Minnesota is doing big things in hip-hop. For those keeping score, Minnesota’s 2009 track record includes Brother Ali’s The Truth is Here and P.O.S.’s rock rap (the haters call it “emo”) LP Never Better. Add another one to the list: From the Home of Brown Babies & White Mothers by Big Quarters, the duo of Medium Zach and Brandon Allday. In fact, the Big Quarters release is my favorite from the Minnesota camp.
We last heard from Big Quarters on 2007’s Cost of Living, a tightly executed project of densely packed, everyman rhymes over boom bap beats in the Pete Rock tradition. From the Home of Brown Babies & White Mothers continues where Cost of Living left off, but with several impressive advances. Medium Zach and Brandon Allday never had any trouble mining their everyday lives and music industry tales for engaging lyrics, but this time around they’ve elevated their songwriting, adding choruses and guest vocalists (Mankwe Ndosi, Alissa Paris, Crescent Moon, and P.O.S.) that complement their sound. Musically, they’ve fleshed out the aforementioned boom bap methodology to encompass R&B grooves and jazzy instrumentals (dig, if you will, the superb “Can’t Wont” and a genius bit of fusion beginning at about the 2:55 mark of “Prom Mrs.”). Album closer, “Free Shipping”, sports a groovier, upbeat sound than anything on Cost of Living, but without compromising the original vision.
Only one slight criticism from me, but only after having heard songs from the Big Quarters website and their artist-to-consumer subscription service, BQDirect. One of the songs, the bouncy summer-evoking “August”, would have been a perfect fit for this album. Other than that, and a slightly repetitive beat for “Blessed” (okay, that’s two criticisms), it’s all good.
“I’ve been thinkin’ ’bout leavin’ since I saw Sicko,” says Brandon Allday in album opener “Newborn”. But they can’t leave yet. There’s still more Minnesota hip-hop to make.