Before we get started, I’d like to dedicate this review to the memory of Justo Faison, a catalyst in turning the mixtape circuit into the industry force it is today, opening doors for young entrepreneurs and broadening the scope of hip-hop culture. You will be missed.
Remember when it was all so simple? There used to be only a handful of well-known mixtape DJs and even then releasing five tapes per calendar year was overkill. Now there’s about a billion DJs and each of them release more tapes annually than they can count on their fingers and toes. I personally enjoy trying to find exclusive material in these mixtapes, but there are just way too many to sort through that it’s not even worth the effort anymore.
And that’s a crying shame because lost in the ocean of mediocrity are a few treasure chests. DJ G. Brown’s “Executive Decision” is one of them. Unlike other mixtapes that double as coasters and frisbees, this disc proves to be the real deal. G. Brown manages to produce one of the best blends I’ve heard in a long time. As a bonus, there’s even a few exclusive freestyles and soon-to-be-released tracks blended in for eager ears.
Anyone familiar with the concept of “blends” knows that it can either go really well or horribly, horribly wrong. We’ve all heard those so-called “blends” that were nothing more than cutting a 50 Cent vocal and pasting it on top of a 2Pac instrumental with absolutely no effort whatsoever to match the vocals to the beat. Fellas, just because you have a hot verse and a hot beat doesn’t mean they fit together. Yes, this should be common sense, but based on some of the stuff coming out lately, there’s obviously a bunch of tone-deaf wannabe DJs that still can’t comprehended this.
Another key to a successful blend is seamless transitions between familiar tracks. Remember that most listeners will know these tunes by heart, so a skipped beat or iffy transition can really hurt your whole set. G. Brown has this skill mastered. Case and point: the excellent “MVP” remix. He pieces together assorted vocals from Game, Fabolous, Nas, Mobb Deep, Method Man, Rick James, and Mary J. Blige, all tied together with a “Mary” theme. He takes it one step further by following “MVP” with “Can’t Knock the Hustler,” starting off with Mary and finishing strong with 2Pac’s vocals from “Hennessey” over Jay-Z’s “I Just Wanna Love U” instrumental.
“How to Rob 2005” combines Biggie’s “Gimme the Loot” and M.O.P.’s “Ante Up,” throwing in a sample from Big Pun’s “Twinz” for good measure. Really, this is a match made in heaven. “Gangsta Shit” is a crazy production from the always consistent DJ Premier. But the part that I can’t get out of my head is the unintentionally hilarious moment courtesy of reggaeton stalwart Tego Calderon. He exclaims through a thick, damn-near slurred, accent, “I don’t care what they say ’bout me, I’m THE SHIT!.” I don’t know what it is, but he says it so deliberately that I can’t help but snicker.
“WWF Shit” mashes together USDA-certified beef: 50’s “Piggy Bank” and Jada’s rebuttal “Checkmate,” both over new instrumentals. Not the best blend on the disc, but I like where G. Brown was going with this. He had the right idea, but the execution could’ve been a little better. Like all blend collections, there’s bound to be a few duds and it’s no different here. His remix of Game’s “Dreams” (using Scarface’s “On My Block” as the backdrop) simply falls flat. True, including the Biggie sample from “Juicy” was a nice touch, but in my opinion the Faith Evans chorus (from Jay-Z’s “A Dream”) did the song in. Thematically, the chorus fits perfectly, but sonically Faith’s vocals didn’t sit well over this instrumental. Perhaps Kanye’s original beat was a little TOO perfect because I don’t really see a way to successfully remix that joint. To G.’s credit, this is really the only major hiccup in his 80-minute set. Quite an accomplishment.
In the end, what puts DJ G. Brown a level above the rest is his attention to detail and his willingness to go the extra mile to blend together songs that not only match in rhythm, but also in theme. Props to G. for adding his own original stamp to non-original tracks. If you’re going to buy one mixtape this year, be sure to cop this one.