Jnr Brown comes out swinging in 2016, with a new track titled "We Run It" which really had various factions of Bloggers, Rappers and Zim Hip Hop fans alike talking. With many "reviews" floating around, rapper Synik really did his homework on this one and dug deeper setting an example of how songs should be reviewed from now onward.
One of my favorite songs from Zimbabwe is Netsai’s take on the traditional song “Hondo” which speaks of the evils and at the same time the necessity of war. And as Jnr Brown begins his scathing record he asks if ‘you fully understand the gravity of the war you have begun’ as the rap feud escalates between him and Dat Luveve boy, Calvin. The beat that Yagidojo, Sun and Beast skilfully create as a backdrop to this 5 minutes of lyrical gunplay is ushered in by monkeys and I begin to wonder if this is an allusion to the fact that these other rappers are chimps, monkeying around in the concrete jungle that Brown runs. Yagi put wolves on The Realness though so maybe it is just a fascination with the animal kingdom and not the metaphor that my overactive imagination saw.
The hook leaves no space for mistaking what Jnr Brown is in the booth to do, reclaim a title that some (Calvin mainly) have claimed he lost, perhaps due to a lack of consistency in delivering his dope raps to his starved fans. The backstory to this is of course the ever controversial Hiphop Awards (2015) which saw Calvin winning multiple awards including best song. Jnr Brown came to twitter asking ‘which record was bigger than Mariia'. This saw Calvin dropping a freestyle where he goes at Breezy saying ‘I am the new king though a few still feel they important’ attacking Breezy’s relevance in the current state of the game
While no names are dropped on the record, the direction of the punches is clear. The hook which states that "he runs it" in Makokoba, Luveve, Magwegwe is one of the first blows you notice. This line reminds me of when Kendrick, a native of Compton claimed King of New York on Control ruffling quite a lot of feathers in the process. Claiming you run it in the hood that someone reps is a challenge of huge proportions.
“Pozoti Ma new niggas akuda kuita pfari/ Achamuka makuseni achitreatwer ku Pari” As I have heard however Calvin is not quite new having been in the game for some time. But perhaps this is a reference to newness on the level of mainstream acceptance.
“Ramba uchitaura the ish that youre talking/ unodzokera kuMasvingo wakara mucoffin.”Unless you have been under a rock you would know the rapper who has been putting this city on the map, at times challenging all Harare emcees on record. But the question is ‘What ish’ could Noble Styles have possibly said or am I mistaken about the direction of this jab. Get me up to speed, please!
I only got this record today and already heard a few negative responses from people who accused Jnr Brown of rapping a façade. He speaks of cars he bought with rap money and being known in various overseas destinations. In my very humble opinion, Jnr Brown is not spitting falsities but rather every bar on that record is based on truth. At the height of the Few Kings era with a feature on the hit record Happy and his own MaDrinks Jnr Brown has been on a peak most rappers only dream about. And while I don’t want to speculate too much on his income from rapping I think its reasonable to assume that buying a car would be within reach at that time. Their moves saw this crew not only sitting comfortably on charts, but actually signing cheques with corporates, doing diaspora gigs and repping Zim on Big Brother Africa while getting massive numbers of downloads with their collaborative project and rocking every major event at the time. If that is not enough to “show you cars we bought with rap money” then perhaps rappers need to “dzokera kumusha tinorima”. I mean at that level of movement Im sure you could cop an ex jap at least. But I think people interpreted the line as having a garage full of the latest vehicles on some American rap steez but consider the line in our Zimbabwean context. Being known in overseas destinations is to me a reference mainly to the diaspora fans who are in all these destinations and who are undoubtedly fans of Brown and the Few Kings. Besides Zimbabwean fans this crew would definitely also have fans from different nationalities.
If you cannot acknowledge the magnitude of the moves that Breezy has made and been a part of you may need to check your system for acute hater syndrome known to affect many a rapper.
Ma corporates akandisignira macheques (true)
Diaspora yabva yapindira mazhet (true)
Kana boys dzekuBorrowdale dzakaita vet (true)
Vese vakamuka vakurhymer ne vernac. - Jnr Brown has undoubtedly influenced a number of rappers and he has collaborated with two rappers who were more representative of the North (MC Chita as Kings Rendezvous and Tehn as Few Kings). While it is hard to say whether the infiltration of more vernac in northen hiphop is directly related to Jnr Brown, his influence is unquestionable. He has always been a southern rapper who got northern acceptance and the theory of the north/ south Samora divide crumbles when you consider how comfortable Jnr Brown is in both worlds.
“Ndine ma bars anouraya ma cypher/
and muma streets vanoziva kuti ndakaipa”. Jnr Brown is one rapper who gets not only industry respect but approval from the streets. His last record, Mariia is according to me one of the illest things to come out of Zimbabwe in a while (you can quote me on this). But it is just one in a long line of really dope records that Brown has made since the days of the Bad Boys of Chamhembe with co-lyricist J Boss.
“You never been around kana Europe hauiketi”… Only few rappers from Zimbabwe (based in Zimbabwe) can counter this line and oddly enough I think Outspoken of the Dialectric Blu probably boasts the most passport stamps from the art. The irony being that he represents the antithesis the flashy lifestyles portrayed in most mainstream rap music which you would assume would have people doing tours.
“Musabhaizwe ne ma Beefy Harrison awards”. This of course reminds me of the new R Peels and Noble Styles record that admonishes rappers who think they have reached some kind of a pinnacle because of measures such as awards or radio play.
Jnr Brown has not only one of the most recognisable voices in the game but a truly effortless flow. I have often said if he was sitting on a couch you could just drop a mic and he would drop a hit record.
The contender, Calvin has already taken to twitter with the hashtag #UsedToRunIt maintaining his assertion that it is his time now and Jnr Brown is a relic of long forgotten past. “Its about to be biblical” Calvin states and I think right now the whole industry is wondering whether this is the genesis of a rap feud on the level of Pac and Biggie or Jay and Nas. With a whole city behind him, massive records, multiple awards, acceptance in South Africa and a co-sign from Cassper Nyovest plus an impeccable work ethic, Calvin is a worthy contender. His hunger is undeniable and he has something to prove so his response may leave battle scars. In any case, I think a number of people are grateful for Calvin for having woken up Brown who has many waiting on his album, Morning Glory.
Brown throws down the gauntlet challenging anybody to a one on one on The Fixx (a hiphop show on Zifm) with a stake of $5000.
While I am an Emcee, I am a fan first and I have to be honest, you might want to think twice before taking out a $5000 loan to battle Breezy (unless of course you are prepared to lose your collateral).
All in all, the song is definitely going to create waves partly due to the controversy but also due to the musical genius in the production and Brown's skilful execution. According to the official release, Beast, Begotten Sun and Yagidojo form the the production team which explains the great production quality and the dope guitar licks that make intermittent appearances in the music are courtesy of Sylent. The photgraphy is done by Atenno and A&R is by Brown's collaborator on Mariia, Gze.
“There is nothing sweet about war” he concludes and we expect casualties before this is all over but as Netsai croons “hondo inoumba rudzi “so maybe when the dust settles Zim hiphop will be stronger for it.
One thing we cannot deny is that there are interesting times ahead.
(feel free to fix any misquotes and drop a comment with your point of view. All opinions expressed are the writer's own and are subject to correction). -- Gerald Synik Mugwenhi
We Run It Credits:
Written & Performed by Jnr Brown
Produced by Beast, Yagi Dojo & BegottenSun
Cover by Rufaro D; Photography Atenno Media
Guitars by Sylent Nqo