Album Review — 16 December 2011

By Ahmad Awadallah

Last year, Durty Keyz was another fallen angel that was laid to rest in the Hip-Hop cemetery. At the tender age of 23, he lost his life to a bacterial infection called Streptococcus, but pieced together an album called Keyz of Life along with his friend and production partner Burd. Ultimately, Burd decided to lay the finishing touches to demonstrate their ill production prowess and to create a lasting legacy for his fallen comrade.Toronto should be extremely proud of their city’s rhyming bullpen. Toronto guest appearances are in abundance and they all bring that flame. As you would expect, the album starts off extremely somber with Toronto soul singer Divine Brown gloomily serenading the beat. Producer McCallaman provides some emotional depth with sound clips of Keyz stating his hopes and aspirations in his music journey. The intro really makes you appreciate life regardless of your condition or environment, because any state of life always outweighs a lack of it.

“Keyz of Life” is the perfect combination of soul and exuberance, with low-spirited piano notes and exultant trumpets meshing well. SonReal and Nickelus F emphasize celebrating life and not taking it for granted, but Blake Carrington has the most emotionally tugging verse by reminiscing about their close-knit relationship.

The diverse production style is evident on R&B track “Duet,” featuring singer-extraordinaire Lokz. The Toronto crooner always comes correct, but it’s a little off-putting how close he sounds to Jamie Foxx. Nevertheless, the song is crafted for women, but can definitely be embraced by men. “Burdstrumental (Never Get Over You) and Burdstrumental (Losing My Best Friend) are two instrumentals on the album that further illustrate Burd and Keyz’ varied style, the former track has a smooth vibe that samples funk group 100 Proof(Aged in Soul) and it just begs a rapper to beat the break off it (preferably AZ.) The latter is an Electronic/House oriented beat that seems almost impossible to rhyme over, but still addictive (songstress Nadia Ali would kill it.)

Rich Kidd goes in on the record “R.N.T. (Real N***a Tears) with DJ Grouch providing the scratch effects. Lyrically it’s the apex of the album with Rich pouring out his heart over two verses. You can definitely feel his grief and sorrow in his stern bars and solemn flow. Divine Brown comes through again on the track “The Other Side” along with the once king of Toronto, Kardinal Offishall. The production again delivers on this tear jerker with the Canadian songbird reminding listeners that life is fragile while she yearns to see Toronto’s departed golden child.

The album is consistent and extremely solid effort. The album packs a powerful punch of soberness for 14-tracks, but regardless of your disposition this record is definitely a must listen. Toronto has lost a powerful artist, but this album is evidence that the city is overrun with Hip-Hop talent, and Drake isn’t their only glimmer of hope. Rest in Peace Anthony “Durty Keyz” James.

black-thumbs-up black-thumbs-upblack-thumbs-upblack-thumbshalf 3.75 Out of 5


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