Torae: Feel The Real

When Torae exploded into rap fans' consciousness via Double Barrel, his 2009 standout with Canadian producer Marco Polo, his voice was accompanied by the sound of salutary gunshots. Yet there was a line on the album's final track, "Crashing Down," that forecasted more about the Brooklyn rapper's creative direction than Polo's pummeling boom-bap beats and threat-trading sessions with Sean Price and M.O.P. "I ain't street enough for Fiddy/ Ain't pop enough for Diddy," he said ruefully. "I guess they ain't find a lane to fit me."

He then proved it with a pair of quirky albums: Early 2011's Heart Failure was a sweet-natured concept piece about a complicated but ultimately rewarding monogamous relationship; Torae also dropped For the Record in November 2011, an album that finds the artist wracked by self-doubt over his music career. So where does Torae fit in? For now, he's a supremely talented vocalist in the East Coast's oft-ignored underground scene, and his rhymes flow as furiously as wordsmiths like Jay-Z or Termanology. But he's also canny enough to expose his neuroses in public, resulting in hip-hop that's more compelling than the usual indie rap. By interrogating himself and others, Torae grows as an artist. As he says on For the Record, "How many of y'all is gonna do the math?" --Mosi Reeves, Google Music

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