This era will be known as a revival of boom bap. It was beaten into the ground, replaced by warbling robot voice and pulled itself out of the grave. Hopefully newer generations are falling in love with the warmth and the boom. Beyond that basic storyline we have a lot of boom bap at different flavor levels. Some of it is fire and some of it is mild salsa(shots fired!). What impresses me the most about the albums Kev Brown has given us already this year is the scale at which he can create the music. What is the difference between classic RZA, Havoc or Daringer? Taking nothing away from what Daringer has done(I love so much of his work) but it’s the scale. RZA and Havoc could take a dark insular space and make it a universe.
While listening to the joint album SonnyJim and Kev Brown dropped together on March 29th I had to upgrade my headphones. I have varying levels of headphones and I figured I was just doing a quick listen, those weren’t good enough. A Joint Venture is absolutely beautiful. From the scratching on Weekend @ Barneys, the piano on Lobstermania 6, to the nasty smashing bass on 93 Burgundy. SonnyJim unloads buckets of insane references and the oddest wordplay delivered flatly in his trademark monotone(On Bubblegoose he goes from “All I feed my chickens is cocaine and chicken” to “I’m Lord Finesse The Funky Technician”).
So back to scale, just listen to the warmth and tone of these drums. How they center the track and make the weird baby-talk sample make perfect sense.
Hilfiger Harbour is enormous and made for car speakers while Silk Pyjamas is much more of a groove, the hi hat jangles along as we sail smoothly but the track never stops moving. AND THE SCRATCHING! This music feels like it’s happening in front of you, not in the distant background as you go about your day.
Here is where I admit I slept on Kev Brown. In January, he dropped a project called Stray From The Pack with J Scienide and it was getting major love. I didn’t get it. I’ve been conditioned to look for conceptual framework around an album. What is the story? What is the artist trying to tell me? I missed that everything Kev Brown has done this year has been in the opposite direction of the climate. Stray From The Pack is about how fun making music with someone you respect is. Stripping back the layers of expectation and need to make AOTY contenders into food for the machine, to just enjoy making and listening to the music.
No better proof than the scratching, soul sample and funky rhythm of Cutlass Supreme. Kev takes first verse and says “I made my own planet, it took me twenty years. I built a foundation, on a lot of beers.”
While J Scienide is the rappers rapper throughout, the verse exchange never feels drastically uneven. Kev is a good hang in front of and behind the mic. The outro to the song is ill. Eric Sermon should hear what Kev Brown has done this year. In the bandcamp description of Stray From The Pack EPMD is mentioned as an influence “The album Stray From The Pack is our homage to all the great duos. Like EPMD…” and it ends on the most EPMD song.
Legendary Rugged opens with J Scienide declaring it “black hoodie rap sh*t!” This knocks like its always been a part of you, the screwface feels like one you’ve always worn. The head nod connects to deep musical roots. Once Kev ends his verse, the hook slides right into a goofy midi sounding outro and it ends perfectly, with fun sounds and a sampled audio clip.
The scale of Kev Browns 2021 musical production is about drums when others aren’t using them, but it’s about texture and payoff. The guitar on Higher Standards is unique to the album. It is never used the same way again. So it gets to stand out and live a life of its own while enriching the whole project with how much it stands out. The guitar on Higher Standards also pays off! It is unignorably vital to the listener. You can have all the tricks but if they don’t payoff in the album listen they only matter to a subset of a subset. Kev Brown makes production decisions that that are eye catching, flavorful and enrich the sonic environment every time. I hope he has more in the chamber ready to fire because I am here for it!