Review by Sam
In early 2011, Ruslan, Beleaf, and Mike B of theBREAX joined forces with DJ Wade-O to make the Breax Over mixtape series. In Breax Over, the first of the three-part mixtape series, theBREAX and DJ Wade-O combine to drop signature Breax rhymes over some original production and familiar radio hip-pop beats. The result is forty minutes of head-bobbing beats and rhymes that pack the high-octane of an XL Monster Energy Drink.
Three of the tracks on the mixtape were independently produced by the likes of Sound Collage, Vic Padilla, and CIK productions with guest spots from Theory Hazit and Sho Baraka. The CIK Production track, “Beginning Again”, is a must-listen and what I considered to be the signature track of the project. Ruslan and Beleaf use Beginning Again to rap about the collective struggles they have endured since their last release and their renewed commitment to hip-hop. The track features high synths, trunk-rattling bass drops, snappy snares, and smooth Shaady G vocals. While Ruslan drops his consistently strong rhymes throughout “Beginning Again”, Beleaf shines, showing a level of confidence that might have flown under the radar in some of the other Breax releases.
After “Beginning Again”, the mixtape launches into its radio tracks with theBREAX taking on Kanye’s “Power” before they pair up with Andy “C-Lite” Mineo to man-handle Lil’ Wayne and Drake’s “Right Above It.” Andy Mineo crafts a great hook that meshes well with the track and lays a great foundation for Ruslan and Beleaf. Both emcees deliver again. Ruslan drops gems like, “They sayin’ skinny jeans, I rock some 501s/ they say to worship self, I worship Father, Son/ Holy Spirit, hear it, they sayin Vans and Nikes/ I’m tryna Air Speed, that’s where I stand tonight.” Again, Beleaf rises to the occasion dropping “I don’t care if she’s a diamond or a gemstone/ If she’s not your wife, you let it burn like brimstone/ Top five, yo, The Breax you better mention/ Cause you know we’re better than originals on this song.”
Fans of golden-era hip-hop will love 90s Mix on the second half of Breax Over where theBREAX rhyme over classic tracks featuring a really nice remix of Nas’s “The World is Yours”. Another stand-out from the second half of the mixtape is a mash-up of Chris Brown’s “Deuces” and Kanye West’s “Devil in a New Dress”. Ruslan takes “Deuces” to touch on the struggles of relationship with the world and follows it up with a refreshing verse about the relational difficulties that come with trying to faithfully and earnestly minister to unbelievers in “Devil in a New Dress”.
Rounding out the project, theBREAX march through a J Cole beat to deliver “Not of This World”, team up with Gallery Drive brother, Nomis, to romp through Willow Smith’s “Whip My Hair”, and offer up their version of Kanye’s “Monster” alongside Mikel Anthony.
The first and most noticeable thing about Breax Over is the swag that Ruslan and Beleaf take to the mic. They close up the mixtape in the same manner, rhyming over Lil’ Wayne’s “Six Foot Seven” with lines like “No matter how tall I is, I’ma handle my biz/ Introduce you to The King and I’m not talking about The Wiz” or “Bent, not Catholic but I celebrate Lent/ The less money you make, the more problem you prevent/ the more rhymes I write the better albums we invent/ I slid out the fallopian tube like a Fresh Prince.” However, the brand of swagger you hear from theBREAX is not just marked by cockiness and word-play but, the high level of theological truth and God-inspired wisdom that they so unabashedly add to their projects. theBREAX do not shy away from claiming to faithfully love their wives or openly sharing the Gospel. It also helps that they are funny; on “Brilliant Realness” Ruslan raps one of my personal favorites: “Take em out to Chula Vista, where the border’s at/ Do some house cleaning, where my hoarders at?” Of course, with the humor and honest talk, comes some subjects that some might consider controversial. Breax Over includes some frank and even colorful references to sex. And while I would hardly call a rap group that advocates responsibility and abstinence, controversial, some of the ways that theBREAX address those issues might make more conservative Christians blush. On the other hand, the openness on Breax Over might be a real positive for those who are searching for a way to introduce Christian hip-hop to unfamiliar rap-loving friends.
After dropping an album on Rawkus Records, some might have fully expected theBREAX to record their next mixtape with a guy like Theory Hazit over some exclusive underground production but to then shy away from rhyming over jiggy radio beats with guys affiliated with Reach Records. But if we have learned anything, it is not to put theBREAX in a box. They do their own thing with confidence and then they own it. That process has once again worked. All in all, listening to Breax Over is a blast. Lets hope their next “break” is a long way off.