Artist: Kev BrownTitle: I Do What I DoRating: 3 StarsReviewed by: Mark Cilantro
My editor always gives me these types of records to review. Artists from what I like to call the neo-Native Tongue genre. Little Brother, Common, Kweli, and the like. Why? Because I am the target audience for records just like Kev Browns I Do What I Do (Up Above). So with that said let me preface this review by saying that if you are sick of the Young Jeezys and the Southern domination of the Hip-Hop retail soundscape, buy this record, period. Now, on to the review.
You probably first heard Kev Browns work on DJ Jazzy Jeffs The Magnificent on BBE Records. At that time the word was that Kev was the main composer for that album with Jeff and the A Touch Of Jazz team providing the musical and professional guidance. Since then Kev and ATOJ have parted ways, a separation that Kev refers to on at least two occasions. When I heard The Magnificent I was sure it was going to be the true sound of the next generation of quality East Coast independent music. No nonsense MCs, rumbling bass lines, and just a touch of neo-Soul. Time has shown I was more wrong than right. Also around that time I read a review in Blender Magazine trashing the album adopting the point of view that there was no need for throwback fundamentalists while imprints such as Definitive Jux were pushing the boundaries of our genre. Although I think such a criticism is short sighted and silly, after listening to I Do What I Do I do see their point.
On the Intro Kev makes it clear that he, is not trying to change the game or nothing. And that is my biggest gripe with the album. It is extraordinarily adequate. Kev is clearly a student of the culture and well trained. His apparent love for sounds and samples follows more snugly in the tradition of Pete Rock than the golden boy 9th Wonder, himself. Unfortunately, for most of the album Kev rarely pushes himself or his guest MCs. The lyrical content pretty much focuses around standard braggadocio, industry bitterness, with the occasional lyrical libation for family and romance.
The album does do extremely well in shining the spotlight on the interesting creative collective in residence in the Maryland/DC area, Low Budget Productions. Although Kevs lyrics are better than expected it is his guest MCs that shine lyrically. Grap Luva, very much the progenitor of this soulful production and laid back, lazy boy lyrical style only further wets our appetite for his long awaited solo with his performance on Strugglas Theme. Lesser known Low Budget MCs Cy Young and Quarrtermain of Critically Acclaimed get their man on Keep On and Say Sumthin, respectively. Oddissee follows Phonte on Beats N Rhymes and while the 919 MCs performance under-whelms, Oddissee ends the song with perhaps the albums illest verse.
Kev does his best work on Alone Again where he selects the perfect beat to compliment his voice. Songs like Albany and Hold Fast are a bit uninspired and probably could have been replaced by some stronger tracks. What appears to be Phontes son drops a great juvenile skit that rivals Suaves son on Pharcydes Labcabincalifornia.
I Do What I Do is a great introduction for the uninformed. Pay attention, Kevs best days are soon to come.