Amid Questions Surrounding the State of “Female Rappers,” Boog Brown Impresses…Without the Hype
|By AMIR SAID (SA’ID)|
Discussions about “female rappers” carry little weight with me, because I rate the rapper and their rhyme, not their gender. However, when pressed about my list of top female rappers, I always began with MC Lyte. For me, MC Lyte—in her prime—sits comfortably in the 1st tier of great lyricists, regardless of gender. But as far as any list that excludes male rappers, I rate MC Lyte #1. Therefore, before I can rate any female rapper that has appeared after MC Lyte, I first have to hold them up to what I call the “MC Lyte Test.”
The MC Lyte Test (a test that could equally be used for male rappers as well) is a set of parameters that I use to rate any female rapper. These parameters include: style, delivery and flow, word mastery, sound, feel, non-contrived attitude, and raw edginess.
Since MC Lyte graced the mic in 1988, various female rappers have emerged with respectable skills. In fact, there have been a number of female rappers that many music critics and fans alike have lauded with great acclaim. But political correctness aside, since MC Lyte’s prime, there’s only been two female rappers who have passed my MC Lyte test, and a couple more who had the potential to, but never did.
Well, now I’m compelled to let it be known that Boog Brown passes my MC Lyte Test.
Like MC Lyte, Boog Brown understands the rhythm of words. She molds them, folds them, blends them, caresses them, and snaps them. Equally comfortable with straight and slant rhyme, Boog Brown chooses words for their full value, not for the brevity of writing rhymes. Moreover, she doesn’t rely on gimmicky deliveries or overly wordy rhyme schemes and phrasings. Such rhyme tricks have impressed (mesmerized) some, but I’ve always found those sort of rhyme gimmicks to be cliché and boring. I dig rhymes straight up. Gimmickry, particularly the borrowed and oft-used type, is usually less engaging, if not outright whack. Straight forward inflection/intonation, especially when it’s delivered with believable—non-contrived—attitude, is dope.
What also impresses me about Boog Brown is her delivery and flow. It’s agile and multi-directional, not grounded and predictable (listen to “Masterplan” produced by Apollo Brown). Moreover, she utilizes superb breath control; you never hear her take extreme gulps of oxygen or stumble over her pauses, both marks of a complex lyricist with just as much style as substance.
On “Understanding” (also produced by Apollo), Boog Brown shows off how she presses go, then drops a string of well-measured lines of dense poetry that regularly come together to give insider looks at various snap shots of life. And in the tradition of the most advanced lyricism, she drives by each bar of her lyrics without glancing at its effect, without giving a glimpse of uncertainty or exhaustion. Such confidence echos the pedigree of all dope complex lyricists, male or female.
Then there’s Boog Brown’s sound. It’s effortless, smooth, and genuine. Even when she’s romantic (check out “Hey Love”), her sound and feel is in tact, not compromised. And while many female rappers fall pray to a lack of expression in their rhymes (perhaps a side-effect of a male-dominated tradition), Boog Brown strikes through with a clarity and feel that never sounds forced. Rhyming, in its highest degree, is an art wherein words are made to grab, dance, punch, rock, and shock, all with style, and no sense of effort on the part of the rhymer. Once you can “hear” the effort—the forced flow, the superficial borrowed style, the clumsy lyrics—the magic of rapping ceases to exist. And this is where Boog Brown excels. She doesn’t fall into the “Look at me, I’m a female M.C. mantra.” Instead, she soars on her own lyrical terms, without the benefit (or detriment) of “female M.C.” charity praise.
What’s Next for Boog Brown
Although Apollo Brown’s beats have certainly served Boog Brown well, most of the beats off of their stellar Brown Study album carry a similar texture and form, and they usually move in the same “mid”/mid-tempo range. That’s no knock against Apollo Brown—that sound is dope. In fact, he’s mastered that sound and feel; it compliments the drum frameworks that he favors for most of his beats. I’d just like to hear Boog Brown on a couple of slightly uptempo joints, or some beats with a different type of swing to them. To Apollo’s credit, the “U.P.S.” beat, I think his latest release with Boog Brown and a joint I really dig, finds him using a bit more “bounce” in the beat. Promising signal for what’s to come from the the Boog Brown/Apollo Brown enterprise.
Still, the thought of Boog Brown branching out and incorporating beatwork (and different production nuances) from other perennial beatsmiths (I’d really like to see her paired up with Statik Selektah, DJ Premier, The Alchemist, or Kevlaar 7), is something I can’t help but consider. Currently, Boog Brown is sitting on the cusp of league MVP-caliber talent. But I believe if she maneuvers right—that is to say, split the wig open of the hype machine by matching her rhyme skills with other key beatmakers—she could be looking at a hall of fame career.
The music videos below are presented here for the purpose of scholarship.
Boog Brown “UPs” [prod. Apollo Brown]
Boog Brown – “Hey Love”
Boog Brown & Apollo Brown – “Masterplan”
MC Lyte – “Paper Thin”