Darrell Yates, Jr., has paid his dues and then some. As rapper Steele, he performed on one of the best rap albums of the 1990s, Black Moon’s “Enta Da Stage.” He was half of of Smif-N-Wessun, who also issued an essential 1990s rap album: “Dah Shinin.” He was an essential member of one of the rap’s best underground groups, Boot Camp Clik. They also rapped about the Donald long before he was even thinking of becoming Prez, on 1998’s “Black Trump.”
So when Steele puts an album out, you better listen. “Building Bridges” is a different type of record for Steele, but also familiar. The legends of Duck Down Records all appear: Buckshot, Rockness Monsta (of Heltah Skeltah), the recently deceased Sean Price…Steele is “in his 40s now,” and wants “everybody [to] just live,” as he speaks on “Just Live.” He’s become increasingly political over time, and there’s lot of that here, but it’s not as incendiary as it was back in the day. It’s more about finding peace, living with the past, and coping with reality.
Producer Es-K is from Vermont. But this is hardcore Brooklyn, all grown up. Highest recommendation.