CD Review : Bad News Brown “Born to Sin”

Now, here is an album that came so close to being something really special. This Montreal-based MC mixes his outstanding harmonica playing into familiar hip-hop beats and rhythms. Obviously, it’s a combination that has tons of promise. Opening track “Melody” has no rap over it and comes off as an inventive track, reminding me of GZA’s (the Genius) instrumentals. One track in and I was ready to be totally sold!

Then, not three seconds into the next song, and things become spoiled for me. A pitch-corrected voice (that sound all over the airwaves thanks to the likes of T-Pain, Akon and others who can’t sing without a machine) “sings” “she don’t give a fuck” and limps through “Touch Her Body” (the title explains what this song is about).

As the album continues, I become more confused about how I feel. Some of these tracks are painfully typical of modern pop chart hip-hop, granted they all have first-rate production. Then I come across something like “Intelligence,” a track that includes classic hip-hop elements (including some great scratching), along with minimalist harmonica and rap. Outstanding! Then right back to pitch-corrected vocals and songs about booty! Argh!

I want to love this album so badly! Even his promotional material is confusing. The album cover has Bad News Brown (named after the ‘80s pro wrestler, by the way; points for him there) smoking a harmonica. Hilarious! And then there’s a video for the limp “Touch Her Body.” Why!? I have not felt so conflicted in a long time. I suppose the best tracks here demonstrate that this artist has real talent and tons of potential to do something amazing. The worst tracks fall into the sort of pitfalls that will get him the most airtime on pop radio stations, but hinder his critical appeal and dampen his creativity.