Release Date: Oct 7, 2016
Record label: Tommy Boy
Genre(s): Rap, Alternative Rap, International, Brazilian Pop, Brazilian Traditions
Prince Paul has been, most notably since his seminal work on De La Soul's debut studio album, 3 Feet High and Rising, an interpreter of hip-hop's capacity for concomitance and occasional conflation with other genres, styles, and art forms. His work with the Gravediggaz built free-jazz tremolo and skronks as well as samba percussion into Wu-Tang's austere tracks. With BROOKZILL!, a super group consisting of Prince Paul, Ladybug Mecca of the great Digable Planets, Brazilian MC Gorila Urbano, and producer Don Newkirk, the producer offers an interpretation of hip-hop, a genre dependent on words, as capable of transcending language barriers.
BROOKZILL!'s debut album, Throwback to the Future, is an exuberant mash-up of old-school hip-hop, funky jazz, and Brazilian funk and pop that captures the best aspects of all the separate ingredients and revels in the combination they make. Created by legendary producer Prince Paul, Digable Planets' Ladybug Mecca, keyboardist Don Newkirk (who trainspotters might remember from his voice-overs on De La Soul's Three Feet High and Rising), and Brazilian hip-hop icon Rodrigo Brandão, the project is good-time grooves and grin-inducing fun from beginning to end. With guests on board who range from Gil Scott-Heron collaborator Brian Jackson to Del the Funky Homosapien and a raft of Brazilian artists, Throwback plays out like a street party where the alcohol flows and people are dancing like the weekend will never end.
From his initial work as Stetsasonic member and De La Soul’s producer, through to the horrorcore supergroup Gravediggaz and his Handsome Boy Modeling School project with Dan The Automator (as well as his own albums: Psychoanalysis (1996), A Prince Among Thieves (1999) and 2003’s Politics of the Business), Prince Paul has long been one of Hip Hop’s most inventive outliers. For more than 25 years, the Amityville-born producer has consistently eschewed the more straightforward route of making and releasing music in favor of a more off-piste vision, built around the use of off-the-wall samples, concept-based albums and humorous skits. That resolutely experimental streak which runs deep in Paul’s music is once again evident in his new project, BROOKZILL!, which is pitched as a fusion of the streets of Brooklyn, the soul of Brazil and is a four-strong collective comprised of Paul himself, former Digable Planets starlet Ladybug Mecca (who is of Brazilian heritage), Gorila Urbano (aka São Paulo rapper Rodrigo Brandão) and De La Soul producer Don Newkirk.
Even if it never became prominent and frequent enough to occupy the same trend-space as dancehall or Bollywood did, the intersection of hip-hop and Brazilian music has provided some indelible moments over the years. Dilla stirring up Stan Getz and Luis Bonfa’s early ’60s bossa nova for the Pharcyde’s “Runnin’,” Mos Def building “Casa Bey” around a cut from Brazilian funk powerhouse Banda Black Rio, Wanderlea’s tropical quiet storm “Lindo” finding its way into a grip of ’10s beats peaking with Isaiah Rashad’s “Smile”—even Black Eyed Peas in their prototypical Cali backpacker days knew the strength of a good Jorge Ben loop. So the surface notion of BROOKZILL! (all-caps/exclamation point theirs) as a melding of Brazilian musical influence with American hip-hop isn’t the most unprecedented idea, even if it benefits from the more direct engagement with a Brazilian artist.