Brew Takes His Time Getting You To Mo City
Brew. Photo: Courtesy of Artist/Facebook
Houston’s hip hop scene today is as diverse as it was when Rap-a-Lot was first getting started. We now has rappers that are mixing genres, rappers that are mixing live instruments, and rappers who are forging a new path that steers from the “Screwston” era that has become synonymous with our city. However, some rappers still stay true to the old school hip hop styles that rap was founded on choosing to utilize the idea of poetry set to a beat with a simple accompanying track just like the legends of hip hop did over thirty years ago. One of those artists that’s closer to the old school vibe would be Missouri City’s Brew. While there are times on his new album, Mo City or Nothin, when the rapper shines brighter than a lot of rappers holding a mic, it takes him almost half the length of the release to grab your attention and hold onto it to the end.
It should be stated that this album contains some true hip hop gems. There are moments on these sixteen tracks when Brew hits the mic harder than most, but there are a ton of slow moments that stifle his overall lyrical prowess. The album starts off with the story of where Brew is coming from, being told affectionately by his mother on “The Journey.” While that’s a sweet way to open your record, the second track, “2234(feat. John Dew),” keeps that slow pace going. While Brew hits hard and fast, the slow beat and almost dripped molasses speed of the track deters from how impressive his skills on the mic actually are. While Brew steers from the old school nature of his style on the third track, the overall sound of “Untitled (Let em’ Live)“ reminds me a lot of what’s come out in the past. While Brew drops verses with plenty of passion and heat, the backing tracks don’t move the narrative further than something that would have come out twenty years ago. Two tracks later, Brew finally starts to shed the past and moves forward with his own style on “Nothing Last.” Unfortunately, while his flow is on point, the song itself never gets above a faint breath in speed. The slow chill vibe works if that’s what he was going for, but if he was hoping for a banger, then he was far off the mark.
Unfortunately, this occurs again on the following track, “8-24.” While Brew brings a style that feels like his own, the chopped and screwed parts of the song feel hacky and old while the production quality feels cheap and outdated. Where European acts today are incorporating the chopped and screwed method into tracks in a new way, this song loses all of its luster when the chopped and screwed methods of almost twenty years ago hop on and kill any momentum that the song built without it. This gets followed by the first standout of the album, “Mama Dear (feat. The Brew Crooners & Tawn Peron),“ finally giving the listener a track that feels like something you can gravitate towards. The backing vocals mixed with Brew’s skillful delivery showcase the stronger points that the rapper can bring to the table, while the production quality and new style tones make the song something forward sounding. The same could be said about “Red Room Graduate,” where Brew sheds the past and goes hard as he spits with an intensity that’s above many who drop a rhyme in the hip hop world. The following track, “Watts & Brew (feat. Synatto Watts),” keeps the energy going and adds a beat that sounds more up-to-date. At this point, it’s when you get to “Y’all Know (feat. Snapp aka Redd Klay & DJ Baby Roo)“ where the album feels like it’s finally on the right path. The beats and backing tracks drop as you’d want while the old school vibes that mix with a new world production quality make the song one of the standouts on the release.
While “Love Thirst (feat. Synatto Watts)“ keeps the velocity going strong and the prior momentum keeps the record on the stronger side of things, the interlude piece that follows, “A History Break“ kind of kills the sturdiness that followed on the prior handful of tracks. However, Brew picks up things on the track that comes after, “Hunters Glen Summers (feat. Tawn Peron),” and adds the narrative from his mother as a sample, one that delivers in this manner. He closes things off with the title track “Mo City or Nothin,” adding to the stronger tracks on the album. Even a chopped and screwed vocal that comes on doesn’t deter from the power of the song itself. There’s also a bonus track that actually closes off things, though it’s not on every version to my knowledge. If it’s not on all versions, it’s sad because the song itself, “Dream Big (feat. John Dew & Tawn Peron),” is possibly the strongest of all sixteen. The use of multiple vocals, backing vocals, and an almost spaced out feel gives the album plenty of snap alongside a fresh feeling that’s not really anywhere else on the record.
In all honesty, the album has seven to eight really strong songs that would have made an impressive release by themselves. While it’s nice that there’s a story element to the album, it deters from the momentum that the rapper builds up and sadly could keep someone from devoting the attention that this album deserves. If you removed the first seven songs as well as the interludes of the story tracks, you’d be left with an EP or shorter album that would stand strong on its own. You can catch Brew at his next listening party at Alley Kat on June 29. The 21 and up event has doors at 8 pm and it’s free to attend.