Prometheus Brown & Bambu - Walk into a BarWritten by chichi on July 15, 2011
Promtheus Brown (aka Geologic from Blue Scholars) and Bambu are long-time friends who have collaborated a few times over the years, most notably on “Slow Down,” from Bambu’s …paper cuts… EP. Due to the distance between Brown and Bambu’s respective home bases in Seattle and LA, they haven’t been able to find much time in which to collaborate. Fortunately, the opportunity came up last winter, when the University of Hawaii’s Ethnic Studies department invited the two Pilipino American activist/emcees to come and speak to the students about community organizing. They recognized the chance to put something together, took advantage of the time they had, and now we have Prometheus Brown & Bambu Walk into a Bar.
The album is short, with nine original tracks and one remix of “Slow Down,” but it doesn’t feel slight or incoherent. They were able to get a bunch of people to produce tracks for them, including Vitamin D, Fatgums, Osna, MTK, DJ Nphared, Just D’Amato, 6Fingers, and Budo. They bring a laid back West Coast feel to the project, whether it’s the Curtis Mayfield sample that Osna works so well on “Fuck Dog the Bounty Hunter,” or the boom bap that Vitamin D lays down. The only production moment that gives me pause is the use of Auto-Tune on “Rashida Jones,” if only because I can’t really decide if they’re being ironic, and I was never crazy about Auto-Tune in the first place. It also doesn’t really fit with the rest of the album lyrically, either, changing tone to a semi-humorous ode to the Parks and Recreation actress. Otherwise, it’s a solid collection of songs from two politically-minded emcees that have good chemistry together, passing verses back and forth while never attempting to best each other.
I confess ignorance regarding any current political struggle in the Pacific Islands, and this is where I wish Bambu and Brown spent just a little bit more time filling the gaps in knowledge that I’m sure most of us on the continent have. While I’m a fan of both emcees and usually agree with their messages, there are a few troublesome moments. First, on “Nowhere,” Bambu encourages listeners to put their “guns in the air, put a bullet in the air.” I can’t advocate violent resistance unless I already know the level of provocation from the offense. This same level of discomfort comes on the end of “Mahalo,” which ends with an unaccredited speaker calling for people to rise up and fight, which again had me wishing I had more context.
These problems aside, I stand behind much of the album. Good soul/horn samples, two talented activist emcees sharing the mic – this is all right up my alley. I hope this album is just a promise of better things to come, because if anything, it’s made me aware of how much I don’t know about Pacific Island culture, and how it intersections with hip hop. Also, if this is what Prometheus Brown and Bambu can throw together in a week in Hawaii, I can only imagine how well an album could turn out when they have more time to fully realize their visions.
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