Kev Brown’s Take On Jay Z’s Black Album Was An Unauthorized Remix That Surely Is Official (Album Stream)
Upon its November, 2003 release, Jay Z’s The Black Album beckoned an onslaught of remixes. Ironically, the Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam Records LP is heralded for its star-studded production (Kanye West, Eminem, Just Blaze, Pharrell Williams, Timbaland, 9th Wonder, DJ Quik, etc.). Still, in his ever-innovative foresight, Jay encouraged the masses of bedroom producers and upward to tackle the potent vocals of his perceived farewell album. Out of this open-challenge emerged critical musical voices like 9th Wonder (despite being on the original album due in part to an unauthorized Nas remix), Danger Mouse, and RJD2.
Another producer who shined in the free-for-all was Kev Brown. More than a year prior, Brown (a product of the same Low Budget Crew that honed Oddisee, Sean Born, Peter Rosenberg, and Kenn Starr) had worked on DJ Jazzy Jeff’s acclaimed The Magnificent album. He’d worked on De La Soul’s AOI: Bionix album a year before that. The A Touch Of Jazz affiliate was making noise on his own in an era of hard to earn industry tactics. Still, he wanted a shot at what is arguably the most important album of the decade.
Unlike others, Kev Brown tackled eight songs, not the whole multi-platinum LP. With a warming sense of instrumentation, Kev took on the offerings from the Roc album that many Heads gravitated towards. Feeding off of bass and drums, Kev Brown did what so many of the producers playing Jay Z couldn’t—he played the background. That’s not to say that the music was not great, it was—and is. However, like beat-masters Pete Rock, Questlove, and No I.D., Brown knew when to let the lyrics shine and build around them. Only a remixer could feel the songs and project new color, new dimension, and new value. The Brown Album, still associated with Kev’s career, did just that.
Since his remix project, Kev has helmed a reunion with Kenn Starr, and done dutiful work with Hasaan Mackey, and others. He remains an indie Rap luminary, creepin’ on a come-up.