Juri - Bratans aus Favelas (Review)

Martin_Canine
JURI
Bratans aus Favelas
★★★1/2☆

I dearly missed hip hop albums like this in the last few months. While last year was a very strong one for German hip hop in the hardcore, gangsta and oldschool subgenres, 2018 got its main focus on Afrotrap and trap, which of course brought us some decent tunes, but also several very basic ripoffs that copy the formula without much effort put into it, with the same overly happy, summery beats and some standard bragging phrases on top. It was about time for someone to take it back to darker, more epic territories combined with technical skill, as was the case last year, and this someone appears to be newcomer Juri.

Juri is the first new artist signed to Bikini Bottom Mafia, the label founded by SpongeBozz, and is rumored to be the voice behind his mysterious long time collaborator Patrick Bang (who, much like SpongeBozz is based on SpongeBob, is clearly inspired by Patrick Star). And indeed, flow and pronunciation have their similarities, although in the end, it’s not all too important for this release. Much like SpongeBozz threw away his cartoony but morbid persona for his last few singles and rapped as Sun Diego again (a name which he used before his breakthrough), Juri appears as the aggressive, testosterone-drenched man he naturally is.

It’s pretty obvious what Sun Diego saw in this man that he picked him as the first artist other than himself to release a studio album on BBM. With thick Russian accent and a vocal delivery sounding like a constant threat (and one to take very seriously) he adds some street credibility to the label that the physically slim and musically comical SpongeBozz can’t provide despite being one of Germany’s best technical rappers. In addition to that, Juri is capable of multisyllabic rhyme schemes, which is one of battle rap’s biggest quality seals, and always keeps in time with the beat, something that even many of the biggest lyrical geniuses of the German rap scene have problems with.

Despite being his first release on Bikini Bottom Mafia and his first album to get mainstream attention, Bratans aus Favelas is actually his fourth record. There was one album in 2009 under the name Joka (which he probably doesn’t use anymore because another rapper of that name rose in the meantime), one collaboration with John Webber from 2015 (a rapper who was once close with the gang around SpongeBozz but has since become a persona non-grata in their circles), and then his first solo album as Juri, also in 2015. There is a clear development throughout his discography. While the first album had a massive production with great choruses, Juri’s rapping was pretty basic and standard. His technique improved on the collaboration project, but his partner as well as the selection of beats weren’t all too overwhelming. The next album contained both good rapping and good beats, and with Bratans aus Favelas, he expanded on this premise, which finally paid off, as it's not only his first album that charted, but went straight to the top of the charts.

Produced widely by Digital Drama (who was responsible for all SpongeBozz releases) and Barish Beats (who made the beats for Juri’s previous effort), we get a massive carpet of sounds made of dramatic choirs, atmospheric pianos, massive strings, melodic guitars and, of course, deep 808s. Like any good hardcore hip hop instrumental, the beats on the album are drenched in epicness, aggression and atmosphere, all paving the way for Juri’s just as menacing vocal delivery, flow and rhymes. It’s a combination that hits hard like a fist to the face. Outstanding bangers on the album are Juri Boyka that has him imitating a machine gun over a beat that sounds like the soundtrack of a boss battle of an epic fantasy video game, the single Refugees with a great guest part by Sun Diego, and Yallah, whose chorus has the earworm quality to kick every trap artist off the radio, if it wasn’t for the brutal content of the lines.

With all that praise, it needs to be added that Juri still has to develop on a lyrical level. While his technique is cutting edge, his songs revolve around the same old two topics: street violence and being better than others. That in and of itself is not a problem, as the same goes for Farid Bang, who is one of the finest German rappers. The point where Juri still needs to improve is creativity and finding his own artistic vision. There is barely any word play, and barely anything to distinct him from other technically superb rappers - instead he is very straightforward and in your face, and stays on a rather superficial level. It shows especially on the two songs featuring Sun Diego, who delivers scene stealing verses featuring hilariously politically incorrect comparisons, as well as a proud celebration of his Jewish heritage. In contrast, Juri sticks to the classic thug formula with no personal touch.

But all in all, Bratans aus Favelas is a very nice treat for fans of German battle rap and hardcore hip hop, with larger than life production and awesome technique. It’s not yet a masterpiece and there’s still room for further development - but this time not on a technical level, but in terms of ambition.

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