DJ Spinna’s new record is pretty hit-or-miss, a bunch of solid-to-great beats with a bunch of decent-to-mediocre rapping; Torae is so bland that he seems to only exist so folks hating on current NY rap can point to exactly what is wrong with it. But there are a couple great tracks on it, including lead single “New York” which has a solid verse from Krym of the Jigmastas, “performing so sick with it, i’m worth about six digits, i’m hot like a Chinese kitchen cookin with six skillets.” Although there’s no excuse for Yung LA-lookalike Spinna explaining Krym’s lyrics for us via punch-ins (“this ain’t the Matrix man!!”) The beat kinda reminds me of this remix to O.C.’s “Born 2 Live.”
In fact, Spinna’s beats on the record all embrace this ambiguous unease, as if El-P’s tracks for Company Flow had become an actual blueprint for anything underground rap that came afterward. (In fact, there’s even a track with Breezly Brewin featuring a Sitar sample — an obviously intentional reference to ‘The Fire in Which You Burn.’) The greatest thing is that they seem really unconcerned with sounding either classicist-traditional, or like Dilla, which is pretty much the only two directions anyone seems to care about in underground rap right now, for good (Marco Polo) or evil.
The best track on the record is the incredible “More Colors” with Elzhi. It helps that he’s by far the best non-Brewin rapper on the record. I really appreciate that it doesn’t try to do anything too-clever with the ‘colors’ concept, and that it never feels like he’s really trying to force something — like he’s unafraid to break concept for a couple lines in order to make a point that makes sense. And the beat is one of the best on the album. And yeah, he might be second to Gucci or Dro, but if it takes a Trojan horse like Elzhi to get these concepts up north then so be it. Elzhi manages to spin it into a detached 3rd-person observer perspective, which makes it more critic-friendly, but that’s not really taking anything away from its quality.