Brother Maniac ~ Still Rising
Date: Sunday, May 03, 2009 @ 12:27:20 UTC

Artist: Brother Maniac

CD: Still Rising

Home: Washington, D.C.

Style: Rap/Hip-Hop/Funk/Jazz

Quote: "Brother Maniacís delivery is hardcore, but his philosophy is practical and wise."

By Jennifer Layton

I almost didnít review this when I saw it was a rap CD. I had a million excuses. Iím too white, Iím too old, and I have to get to the post office to mail my Nerd Quarterly subscription payment before it closes. Thankfully, I had enough curiousity to put Still Rising on my CD player before sending it to another writer.

Lord. Have. Mercy.

To simply call this ďrapĒ is shortchanging Brother Maniac in the worst way. This is skilled musicianship, blending rap, hip-hop, funk, jazz, soul, and in the case of the title track, a bit of reggae. The one-minute intro gives you plenty of warning. Orchestral with a hint of danger. Lush keyboards, a powerful female vocal, a mood of building excitement. THIS is how you want to be introduced.

In track after track, the music is not just a beat for the rappers to yell over. Itís powerful, infectious, and seductive enough to pull someone like me right in. It helps that I connect with what heís saying. Iíve been writing about indie artists for over ten years, and ďWe Get Our Hustle OnĒ should be officially designated as the National Anthem for Independent Artists. The lyrics are about street teams, touring, selling merchandise, and basically working his ass off.

I hesitated before I played ďSupersition.Ē Stevie Wonderís song is one of my top three favorite songs. It has been in the top three since I was a kid, and I just turned 40, and it still hasnít budged. I get tense when people start remaking songs I consider sacred and perfect just the way they are. I reluctantly settled in to listen.

Again, Lord. Have. Mercy.

I donít think Stevie would mind. I sure as hell donít. This is the most soulfully joyful version of this song Iíve heard outside of Stevie himself. Brother Maniac slows down the tempo a bit and lets a midnight jazz groove emerge. It doesnít feel like heís adding anything to the song at all. Itís like heís simply slowing it down to let us hear another side of it, another vibe that was always there, but we just didnít hear it over the horns. He even raps over it without turning it into background music. I canít wait to play this in my car.

What connected me most of all, underneath the powerful music and glorious vocals of all these tracks, was the positive message. Brother Maniacís delivery is hardcore, but his philosophy is practical and wise. The underlying theme of each track is hard work, staying clean, setting a good example for the kids, and staying close to your Highter Power, whomever that may be. ďThereís more to life than cars, money, and guns,Ē he says firmly in ďThe Ghetto,Ē and thatís where this suburban middle-aged white girl can stand right with him.

Well, Iíll only be standing for a few minutes. At some point, if he keeps playing stuff like this, Iíll have to start dancing again.

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