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As a strong advocate of hip hop, I talk about it quite a bit. Whether I’m conferring with other hip hop heads, or those who are not particular fans, I like to think that my love of great production and strong lyricism is infectious. I like to point out that, at its best, hip hop is modern poetry, and every bit as viable as beat poets like Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, or 20th century romantics like Dylan Thomas. If you’re looking for proof of this, look no further.
On their new album, Never Arrive, theBREAX, a hip hop crew/band based in southern California, deliver not only tight beats (featuring live instrumentation) and stirring lyricism, but also an aspect of honest, no-compromises spoken word poetry. Main group members, Ruslan, MicB and Beleaf are all spoken word poets whose work in that vein features in between several tracks on Never Arrive. If this doesn’t sound like your particular brand of soda, wait. In addition to being spoken word poets, they are also quality purveyors of hip hop.
Being a fan of The Roots, the use of live instruments in a hip hop context is something I love. In that regard, theBREAX bring it. MicB’s drumming is sick, and the use of live guitars, bass, horns and keys is simply outstanding. Throughout the album, the drums are well mxed and well recorded, as the bass pounds and the snares are crisp. “Timeless” combines an electronic sound with Drew Barragan’s blues-y electric guitar tone to create a motif that appears to be both historic and futuristic. Very clever. Overall, the production is varied and extremely interesting. Electronic and synth elements combine with live instrumentation to create a very unique, layered feel, such as on the track “Get Better.” “Welcome” has a very cool, funky vibe, which I’m sure will play really well in a live context.
Vocally, Ruslan and Beleaf combine to form a strong duo. Ruslan’s voice has a sharpness to it, and when it combines with his excellent word selection, it can cut like a knife. There’s an aggression to tracks like the “Intro”, which works really well with his voice. That doesn’t mean, however, that he isn’t versatile. On a slower track, like “Down”, Ruslan allows his voice to sound a little warmer, melding with the subject matter and production on the track. Beleaf has a more deliberate flow, and a more mellifluous voice than Ruslan, and provides a welcome counterpoint. He also combines strong word play with his vocal delivery, which, between the two MCs, creates a pretty deft one-two punch. The uppercut in this knockout of an album comes in the form of the guest MCs that populate the album. Names that will be familiar to people, such as Lecrae, Shad, JR, and Nomis bring the heat on the album, as do names that won’t necessarily be as familiar, or weren’t to me, in any case. Artists such as Blame One, Sean C. Johnson and Chris Lee Cobbins all have extremely effective parts to play on the album, as do others.
Overall, this is a strong album that combines excellent musical direction with fantastic flow and wordplay. It’s not the same old same old, but if you take Never Arrive for a spin I think that you will enjoy the journey.
Release Date: December 13, 2011
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1. Intro - produced by Jimmy Natural
2. Timeless - produced by Jruckers
3. Get Better - produced by DJ Rek
4. Welcome To The Show (feat. Blame One) - produced by Cheesebeats
5. Down (feat. Sean C Johnson) - produced by Cheesebeats
6. Never Arrive (feat. Lecrae & J.R.) - produced by DJ Rek
7. Take A Look - produced by Jimmy Natural
8. If You Knew (feat. Presto) - produced by Sound Collage Musik
9. Share Your World (feat. Chris Lee Cobbins) - produced by Sound Collage Musik
10. theBREAX (feat. Cuts by DJ Rek) -produced by DJ Rek
11. Appreciate You (feat. Shad) - produced by Exile
12. Come With Me (feat. JerVae) - produced by Hezekiah
13. Won't Die Tonight (feat. NomiS & Drew Barragan) - produced by Sound Collage Musik)
14. Alive - produced by Jruckers
15. Up There - produced by Cheesebeats
16. Outro - produced by Jruckers