Album Review :: Adam WarRock and Mikal kHill :: The Browncoats Mixtape
I feel that I need to preface this album review with an admission that I am a total nerd fanboy. When I grew up I was a tried and true Star Wars fanboy, I even was in a Star Wars fan group in junior high with some of my closest friends. However, as high school drove, on Mr. Lucas began poking at my childhood. The passion died. I had talked too much trash in jest to turn to Star Trek, so I looked around for some new science fiction to cling to. The summer I came home from my first year of college a friend of mine introduced me to a beautiful ‘verse that not only fit the niche I longed for in science fiction, it embodied that feeling of rebellion and imperfection that made me interested in Star Wars in the first place. I still get goosebumps thinking back to the first time I saw the Battle of Serenity Valley. I was in love with this masterful blend of science fiction and westerns.
Likewise, as many of you know, I love me some nerdcore hip-hop. Enough to be the Music Director for a podcast and organize a nerd music festival to give it a place to be showcased alongside chiptunes, video game inspired music, and all the other nerd music families – but nerdcore was the first community that I fell into deeply. However, around last year, I was beginning to lose my passion for the movement. The scene was getting stale – most of the community was doing the same thing over and over, and it didn’t feel like hip-hop. Then, I met Adam WarRock. Like a breath of fresh air, I fell in love with nerdcore hip-hop all over again. It wasn’t until listening to this album that I noticed the correlation between my love of Adam’s music and Firefly. I tell you all this so that you know that it would have required a lot of work on WarRock and kHill’s part to make sure I didn’t enjoy this album.
On The Browncoats Mixtape, Mikal kHill provides the beats and the occasional backing vocals and Adam WarRock rocks the mic with a handful of phenomenal guests including Jesse Dangerously, TribeOne, and the ThoughtCriminals, kHill’s rap duo. Harnessing the theme of the need for independence, WarRock uses that as a vehicle in the first musical track, Firefly, to preach about the greatness of fan love and the do-it-yourself mentality of independent music, and it just goes from there. kHill’s production is not only spot-on but a high point of the album for me. Almost singularly sampling every inch of the beats from the series and film’s original scores helps immerse the listener in the Firefly ‘verse. In the liner notes, it was mentioned that the original intent was to sample old Spaghetti Westerns and it was Mikal’s idea to sample the original soundtracks to Firefly and Serenity. Each successive track builds on the last to create a rich setting. WarRock populates that setting with all of the characters that we have each fallen in love with so long ago, working together to craft a great fan tribute to a great franchise.
More than that, there’s a purpose with each track, something you rarely see in hip-hop nowadays, be it nerdcore or otherwise. For example, in “Leaf on the Wind“, WarRock doesn’t write a track for fan-favorite character, Wash, laden with the funny witticisms that defined him, he creates a serious and soulful track with an insight into the character’s core, and the song relates to so much more than fan service.
I’d normally do a track by track analysis, but I feel that if I go too in depth with this review that I’ll cheapen your experience. Part of what I loved about listening to The Browncoats Mixtape was being able to build my own thoughts and connect in my unique way to this album. I don’t want to rob you of that experience. It’s a simple matter of whether or not you enjoy hip-hop, nerdcore, science-fiction, westerns, Firefly. If you enjoy just one of those, this is a required album.