Front Page Music signee Brookfield Duece dropped a Soundcloud mixtape this month in curious fashion, releasing one EP at a time for four weeks, the sum of which form an impressively coherent – if not concise – mixtape. Better Late Than Never is a complex project that offers quite a lot beyond the tricky packaging. Ambitious in approach and extensive in scope, Duece’s latest offering is loaded with gems. 19 tracks in 90 minutes can be tough to digest though, so breaking the mixtape into edible and distinct morsels made perfect sense.
But the packaging is tricky. Simple questions like, “Which song is Damian Lillard on?” (FPM & Tha Boi) or, “Who made the beat for Mavericks?” (Kelly Portis) take effort to get answers to. And perhaps that’s the intention. BLTN is a vast project best consumed in full, and the packaging – from the lack of variance on the EP covers down to hiding a Dame feature on a bonus track – tends to downplay the individually exceptional in support of the whole. In other words, it seems to me that Duece wants you to explore the world he’s created, not just peek in for the tourist attractions.
And dive in you should, but if you lack the time or attention span, WOHM is here to help. EP by EP, we’ll break down Better Late Than Never, expose the gems, and help you navigate the sprawling project.
It comes as no surprise that Duece’s first installment aims to be super lyrical, but the boombap beatscape was an unexpected layer that should satisfy those that question Duece’s hip-hop pedigree. A slew of features including West Coast legend Mistah FAB, Dame DOLLA and two #4BarFriday winners in GeeNess (who eats on Ryan’s Song) and Teezy up the lyrical ante for Duece who repeatedly rises to the occasion, perhaps most notably on the final verse of Shoes. A 90’s styled video for the opening track, BlackStar, adds a visual layer to the EP, but I can’t help thinking I would have rather seen a video for FPM or Ryan’s Song. The quasi-title track, BLTM, didn’t do much for me, but it serves as a solid transition to the next installment with closing reminder that “B*tches love music too, Duece! Hey ladies…”
1. BlackStar (Produced by Arkutec)
2. Ryan’s Song ft. Mistah FAB & GeeNess (Produced by Tha Shipmates)
FPM (Bonus) ft. Danny From Sobrante & Dame DOLLA (Produced by Bravo Domo)
3. Shoes ft. Teezy (Produced by Like and Deadxbrainz)
4. BLTN (Produced by Tha Shipmates)
The transition from boombap to trap was effortless, and if you’ve been paying attention to Duece’s work, you might recognize the opening track, Holly, a Drae Slapz-produced trap slap which was previously released as a single in late 2015. Speaking of slaps, Appointments has a familiar sound to it as well… pretty sure I’ve heard it live before? Either way, it goes. Manny Lotus shows serious vocal skills on a couple of tracks on here including 45 to Coliseum, which has a great headnodibililty and should be a mandatory play on any late night ride home. Out The Way gives us Autotune Duece, and he floats on Tha Shipmates wavy production to close out the 5 track installment.
5. Holly ft. Doja & Bozzle (Produced By Drae Slapz)
6. 45 To Coliseum ft. Manny Lotus (Produced By Manny Lotus)
7. Appointments (Produced By Cardiak)
8. Control ft. Manny Lotus (Produced By Manny Lotus)
9. Out The Way (Produced By Tha Shipmates)
For me, Than, brings us to the present. Bouncy beats, confidence and a departure from the trap mark this installment. Vince Carter grabs for attention right away with a catchy hook and funky beat by OMN. The Nakyoos-produced NowYouWanna finds Duece hitting his stride, and the feature-studded No Brain finds him celebrating the good life with industry friends. The introspective Mavericks is easily the most sober track on the EP, and maybe it’s the best as well, pressing clever and sharp lyrics over a wildly contemplative loop as Duece seems to wonder what he’s doing with his life. A tooned music video finds a rapper literally riding waves to his demise, and I don’t think the message could be much clearer.
10. Vince Carter (Produced By OMN)
11. Now You Wanna (Produced By Nakyooes)
12. No Brain ft. Buddy x Like x Tobi Lou (Produced By Like)
13. Mavericks (Produced By Kelly Portis)
Duece saved the dopest EP for last. A filthy beat by Super Miles provides a dark backdrop for the Mic Capes-assisted Sheep Dogs. Dame DOLLA returns with a pair of blistering verses on Tha Boy, and Duece hangs right with him in the energetic back and forth exchange. White Dirt is like two tracks in one, and I prefer the half that starts at about 6 minutes when the beat switches. That’s the turn up, all of that. An air of seriousness invades with Wedding Ring, a thinly-veiled auto-tuned ode to the rap game that sounds really good, but the video – while really cool for utilizing 360 VR technology – was confusing to me. Gemini features the ultra-lyrical Nick B and pushes Duece to the limit. The duo spazzes on the laid back instrumental… and then the beat switches and the album ends how you won’t expect.
14. Sheep Dogs ft. Mic Capes (Produced By Super Miles)
15. Tha Boi ft Dame D.O.L.L.A. ft. (Produced By OMN)
16. White Dirt (Produced by Tha Shipmates x Deadbrainz)
17. Wedding Ring (Produced By Tha Shipmates)
18. Gemini ft. Nick B (Produced By LockAFK x Joel Roger Weston)
Overall, Better Than Late Than Never is a strong record with a number of catchy songs that gets better with every listen. There are a lot of songs though, so knowing what you’re looking for (and where to find it) is helpful. While each installment has its own vibe, the EPs work remarkably well together to tell a story and there aren’t really any tracks I felt compelled to skip. My biggest disappointments were the music videos; albeit, they are very creative but – Mavericks aside – they ultimately don’t add much to the music. It will be interesting to see whether Duece releases more traditional visuals from the project in coming months, or if he simply moves on to the next project. I think there’s a lot of good content here to work through, and it may take the lay fan a while to get through it. But you know what they say, Better Late Than Never, right?