Now this is what a studio album is supposed to sound like.
Oakland’s Brookfield Duece is no stranger to Portland rap. For five-plus years, he’s been in the mix, finding his lane and directing traffic in a crowded creative scene.
His upcoming offering, America’s Orphans, is unequivocally his best work to date. The conceptually heavy 15-track full-length album minimizes drag with streamlined transitions, cinematic soundscapes and well- timed features, making for a highly replayable album with substance to boot. Just peep the single, Surveillance, and you’ll see what I mean.
Giving the record a tremendous boost is LA-based executive producer Like, who you may know from the blog-era rap group Pac Div. He also produced Kendrick Lamar’s Sing About Me, I’m Dying Of Thirst, a factwhich helped me put a finger on the familiar vibe of the project. Samarei’s touch is felt as well.
Duece was crafty with the features too. There is no Dame track this time. (Sorry guys.) There is a flame-emoji worthy Freddie Gibbs feature though, and Like steps from the boards to the booth on occasion and even brings groupmate Mibbs out for a track. The clever use of locals in non-rap situations really worked for me: Drae Slapz’ take on a Nelson Mandela quote nearly had me in tears, while a VM from the late great Starchile nearly had me in tears.
A tremendously thoughtful album, AO is exactly what I didn’t expect right now, but exactly what the game needs.
I got a chance to catch up with Duece to discuss his feelings on the project and his state of mind through the process. (Answers may be edited for length/clarity.)
Mac: Where your circumstances would seem to allow you to make more commercial music, it seems that your latest offering is increasingly cerebral and heavy. Why?
Duece: I honestly have always had the plan to go in this direction. I needed to get a few things out my system, see the world more, pay attention to the signs in front of me, stop following behind the safe choices that keep us down as a people and step up as a leader to speak on real issues. On top of that, the belief I have (is) that this will be commercially accepted soon enough if not already.
Mac: I noticed you doing less on certain tracks. Perspective feels more like a vibe than a complete song. Was there a concerted effort to build emotion with this project?
Duece: That song is gonna get missed in the wash of the body of work I think. It’s different for me but I think on the surface it’s a cliche song. Talk about women, sex, pump myself up, etc.
But it’s called Perspective because this is my take on the #MeToo movement and rape culture. I wanted to make something sound innocent but if it’s looked at in a new light, feels different. For instance, if I told you the song was not about what it sounds like but as I listened to it back (I) saw an old white slave master raping a black girl? And (if) the white man was saying these lyrics… it would sound different right? Creepy, uncomfortable, right? Well that’s how women feel when we (men) say things we think are innocent but could be hard triggers for our women in the world.
Hopefully this song starts a dialogue of understanding. But it will for sure build emotion. And that was definitely the goal. To make us men uncomfortable with how uncomfortable we make women feel. Even if sometimes it’s accidental.
Mac: Your production gets better with each record. Who are you working with?
Duece: Like from the group Pac Div did every track except the last one, Navigate; Kelly Portis from the Bay did that. I gathered all the live instruments DJ Tolefree on drums, Quantae Johnson on bass, Farnell Newton helped with horns, and Ryan Watts and I composed and arranged it all. I helped co-produce a few beats on the album as well. I kept it really tight and in-house. All the skits were family and friends. The transitions and guitars and additional keys that weren’t (done by) Like throughout the album were all DJ Samarei from Portland; he was big in this process as well and is credited as a co-producer in every single track on the album. The idea to make each run into the next wouldn’t have been possible without Samarei.
But Like was there as a producer the whole way. I went to LA during the time we were recording for Damian’s album Confirmed, and we hand picked tracks together, recorded together, played Nintendo, hung out… And did music in between. It was crazy to work with a producer who I was a big fan of with such a resume that I’ve become friends with now. He did Sing About Me for Kendrick, Grammy nominated, crazy!
Mac: At this stage of your career what motivates you?
Duece: My desire to see us better on Wednesday than we were on Tuesday. My hope that my content will make my children understand what I was trying to do all those days or nights I wasn’t in town or at a recital, or at a football or basketball game. That I was working to make things better for them tomorrow. That I’ve always acted with a level of selflessness and hopefully that trickles down to them and they too are a level of selfless.
But that is also my hope for all people.
I just wanna make good music and I wanna make what I feel like at the time, next year I could wanna talk about just having fun. That’s very possible. But today. We’re talking about this. And that is motivation enough, the freedom of self expression.
Outside of that, I’m motivated by the idea that my work can open the door for others I wanna see make it through the work I do outside of rapping as a developer of talent. All my Rare Vibe brothers, all my homies with Five Se7en Collective, my homie Scotty Chapo in Oakland, too many to list. But I do believe this rapping thing is there but my purpose is larger. And I’ll see that purpose through, without question! I love being the big homie.
Mac: What should people who have never listened to Brookfield Duece listen for?
Duece: They should listen for themselves in what I release. Because I don’t create for just me. I create to relate and be related to. If I can only attach to myself in what I create, it’s not good enough. I’m trying to reach people in their spirits. Foreal!
And as a rappers rapper, listen for the layers. Listen for the double and triple meanings in the lyrics. Listen to the concepts of the songs as individuals and the project as a whole. Look at the artwork, Look at the titling and how it makes sense, the order of songs and how they were picked. How the projects before it tie in to the new ones. What clues are left for music you haven’t heard yet. It’s honestly all tied together and I’ve been working on getting to this point for a number of years in my releases. There are eggshells everywhere. Foreal!
‘America’s Orphans’ is scheduled for release March 8, 2019 on all platforms.
(We suggest Tidal.)