Brandee Younger, Brand New Life Review

Hip-Hop and Harp


Brandee Younger, Brand New Life Review

By Sylvannia Garutch

brandee-younger-cdBrandee Younger has released her album titled Brand New Life. The GRAMMY®-nominated harpist and composer has teamed up with producer, drummer, and composer Makaya McCraven to create a program that celebrates one of her greatest inspirations, iconic jazz harpist and composer Dorothy Ashby.

The ten tracks consist of original works by Younger, select arrangements of Ashby’s songs and previously unrecorded compositions by Ashby. Younger is joined on various tracks by hip-hop artists Pete Rock and 9th Wonder.  Brand New Life includes guest appearances by Meshell N’degeocello and Mumu Fresh.

“You’re A Girl For One Man Only” opens the album with a beautiful melody and performance by Younger. The song is a composition by Ashby and has never been recorded. The composition was discovered through Younger’s lifelong commitment to Ashby’s history. Younger is a beautiful performer, and her balance of techniques on the harp is outstanding. Joel Ross appears on vibs and turns in a musical performance. For me, the programmed drums are terrible; not sure why Younger chose drum programming over a real musician, but it does not serve the song in any way.

Younger explains, “Creating this album has been a longtime dream of mine. I really had a lot of living to do before being able to execute it, genuinely. The finished product is truly representative of where I am now, and it is an honor to convey that through the compositions of one of my heroes.” “Livin’ and Lovin’ My Own Way” has a peculiar mix of DJ Peter Rock providing a mixture of scratching and rapping. Again the slow breakbeats do not add to the song; the beats become stale and repetitive quickly. As for the sampling, scratching, and rapping, if that is your sound of choice, then you will like this.  However, the beauty of the acoustic harp surrounded by repetitive samples and noises differs from my idea of the best setting to emphasize this beauty.

Brand New Life is undoubtedly a mix of sounds and pulls from contemporary music, especially hip-hop. If viewed with that lens, this is an exemplary project and pushes the hip-hop genre forward. However, from a jazz harp perspective, I missed the beauty of ensemble interactions and real instruments.

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