It feels prescient to admit I did not come to Brodinski’s Brava from a place of mental wealth. I was sure I’d come across his name in my years of internet sleuthing, but before he became involved in the lengthy credits of Kanye West’s Yeezus I was unaware of his merits. For those unaware (or perhaps perturbedly aware) of his contributions, he provided what are likely the femurs and clavicles for “Black Skinhead” and “Send It Up”. Both songs stood out on Yeezus, and relate closely to Brodinski’s artistic vision, due to their bleak take on what it means to have fun in a club full of young people.
It feels good to say Brava immediately satisfies that curiosity; what feels decidedly less good are all the ways in which this album dismantles that bit of dopamine fueled discovery with the lesson that trap rap combined with tech-house has a long growing period ahead. Despite featuring a number of iconic American (read: ATLien) performers, Brava is eager to slip into the form and function of a Parisian house record. Few come out the better for it. Several of these tracks come equipped with moments: Maluca begging to be buried on “Bury”, Louisahhh and Bloody Jay embodying the final moments of Paul Walker on “Need for Speed”, 2$ Fabo (most famous for leading Shanty Lo’s D4L down the rabbit hole) pleading for relevance. But taken as a whole experience, from my perspective, it’s hard to separate what makes for the worst trap rap cuts from what makes for some of the best house jams.
For starters, a terrible trap song often hinges on a single idea and bores it into your skull until the only reprieve is a skip button, a volume knob or a door handle away from whatever is making that damn noise. Check my resumé and see I’m an advocate, but not for that. Unfortunately, this is the skeleton that forms much of the best house music, and this Brava constantly careens into this dilemma within which all goals are met and yet the end result is a kitted out Suzuki slamming into the guard rail, no passenger left unharmed. Well, except for “Warm Up” featuring Slim Thug and the aforementioned “Need for Speed”, but those are allowed to be actual bonafide trap songs, the latter even finding a perfect blend between the repetition of drug-fueled EDM and drug-distributing trap.
I understand an audience is out there for this album and that’s why I can’t call it an utterly avoidable release. Little in rap has sounded like Yeezus since it dropped, and this album can satisfy anyone with carnal enough desires to want to hear that album’s most club-worthy jams distilled to their essence. But anyone sitting on either side of the fence is going to need more from the other side; the rappers need more room to be more than mean caricatures, the beats need more time to establish their grooves as dominant rather than merely repetitive. Despite a decent variety of vocalists it’s perhaps most damning that this album (which, I should emphasize, I am reviewing as an album when perhaps it is intended as a collection of songs to remix and screw) never seems to catch any momentum. A song begins with an idea that sounds ‘cool’, it ends within three minutes, and then the cycle repeats again. There’s no momentum, no flavor, nothing to feel or love or attach one’s self to.
Brava is what it set out to be, it’s about impossible to deny that. It’s just hard to hear what that thing is and come away from it feeling at all like it needs to be heard again. Perhaps it’s greatest curse is that it just leads the listener to wondering who the first artist to properly capitalize on Yeezus‘ Agent Orange-pop-music formula and certify it as a future for rap music will be. As it stands, Brava is mostly just a reminder that Brodinski helped plant the seed but is perhaps not the right gardener to helpp it grow.