Confession time: I just came across Tragic Allies the other day, so, obviously I know virtually nothing about them other than the fact that they were discovered by Killah Priest, dropped a couple (maybe?) of mixtapes and released their debut album, The Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil, in 2011.
They are a three-man group consisting of Purpose, Estee Nack and Codenine. Purpose not only raps, but he also produces, and he steps behind the boards for a bunch of tracks on The Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil, an album that features guest appearances from Killah Priest, Bronze Nazareth and Planet Asia.
Tragic Allies are an old-school type group, bringing a 90s feel to hip-hop similar to what some of the Wu-Tang offshoots offer/offered (which makes sense, because Killah Priest did discover them).
For that reason, I can already see the more devout hip-hop heads gravitating toward this trio, if not only for that, but also because of the fact that they sound nothing like the bullcrap that saturates the radio today.
Again, I literally just found these dudes this week, so let's just jump right into the review.
Things don't exactly get off to a good start here. The beat, laced by Crucial The Guillotine (doesn't that name just sound so Wu-Tangish?), grates on the eardrums, as the vocal sample (something I am usually rather fond of) is just overkill. This also crawls a bit too much for my liking.
3. God Gifted
This is better. Purpose pulls a page out of Bronze Nazareth's book here and crafts a slow-paced instrumental consisting of some deliberate horns and a vocal sample. The production does does get a bit repetitive after a while, but the music is solid. Also, Planet Asia makes a guest appearance, and he does "God Gifted" justice.
4. War Melody
DJ Woool (doesn't that name just sound so not Wu-Tangish?) is on the boards for "War Melody," and the result is a really freaking boring beat. This really could have used heavier drums (only Roc Marciano and The Alchemist can pull off the sparse drum-type instrumentals). The raps are good, but the production is just not nearly engaging enough to keep my interest.
5. Fallin' Starz
A dude named Kevalowski puts together this beat, and like Purpose two songs ago, he does his best Bronze Nazareth impression. This was pretty good, possessing a grimy feel thanks to the instrumental and the subject matter of the rhymes by all three MCs. "Fallin' Starz" is the best track here so far, but I'm still hoping the energy picks up a little bit more as the album progresses.
6. Words From The Most High
This time, Street Science steps behind the boards for the production, and the finished product is pretty solid. The beat consists of an ominous piano riff and some semi-hard drums (they could have been harder, though), and Tragic Allies are able to match its dreary atmosphere. Six tracks in on The Tree of Knowledge, I know one thing for sure: these dudes are raw.
7. Street Narrative
Alright; now I'm positively sure that this album is headed in the right direction. This DJ Kryptonite-produced record freaking knocks. The instrumental is the best one on the project thus far, containing what sounds like a really dope Spanish sample and some banging drums to boot. Not only that, but the lyrics are really great, too. "Street Narrative" is just very dope overall.
8. Revival of The Fittest
This cut has a pretty cool name, as it is obviously a play on Mobb Deep's classic "Survival of The Fittest" (it also works in a vocal sample from it at the end). This song isn't nearly as good as Mobb Deep's, but it's still good, nonetheless. While Purpose's production isn't anything mind-blowing, it is extremely hard, and it suits the group perfectly. I really liked the hook on here, too.
9. In The Air
Crucial The Guillotine gets another chance here after that debacle of a first beat, and although his work on "In The Air" is not what I would call spectacular, it's much better than what he did on "A.L.L.I.E.S." Plus, Tragic Allies rip this instrumental so thoroughly that you'll eventually find yourself focusing on their raps rather than the production. That's always a good thing. The only complaint I would have is that the beat plays on for far too long at the end.
10. The Thought of Dying
I'm gonna be blunt with you: this song was so morbid that I couldn't even get through the whole thing.
60 Second Assassin makes a guest appearance here, and you know what? It was a waste, but what did you expect from an interlude?
I give Tragic Allies credit for touching on very delicate subjects and doing so very elegantly, but man...this album is just getting depressing. Also, an R&B hook on a project like this? Really?
13. Picture Perfect
The second the vocal sample kicks in at the beginning, you're bound to go crazy. This is freaking awesome. A producer named Bug (I know, but who cares what his name is with an instrumental like this?) creates the beat for "Picture Perfect," and good Lord did he make a head-nodder. Killah Priest drops by to lay down a verse, and his appearance was definitely refreshing.
14. Riots In The Streets
Mr. Morals (who probably has no morals) laces the production for "Riots In The Streets," and he kills it with that Thelma Houston sample. I would have liked to hear some drums on this, as Mr. Morals decides to just let the sample ride, but this was still good regardless, even if the song's title kind of insinuates that this is supposed to contain a much more aggressive beat. It also helps that Tragic Allies freaking rip this.
15. Rap Quotables
This is the best song on the album. No freaking question. Crucial The Guillotine puts down the instrumental here, and upon hearing his production on "Rap Quotables," you'll wonder just what was going through his mind when he made the beat for "A.L.L.I.E.S.," because this beat is absolutely outstanding. I could seriously listen to this on a loop all day. It's that great.
16. Time We Never Had
Decent, but coming after "Rap Quotables," I wasn't overly impressed.
17. Story of Sadness
Bronze Nazareth stops in to drop a verse on this cut, and he does a very fine job. This is solid, and while it wasn't the best way to close out the album, it certainly wasn't the worst.
And we're done.
Overall, I was impressed by Tragic Allies. The three of them are incredibly gifted rappers cut right from the Wu-Tang cloth, and their collective persona is grimy to a T (that's a good thing just in case you didn't know).
I won't lie and say that The Tree of Knowledge is a thoroughly consistent listen, because it isn't. Some of the production on here is just okay, and including two songs about grim death ("The Thought of Dying" and "Drown," with "Drown" being about suicide) is a bit unpleasant to say the least, even if the records were straight from the heart (and they were).
Still, even taking those little critiques into account, this is a good album. A few of the songs on here have incredible replay value, and sometimes, Purpose, Estee Nack and Codenine are so exceptional on the mic that they significantly elevate tracks with otherwise average production.
I would definitely recommend giving The Tree of Knowledge a spin, as I'm sure most of you will find something to like (especially the Wu-Tang fans). I've also been convinced to check out some of their other work myself. They don't have a very extensive discography, either, so it won't take too long.
Hopefully, these guys stick around, as there is obvious talent and potential here.
1. Rap Quotables
2. Street Narrative
3. Riots In The Streets
4. Picture Perfect
5. Revival of The Fittest