The Phantom Tollbooth

Brainwash Projects : The Rise and Fall of
Artist: Brainwash Projects
Label: Jackson/Rubio
Tracks: 16 tracks

I first heard Brainwash Projects on the Spin This sampler. I wasn't impressed. They were blatantly hip-hop, an unusual surprise with all the gangster rap in the market, but their lyrics were too aggressive. They tried to fit in too many words, and although they discussed Christian stuff, they also discussed girls body parts and getting drunk. But the beat was tight and the melody was cool so I saw potential, but not future superstars.

I bought the full album on a whim and was shocked to hear the maturity. Now they have their own sound and could be picked out of the Christian hip-hop/rap crowd. This album is reminiscent of old The Roots and Pharcyde albums. Incorporating jazz and tight beats, with a quick flow in their freestyling, the BP's, as they call themselves, are Pigeon John and B'Twice. DJ Coy does some of their mixing as well.
The first full track brings in a jazzy half step beat. B-Twice and Pigeon rhyme back and forth about getting played at the club which sets the stage for the rest of this lighthearted album. They go on to flow about how Christ has supplied all their needs in "Want for Nada," a track with a good breakbeat.

A much better new version of "Goodtime Hotel" from Spin This is on the album. It was remixed and it does without the verse that had too many words and non-Christian content. The addition of background vocals also improved it.

"Powermoves" has good lyrics, but I like the mixing better. The samples make the song sound like real hip-hop, not sugar coated Christian rap.

Track eight is a freestyle in which they decide to battle with a piano background that sounds like Dr. Octagon, who are the most innovative performers in the industry. They incorporate many samples in their mix and make up an oddball combo. The Drunk Kings, friends of the BP's, rip it up on "Speeding Porsches." The English accent adds a funky but sweet sound. I would like to hear an album by them alone.

The best track on the album is "A Cold Day in Hell." B-Twice states his stand for Christ in a unique way:

        I rap for the hell of it,
        so you can feel the heat.

He goes on to say other plays on words about his walk with God that reveal the MC spent time on his rhyme. B'Twice leaves the listener wondering and pondering about their own faith.

The instrumental track on here is cool and I found myself freestyling to it but some tracks weren't that good. "Erosion" has a lame beat and instrumentation that would drive me up the wall. "Muchas Muchachas" was a song all about "girlies" and "freaks" and left me wondering who they made that in honor of; it seemed to be put on just to take up space.

These are West Cost kids, but the album centers on East Coast hip-hop, not the Gangster rap that tends to be dominant on the West Coast. "Continue," featuring Sandra Stephens's, is pure East Coast, Raekwon sounding all the way. It has a gritty drumbeat and has an eerie melody reminiscent of a Mafia movie. Stephens' finishing touch is excellent and it ends the album on a serious note.

All in all, the lyrics are sometimes too wordy and rushed, but the music is awesome. The nice beats are break oriented, and their use of symphony and piano show that they didn't rush most of the mixing. I just wish some songs had no lyrics, but I like the majority of the CD and recommend it for hip-hop fans. It's unique and kind of grows on you. Fans of gangsta' rap need not apply because this is a lighthearted album. It's just pure, uncut, holy hip-hop.

By Justin W. Jones (3/1/99)