- Future Brown's name was coined by DIS Magazine's Solomon Chase during a mushroom trip in which he conceived of a colour that didn't exist. The group—made up of Fatima Al-Qadiri, Nguzunguzu and J-Cush—operate on the same level musically, fusing rap, dancehall and other styles to form what sounds like a dystopian genre from some far-off epoch. Future Brown's early appearances, particularly a MoMA PS1 performance that involved choreographed basketball drills, made them seem like an over-conceptualized art project, but once the actual music started trickling out it was a different story. First there was "World's Mine," a rough-around-the-edges blueprint for the global sound they would flesh out a year later with "Wanna Party," a club anthem centered on a simple and defiant question: "don't you wanna party?" The single positioned Future Brown not as highbrow experimentalists but as makers of post-globalization, internet-friendly party music.
The rest of Future Brown takes "Wanna Party" as a jumping-off point, tackling different regional sounds and sub-genres with the same dark palette. A lot of that comes down to the familiar sonic hallmarks of Al-Qadiri and Nguzunguzu: hushed synthesizers, tropical percussion inflated with reverb and a sense of space that leaves the spotlight on the guest artists. The group's individual backgrounds blend together like watercolour paints, creating a consistent, adaptable style that works well across such a wide spectrum of sounds.
In fact, Future Brown succeeds exactly where so many collaborative albums fail, because the group take the time to understand and mold to the artists they're working with. Just listen to the way they tailor the masterful start-stop opener "Room 302" to Tink's way of switching between rapping and singing, or how they effortlessly fold cumbia into the mix on "Vernáculo." The Sicko Mobb-featuring "Big Homie" is so bang-on and warbly that it might as well be a song from one of the Chicago duo's own mixtapes.
It helps that these guests bring their A-game to Future Brown. Kelela and Ian Isiah join forces for a wispy duet, and Riko Dan explodes all over "Speng," a fierce performance rivalled by Jamaican artist Timberlee's vicious spitting on "No Apology." Powerful verses from her, 3D Na'Tee, Tink and others help cement what Future Brown call their "equal opportunity workplace," fostering an even split between male and female artists that's almost unprecedented in rap music.
Future Brown's reach doesn't always extend as far as they might like it to. "Asbestos" reunites the "World's Mine" trio, but the aggression dissipates into a thinned-out facsimile of grime. "Killing Time" feels directionless, and "Talkin Bandz" mismatches Shawnna's snarling invective with a paper-thin instrumental that can barely contain her. But most of the time they cough up beats that either complement their guests or challenge them to come up with something new. Each track is different enough to match the diverse cast, yet self-contained enough for Future Brown to feel like a worthy project on its own. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but Fatima Al Qadiri, Nguzunguzu and J. Cush have delivered a surprisingly solid record with a global outlook and more than a few surprises up its sleeve.
01. Room 302
02. Talkin Bandz
03. Big Homie
04. No Apology
08. Killing Time
11. Wanna Party