Singer, rapper, songwriter, engineer, manager, entrepreneur and 3x Grammy nominated Kief Brown is an achieving workhorse with no creative boundaries. Born in New Orleans, Louisiana and relocated to the ATL at the age of 5, Kief has crossed paths with people like Lupe Fiasco and Krazie Bone, among others. He has also savored the Hot 100 Billboard Charts with a view from the top end. No once again Kief Brown delivers another special project with his highly anticipated album “Butterfly Effect”. The album boasts a whopping 11 tracks and has Kief at his best. Perched atop a launching pad into the mainstream, the singer-songwriter weaves through vocal riffs with the confidence of a prizefighter. Kief’s vocal aesthetics adhere to a canvas on which refrains meld into hooks and vice versa. While his prior work marked more traditional breaks in structure, the singer’s unorthodox approach here makes for woozily, assured results.
The musician’s ability to find intricacies in the modern R&B template has always been a strength, but with “Butterfly Effect”, a shift towards eclectic urban bents winds up stealing the spotlight. Melodic shifts that initially go unnoticed reveal themselves to be vital upon repeat listens.
These details are spread throughout the record’s high points. This type of artistic freedom could easily spiral into overindulgence in the hands of lesser artists, but the “Butterfly Effect” is too busy swaggering with Kief Brown’s intoxicating game to slip into limp moments.
‘The High’ kicks off the unique feel of the album. A high-pitched backing vocal sample finds a home under the snappy snare and disarming bass, as Kief establishes an impressive production technique, in which his vocals are prominent enough for the song to be catchy and memorable, yet they still have that unique tinge that treats his tones and intonations like an instrument.
Tracks that deserve to share in this praise include ‘Royal’ and ‘Harder’, which give the listener something to grab and hold onto to, long after the album has finished playing.
“Mannequins” sees Kief Brown step ahead of the R&B /EDM crossover crowd. With juddering, reverb-addled synths that beg for rolling percussion and huge bass lines that break through the tropical instrumentation. Kief’s vocals are largely unpredictable and travel soulfully around the landscape of the song.
An unquestionably smooth landscape, the piano shimmers somewhere in the distance as inspired waves of melody float above the beat. It is certainly a juxtaposition to R&B’s usually simple structure and aesthetic. It is an exciting place to be right now, and reminds us why this crossover genre of music continues to progress and dominate record sales.
“Props” and “Need Me” take the tempo down a notch, but maintains its urgency and Kief’s edgy sandpaper vocals. “Savage” is one of album’s highlights. Seamless transitions from rapping to singing are just some of the tactics the listener can hear Kief execute with authenticity on this track, during a stroke of originality and inspiration.
It’s easy to distinguish from this performance alone that Kief Brown has established his own, original lane within contemporary urban music. Though his creative footprints are littered all over successful collaboration efforts, I think Kief makes his best, most-inspired music on his own, when he’s left to his introspective, experimental devices.
This is pretty clear on this album, which closes with the tracks “Top of the Line” and “Good Dreams”. “Butterfly Effect” bounces between several genre influences for its sound. It is packed with moments that flex Kief Brown’s talents and ability to produce a catchy tune, while never sacrificing his creative integrity. Look out for this album and watch as Kief Brown slaps the industry across the face with his brilliance.