Recommend if you like: Young Thug, Rich Chigga, Schoolboy Q
Expectation: Higher Brothers are a Chinese hip hop group. Bear with me though: they’re really good. At least, they sound really good. The flows are insane, the rhymes are different and unique, and they rap like their lives are depending on it. Higher Brothers has 4 members: Masiwei, Psy P, DZ, and Melo. The group released their first mixtape this year, which you can listen to here and download here.
- Intro – Samples both Roy Ayers’s “Everybody Loves the Sunshine” and Ugly God’s “Water”. Nothing else needs to be said.
- (track 2) – A very Meek Mill-ish beat and hook, and even some resemblance in flows. Not my favorite, but not bad either.
- (track 3) – Psy P murders his verse, and Masiwei sounds especially sharp. The beat isn’t great, but it at least provides a solid foundation for the group to let loose.
- Facts Remix – Psy P makes sure you know his name, Melo and DZ hold their own, and Masiwei just doesn’t stop going in.
- Cut It Remix – Another song where the beat seems to be nothing more than a platform for the verses. Psy P would easily own the song if not for guest performer Sleepy Cat coming in and dropping kinds of rhymes I’ve never even heard before.
- (track 6) – Dream Koala’s We Can’t Be Friends is a beautiful song, and this is probably my favorite use of it in a hip hop song to date. Psy P delivers really nice verses and DZ’s hook is hilarious.
- 7-11 – More of a familiar trap sound than their usual, but with an absurd verse from Masiwei near the end.
- Okay Remix – A solo cut from Masiwei; not a highlight for me, but one of the best beats on the tape.
- (track 9) – Not a fan of the beat here, and Psy P and DZ even become a bit too over the top for me.
- Gang Remix – Everyone does their thing, but Melo raps like he’s got something to prove, delivering the sharpest and most intricate verse on the song.
- Cosplay – This is probably what you’d imagine Chinese hip hop would sound like, and its admittedly not a great beat or hook. Nevertheless, the rapping is still impressive.
- Black Cab – OH BOY. If it weren’t for this video I wouldn’t be writing this right now. I love this song. The beat is great, the hook is catchy, and DZ goes absolutely nuts.
- Without You – An R&B-influenced cut that shows DZ and Psy P sounding especially smooth.
- (track 16) – Another laid-back track, though the group’s rapping remains consistently intense.
- (track 17) – Until I heard the doubling on Masiwei’s voice on this track, it hadn’t even occurred to me that the group hadn’t even really dipped their toes into the possibilities that come with higher budget production; as diverse as the group’s performances are on this project, time and money could open countless doors for the group creatively. In this instance, the doubling is a bit roughly done, but the beat is pretty cool, which makes up for it.
- (track 18) – Really nice beat, great verses, meh hook. Not a standout track, but still pretty nice.
- Outro – Exactly the right music for the group to drop the mic and walk out.
Overall: I really, really want these guys to have a career. I don’t have an inkling of an idea what their lyrics are about, but its clear to me that there is talent on this tape. There are plenty of flaws, of course: the production is very basic, with flaws in the mix becoming obvious the moment you turn up the volume on decent speakers. The group has a lot of room to mature and diversify their sound, and all of the hooks had room for improvement (though that’s an issue with most trap music). However, that this project is so enjoyable despite the limited resources and language barrier is a huge testament to the energy and charisma that these young artists bring to the table.