Brookzill! is a collaboration between producers Prince Paul and Don Newkirk and rappers Ladybug Mecca and MC Gorila Urbano. Prince Paul and Don Newkirk both worked with De La Soul, and Paul has had a long career producing inventive projects like Stetsasonic, the Gravediggaz and the Handsome Boy Modeling School. Gorila Urbano is a Brazilian rapper, and Ladybug Mecca, of seminal jazz-hop group Digable Planets, is a Brazilian-American who can rap in Portuguese. “Throwback to the Future” Is 12 tracks of Brazilian-tinged funk and hip-hop.
Paul and Urbano met in Sao Paolo, where Paul was DJing. Urbano saw a link between hip-hop breakbeats and Brazilian afro-funk music, and the two decided to collaborate on an album that combined the two. Newkirk was brought in to round out the production, and Ladybug Mecca was brought in to round out the vocals. The band name references their geography and influences – Brooklyn and Brazil.
While Brookzill! tend to lean harder on the Brooklyn than Brazil, the album nonetheless contains an undercurrent of old-school hip-hop. Fans of Prince Paul’s production will recognize his head-nodding beats, particularly on “Raise the Flag,” “Amigo, Estranho, Amigo,” “S. Bento MC5.” The MCs also bring an old school flavor to their rhymes. There’s very little attempt to modernize their flows, which mostly works.
It was a treat to hear Ladybug Mecca rapping in English and Portuguese some 20 years after the Digable Planets last album. Her smooth flow was a perfect compliment to the Brazilian beats. Gorila Urbano sounds a bit like a Brazilian Lyrics Born, with a similar husky voice. They mix things up by adding several Brazilian singers, which adds a nice flavor to the album. Del the Funky Homosapien and Count Bass D also lend verses to the album.
The album is at its best when it gets the fusion of hip-hop and Brazilian music right, as on “Raise the Flag,” “Suadade Songbook,” “Mad Dog In Yoruba,” and “Let’s Go (E Noize)!” It’s not a balance that the group always nails. For one thing, there are too many slower tracks, including an instrumental suite that didn’t work for me. This, combined with the laid-back flow of the rappers made the album feel less dynamic and epic that I wanted it to be.
Maybe I had too many expectations given that the people involved are responsible for some of my favorite albums of all time (De La Soul’s “3 Feet High and Rising,” Gravediggaz “6 Feet Deep,” and the Digable Planets “Reachin'”). Still, “Throwback to the Future” is a solid album that is a nice change of pace from what I normally listen to.