Album review: Brodinski ‘Brava’

It’s really strange to consider the fact that Brava is Brodinski’s debut album. With years of producing, performing, collaborating, remixing and heading up Bromance Records under his belt, it’s really surprising that the French master of dark techno has only just dropped his first full-length. It’s also pretty funny that my favourite hip hop album in months hasn’t come from a hip hop artist.

Since the announcement and tracklist release, there’s been mixed reactions to this album. Some people probably weren’t expecting such a hip hop and trap-heavy record (although when you consider his work with Kanye West, his mixes for Fool’s Gold and BBC and Bromance’s general, long-standing flirtation with hip hop, it should come as no surprise) and I know that some people will say that his production has been completely over-saturated by having featured vox on each of the 14 tracks.

I disagree. Brodinski knows what he’s doing. He’s got featured rappers and vocalists on every track, but his production weaves in and out with the vocals in a way that allows his beats to stand out equally, if not more so. Unlike our recent exasperation at Badbadnotgood and Ghostface Killah‘s collaboration, in which BBNG don’t showcase even a fraction of the ability they could have, Brodinski is a master at blending heavy French techno with dirty hip hop and R&B in a wholly unique and extremely satisfying way.

Brava is a dark, demonic celebration of money, sex. hedonism, and as Young Scooter says on Francois-Xavier, just not giving a fuck. It’s brash and loud and in-your-face, to a self-parodical point at at times.

It’s definitely not for everybody. But Brodinski just don’t give a fuck.

The album kicks off with first single Can’t Help Myself ft. SD. Mingling ballin’ lyrics “I can’t help myself, spendin’ all my money/ I fell in love with drugs/ etc” with heavy, thrashing techno and the sonic equivalent to seizure-inducing strobes, it completely sets the tone for the rest of the album. The bass is intense, with a deeply satisfying crunch – the first of many. And I love a big bass. Calculator ft. Chill Will takes the baton and shoves it down into a dark, smoky club. “Money make me horny,” he spits out.

Warm Up ft. Slim Thug shifts the production down and showcases a simpler type of production from Brodinski. A slower beat, confident swagger and a Southern drawl (my personal favourite type of rap accent,) makes this one of my favourites on BravaBury Me ft. Maluca & Bricc Baby Shitro and Need For Speed ft. Louisahhh!! & Bloody Jay are dripping with sex from every pore thanks to those husky female loops, sensual wisps that contrast against the heavy beats like lace against leather.

Free flowing decadence dances, in all its glory, through each and every track. You’ve got your money-focused ones (Francois-Xavier, 51 Bandz) Sex (Bury Me, Interviews, Us) drugs (Can’t Help Myself, On Me,) – and that’s just a snippet. All in all, it rolls together into the kind of album that makes being bad, so so good.

While there’s obvious, common lyrical themes throughout, there’s so much stylistic variety – enough that you can listen to this album over and over without tiring. Trust me, I’ve tried. From the bright techno of Hector ft. Bricc baby Shitro to the soulful opening of Follow Me Part 1 ft. Georgi Kay & Bloody Jay, to the rich, impassioned melody and massive synths on Us ft. Bloody Jay, there’s a lot to love.

The diversity of guest vocalists was curated to perfection – a showcase of styles from New York to Chicago to Atlanta and beyond, it’s the kind of melting pot that’d make a rap purist cringe, but fills the rest of us with devilish glee. Brodinski’s had a reputation for a long time now as a tastemaker; a leader in everything he does, a master collaborator and a highly sought after producer – particularly in his work combining hip hop with electronic music – and it’s never been clearer than on Brava. The power, sex and excess is not only intoxicating, by really fucking fun.