Artist: Cool Cee Brown
Label: Pro Se Entertainment
Score: 6 / 10
This is one of those reviews where the writer, as much as he’d like to avoid it, sooner than later has to get to the principal point because there’s just no way around it. But the good news first. Cool Cee Brown is a DC representative who already has a handful of releases under his belt, joining Joe D in the duo Dirty Water, whose discography includes such intriguing titles as “Drowning” and “Love, Lust & Everything in Between: The Limited Edition Valentine’s Day EP”. The same Joe D assists Cee Brown on his solo debut as the sole producer in charge. Together they craft an entertaining piece of work that recalls the image of the producer as an archeologist of sound and the image of the rapper as a vocalist equally experienced in songwriting and freestyling.
“Live from the Chocolate Metropolis,” these “hip-hop-ologists, graduates of black universities and colleges” (Duke Ellington School of the Arts and North Carolina Central University, to be exact) “hold beats for hostages” and “spit fire” to the point they “need lozenges.” Well said and not far from the truth. ‘Sinnerman’ is filled with interesting song concepts, notable beats and diverse flows. Amazingly, almost every beat has a different make-up. There’s the orchestral soul of ‘Live From Washington, DC,’ the euphoric, string-driven ‘Me and My Brother Joe,’ the high-planes-drifting ‘Science,’ the chopped guitars of ‘Make Me Feel Good,’ the Soulquarians-like ‘Do it to Death,’ the summery vibe of ‘F.R.E.S.H.’ You can tell these two sat down together, passing ideas back and forth before hitting us with the final product.
Lyrically, Brown prefers to give meaning to this rhymes, both in a indirect as well as in an immediate sense:
“85% deaf, dumb and blind
easily influenced by a brother with a cunnin’ rhyme
Some of the time they not even that talented
only seem to wanna rap about who the violentest
You need a brother like me just to balance it
and keep this hip-hop on some well-rounded shit
Hate ignorance, but that’s what I’m surrounded with
and God ain’t bless me with the gift to pussyfoot around the shit”
Not to focus on the content for a second, but on the form, it is rare these days to hear a rapper make an argument in complete sentences and show an understanding for logic and rhetoric. Knowing there’s still more to songwriting, Cool Cee Brown channels his creative writing into two exemplary songs, ‘Fantasy Island’ and ‘Ballad of a Bright-Faced Girl.’ While the former takes an unexpected twist, the latter takes its inevitable course, leading the Bright-Faced Girl to a grim end. Here, Cee Brown beats a writer as prominent as Nas, at least on the ‘Black Girl Lost’ tip.
With local references ranging from Rayful Edmond to Sursum Corda, Cool Cee’s broadcast ‘Live From Washington, DC’ should endear him to Washingtonians, but with the decisions taken in DC affecting people all over the world, the self-proclaimed “rap Barak Obama” is well advised to think on a larger scale: “The Bloods and the Crips still trippin’ on a rag / and Bush still think bin Laden’s in Baghdad / I got homies overseas comin’ home with no knees / havin’ nightmares, shit replayin’ at slow speeds.”
There’d be a lot more lines to quote from this rapper who admits, “I talk a lot of shit / but behind the ignorance there lies the inspiration to revolutionize a nation.” Unfortunately the shadow of poor productioon looms over ‘Sinnerman.’ Its sound is unbalanced and unpolished in an unfavorable way. Many tracks here only hint at their qualities, suffering from a flat atmosphere and abrupt endings. Only Cool Cee Brown and Joe D know the true potential of their beats and vocals, because at least on ‘Sinnerman’ they fail to bring it out for the world to hear. “I’m unsigned and lovin’ it, with a 50 song catalog,” boasts Brown, but being productive is not everything that there is to a rap career – an appealing production is just as important.