A favorite of hip-hop’s authentic underground, Brooklyn, New York’s Torae (Torae Carr) seems to have more of an affinity for collaborating than branching out alone. Active commercially since 2008 and non-commercially for several years prior, Torae came up working alongside producers like Marco Polo, DJ Premier, 9th Wonder and several others, and released his solo debut, For The Record, in 2011 to good reviews and immediate listener satisfaction.
Side projects ensued, including a mega duo LP, Barrel Brothers, with fellow Brooklynite Skyzoo, and now, eight years into his retail-run, Torae is on just his second solo album, Entitled (Jan. 15). Come to think of it, it’s probably best that he’s not in a rush to construct his legacy, one based on concrete rap principles and classic hip-hop production. Within Entitled (Internal Affairs Ent.) can be found Torae’s love for outside artist input through unique talented guests and well respected producers with skills.
Braggadocio and hard mic skills at the top give way to some later depth entering midway through the album. This is when things get even more purposeful. Around the seductively romantic “Override,” the celebration of hometown heroes in “Coney Island’s Finest” and the candied we-can-make-it song “Together” are songs of even greater importance.
Torae really begins to break ground in “Crown,” as he reappraises the real value of black lives, human lives to be clear. He encourages blacks to wake up and break the cycle in which the powers that be at the top manipulate their destinies and success rates in “Entitled” (very heavy, responsible material to build a title track off of indeed), and “The eNd” discusses the modern day use of the n-word and specifically the sometimes-tragic results of its use.
For all it’s worth, Entitled’s self-glorifying moments may seem to take themselves a little too seriously, and its socially conscious ones might benefit from being harder on the current societal system, but the fact that Torae has done very good rap work overall is irrefutable. The LP is also boosted by hard boom bap and soul beats by kingpins of the subgenre (Pete Rock, DJ Premier, Jahlil Beats, !llmind, etc.), rapturous trumpet work by Shawn Taylor in “Imperial Sound,” and well varied guest appearances from the likes of Phonte, 3D Na’tee, Teedra Moses and the rest. Despite the trials and tribulations in his life, the “Troubled Times,” Torae brings us another set of great hip-hop in Entitled, that “R.E.A.L.” It might not be extremely revolutionary, but it does start down that road for sure.