Friday, May 24, 2024

Brandon Brown the Third

I remember Brandon B rapping on Sacred Hoop's 2007 record "Hog Wild" that "my albums never come out, but I'm still holding underground clout." Well, those days are finally over, because he's just released his third solo album in the last few years, Serious Callers Only.  Like the last two, Brandon self-produces with his Bootleg Friday partner Elliott Lanam on Gurp City Digital.  Yeah, it says that on the inside cover; but as you can surmise by my covering it here, there are physical copies available as well.

I described his last album as, "bridg[ing] the gap from early Electro-Hop to the classic 90's 4-track era," and he's absolutely continuing in that direction here.  It's like if the music started out in mid 80s LA rap, but then evolved into a fresh, different branch than the actual genre grew to become.

The album starts off with "Let's Go Intro," which despite its title is actually a fully produced song with three verses and a chorus.  But it's an intro in the sense that it's Brandon going off on his own, introducing us to his production style and who he is as an MC.  Its immediately followed by the super dynamic "Letting You Know," a harder duet with TOPR, but with a hype, fast-paced track and a killer scratch finale by DJ Pause.  "Let's Go" eases us in a bit gently, but if you're not on board by the track 2, I don't know what to tell ya.

You could probably guess the best song is the one with Z-Man, but that's not because B's getting carried here.  It's almost a coincidence that he's on the song with the strongest concept track, so they're both killing it lyrically, an ode to their starving artist lifestyle, "I'm buying out the bar every show we play, staying fit only eating one meal a day.  'Ey, one time for the weight loss plan; two times for the shortened life span.  Three times for the SoFi loan that I fucked off on hookers and blow."  Instrumentally, it's another hyper, bumping track that even opens up with a classic vocoder announcing, "we're starving on purpose."

"In a Major Way" smooths things out for a head nodding collab with QM and Trunk Drank cohort Eddie K.  Yeah, most of the regulars you'd expect are here and as welcome as ever.  Equipto sounds great on the title track that makes great use of a classic Steady B sample, and actually, surprisingly, Luke Sick isn't on this one.  But he's not needed.  With these recent albums, Brandon has proven himself to be much more than just a Sacred Hoop weed carrier.  And there are one or two unexpected guests, too, particularly Sick Wid' It recording artist Cousin Fik.  It's got a slow bump tailor made for the pair, and if you didn't know better, you'd think Fik was another Gurp City family member comfortably flowing at home with his crew.

Other highlights include "Woodstock '23," a celebratory party anthem touting Gurp City's trademark hedonism, "It's like Woodstock '99 combined with Gutfest '89's killer line-up.  (We're gonna cut your set short!)  If that's the case, I'll just send the word and we'll trash the place.  I got a gash on my face, don't know how it happened; bleedin' all over the stage and still rappin'."  With DJ Pause getting busy on the turntables over some Beverly Hills Cop-style synths, it's impossible not to have fun.  Another track slows things down for a classic 80's girl story with a demented twist, "she sized me up with her eyes and said, 'I can't stay long.  I left my kid at Chuck E. Cheese and he's all alone.'  I asked how old is he, she said, 'he's almost six;' and I'm thinkin' to myself, man, this chick is sick."  And I'd never accuse this album of getting serious, but there are a few hints at sincere political stances with lines like, "if you're talking like Nick Fuentes?  Go and try some of that bullshit in the East Bay" and "I slam a Bud Light right in front of Kid Rock's face, and keep starin' at him while I finish the sixer."

In fact, there's a seemingly endless supply of deep cut references in Brandon's rhymes, from "I keep it obscure like 12ManRambo" to some I'd never get.  I found myself googling a few, asking myself, who the heck is Ted Dibiase?  Turns out he's a wrestler... and he doesn't spell his name the way I'd guessed.  Noel Gallagher's the lead singer of the rock band Oasis, and one can only imagine what beef B would have with that seemingly random pull ("Noel Gallagher's a bitch; when I see him I'ma choke his ass out, same with his brother Liam" ... Okay??).  That potentially gives this album a slightly alienating esoteric streak.  And a few, like a Lizzo fat joke, feel like low hanging fruit.  Starting to get some Chino XL vibes there.  But Hip-Hop's been packing in obscure, local references for decades, who am I to randomly put my foot down now?  Well, I just feel a few less references for their own sake might yield more cohesive songs in future.

But really, any criticisms I have amount to nitpicks of an overall killer album.  Things do run low on steam in the closing tracks.  The last song has Timex Social Club's Michael Marshall return for another blow-out hook.  But unlike his impressive appearance on B's first album, this one has a softer, almost easy listening vibe I can't really get into.  It's kind of like Craig G's first album, with all the Marley Marl bangers you'd play over and over, but you usually wind up turning it off before the last couple songs.

In fact, this album has kind of the modern vibes of Craig G's second album, too.  Master Ace could've stopped by and dropped his "Give It To Me" verse on any number of these songs.  Not that Serious Callers Only sounds that much like Now That's More Like It, but it evokes the same feelings.  And, albeit for different reasons, it's best owned on CD.  There's a limited edition available directly from his bandcamp along with his first album.  His first album's sold out there, but it's still available on Gurp City's bigcartel.  That gives me the feeling all three are down to straggling copies, so act fast, or else you'll be stuck streaming like a chump.

1 comment:

  1. Sacred Hoop's weed carrier! Great review