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The Away Team's Scars & Stripes 

(It's A Wonderful World Music Group/ Duck Down Music, Inc.)

In the past, The Away Team's legacy was always to be judged by Khrysis' aptness as beatmaker. Lead emcee Sean Boog was only held accountable when Khrysis, the protégé of 9th Wonder, got boring. Through all the turmoil in North Carolina hip-hop in the last decade, the relationship between these two has persevered, a fact that's more impressive than the music they continue to make. But on Scars & Stripes, the two finally get in each other's way, flooding the tracks with too many accomplices and directions.

Given Jamla Records' potluck attitude—everyone pitches in some rhymes and some beats, like it's always a family reunion—it's increasingly hard to distinguish one artist's sound from another. Often, members of Jamla's producer unit, The Soul Council, are shuffled around so randomly that it's hard to spot them. At least Khrysis' leathery beats are praiseworthy on "What Is This" and "Scars & Stripes"; if it weren't for his lack of imagination, he could easily become North Carolina's version of Madlib. But Boog's calculated rhymes make even Khrysis' best work feel measured and predictable. As if for the sake of retribution, Khrysis pollutes his own beats with his own rhymes, too. When we first heard Khrysis test his rapping licks, it was amusing. Now it's just bad. When Boog has an open field to himself, as on "Cheers," Khrysis wanders on his territory, inserting silly non sequiturs like "howdy." He makes a mess of what would have been a well-scripted sequel to The Away Team's early throwback anthem, "Likka Hi (Last Call)."

Before too long, Boog will have to declare himself a solo artist and be more than just a useful emcee if he wants to have a few of the lavish things he lists on "Paid." For now, he's gainfully employed over Khrysis' blue-collar beats; I suppose that's all that really matters in today's fierce Occupy climate.

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