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13 December, 2007@1:54 am

A group that calls itself The Away Team sounds like it may have an inferiority complex, a little bit of a chip on its shoulder. With the release of the Team’s second album, Training Day, emcee Sean Boog and producer Khrysis prove they have reason to hold their heads high.

Anyone who wants to shoehorn the North Carolina-based duo in with stereotypes of Southern rap or might be scared off by the “too intelligent” label sometimes tossed at Justus League crew-mates Little Brother is in for a surprise. Away Team’s combination of Boog’s rugged rhymes and Khrysis’ loop and sample-based beats give the group the sound of a mid-90s East Coast outfit – and that’s intended as a complement.

Tracks like the come-up tale “The Odds” and “Rockabye,” a harsh warning to fakers that features guest spots from Nervous Reck and Supastition, are prime examples, with high-end loops layered over snares and thick baselines. Khrysis shows some range, too, with “Steppin’ On Toes” driven primarily by guitars and “Chitter Chatter” showing off a full complement of horns.

On the mic, no one is going to mistake Sean Boog for the second coming of Rakim, but the energy and enthusiasm present in his flow help add a little something extra to his “rapping about rapping” lyrics. He’s also capable of some fairly clever wordplay on occasion, as he shows on “Sum of Me” by flipping, ‘Some say someday, something gotta give/someone like me sum it up in a verse, we gotta live/Some will blast first, some will talk about it, won’t do it/Some will run and hide, my question to you is which are you choosing?’

Some songs in the album’s second half drag a little bit, and the group definitely needs a little help in the hook department to advance out of the underground. For proof, check out “Awesome,” with it’s chorus line of, ‘Y’all come around and make shit that sound awful/We come around and make shit that sound awesome,’ or the unimaginative repetition by Sean Price on the otherwise excellent “Psycho Ward.”

Boog suggests that a follow-up is already on the way for 2008, and with this bit of Training under its belts, Away Team stands a good chance to remove any underdog status it might be feeling. Until then, don’t sleep on this one. – Nick Tylwalk

  Mixtape D.L.
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