Artist: New Breed
Album: Stop The Music
Label: Uprok Records
Rating: 8 / 10
There’s nothing like a album or song title which provokes disaster when it €™s time for review. €˜Lemme Hear Sumthin Else €™? €˜Hate This And I €™ll Love You €™? €˜No Gimmicks €™? €˜Da Bullshit €™? €˜Radio Friendly Unit Shifter €™? They all beg for a cocky, opinionated reviewer such as myself to start loads of sentences with “Well, actually…” It appears Boston-based duo New Breed (consisting of brother & sister Macho & Elsie) have gone this route by calling their debut album “Stop The Music”. These two would clearly wish to have their listeners chanting the name of their group by the end of the album, but who €™s to say they won €™t be yelling the name of their album instead by the end of the first cut?
New Breed themselves. As the two siblings €™ voices intertwine smoothly with one another on the hook on the swaggering grind of second cut Stand, they command us to sit up and listen – “Stand, when the rhythm drops, move :like you can €™t quit, dance :.till the sun rise, live, to the fullest, walk, with your head up, talk, like you fed up, everybody, everybody, everybody, GET UP!!” This energetically coercive tone of New Breed is prominent through the album – their vocals on occasion rather miss being hard, and become rather hectoring. Not that they shout their raps in an irritatingly brutal fashion, as certain ex-BDP members do, but their inexhaustible flows are slightly too monotonous and sonically flat at times, if you €™re looking at this album very specifically for flaws. But really, apart from them sounding slightly unfriendly to the ear every so often, you €™ll find there is very, very little to find fault with here.
For a start, the brother and sister combination displays the kind of chemistry that deserves a Nobel Prize. The vibe put across by tracks such as Live This and Runaway is astounding – they blend each other €™s verses into one another so seamlessly, and twist their voices together so effortlessly, they sound nothing less than one complete force. And when guests from New Breed €™s Tunnel Rats crew such as Raphi on Stand, Shihan on Song Speaks or LPG on Headlock appear to separate the seemingly inseperable, it just doesn €™t seem right in a way, and causes the vibe to be ruined slightly, despite all the Tunnel Rats emcees who guest on “Stop The Music” being very nice indeed.
The duo not only blend with one another perfectly, they also steal each other €™s show lyrically whenever it happens to be their particular mic time. Both emcees have equally remarkable talent in penning compelling, thoughtful, confident, clever lyrics with no nonsense or bullshit attached.
Macho – “America, showing documentaries on thuggin, Generation X expected to cease loving :.”
Elsie – “Sometimes I feel I €™m in a dream, but I ain €™t slept yet, and while I €™m praying just to make it to the next step, these wack rappers talk trash while they cashing checks, and I €™m like : man, I know we all thought it before, what would happen if I let truth walk out the door?”
Now you €™ll no doubt notice the mention of praying in that little lyric snippet. Not unusual for the emcee of today to have a connection with the man upstairs, but nevertheless, this leads us on to something very interesting indeed.
It €™s only in the much deeper second half of “Stop The Music” that you actually really notice that New Breed are meant to be adorned with that most quirky of labels – Christian hip hop. Now sticking the word “Christian” in front of “hip hop” is not seen by a lot of people as a particularly clever thing to do. In fact, sticking the word “Christian” in front of anything these days isn €™t widely seen as a wise action. But New Breed are different – they preach thus on the stylishly quirky ‘Verse Of The City’ – “not your average crew, nah, we €™re New Breed”. You won €™t fight any Christian rap stereotypes on here – no sad, misguided kid with a slogan-adorned T-shirt, whining about how they are better because they use God as a means to be a generally nice guy.
Because New Breed (and the Tunnel Rats in general) can speak for you, they can speak for me, they can speak for anyone, the unique way in which they put forward their Christian ideas is easily relatable, no matter what faith you are. These are not Jehovah €™s Witnesses with mics, they are regular hip hop artists who produce their unique sound by injecting the flava of their faith into their art.
And with what results. New Breed themselves and fellow Tunnel Rats, LPG, outline exactly what their collective stands for on the excellent ‘Headlock’ – “We don €™t conform to the norm, y €™all buckle under the pressure, we brave through the storm” – and do it with no doubts at all over whether the Tunnel Rats are anything less than sick emcees. Well, maybe one doubt rears its ugly head, with the horribly corny “stay accountable to what you really are, a hardcore emcee, a hardcore Christian” – oooh, watch it. Stay well out of that kind of territory.
A lot of New Breed €™s music is about love, the world and the handling of faith. As I €™ve said, this sounds pretty damn cheesy but comes off sounding undoubtedly smooth and polished. On ‘Don €™t Listen’, serviced by the graceful singing of Theresa Jones, Elsie lays down three verses of insightful and introspective lyricism over a gorgeous beat, letting the listener further deeper into the creative minds of these righteous rhymers. And it €™s the same story for the tracks which carry the album to its conclusion. The very deep, abstract ‘Dry Bones’ has truly outstanding production with a stratospheric string sample, and chopped up church bells which sound incredibly ill. The whole album is very introspective, and the lyrics of the siblings take us a great distance inside their individual minds on tracks like ‘Runaway’ and ‘Verse Of The City’. Songs like ‘Think’ and ‘Your Voice’ demonstrate perfectly the whole vibe of Tunnel Rats in general, and the roots of New Breed €™s Puerto Rican heritage come through on ‘My People’ through a smooth Latin singer on the hook. As well as the emcees being remarkably skilled, adept at their craft, and more able than the vast majority of emcees to put across a clear impression of their own thoughts through their lyrics, the production on this album is of very high standard. All manner of samples are chopped up and laid down over exquisitely head-bobbing drum patterns.
This is quality hip hop at its best, and the standard of material appearing at the moment from the Tunnel Rats collective is of such a truly excellent level, you can €™t do anything less than check them out. The badge of “Christian rap” is one which does not come with a lot of pre-listen credibility, quite the opposite. It has been given a bad rep in recent years, mainly through over-preachy, pseudo-learned fools who feel a good way to balance their conflicting interests of religion and rap would be to try and half-heartedly harass people into Christianity through hip hop. New Breed should not be grouped together with these artists. In my opinion, New Breed is not in the €˜Christian hip hop €™ bracket, New Breed is hip hop made by two Christian emcees. Scratch that, New Breed is very dope hip hop made by two very dope Christian emcees. I expect copies of “Stop The Music” to fill the drawers of hotel room bedside cabinets worldwide, very soon.