Bruiser Brigade 2021 Recap Playlist

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2021 was a breakthrough year for Detroit based hiphop label Bruiser Brigade. Headed by the eccentric OG Danny Brown, the label houses a diverse array of artists. In addition to a compilation, each of Bruiser Brigade’s biggest artists dropped a quality album this year (apart from Danny sadly, although XXXX is being teased heavily) in what was seemingly a series; Sharing art styles and many crossover features, they all come together for a really strong showing. Here we will break down each album and what makes these rappers so special.

Zelooperz – Van Gogh’s Left Ear

Zelooperz was already pretty well known in the underground as a strong, quirky artist, but he came through in 2021 with what might be his best work yet. Van Gogh’s Left Ear features his one of a kind enunciation and wacky flows over some off the wall production. It ranges from bouncy to tribal to trappy to despairing, so the variety makes it highly replayable. While there are a lot of really short songs and it is a little all over the place, Zelooperz is the type of rapper to never let you get bored. There is also the standout “Bash Bandicoon” with Danny Brown, which features an absurd sample from the classic video game Crash Bandicoot.

Listen to Van Gogh’s Left Ear on Bandcamp

Fat Ray – Santa Barbara

Fat Ray has been in the game for more than a decade now, and compared to his labelmates, he definitely sounds like an old head. But that just means we got a really strong little album chock full of bars and traditional, hardcore sounds. Ray doesn’t get fancy on here – Boombappy production (including a Black Milk beat) soundtracks twelve tracks of wordplay and imagery on both the rap game and the streets. He makes it clear that he’s a student of the game, with references to old school hiphop and classic sentiments. The flows are simple but hardcore, almost reminiscent of Jedi Mind Tricks. Overall, Fat Ray delivers a rather grounded project which is a display of strong MC’ing and simply a fun listen.

Listen to Santa Barbara on Bandcamp

Bruiser Wolf – Dope Game Stupid

Bruiser Wolf is a truly unique young artist; The best way to describe him might be that he’s like if E-40 tried spoken word. With an admittedly goofy voice and flows, Bruiser Wolf delivers hilarious bars on the drug game over sparse, jazzy instrumentation (“I gave her the johnson two times, call it baby powder”). Stove God Cook$ fans could certainly find some appeal in this as well. The album’s standout “Mama Was a Dopefiend”, produced by Knxwledge, is a heartbreaking exploration of womanhood and hardship within Bruiser Wolf’s community, delivered in his one of a kind style. Dope Game Stupid is succinct, diverse, and utterly charismatic, making for one of the best albums of the year.

Listen to Dope Game Stupid on Bandcamp

J.U.S. – God, Goku, Jay-Z

JUS, like Fat Ray, has a bit more of a traditional rapping style compared to other Bruiser Brigade signees. He has a signature Detroit sound, a bit reminiscent of Guilty Simpson. On God, Goku, Jay-Z, he goes over some relatively simple, yet quirky and lo-fi production (with several assists from Black Noi$e and Danny Brown) to tackle a fascinating theme. While much of his lyricism is rooted in typical street talk and hardcore rapping, there is an overarching theme of the so-called “black power fantasy”; After generations of strife and disenfranchisement, the black community needs heroes to look up to. With some of these bars, JUS might not be a hero – But he surely is an inspiration given his grind, skill, and pride.

Listen to God, Goku, Jay-Z on Bandcamp

More 2021 Bruiser Brigade music

TV62 (A label compilation featuring verses from all of the rappers listed above and affiliated producers. It is a good place to start if you want to get started on any Bruiser Brigade rappers, and includes some solo Danny Brown cuts)

Quentin Ahmad DaGod – N.O.A.H

The Alchemist – This Thing of Ours pt. 2 (features a Bruiser Brigade posse cut and a solo Zelooperz song, courtesy of one of the GOAT producers)

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