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Review: Future Brown Go For Broke on Guest-Stuffed Self-Titled Debut

Future Brown
SPIN Rating: 7 of 10
Release Date: February 24, 2015
Label: Warp

Future Brown’s bio claims that the supergroup — Fatima Al Qadiri, Asma Maroof, and Daniel Pineda of Nguzunguzu, and J-Cush of Lit City Trax — takes their collective name from “a color that doesn’t exist in nature,” a fitting description for what’s less a cohesive work of urban music than a head-on collision of disparate noises featuring some of rap’s fastest-rising names, such as Tink, Kelela, Timberlee, Maluca, and more. It’s like a DJ Khaled production if you replaced the screaming with intellect and personality. Or rather, like the final Swedish House Mafia album Until Now, it’s a collection with the thinnest of underlying threads to keep things from falling apart, each track standing completely apart from the rest.

Here that’s due largely to the four producers digging deep into their address books for collaborators who bring their best to what often seems like otherwise unnavigable terrain. The best of the bunch is Washington Heights fireball Maluca on “Vernáculo,” a welcome return from the frequent Diplo and Robyn collaborator that finds him shooting surrealist, Autotuned lyrics in Spanish like a stuttering pistol over puckered beats and bells.

If nothing else, Future Brown may finally make a star out of Tink, the young Chicago rapper and Timbaland protogeé hard at work on her long-awaited debut album. Here, she’s given top billing on the album’s first song, the nearly perfect “Room 302.” It’s a song about unapologetic adultery and Tink enters Rihanna’s #NoPhucksZone and steals her scepter without batting an eyelash. “You been going steady with the girl of your dreams / But the girl in your bed ain’t shit like me / So meet me in my room, put your cellphone off / Searching for the one, baby you look lost,” Tink hums impatiently. Give this girl all of the airplay.

There are other notably sharp moments — Shawnna’s gleefully filthy wordplay on “Talking Bandz,” Kelela’s demure spot on “Dangerzone” with Ian Isiah — but the four producers themselves do little to create any sense of narrative urgency, interconnectivity, or musical harmony. “Big Homie” features Sicko Mobb on what sounds like a Chief Keef knockoff from 2012, all syrup and warble, clang with no substance. “No Apology” jumps from trap-house to dancehall with admirable verses by Timberlee, but its inclusion feels random and jarring even in the context of this free-for-all.

Snip a few of the duds and maybe Future Brown would be one of the most consistently interesting and understandably weird debuts of the year. But though it runs a bit long and bounces around too much, though it doesn’t mean the voracious experimentation wasn’t worth it. While it’s totally admirable — some might even say necessary — to attempt a patchwork album incorporating styles from across the world, Future Brown’s quilt occasionally threatens to crumble at the seams.