Detroit-based rap group Bruiser Brigade are virtuosos of immersive hip-hop. Led by rapper Danny Brown since 2012, the collective weaves the narratives of what may appear to be disparate musical talents into a thoroughly enjoyable listening experience.
On their sophomore album, TV62, released earlier this month on Bandcamp, the group continues to flex their knack for storytelling. The 16-track amalgamation of Detroit hip-hop veterans and rising stars alike teems with humor and biting tales of hard-edged upbringings and life experiences. Following their first unofficial album, Reign Supreme, streamed in 2018 exclusively on the gaming platform Twitch, TV62 welcomes back old talents from its previous project like Danny Brown, Fat Ray and ZelooperZ, while opening the door to newer features like J.U.S and Bruiser Wolf. Unlike Reign Supreme, which incorporated Brown’s iconic animated flow on almost every song, Bruiser Brigade’s latest album takes on a more even-handed distribution of airtime. Yet the group’s dedication to painting vivid portraits of Detroit street life and the city’s storied cultural richness remains unchanged.
In its opening clip, TV62 begins with an audio snippet from an announcement on WGPR-TV, the first Black-owned TV station in the United States, based in Detroit and serving as the inspiration for the project’s title. The following track, “The Dopest in the Building,” follows Bruiser Wolf and his trials with drugs and poverty. Wolf’s delivery may be cartoonish, but his subject matter is anything but. He details the cyclic nature of drug dealing and addiction with a sunny timbre, quipping, “Product of my environment / Victim of circumstance / Supply it if you buy it, from bricks to grams.”
Although arguably the most vocally similar to Brown, Wolf nonetheless etches out his own path of unorthodox delivery. Wolf brings his sharp wit to the table as well, supplying some of the funnier lines on the album. On the track “Your Gone,” he references a sinister yet memorable Michigan news story from last year, rapping, “plottin’ on a white girl like them guys that tried to kidnap Whitmer.” Wolf’s dark repartee and balanced staccato mannerisms separate him from his peers, further reinforcing Bruiser Brigade’s ability to shine a light on its individual talents without sacrificing the connectedness of the wider project.
Fat Ray, a seasoned professional in Detroit’s underground rap scene, delivers his own distinctive flow on tracks like “Superhero” and “Juice.” With a more straightforward delivery, Ray’s smooth babble mirrors the classic narrative-heavy nature of ‘90s hip-hop, a contrast that works surprisingly well with the more experimental idiosyncrasies of Brown and ZelooperZ.
On the tracks “Dylon,” “Welfare” and “The Ends,” Danny Brown reminds the listener of his ability to deliver masterfully weird and often crude commentary. The entire project drips with Brown’s avant-garde instrumentation style, with clear parallels to his sixth and most recent solo release, uknowhatimsayin¿. Perhaps one of these moments unique to Brown on the album is the final track, “The Ends,” which can only be explained as Renaissance Faire meets sleek hip-hop funk — who knew a flute could go so hard?
Brown collects an executive producer credit on TV62, and there’s no doubt that his influence seeps into the project’s sonic developments as well as the establishment of the Brigade’s physical body of members. Yet Brown is not the singular voice shining on the album, making it clear to the listener that Bruiser Brigade is very much a collective effort.
Intermittent clips of laughter and lively conversation among Brigade members throughout the project only adds to the obvious chemistry between the artists. It’s as if the listeners have been welcomed into the studio themselves, the mic traveling around in a circle to catch energetic freestyles and raunchy jokes alike. After all, a group that could think of the line, “All my rules scientific, bitch feed me Fig Newtons,” has to have some kind of wildly entertaining brainstorm sessions going on behind the scenes.
TV62 is personal and carefree rapping at its finest. Yet even with its easy-going undercurrent, it remains a disarmingly witty and technically polished project. With the establishment of Bruiser Brigade Records earlier this year, members like J.U.S, Bruiser Wolf and Fat Ray have released critically successful solo projects alongside their work with the Brigade. It’s apparent that Bruiser Brigade represents a new chapter not only in the musical endeavors of its members but in the wider bounds of a hip-hop world seeking autonomy and untethered creativity.
Daily Arts Writer Nora Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.