Capital Bra - CB6 (Review)

Martin_Canine
CAPITAL BRA
CB6
★★★★☆

From “Prince of Afrotrap” to “God of Pop” in less than a year

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On June 22nd of 2018, Capital Bra released his fourth studio album Berlin lebt. And while it wasn’t his first success, it turned Capital Bra, one of many German rappers with a nice chart position to the foremost hip hop star of the moment. At the end of 2018, when his second album of the year, Allein, dropped, Capital Bra was already the top artist of the past few years. Now, in April 2019, he arrives with yet another album, CB6, and by now he is the biggest music artist of the past decades. Plural. And judging by the fact that his latest chart topping single, Cherry Lady, isn’t even on the record, it is likely it won’t be his last release in the near future. Said song, by the way, was his twelfth number 1 hit in Germany and tenth in Austria, breaking two records the Beatles held for almost 50 years.

There is no other option than saying that in less than one year, Capital Bra became the hugest pop sensation the German language world ever witnessed. It’s debatable whether qualitatively there are other artists more deserving of that title (SPOILER: there are), but in terms of commercial success, the hype the MC caused in the last 365 days reached dimensions that objectively haven’t been there before, at least not in German speaking territory. The short time span between 5 Songs in einer Nacht, the first single off Berlin lebt, and his current album CB6, feels like a career other artists achieve over decades, not only because of the incredible amount of hits he had in that period, but also because of how his style grew more and more unique and distinctive in it. It feels like Capital Bra has left his legacy over the course of several years, not just one. At the same time, his three previous releases now appear as mere teasers for what was to come, and it feels as if Berlin lebt is in fact his debut album, as it was his first album as a megastar that was recognized beyond hip hop circles and started the whole uproar.

But despite his impressive career, Capital Bra’s album were never great overall packages. They had a couple of standout tracks, which were usually the singles, while the rest of the music was pretty obviously filler material, if not entirely strange to listen to. I rated his 2018 blockbuster Berlin lebt 3 and a half out of 5 stars and his EP F--kt euch alle 2 and a half stars. I didn’t review his second 2018 album Allein, but it would have also gotten 3 and a half stars like its predecessor, for the exact same reasons. None of the discs made it onto my best of 2018 list, and I still view my opinion as accurate. The records were nice listens, well produced and using the hit formula professionally, but over the course of a whole album, it became apparent only a handful of tunes would leave a lasting impression.

Now CB6 is quite contrary to that. In one way, much less songs have radio earworm potential, even the number 1 hits, but instead they are shining with atmosphere and personality, which makes a much more exciting listening experience, and finally, a well balanced overall package. The established structure of poppy trap/Afrotrap beats, traditionally rapped verses and sing along choruses is almost entirely absent, instead thick layers of autotune distort his voice throughout as he sing-sangs his way through the songs, over beats that are often trippy and drugged out. Despite that, his vocals are far more expressive, and less polished. Often, he emphasizes certain syllables and raises his voice in unpredictable spots. The melodies are positively a tiny bit off-beat, giving the whole thing a more organic feel despite all the electronic effects. This can already be heard on the opening song, Benzema, which starts off with a very rough acapella part in raw autotune. It feels kind of homemade - although later on, professional production kicks in and lasts for all of the album. His Russian accent is even more in the foreground, and he turned the “lelele” adlib to one of his unmistakable trademarks. What happens here is that an artist who successfully performed in a style that other rappers perform in as well develops a unique, distinctive sound that you would recognize in a second.

Despite that, CB6 won’t even be regarded as a dramatic departure by a majority of fans. No matter how in-your-face Capital Bra’s attitude and lyrics may be, the transition to more creative freedom is executed subtly. The strict lines of what Bra did in the past have merely been blurred, so that he doesn’t follow them as much anymore, but those wanting to feel the poppy dancehall vibes of Afrotrap or the head nod inducing trap will find them on here. It’s just feels less forced. Songs like Cabriolet, Legs or Schwarze Locken actually make good pop jams if you look at them that way. But they don’t nearly sound as carefully planned out, polished and chart orientedly composed. Capital Bra allows himself to occasionally improvise his delivery. He gets a little crazy sometimes. And he audibly has fun sing-rapping these tunes.

Songs with an outstanding sense for creating a captivating atmosphere are Capital Bra je m’appelle, Schwarze Locken and Sollte so sein, all of which in the end sounds like hazy, hypnotic ride for the senses. But Click Click is pretty damn obviously the highlight of the disc. Featuring a manic guest appearance by Samra (whose debut album is still highly anticipated), the tune is so insane, so schizophrenic, so unsettlingly brutal, that it makes Billie Eilish almost look like a Disney princess. It’s a 3 minute tour de force featuring the two performers delivering cartoonish vocals about slitting and stabbing, and laughing hysterically over a sick, acid-like beat. This particular song is simply bonkers. It’s B.o.B.’s Out of My Mind level, and maybe beyond.

Lyrically, Bra mostly revolves around crazy flexing… and women. In different ways. Capital Bra je m’appelle is more or less your typical bad-boys-need-love-too jam (a very well done though). Schwarze Locken is about the type of women he likes, which surprisingly isn’t the model/princess you’d expect, but a very direct smoker and drinker who doesn’t use much make up. In the meantime, Prinzessa is about someone who pretends to love him but is actually just after getting a share of his fame. Bra may not be the most inventive lyricist, but he knows how to deliver his topics to make them work out well and keep them interesting. You can’t deeply analyze his words, but when he boasts, he sounds like he’s truly enjoying it, and when he talks relationships, we actually believe him for that song’s duration.

CB6 is a big step forward in the right direction. For the first time, Capital Bra can deliver an entire album full of memorable music, and on top of that, moved away from the familiar formula to fulfill his own vision. It’s not a major departure, but the outcome is less stiff and more alive. What we got here is a work worthy of a man who currently breaks records every other week, and that maybe will have an impact on the scene for the years to come.

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