Bar Exam: Shiwan & Ty Young – When Brothers Talk (Album)
A One Listen Album Review
The last time I heard a full project from the artist Shiwan was on his project with Benjamin Broadway last year entitled “The List.” It’s been a full year of building anticipation for more dopeness from the Connecticut emcee. Without much further ado, Shiwan and Ty Young dropped “When Brothers Talk” today. Let’s settle down for a bar exam.
The album starts out with a mother beaming over her sons and all that God has done in their lives. On “Fairview Brothers” the instrumental switches up towards the end of her speech, and Shiwan explodes on the track right as the beat comes in. The hook here is catchy, laid over the top of a melodic piano sample. “We kicking down the doors just to find the space.” I’ve never listened to Ty Young before, but he’s got a nice flow. His enunciation isn’t the best even with this faster pace, but it sounds nice overall. A promising start to the project.
Nice and easy beginning to track two, “What You Need.” Man these bars are really tight. Affixed perfectly to the bed the beat lays beneath it. “I got what you need/cuz I’m the man with the plan” The hook here is quite repetitive, but once I’ve had enough we’re in on the second verse and Ty Young brings the heat. Something about his flow reminds me of Mase missed with a little Slick Rick, in a good way. All of this so far sounds very fresh and well put together.
“Ryu and Ken Pt. 2” I love the reference to Street Fighter. I’m actually a Puzzle Fighter fan myself, but either way Ryu and Ken bring a lot of nostalgic feelings with them. I’m super late to the game because I never heard Pt. 1, but I’m digging the textures underneath this track. It feels appropriately video game-ish, and the formula of this one is the same as the previous tracks. Once the song starts it goes Shiwan, Chorus, Ty Young, Chorus, End. It’ll be interesting to see when they deviate from this construct.
On “Cold War,” Shiwan comes in with that John Givez/Kendrick vibe at the top. “Everybody wanna be a fighter but never wanna be a fighter when it’s time to be a fighter… that’s gangsta” There’s a light airy vibe to this one, and once Ty drops his verse we’re ready for a change of pace. This set up my ears to be ready to hear it.
I’m bad at critiquing songs that are considered as “Interludes” but when they include flows it’s a little easier. Interludes never include a complete thought, usually are used to bridge concepts or to even present a concept counter to what’s been presented. Ty spits a decent flow here, but I’m not tracking with what he’s speaking on.
“Think I’m a QB the way I’m about to drop back/observe the whole field/reaching my goal still/Like Kunta I was nothing born from some roots/feel like Iron Mike’s pigeons when I ride in the coupe.”
Shiwan is pretty versatile in the sound he can bring in his performances. On “One Day” he’s back to this throwed steez, bobbing and weaving effortlessly through the beat. Ty Young has some rhyming and rapping talent, but I feel like his ingredients are the same each time. Also, the construction of each track has yet to switch up. This is something that is prevalent on solo artist albums when you have less to work with. (Verse, Chorus, Verse, Chorus) It’s strange to me that with a second emcee there’s no thought put to who take verse 1. 6 tracks in and it’s Shiwan, Chorus, Ty, Chorus for every track. Don’t get me wrong, the meat here is very good. The music sounds great. It’s just all formulaic.
“Blowing Up” has a dope piano sample and a tight drum loop. Shiwan’s bars are high level.
“Say they claim but never gang sign/we just rapping at the same time/Michael Jordan with the hang time/We keep hearing from the grapevine/That you really wanna take mine/But I’m fighting on the ringside/What’s a rookie to a King size?”
The confidence that Shiwan brings in how he moves from style to style is breathtaking. I get really hyped when this swag is paired with these nice beats. Just like the formula doesn’t switch up, I’m beginning to notice that once the beat is in fully, nothing changes in that area either. It presents like a mixtape, it’s just listening to two brothers have fun and bust rhymes.
Track eight, “Spin Up” has Shiwan in for the first verse once again this time with a pause heavy flow. Every verse Shiwan spits is above the bar. He’s really in another league. The hooks all throughout this project, and especially this one definitely hook you in a way that makes you want to hit repeat.
The sampling at the top of “Elm Street” is dope, and this might be the best instrumental on the album. There’s some change to Shiwan’s voice here on the first verse, with the slowed/screwed up vocals depicting another personality here. It’s dope. Throughout it feels like an East Coast deep cut. Shiwan and Ty are story telling while also dropping a lot of East Coast references. When that beat hits pause behind Ty on the second verse it’s chilling. The track fades out and brings in another vibe with a different effect on the vocals. This part of the track seems like another interlude, but it’s dope. This track was very fire, and look… they switched up the formula just a little bit. It was worth the wait.
Shiwan drops a melody laden first verse on “Alive Again” speaking about love and broken hearts. Ty’s verse 2 is full of a melodic flow too. This whole track is a deviation from what we’ve heard throughout the rest of the project, which is a good look.
Another interlude here and it’s Shiwan’s turn to share his thoughts. The music here is chilled out with some R&B vocals being sampled on it. It feels good.
For the first verse of “Problem” we hear Shiwan throwing out some triplet bars. It’s terrific, halfway through Ty piggy backs on the feel that Shiwan laid. The instrumental here sounds like radio frequencies chopped up and sampled. It’s unorthodox but it’s very creative. The construction of this song is the first one on the project that doesn’t stick to the same mold of the others. I said “Elm Street” was one that switched up the formula a bit (adding some different effects to the vocals, and an extra verse at the back) but this one is a completely different structure and it’s terrific to hear them share verses. I love this track.
“We don’t ever die” is the anthem here. “Frontline” has a spooky East Coast vibe to it. Ty Young’s verse is nice. It’s pause heavy with some echoing ad-libs.
“Wanna feel like a kid again/Life’s like a game I don’t care where I land like Gilligan” “Once married to the game but I got a pre-nup”
He’s nice with the punchlines here. The Chorus sets you up to think you’ve heard it before, and while we pretty much have, the “We don’t ever die” moment here is stronger. I wonder what this song would sound like without the “one-two satan’s coming for you” stuff.
“Fire Arm” has a lot of punchlines, fitting well with the last track. The bars throughout this project are very well crafted. This is a project for true hip-hop heads who just want to gawk at rapping ability.
The beat on “Monument” is straight fire and the way that Shiwan handles it is remarkable. This track just absolutely bangs. This one deserves to be on all of the playlists. It feels great. Man even though the formula is predictable, we’re dealing with some artists that don’t lose energy. They stay at it, and it’s great.
The final track, “Blood Brothers” has some soul samples thrown into it. I love this beat too. It’s cool how different the beats are from each other. Shiwan does his thing on this first verse as well.
“God told me to make a lift/but I’m in that uber driving/laced up with that Holy Spirit but I do know who supplying/Whether I see the prediction/You’ll see the change of plans/I got a better calling than Will Ferrell to Anchorman”
He and Ty share each verse here. I appreciate the healthy competitiveness of each artist trying to follow up or one up each other with bars. This is a great finish to the album.
Shiwan and Ty Young brought us a good project with “When Brothers Talk.” There’s some definite bangers on here, but the formulaic construction of each song and the lack of creative direction made me wonder “what could have been.” Shiwan though, continues to grow and improve in his craft, and bringing along Ty was a very good look. In the future I’d love for any collaborations Shiwan offers to be less restrictive and more imaginative. Regardless, sometimes you just want straight up bars. You really get that here, and so this album overall is heavily repeatable, it just doesn’t reach above the bar at every level for me. Much love to Shiwan and his team. I’m forever a fan.
Overall Rating: At The Bar