Issue 48 (2003)
It seems like its been ages since the Mountain Brothers blessed the mic with notable gems like “Paper Chase,” “5 Elements,” and “Day Jobs” from their homegrown epic “Self: Volume 1.” Although group producer/MC Chops has been holding it down, popping up on select soundtracks including Brown Sugar, guest appearing on tracks and crafting beats for numerous artists like Grand Agent, Mystic, and Panda One, collectively little has been heard from the MBs in the last couple years. That’s all about to change, however, as Styles Infinite and Peril-L have joined the Magnificent Butcher to finally release their long awaited sophomore effort. With new management, a new label, and of course a new LP on the horizon the Mountain Brothers are prepared to get things back on track after their extended break from the game.
“We were all witnesses to a horrible crime and they had to detain us for awhile,” jokes Chops speaking on the hiatus. In reality they were victims in a way of ever-present label politics. They approached the second album with a plan in mind, devoting more time to each song to ensure a high quality product, which caused a slight delay in the album’s impending release. But once the group finished the LP Nu Gruv Alliance, the label they were on at the time, closed its doors for good. This unfortunate turn of events left the Mountain Bros. with a completed album, but with no platform to properly release it to the masses. The group took the time between deals to touch up a few tracks before finally choosing a new home. After stints with Ruffhouse Records and Nu Gruv Alliance the Mountain Brothers just wanted someone stable who would be behind them 100%, enter Babygrande. With a similar vision on the business front and shared interests on a personal level with the label’s founder, Babygrande became the group’s unquestioned destination. They presented the MBs with a multi album contract and provided them with the support, backing, and creative freedom they were seeking. Since the first album was basically sold out of the crib it put a strain on the trio leaving them and their former manager to do the tasks of an entire staff in addition to touring and recording. Now with Babygrande they have extra people involved and that’s taken off some of the pressure they dealt with in the past, and in turn leaves them with more time to reintroduce themselves to the fans and dedicate to the music.
“We probably lost momentum,” admits Styles. “But at the same time I think its extra special when you come out with something every once in a while instead of being in somebody’s face all the time. We’re not too worried about it. Hopefully the fans will still be there to listen to this album and maybe we’ll pick up some new ones.”
Undoubtedly there are plenty of Mountain Brothers followers that have waited patiently for a new offering, but there are even more heads that have simply become bored with the uninspired releases that have become the norm in certain pockets of hiphop. With many MCs subscribing to copycat styles and cookie cutter production, there is plenty of room for originality and substance, two things that the MB’s plan to showcase.
“The first album we were really naïve, we kind of made it without any intentions,” reflects Styles. “We weren’t really educated about the business and what’s supposed to be in a song so a lot of stuff was just more creative because we didn’t know the rules to even obey them. Now I think a lot of people make a song that follows the rules and it gets boring after a while. It’s the people that are coming out with stuff that they just made that’s a lot better.” Chops agrees, “I think people might fall into a trap of being in a strict formula of this person is what’s on the radio so let’s copy them and that’s definitely not what Mountain Brothers are trying to do.”
Because they are not out to follow any type of formula, including their own, they made sure not to repeat the same steps from “Self: Volume 1”, instead aiming for subject matter that’s a little bit deeper and an overall reflective more mature sound. “Its not just the lyrics, Chops’ production has developed and changed a little bit,” Styles clarifies. “Overall it’s probably not as laid back as far as the tracks,” adds Peril-L. Though the backdrops will have an added flavor, most of the changes that will be noticed on the new album will be attributed to the fact that the guys are older now and approach the music with a more realistic outlook and have a wider range of inspirational sources than in the past.
“As far as the three of us we have developed our own individual tastes over the years, we always had that, but we also had a certain group kind of sound and those were the kind of groups we all liked collectively” Chops explains. “Back when we made the first record every single one of us were into Souls of Mischief, Tribe Called Quest, De La, Common etc. but over the past couple years there have been different groups we each might have been influenced by.”
Their new effort titled “Triple Crown,” chosen over the obvious and expected moniker, “Self: Volume 2,” will highlight the different influences of each member due to the way it was put together.“Originally when we started making this new record we split it into three parts where each of us would direct one-third of the record and tell the other two what the content of the song is gonna be and pick the track,” explained Chops. “We called it “Triple Crown” based on the three of us each ruling each kingdom in a way.” The change in the recording format gives the album a unique sound. By scattering a few solo tracks from each MC throughout the full length and allotting each member complete control over specific sections fans will be able to check for several distinct perspectives within the group effort. Though they are mixed together for a smoother flow it will be interesting to see if you can pick out the different styles without reading the liner notes
While on the creativity tip they get points for splitting up the record into different sections, they also get props for ingenuity as the idea was also used to solve a few scheduling problems since some of the songs only have one or two of the MBs on it instead of all three. According to Peril-L this adjustment made it a simpler process. “As far as this album, at least logistically, it was probably easier to separate it the way we did because sometimes we weren’t in the same area at the same time, so it was easier to get it done that way.” There were a few drawbacks however. “[To me] it was actually harder because you have to come up with everything yourself,” says Styles. “If somebody says this is the song we’re gonna do and this is what its gonna be about then that’s easy you only have to write 16 bars.”
With about 14 selections and a host of interludes, “Triple Crown” is overstuffed with enough new material to satisfy listeners. But in case it’s not Babygrande is choosing to wet your appetite for the new album by a releasing a CD packed with extras to accompany the new single, “Microphone Phenomenal.” This super CD single contains 4 vocal tracks (plus 2 instrumentals) including an exclusive remix to “Microphone Phenomenal” by DJ Cheapshot featuring Styles of Beyond, DJ Roli Rho of 5th Platoon’s theme song “The Roli Rho Show,” and a solo track, “Talkin Bout You,” by Styles Infinite. On top of that, there is also a ten-minute Mountain Brothers mini mega-mix by Philly DJ Spinbad, and a 21-minute interview with Philly’s DJ Jay-Ski totaling over seventy plus minutes.
If that’s not enough, “Triple Crown” will be followed up by Chops’ solo producer project off of Vocab/Goodvibe and will feature and all-star lineup including the MBs, Raekwon, Ras Kass, Kweli, Phil Da Agony, Mystic, Baby Blak, Grand Agent and even a Chops solo cut or two.
The wait may have been long, but the Mountain Brothers have returned with a boat load of treats and don’t plan on leaving, not as long as there are still people out there supporting creative hiphop. Welcome back.
Look out for Triple Crown hitting stores early Spring 2003