Click to hear: “The Tourist”
Four years in the making, A Fitfull Sleep is the sophomore solo album by tireless Portland indie rapper Brzowski., whose CV of CDRs releases, collaborations and contributions to others’ comps is lengthy. Fans of Boston’s Fameless Fam collective will appreciate the word-dense rap style he employs on Sleep. Fans of pop-hop will not.
Most of the production is by Brzowski’s longtime collaborator, Agent8. The mid-tempo beats and menacing keys are common in politically conscious hip hop and pair well with Brzowski’s raspy, insistent rap (“The Tourist,” with its bob-inducing funk-rock sample, is a standout among Agent8’s work here.) But it’s the deviations from this formula that catch the ear, like the light guitar line DJ Graymatter lays on the track he produced, “Easy Angel of Spruce St.,” and the funky flute sample in the Chris Mick-produced “Travelogos,” which also has percussion by Todd “The Rocket” Richard and a tasty solo at the end by doom/flamenco guitarist Leif Sherman Curtis.
Brzowski’s delivery is a barrage of tongue-twisting proclamations and shards of spoken word poetry. He crams so many words into each verse that it’s hard to catch what he’s saying, but a close listen reveals some remarkably clever and original lyrics that mix the personal and political with ease. A taste from “Friendly Fire”: “Codified and alphabetized, ‘til you can swallow your own lies / whitest wash, Tom Sawyer croaked and rolled over on its allies / diaper soaked, check the replicants for defects / duck friendly munitions, noting the innocent in a war of attrition / You can’t eat, drink, smoke, spend, or fuck respect … I’ve tried”
Brzowski cuts deeper than so many peers who’re still rapping about weed, women and wealth. If you dig alternative white-boy rap, but Mac Miller isn’t your steez, give your head A Fitful Sleep.
— Anders J. Nielsen
Brzowski performs with DJ Moshe during The Smoke & Mirror Circus on Fri., July 8, at Geno’s, 625 Congress St., Portland, at 8 p.m. Tix: $8 (21+).