Away Team

Scars & Stripes

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Featuring an array of guest artists, both established (Phonte, Dilated Peoples' Evidence) and up-and-coming (Kelsy Lu, Heather Victoria), the fifth collaborative effort from MC Sean Boog and producer Khrysis, aka North Carolina duo the Away Team, appears to be more of a showcase for the Duck Down Records roster than anything else. Indeed, there are several times when the Justus League pair are overshadowed on their own record, whether it's Jay Rush's impassioned soulful tones on "I Ain't Mad," emerging female MC Rapsody, who more than holds her own against the more experienced Talib Kweli on the early Neptunes-esque "Set It Off," or the slick MC skills of Actual Proof's Enigma on the ghostly hip-hop of "Proceed." The punchy sample-driven production, courtesy of Khrysis (who also unexpectedly takes the mike on the minimal interlude "4 the People"), and Boog's raspy delivery and introspective tales of the struggles they've endured during their ten-year underground career at least ensure there's a sense of cohesion among its 17 tracks. But as head-nodding as the likes of the snake-charming "Hot Potato" and quietly spooky "What Is This" are, it's only when they embrace their classic soul influences, as on "The Road to Redemption" and "Picture This" (which borrow from Marvin Gaye's "I Want You" and Michael Jackson's "The Lady in My Life," respectively), that the album becomes worthy of grabbing any attention. Scars & Stripes should consolidate the duo's respected status on the indie hip-hop scene, but there's little here likely to elevate them to the mainstream.

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