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Braintax (AKA Joseph Christie) is a UK Hip Hop emcee best known for his individual and pseudo-political style aswell as critical lyrics and an unconventional approach to his music compared to most artist's in the same genre.
He is sometimes referred to as 'Joey Brains' or 'Brando Flux' in a way similar to how Eminem is sometimes called 'Slim Shady.' Braintax has released 3 full length albums; firstly 'Biro Funk' in 2001, then this album 'Panorama' five years later. In 2008 he released a final album called 'My Best And Last Album' and announced his retirement from the hip-hop game and dispanded his record label 'Low Life Records' much to the devastation of his fans and the disappointment of the whole UK rap scene.
Braintax differs from most rappers in his level of honesty. He talks about his life as how it is and any embelishment is usually under the guise of 'Brando Flux' his James Bond stylee alter ego. He is very critical of the UK political parties and has much vitriol for the US administration. The refreshing thing is that he is very well informed and his opinions are free-thinking and uncensored. In his songs the lyrical content can be just as impressive and important, if not more, than the actual song itself.
Panorama is a thirteen track offering which runs just over 43 minutes. Presented in a cardboard sleeve picturing Braintax against a mountainous landscape it is nothing short of satisfactory and the album contains enough decent tracks for it to merit your attention. Even if you don't really like rapping, some of the political and socio-environmental messages offered up are fascinating or at the very least, an intriguing commentary.
=== PaNoRaMa ===
Track 1 [All I Need]
A slightly cheesy but inspirational sample is used to create the beat for this opening track. The beat doesn't flow particularly smoothly and the admittedly, this is a bit of a slow beginning to the album. Maybe not a great way to hook a listener in as the song is a little innocuous. The lyrics are reasonable but unfortunately, the song isn't supported by a strong beat so it becomes a somewhat non-event.
Track 2 [Can We (skit)]
A sample of a politician asking an advisor about terrorism and his people's reaction and the advisor informing him that the people are being to turn away from the government for lying about a war and the state of their economy. A minimalistic beat plays throughout in the background and as the conversation dies away, so does the music.
Track 3 [Syriana Style]
A middle eastern wind instrument (like an arabian trumpet - sorry I don't know the technical term) leads the front in this track and causes the track to slowly slither through the intro until the drum roll hits and the pace increases. Braintax raps at a fairly high speed with lyrical competence and some brilliant points regarding the wars against Iraq and Afghanistan. Once again, the beat is lowkey and the actually flow of the song is practically defined by the lyrics and their delivery. The choruses steal soundbites of George Bush promising the Earth to the people who we so kindly 'liberated.' The lyrics from Braintax are great and poke fun at the politicians of today, question the perception of British around the world and asks what future the past 10 years events will lead to. A powerful track which will interest anybody with a social conscience. Not the best tune to a song but the lyrics are astonishing at times.
It's a load of crap, like planes made them two towers collapse
Like that! Straight down your map - when we're old and grey
Kids'll be like 'Mum... ? Dad...?... Surely Bush and Co. were the enemy?'
same way no-one believes these days Oswald killed Kennedy
Changed foreign policies the remedy, this was a war about energy supply
It weren't about terror thats a god damn lie...
The war on terror's racism in disguise and we still don't vote when foreigners die!!
Track 4 [Monsoon Funk]
The beat begins with a timid bassline and muted drums. It is quite bare at times but still retains a nice sense of funkiness which is relieving considering the track title. Braintax raps about himself, his healthy attitude and outspoken opinions. Some clever lines with nice rhymes and he even explains where his name comes from. Some decent DJ scratching in the chorus adds an extra angle to the beat but overall the track is a little simple to start raving about. Lyrically tight and a reasonable beat but lacking a little bite.
Track 5 [Good Or Bad]
Featuring Braintax's partner in crime 'D'Mystro (I saw them do this track together live) this track is the first to feature a guest vocalist, but it won't be the last on the album. Good or Bad refers to the way a girl behaves or the effect she has on the guy who is interested. Braintax's verse rap about how he likes good girls while Mystro takes care of the naughty girls in his verses. The two rappers fit very well together on most tracks and this is no exception. The hook is a little dull since it repeats itself quite alot but the verses are good and the song definitely has some appeal. This track was featured on Mystro's 'Tip of The Mysberg Volume 2' mixtape but with Braintax's last verse cut out.
Track 6 [Anti-Grey]
The second of three album guests appears here. 'Dubbledge' who I have never heard anywhere but this track. Although I am assured by wiipedia that he does have a slightly more extensive career. The subject of the song deals with nationalism and being 'British.' It deals with topics of immigration, racism, politics, history and media influence. A very critical track again with solid lyrics although the beat is a little weak but as with lots of Braintax's, concentrating on the lyrics means that this is not such a problem. Dubbledge's vocal delivery is a little unconventional but the content of his verse and his general performance is quite pleasing. A decent track.
Track 7 [Last Tenner]
This track follows 'Brains' through his deliberations of how to utilise his last £10 note. The beat has a slightly more prominent bassline and drums than usual although it is still pretty tame when compared to most hip-hop. The chorus of 'F*ck it, Let's Go And Get Drunk' might strike a chord with one or TEN of you. A lot of the song slyly pokes fun at binge driinking and town centres in the early hours of weekend mornings. 'Trippin' off the neon and the flesh on show - I've spent my last tenner so I'm walkin home.'
Track 8 [The Grip Again]
This track is a follow up to a track from Braintax's first album called 'The Grip' and it talks of military injustice and invasion of a foreign land. It seems like he raps about this sort of thing often but this track has a beautiful perspective. He raps from the perspective of a young arabic teenager who decides to become a suicide bomber. The lyrics are from the perspective of a young Palestinian and the first verse details the boy deciding and reasoning to carry out a bombing. The other verses ski over the politics then detail the young boys journey. He poses as a BBC cameraman and rigs himself with explosives. A truly inspirational track, a decent beat which adds to the atmosphere but really intelligent analysis and lyrics which force empathy upon you. A very artistic track in parts.
I made it to the city, a false ID, my English is good. I'm BBC
Cameras for props, see I'm well prepared, ready for death but of course I'm scared
That aint nothing, I'm way more frustrated, sick of being a victim, being subjugated
This is a war, I've a right to fight, give my life for the cause in the heat of the night
The street's packed and the checkpoint's busy, I fill up my lungs and my senses are dizzy
Sounds and the smells of a place called earth where human rights vary on your place of birth
For what it's worth I'ma redress a bit of balance, not brainwashed just prepared to e a martyr
Young firestarter and the world won't act as I detonate my body - Take Some Dignity Back!'
Track 9 [Pick A Subject]
The final cameo on the mic introduces Verb T who joins Braintax to rap about not being able to decide what to rap about. Yea I think that sentence makes sense. the chorus of 'It's easy to talk about nothing, difficult to talk about something' is a very true statement about the lack of substance and variation to most hip hop. The rappers touch a few different subjects and the verses are pretty well written and tightly delivered although the song isn't quite right. It works but is not the strongest track on offer. The song has highlights but for some reason, maybe the sample on the beat, I can't see it going down to well in the mainstream.
Track 10 [Decade]
This track reminisces of the 1980s. Both personas of the decade. Braintax talks of how happy me was a a youth at the time despite not realising at the time. He speaks of many fads and pop culture aspects from the time but inevitably also touches on the political turmoil in the Uk at the time. the song is interspersed with news clips from the 80s and a distorted electro beat adds to the ambiguity of the track's mood.
Track 11 [Run the Yards]
The most intrusive beat for this track when compared to the others on the album. The drums are untidy and prominent with a very deep bassline and an intermittent brass sample every few bars. The lyrics have their high points but the track has little rhythm to it and is one of the weakest overall.
Track 12 [Back to the Riviera]
This track is a sequel to 'Riviera Hustle' from Braintax's first album 'Biro funk.' The original tack featured another UK artist called Jehst and the two vocalist spoke of journeying to the french riviera with rented tuxedos and fake IDs to scam high society and generally blag themselves a millionairre/007 lifestyle with nothing but scams and lies. This second track is minus Jehst but features easily the best beat on the album, possibly the only one could imagine coming close to dancing to. A really funky and stylish beat compliments the hustle and bling rapping from Braintax and it is easily the smoothest coolest track on the album and is musically, the best track aswell. The track details Joey going back to the riviera alone, sunning himself with celebs, scamming deposits for non-existent cars, conning his way into the yacht club and card-counting in the monte carlo casinos. A really good track which comes just as you think the album has run out of ideas. In the final verse he suggests he has made so much that he can give up hustling, despite still feeling the urge and desire to carry on. It is almost as the original 'Riviera Hustle' which is quite a commendable achievement.
They might have seen me in the chase from the Marina to the Dock doing the Riviera Hustle,
Might haveseen me counting cards in the casino or on that big yacht doing a deal with Al Pacino,
I kept a low profile, there was a case of Mr Ripley and a few lost files
Five years in the woods, now I'm back on the hush
These ex-pats don't know me, I'm about to get flush!
Track 13 [Exit Plans]
A thoughtful and restrained track. With a slow but pleasant beat.. the track opens with a simple guitar loop and samples of Al Pacino but I'm not sure from which film. The song details with global warming and exit plans refer to more than just the end of the album. He criticises consumer demand and wasteful actions aswell as the political ignorances and refusals which have exacerbated the problem. A mature and reasoned track which as usual for Braintax, makes a very competent and intellectual point. A decent way to the end the album and another well informed opinion.
=== Overall ===
Panorama is a distinctive album in that there are not many rappers who would forfeit singing about 'hoes, bling, gats, rocks and rims' to address more important social issues and political agendas of powerful people. Braintax has to be one of the most intelligent rappers I have ever come across and his musings will interest anyone with a care for the state of our nation or the international realtions and issues. He is a very clever commentator who echoes the perspectives of many and whilst this is a very commendable thing to do, by focusing so much on the actual content of the track, the actual musical aesthetics sometimes end up suffering.
At times the album has weak beats but it is rare that the vocals are weak. The album is probably not very commercially viable in mediums such as the pop charts but as an artistic release or a hip hop record, this album really does have plenty to offer and is a worthwhile use of 45 minutes of your life. It may even teach you something or alter your perspective on an issue, if only a little.
The album does not have many 'bangers' and doesn't really encourage moving and shaking very often, it prefers to request a contemplative and reflective listener who will take notice of the lyrics, not just pick out a bassline and the chorus. The music is worthy of analysis and whilst it may seem at time that Braintax is a little critical of politicians and media, he offers up his reasoning and evidence to explain why. 'Syriana Style' has a fantastic viewpoint on modern politics and the 'War on Terror' where he echoes my own sentiments that the war was about enrgy supply rather than defence. Also, 'The Grip Again' is from a first person perspective of a Palestinian militant and offers a contrasting perspective, if a similar opinion. These two tracks are more than just songs, they should be played in parliament and if you have any political feelings on the subject matter, you will be impressed by the content of the tracks. Along with the suave 'Back to the Riviera' these three tracks are easily the strongest and I would use them to sell the album to anyone.
There are a fair few other strong tracks and I would say that the only real bad track is 'Run The Yards.' Altogether, this is a good album with plenty of enjoyable tracks on offer, some really intelligent and meaningful lyrics and it is a credit to Braintax's discography. It may be a little weak on the musical side at times but that feels a little unimportant when the man with the microphone has so many interesting things to say.
also posted on www.ciao.co.uk
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 All I Need
2 Can We
3 Syriana Style
4 Monsoon Funk
5 Good Or Bad - Braintax & Mystro
6 Anti Grey - Braintax & Dubbledge
7 Last Tenner
8 Grip Again (A Day In The Life Of A Suicide Bomber)
9 Pick A Subject - Braintax & Verb T
11 Run The Yards
12 Back To The Riviera
13 Exit Plans