Release Date: Feb 24, 2015
Record label: Warp
Supergroups are mostly a thing of the past: D.I.T.C, Native Tongues, Boot Camp Clik. The alignment of stars, pun intended, has given way to smaller crews of friends who naturally grew together before music was involved: Pro Era, Two-9, Odd Future. But recently, both of these trends have been exemplified in a group of producers and DJs: Future Brown.
The background of electronic supergroup Future Brown is nothing short of eclectic, with each member of the quartet having made noticeable strides within their individual musical circles. Fatima Al Qadiri has been recognized for her work with motifs and melodies from Asian and Muslim cultures, while Daniel Pineda and Asma Maroof of Nguzunguzu and Jamie "J-Cush" Imanian-Friedman of Lit City Trax blend bass, grime and a wealth of other dance floor styles within their club-ready endeavours. On the collective's self-titled debut, Future Brown successfully spotlight this myriad of influences over 11 tracks of futuristic musical hybridity.
Missy Elliott's Super Bowl moment said plenty about hip-hop's current creative drought. This timely set from four style-hungry producers recalls Elliott's turn-of-the-century heyday, with post-national street beats and an army of fresh MCs and singers. It feels like a genuine next-generation moment. Dominican-American MC Maluca spits hot Spanish over a synthesized koto melody, dancehall queen Timberlee rides a sci-fi bounce, and grime vet Riko Dan flows basso profundo.
This time-bending, space-shrinking record, which unites electronic producers from Los Angeles, New York and London (via Kuwait) as well as guest vocalists from both sides of the Atlantic, could pass for a field recording from some distant future. The production bears the stamp of Fatima Al Qadiri, who created a similarly glossy, post-human sound on her 2014 debut Asiatisch, with LA duo Nguzunguzu adding extra club bounce. The vocals – female rappers such as Chicago’s Tink make a strong impression here – are what fix us in the present moment: the party talk, posturing and sexual provocations pose an interesting counterpoint to the sci-fi soundscapes.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. When all-star production quartet Future Brown first formed a year ago, dropping the explosive 'Wanna Party' with Chicago double-threat Tink, it seemed like an answer to the prayers of fans of leftfield rap and electronic music everywhere. Here we have four of the brightest minds in niche American beat scenes -- Lit City Trax mastermind J-Cush, versatile duo Nguzunguzu, and experimental enigma Fatima Al Qadiri (the last two both signed to the always-thrilling Fade To Mind label) -- teaming up to craft arty instrumentals for various artists in the rap/R&B sphere.
The advent of high-access internet, the music industry’s increasing insularity, and a perpetually fragmenting culture has veritably killed the age of the musical supergroup. Today’s music culture has instead absorbed the ethos of mass collaboration wholesale, so much so that high-profile collaborations between artists are no longer just standard, but commonly expected: indie acts pen hits for pop giants, superstar rappers call on boundary-pushing producers to fill out their albums, and some musicians trade feature spots more often than they go solo. This is a world where Bon Iver regularly links up with Kanye West, Daft Punk enlisted Panda Bear, Julian Casablancas and Pharrell to give voice to their music, and Flying Lotus gave an album of beats to Kendrick Lamar—all well within the mainstream.
Future Brown's name was coined by DIS Magazine's Solomon Chase during a mushroom trip in which he conceived of a colour that didn't exist. The group—made up of Fatima Al-Qadiri, Nguzunguzu and J-Cush—operate on the same level musically, fusing rap, dancehall and other styles to form what sounds like a dystopian genre from some far-off epoch. Future Brown's early appearances, particularly a MoMA PS1 performance that involved choreographed basketball drills, made them seem like an over-conceptualized art project, but once the actual music started trickling out it was a different story.
All right, enough with "forward-thinking" already. By now, it’s up there with "ethereal" as one of the most mercilessly abused descriptors in the music critic’s arsenal, and I’m still not exactly sure what it means. Sometimes it feels like nothing but buzz terminology for tastemaker companies like record label Fade to Mind, "post-Internet lifestyle magazine" DIS Magazine, or youth-centric streetwear label Hood by Air.
Our modern metropoleis nobly and indignantly rise out of mud and desert, out of jungles and from islands — they rage while colorful flags fly outside the windows of high rises. It could certainly be argued that each metropolis, despite their uniqueness of character and individual vibrancy, has a stretch of road or a chunk of building that looks about the same — from Tokyo to New York City, Dubai to Bangkok. Either (1) the streets where suffering happens can look about the same, or (2) the streets where commerce happens, where much of fashion happens, look about the same because you see the same logos, the same brands, the same commitment to certain transcendent market experiences.
Read a style magazine (or check their Instagram feed) and you’d know that global cool is now a thing. Go to Brooklyn, Hackney, Kreuzberg or Harajuku and there are as many shared characteristics as there are differences. Future Brown is the soundtrack to that similarity. An electronic “supergroup” comprising recording artists Fatima Al Qadiri and Nguzunguzu, Future Brown make, yes, futuristic R&B and hip-hop that incorporates tones and styles from all over the world.
There is an abundance of talent in Future Brown, a production crew that consists of Asma Maroof and Daniel Pinieda (aka Nguzunguzu), Fatima Al-Qadiri, and J-Cush. The first three are responsible for some of the best releases on revered labels like Fade to Mind and UNO, while Cush has operated Lit City Trax. Equally notable is the long list of rappers and singers the group snared for its self-titled Warp album -- one that combines established underground figures and upcoming commercial artists.
When a musician describes a bold new direction by protesting too loudly about the prison of genre conventions, it usually feels like a reaction to a commercial reality rather than an artistic one. The self-titled debut from production group Future Brown (Fatima Al Qadiri, J-Cush, and Asma Maroof and Daniel Pineda of Nguzunguzu) is brilliant not just because its spacey, shuddering rhythms experiment with a bunch of niche club music sub-genres, but because the foursome's mixing of reggaeton, UK grime, R&B and so forth sounds less like a postmodern mindfuck and more like solid rap and R&B music. Just as Kelela's Cut 4 Me mixtape caused a disruption in the R&B space-time continuum by placing experimental beats in a pop context, Future Brown unabashedly push the needle forward on stark "post-Timberland" production values by ceding the floor to a worldwide underground of vocalists (Tink, Shawna, Kelela, Sicko Mobb, Maluca, Timberlee, 3D Na'Tee) whose hooks, melodies and attitude give the music a familiar shape.
opinion byAUSTIN REED What to say about the likes of Future Brown, a production superteam comprising Fatima Al Qadiri, NGUZUNGUZU’s Daniel Pineda and Asma Maroof and Lit City Trax’s J-Cush? Well for one thing, Future Brown is a collection of really busy people. Both Qadiri and NGUZUNGUZU released prolific, masterfully produced full-lengths in 2014. Lit City Trax jumps at any opportunity to promote underground dance music on a global level by throwing huge parties and calling them raves (side note: Where did the term “rave” go? All of a sudden, we’re too important to use that word to describe what we’re doing? Where is our gumption? We’re in the middle of an abandoned warehouse at 4 a.