Premier) - The first of two “bonus tracks” features the legendary Preem creating an Asian type of instrumental for Torae’s story about a food delivery gone wrong (no spoilers!)  It’s excellently made, as Torae shows his creative range.

What’s Love (feat. Pharoahe Monch; prod. Praise) - This may be the best song on the album.  Praise flips the same sample from The Dynamic Superiors that Kanye used for Beanie Sigel years ago, but in a new and innovative way.  Torae does well but Monch steals the show with a loose yet thorough lyrical exercise in alliteration using the letters from the word love.

I’m glad I invested in this album as Torae spent every penny he received on getting top notch producers and guests.  There isn’t a bad beat anywhere on this album.  My only gripe, which I mentioned before, is that some of the tracks become repetitive as the sonic themes were used more that once.  Also having both of the strongest tracks on the album as bonus tracks was an odd choice.  It’s like in baseball where you have a good roster but the batting order is off kilter.  Regardless, this is a solid album to start off 2016.  Any future emcees looking to make an album via crowdfunding could learn from Torae as he got the most bang for his buck with Entitled.

Rating: 4.4 out of 5

Multimedia Journalist, Founder and Chief Editor of WTM Host of A-Side B-Side Podcast and more. I like to talk about stuff and write it down. Sometimes to a microphone. Either way, I need you to feel this.

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