There’s something about Brooklyn. Something unspoken, but felt by all who live there. Something mysterious and intriguing to all who don’t, but I’d go even further to say that there is something special about the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. Something beautiful on its noisy blocks. Something genius in its little brown babies. Something normal and abnormal in its pulse. I think all residents would agree that Bed-Stuy deserves its own theme music. Brooklyn transplants, Allan Cole (most commonly known as Algorythm) and Darien Victor Birks (of flwrpt) have created just that; theme music.
Allan and Darien together, form the instrumental duo, The Stuyvesants. Their first project, Brooklyn’s Finest is an oddity in today’s music, only because there are no lyrics, just music. Notice, I didn’t say beats, though most would surely consider them as such. Although beats seem a bit limiting and arbitrary when describing Brooklyn’s Finest. Instead, these are more like snippets of life, translated sonically.
The truth is, though some of the song titles reference streets in Bed-Stuy, like “Greene Ave. Anthem,” and “Jefferson Ave. Theme,” and even one that references one of the public housing complexes, “Roosevelt Projects Jam Session”. No one really knows how these Brooklynisms influenced the music. No one knows if the song, “Took Her Curls Out,” was a song in response to watching a girl take her curls out, or if the song is supposed to make you think of a girl taking her curls out. It’s much like the work of abstract painters. The title of the piece may not resonate right away when held up against the piece itself. The Stuyvesants are like musical painters painting abstract brushstrokes of Brooklyn, and because of this fact, the bigger question then becomes, ironically, a simple question: How does the music make you feel?
On a very basic level, the music is masterful. Allan and Darien composed interesting, head rocking soundscapes, around already poignant though understated samples. For instance, on “The Fire (Untrue),” taken from The Doors “Light My Fire,” they somehow managed to turn this into a soulful and almost sultry groove, with a crisp, snappy snare drum and swelling organ for the melody. Any emcee or singer with their salt would want to lay a verse or two over it and that basically goes for the entire album. So, though for The Stuyvesants, this album is a Brooklyn manifesto, to the listening public at large, especially outside of Bed-Stuy, this is fresh inspiration for new rhymes and melodies.
To me, a Bed-Stuy resident, Brooklyn’s Finest is theme music. I pump “Stuyvesant Swing” when I’m walking up Fulton Street past the bodegas and “everything stores.” I rock to “Sunrise in the Stuy,” in the early morning when I’m walking to the A train, and “Hustlers” when I need reminding of what it takes to make it in this town. For me, and hopefully for other Bed-Stuy inhabitants, these are the songs playing in the movies of our lives. It’s a soundtrack to our struggles, our triumphs, our folks and our futures.
I tip my hat to The Stuyvesants for creating something conceptually rich, as well as musically brilliant. Unfortunately on their next album they’ll probably have to have a song called, “White People with Tiny Dogs,” but hey, I have no doubt that these guys will figure out a way to make even that sound great.