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Bruiser Brigade - Reign Supreme Music Album Reviews

Danny Brown’s ear for talent outweighs his larger-than-life persona on a mixtape that finds him ceding center stage to accentuate and support the voices of other rappers in his crew.

On August 24th, Danny Brown hopped on Twitch, a video game social network to play “Persona 5” with some virtual pals. After a while, he started playing new music, songs he insisted wouldn’t be released and were not part of the album he’s working on. Brown’s spent the last 10 years building a world so precise and nuanced that the playful tape emitting from his speakers had to be something different—something outside of Brown’s exacting grasp. That record, now circulating on the web, is a compilation from Brown’s Bruiser Brigade, a loose collection of Detroit rappers in their late-20s-to-mid-30s that have been his affiliates since he was an upper-and-downer-addled gangster rapper in the mid-2000s.

Live-streaming an album on a communal, shared social media platform is antithetical to Brown’s style; his is a world of controllable chaos, emanating from, and ending with, him. So, perhaps it makes sense that the only logical place this Bruiser Brigade tape, Reign Supreme, could land would be in a temporary social setting. This is clearly music Brown likes, but not an album he’s comfortable owning entirely. Tossed off, it’s devalued while still whetting the collective appetite of Danny Brown’s biggest bingers. As one of rap’s quickest-evolving emcees, this live-hosted one-off event makes perfect sense. It’s a testing ground for new ideas, old loosies, and whatever else Brown feels like pulling from this experiment. And yet, there’s a feeling that the Bruiser Brigade crew is perhaps overlooked.

So strong is the gravitational pull of Danny Brown’s personality that the other artists in his Bruiser Brigade orbit inevitably get swept up in his stylistic tics. The rapper’s airhorn snarl, miles-long grin, and the long come-up that preceded his evolution into Detroit’s best attraction are all key elements of Brown’s reputation, and they’ve established his extravagant voice as one of the most distinctive in hip-hop. So the Bruiser Brigade compilation Reign Supreme, which spotlights other members of his crew, presents a challenge: How does Danny Brown champion lesser-known talent on a record hosted, presented by, and featuring him?

Thankfully, Brown’s ear for talent outweighs his personal theatrics on Reign Supreme, a cohesive tape in which his voice accentuates Bruiser Brigade’s other voices, rather than consuming them whole. Led in by the siren call of Danny Brown’s laugh, the ZelooperZ solo track “Liar” opens the album with the MC sifting through various dramatic flows before landing on one that works. ZelooperZ dances around the beat’s pocket, moving in and out of hi-hats and woozy synths. The similarities between his and Brown’s vocal styles are palpable, but ZelooperZ stands out thanks to his buoyant, unpredictable flow. If Reign Supreme is a demonstration of what Bruiser Brigade’s quieter soldiers can do, “Liar” is the record’s call to arms.

The crew’s most visible member aside from Brown, ZelooperZ is the only rapper on the project who gets his own solo track. Dopehead, Kash Tha Kushman, and Fat Ray each get opportunities to spit their best bars, but it’s a bit disappointing to see them relegated to secondary roles, considering how effortlessly they charm the listener and paint their hometown.

A collaboration between Dopehead and ZelooperZ, “Everybody Like Me” is a hyped-up number propelled by a hypnotic horn line and thumping drums that seem to be riding an amphetamine high. Despite having been on the scene since 2011, with his debut Plaid Palm Trees, Dopehead sounds the most in touch with rap’s youthful contingent, employing a half-yelled, choppy flow and delivering nihilistic aphorisms like, “Smoking that kushy bitch/Everybody like me lit/Everybody icy bitch.” While he and ZelooperZ have a tangible, effortless synergy that makes the track one of the best moments on the compilation, ZelooperZ’s flow on the track comes so close to imitating Brown’s, you might find yourself double-checking the credits.

These occasional moments of stylistic confusion are unavoidable with a clique so tight. But, for the most part, Reign Supreme defines the role each rapper plays in the Bruiser Brigade universe: Danny is the king, ZelooperZ his right-hand man, Dopehead does SoundCloud recon, Fat Ray is the old-school holdout, and Kash is the unrepentant speed demon, wary of ever letting his foot off the gas for fear that whatever he’s running from will catch up. His crew shrinks his shadow a bit, shaping a world where Danny Brown is simply the marquee name on a bill stacked with memorable talent.

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