This really isn’t an album review as much as it is a thank-you letter to Duck Down Records, the Away Team and anyone involved in the making of this album. Pulling the best of their talented roster and allowing them space to branch out as musicians has seemingly led to yet another fairly stunning hip hop victory. With 10 years and four albums already behind them, accomplished MC Sean Boog and esteemed producer Khrysis of the famed Justus League combine for their newest and probably strongest project to date, Scars and Stripes. Connected by 9th Wonder over 10 years ago (via Boog doing work on the first Foreign Exchange album while Khrysis was producing work with Big Pooh and Jean Grae), it’s apparent these dudes have been spending their time in the studio building their musical repertoire and creating great hip-hop ever since.
Now usually when artists try to create a record of this caliber, things aren’t usually executed the way we wish. However, the Away Team create a thorough and consistent album with great subject matter, depth and lyrical expression. Keeping true to the roots of hip-hop, the Away Team addresses every topic you can think of, from well spoken social commentary regarding the recession and resulting poverty that effects our communities down to their dedication and love of hip-hop as an art form and why they are the illest MCs around. So what takes this album to above average status? Quite frankly, the high quality production, sample usage, mixing coupled with their own impressive content. Also key are the stunning guest appearances from MCs like Evidence (Dilated Peoples) on the Dilla-esque “What Is This”, to Enigmas’ clever wordplay and slick delivery on their shout out to The Legendary Roots crew, “Proceed”. Most amazing is my introduction to Female MC (or FeMCs as I like to call ‘em) Rapsody, who teams up with Talib Kweli on “Set It Off” for some rather moving bars and a much-needed reminder that their are girls out there in the game who can handle their business on the mic. Even if you were to strip away the guest appearances, the Away Team still manages to construct strong songs (“Scars & Stripes”, “Happening Today”, “Drift”) that will have you hitting rewind and repeat often.
In all, excellent production with above average content and stellar lyrical wordplay give this album replay value that most records dream of. If that isn’t enough for you, the appearances alone will definitely catch your attention. Much like Hail Mary Mallon, this album was an unexpected, yet thorough and low-key win. Thank you, yhe Away Team, for finding a balance between Hip Hop with a message and Hip Hop you can turn the bass up on and blast out your car. Definitely an album worth your time.