I Do What I Do

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 Brown’s 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 Jeezy’s and the Southern domination of the Hip-Hop retail soundscape, buy this record, period. Now, on to the review.

You probably first heard Kev Brown’s work on DJ Jazzy Jeff’s 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 MC’s, 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 MC’s. 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 Kev’s lyrics are better than expected it is his guest MC’s 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 “Struggla’s Theme”. Lesser known Low Budget MC’s 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 MC’s performance under-whelms, Oddissee ends the song with perhaps the album’s 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 Phonte’s son drops a great juvenile skit that rivals Suave’s son on Pharcyde’s Labcabincalifornia.

I Do What I Do is a great introduction for the uninformed. Pay attention, Kev’s best days are soon to come.