The beautiful thing about Hip Hop is that no matter who you are or where you’re from, it’s the content of your character through your rhymes that defines you for the listener. That’s why despite my lack of knowledge on Brotherman’s career so far, I’m still feelin what he’s putting across on this first mixtape in a new series he’s just begun.
For The Tapes Vol. 1 he’s selected a smooth mix of instrumentals and laid some honest, poetic lyrics that clearly come from the heart. Piece Of The Pavement is a concise intro that speaks on Britain’s youth with clarity and insight, and the unexpected singing he effortlessly breaks into at the end adds another layer to this already impressive start. Unsatisfied to continue at the high level he’s already set on the opener, he brings even more to the table on Memories. The verse begins with a who’s who in UK Hip Hop through his experiences on the scene, and does so with flair; utilizing a writing style that could easily degenerate into the reading of a list in less capable hands. The second half of the verse is captivating; I had to wheel it back like Rodigan enough times just to catch everything being said. He peppers the lines with emotive phrases and sophisticated turns of phrase, penning tight rhyme schemes that come out so smooth you might miss how complex and well written they are.
“In a minimal loft, I heard the criminal loss of Rudy Ashcroft, killin the notes like Fyfe from the Guillemots, Lyrics so amazing, they’re wasted as next man are aired on the station. Delegation, it’s a hype for a hot sec, and then fade, generation, I find it insane, yet inanely a dance in the rain, in and amongst the remains of a nation”.
The Third song takes the content to a much more serious place; drawing from events at the heart of America’s civil rights movement, citing the events of 1963 in particular; a year when the C.I.A began their domestic surveillance operations which would be used to murder black leaders and discredit pro-black organizations; Alabama’s police force set upon black children with dogs and fire hoses, and Dr. Martin Luther King gave one of the most powerful speeches in history on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. It’s with that knowledge in mind that Brotherman paraphrases Dr King’s speech on the inaugural lines of I’m In Love, a song rooted in struggle yet delivered with positivity, and acts as an uplifting dedication to a movement that was finally brought to the forefront of the public’s collective consciousness during that decade. The verses are weighty, taking in the writings of social psychologist Claude Steele, and name-checking the ship that brought some of the first West Indian immigrants to the UK’s shores, although the subject matter is deep, the overall vibe remains mellow, and the pop sensibilities of the chorus keep the song in step with the rest of the mixtape.
In The House relaxes the content again and continues the chilled vibes; with old school roll calls and metaphorical verses that calmly surf the wavy throwback beat. It’s the most instantly gratifying track on the tape, and would serve as a good introduction to the artist; his lyrics are again imaginative yet down to earth; “Want as I might, try as I may, cry with frustration at chains I can’t break, episode One, mourning the death of the sun, until I wake to the next in the long run.” Stickers gets funky on a bassy piano loop as the words spill thick and fast through the speaker; Brotherman adjusting his flow slightly to showcase a more relentless style that still remains calm through his use of patterns to break up the couplets. It’s a short stab of British Hip Hop done well, with his DJ Chris P Cuts adding some ill scratches over the top to seal the deal.
I’m glad Minute Mile has been given a proper release; the last time I heard the song was on GlobalFaction’s Beats, Rhymes, and Revolution series a while back. It’s had a full overhaul since then, and is excellently put together. Lounging organs and jazzy ride cymbal patterns build throughout the duration and stay open and relaxed like talented musicians jamming in the vein of Things Fall Apart. The lines are again penned with skill; “It’s mad grammar, Jack the lad swagger, focused, cloak that never noticed the dagger, gentrification’s debasing the manor, where hate radiates like gamma, stay para.” The second verse is made doubly enthralling by the vocals he echoes in the background, playing his own hypeman until the rhymes dissipate and lead into him freestyling with his singing voice, which has a lot of feel and by now is a welcome addition to any song, it’ll be interesting to hear him combine his singing and rapping on more songs in the future.
For anyone with an internet connection and the drive to search, there’s a continuous stream of new free mixtapes to check out, almost in direct opposition to how the music used to be shared among fans; This reason The Tapes Vol, 1 stands out from the crowd is the obvious work that Brotherman has put into his craft and the respectable angle he approaches his music from; anyone making positive, intelligent music from the soul like this deserves massive respect.
Cop it for free at his bandcamp.