I’m not ashamed to say I am 30 years old, a true 80s baby. The reason why I tell you this is because in hip-hop years I think that makes me an (nooooooo don’t say it) ‘old head’. For people of my generation, this conjures up images of the dude in the kangol and sweatsuit surrounded by everyone else in Tims, fitteds and hoodies. Even now, our pants are slimmer, our Nikes are brighter, and some of us went snapback. What I mean is, you have to keep up with the times, or get left behind.
The reason why I waste your time pondering this is because on his new album, Hoop Dreams, Brookfield Deuce worries about the same issue, albeit in a much more passionate and urgent way. The album screams for your attention, as if with the knowledge that it can’t hold it for too long. Deuce raps like one of the stars of the classic documentary the album shares a name with; constant excellence with the underlying feel that the performer is afraid of squandering their shot. This turns a song like Joogin’ from a standard ride-around-at-night song into a focused hustlers anthem (and he somehow made the ‘reverb-y knock-snare’ sound more ominous than Kendrick Lamar did, no small feat). The track I Wish I Could Tell You could have been so much more boring if it wasn’t sold with Deuce’s classic Bay Area cadence. The Mitchells takes the concept of ‘keeping up with the Jones’ on a ride through East Oakland through the dead of night, all sirens and missed opportunities, told through a world-weary growl. Even when dealing with the most gritty subject matter, Deuce’s flow is pitchy and tempo perfect; a quality that would come off robotic or generic if the performance did not complement the exacting production so well.
And mannnn is there quite a bit of ‘production’ on this album. From tracks containing extra interludes, multiple songs, reoccurring motifs, purposeful sequencing, etc. This is definitely an album that was planned out and made with the kind of care that is rare in hip-hop–shit– in all genres today. Tracks like Screw Up, Love My Fans (featuring a poignant and powerful address on the state of hip hop by Flygerian Jeff), and Will It Ever Be are the kind of album cuts that 90s era MCs like Tupac and UGK used to make; songs that aren’t meant for the radio, but need to hit like a single.
However, this is why my old-headedness is showing. For those younger than I, please don’t think this is just 90s style throwback g-funk (even though I swear the beat for Orphans was made in like, ’98/’99). Tracks like Regardless and especially the Post-Hyphy-Oakland-now-called-DJ-Mustard-style Bank Account (featuring Joyntz) even feature the rolling Migos flow, a style that would sound out of place if the album was not so unpredictable to begin with.
So ultimately, I might be an old head (I never went snapback, 59/50 forever). That might make Brookfield Deuce an old head too (I don’t know how old he is, if you listen to the album you will understand why I’m assuming hes an 80s baby as well). But if the sweet science of crafting a true front-to-back, I-should-buy-this-CD-for-the-truck ALBUM is lost on the generation of multiple monthly mixtape releases, then maybe we need to redefine our definition.
“Hoops Dreams” will be available July 28th.