Brevner – EP by Brevner — “All We Know”
The opening track on Brevner, “Chico,” samples dialogue from Scarface. Tony Montana explains to his companion Chico what he wants: “The world, Chico, and everything in it.” Brevner’s sights are in keeping with Montana’s. After releasing four albums, Matt Brevner seeks international recognition for himself and for his city. Writing in a Facebook post about his EP’s release, he states “It’s about time that #Vancouver got some recognition on the world stage.”
“Chico” features fellow Vancouver artists Within Roots and Stevie Ross, with production credits shared between Brevner, Within Roots’ Nico De Torres, and others. The EP’s final track, “Last Call,” features vocals and production from Calgary-based Fembot. Both tracks deftly mix heavy beats and electronic backtracks with melodic vocals, sung hooks, and Brevner’s subdued raps. The production equally showcases the talents of Brevner and his contributors. Paired with other rappers, however, Brevner’s verses are an afterthought. His verses meld with the ambience on “BNE,” while Memphis rapper Project Pat commands the track. Droning sub-bass, low-key melody and heavy beats are used to a similar effect on “Give a F*CK,” with Atlanta-based Rome Fortune at the forefront of the track with his energetic verse. Though Brevner is at his most dynamic on “Jane Doe (A hoe like YOU),” the track isn’t stronger for Houston rapper Riff Raff’s stuttering repetition of “Heart feels like it’s been ate by a shark.” Given the prominent feature of Southern rappers, comparisons of Brevner’s sound to Dirty South hip-hop are justified. His production style comes through but his narrative perspective fades.
Brevner is at his best when he subtly brings his perspective to the forefront. “All We Know” is one of two tracks on which Brevner is the sole performer and producer. The track represents an artist and a city on the border. Facing barriers to entry — “Still gettin’ searched through customs” — is a reality for any artist travelling to America. More particularly, it is a reality for Brevner as a Canadian hip-hop artist seeking recognition beyond his country’s borders. The video for “All We Know” is set on Vancouver’s streets, often overlooked in favour of mountainous panoramas. He needn’t describe another locale when his city has its own culture and urban narratives.
Brevner doesn’t scream Vancouver; it represents the city perceptively. To acknowledge Brevner’s work, then, is to quietly acknowledge Vancouver in it.
This review was originally published in the April 2016 issue of Discorder Magazine.