Though they’re probably never be as famous as the other pair of light-skinned (hooray for racial grouping!) boys from Minneapolis, Big Quarters are none the less an important part of the surprisingly active hip hop scene in Minnesota. And while their latest offering, “From the Home of Brown Babies & White Mothers” is evidence that Ant isn’t the only ambitious producer in the city, there’s a considerable lack of mic presence and lyrical creativity to make it an album that must be heard alongside Atmosphere’s best records.
Aforementioned production, which (I think) is handled largely by younger member Medium Zach, is often experimental, with mixed results. Most of the highlights come early as the quirky mixing of instruments on “Protection” provides a perfect backdrop for the duo’s multiple spins on the title, from condoms to guns. The beats often avoid monotony through meticulous attention to rhythm, adding in a horn or guitar riff to accompany the chorus.
Although the clichÃ© “girl track” is normally a common throwaway cut on most albums, “Ladies Know” sees Allday and Medium Zach at their most comfortable, backed by an upbeat, somewhat eerie chopped up sample that really shouldn’t work in theory, but is surprisingly catchy in execution.
One of Big Quarters’ most glaring weaknesses is their occasional inability to steal the attention from the beats they’re spitting over. “All Day Long” is something of a travesty, as the producer seemed to throw everything against the wall, with almost nothing sticking (as opposed to the similar modus operandi of Nas’ “It Ain’t Hard to Tell,” which works perfectly). “Prom Mrs.” and “Firebird” are similar in that neither emcee is able to really ride the beat, instead being overwhelmed by the louder, polytonal compositions.
All in all, neither Allday nor Medium Zach proves to be a standout rapper, and the best verse is spit by Crescent Moon on “Wipe the Dust,” the best track of the second half. Moon’s smooth, clear flow is refreshing and while the hook isn’t exactly melodic, Allday adds one of his own best verses. There’s clearly talent within “From the Home of Brown Babies & White Mothers,” but the pair is in need of a simpler, “less is more” ideology if they ever hope to reach the considerably high bar set by Slug and Ant.