Review: Chris Brown, OHB & Section Boyz - 'Attack The Block'
Alongside US singer Chris Brown, members of his OHB rap crew are joined by London's Section Boyz, as well as guests like Ray J and French Montana on collaborative mixtape 'Attack The Block'.
It’s gratifying to hear US and UK rap voices performing side by side so comfortably on ‘Attack The Block’. It’s the most landmark thing about this mixtape.
Despite obvious differences between OHB’s and Section Boyz’ backgrounds and styles, the emcees unite to rap casually about girls, drugs, street life and making money.
The transatlantic gap doesn’t seem to obstruct the emcees’ focus or the solidity of the tracklist’s hip-hop/trap cuts.
It’s best to look at ‘Attack The Block’ as a sort of testing ground for the two hip-hop perspectives to come together without either having to sacrifice anything large.
This is particularly true for six-piece rap squad Section Boyz, who hang all their grime oddities out for display.
‘Attack The Block’ basically rehashes everything that’s current within rap culture. There are lots of worthy, harmless good-time efforts. The mixtape contains nothing disastrous, but there are no classics.
‘Attack The Block’ works best a showcase for Chris Brown. Brown is the mixtape’s main thread and ringleader, so naturally he gets the most time to explore what’s important to him.
Though he sparks on Mike WiLL Made It’s ‘Don’t F**k With Us’, on the whole, Brown’s lyrical content doesn’t stray from a few selected topics.
They include, but are not restricted to, flagrant pleasure-seeking, and the drive for immediate earthly gratification.
Moreover, Brown approaches these matters in the same ways, and on a mixtape of sixteen tracks, his “guys will be guys” narrative gets tired.
That being said, tracks like ‘Scared’ see the Section Boyz successfully break up Brown’s mischief.
There are several listenable cuts placed on the mixtape’s opening stretch, ‘Everybody’ and ‘Kriss Kross’ could have been B-sides from Brown’s 2015 studio album, ‘Royalty’.
Brown definitely knows the power of a strong hook, and on these tracks it often feels like he’s bringing his formidable chart experience to them.
Hip-hop/R&B hybrid ’Cherry Red’ sounds overdone though. The tune’s lyrics are really pumped up, but ’Cherry Red’ doesn’t require so much adrenaline. A chilled vibe would’ve better suited and enhanced the track’s laid-back instrumental.
‘Trappin’ is a good enough tune, OHB guest rapper Flawkoe’s Spanish rap bars certainly shake things up. Still, on the whole the track fails to separate itself from an industry full of very similar sounding efforts.
‘Trappin’ takes the focus away from Chris Brown's spiel about courting ladies with flashy gifts and towards the streets. Perhaps believing unbending confidence is all that is needed to spit, Brown’s harder rap contributions can sound like he’s playing dress-up.
Luckily, OHB’s Young Lo soon takes lead on ‘Trappin’ and is able to communicate the cut’s round-the-block grit naturally and more authentically.
Texan HoodyBaby does the same for ‘Marathon Man’, which rumbles nicely with bass.
Featuring both HoodyBaby and Young Lo, mid-tempo R&B/hip-hop number ‘I Can Tell’ depicts an inebriated Brown trying to court a girl who he’s convinced is attracted to bad boys like himself.
Based within another club-type setting, Brown focuses his drunken attentions towards another beautiful woman on ‘Dolce’. OHB guest rapper Young Blacc’s verse positively tidies up this tune.
Brown and R&B singer/songwriter Ray J team up for the rap-free ‘I Already Love Her’. The song’s lyrics are pretty tormented, and describe the boys doing drugs in order to cope with life’s pressures.
The fairly minimal, spaced beatwork of ’Dash’ leaves a lot of room for the Section Boyz to play around with their rap delivery and outlandish vocal stabs. Littlez’ hyped-up verse is particularly memorable.
Ray J makes another guest appearance alongside Brown on ‘New Gang’, and for some reason, his vocals sound wispy and strained. The performer seems much more relaxed rapping towards the tune’s end.
On ‘In Love With The B***hes’, Brown sings about having a threesome, and later finding out that the ladies involved posted footage from the dalliance up online.
The cut’s producer DJ Mustard injects it with same type of hooky tricks and poppy elements that made him famous. Nothing heard on ‘In Love With The B***hes’ stays on the memory too long though - Brown himself has put out better versions of the tune.
The Section Boyz take charge of ‘Other Side’, member Swift’s verse is entertainingly unhinged.
While Brown warns any oncoming opposition that he’s ready to fight his corner on the tune’s hook, the Boyz spend ‘Other Side’ reiterating the same dark sentiments during its verses.
Brown also exercises his own rap skills, but again, there’s an undeniable tension within his flow. Amid the loose, animated banter of the Section Boyz, it really stands out.
French Montana and Chris Brown hook up for ‘Erday’, the catchy tune ticks all the basic requirements for an easy-to-digest, hip-hop/R&B club number.
As Montana spits about his globe-trotting, hip-hop superstar exploits, Brown croons salaciously about pursuing a female.
Many different styles of rap converge for ‘Section One Hundred Billion’.
‘Section One Hundred Billion’ manages to fit in contributions from at least eight emcees, it’s a real audio assortment. The track's beatwork isn’t incredible, still, it squeezes the most from the mixtape's ruthless, juvenile energy.