Aloha & welcome OTDHipHop!
Today we have a very special Mixtape Monday installment. We’re featuring Brandon Michael (fka Dopeless), an up and coming artist from Santa Cruz, CA. I have the pleasure of reviewing his new sampler, #SpeakForItself. Proceeds from this sampler will help fund and operate Brandon’s various projects, including one of which is geared towards helping the survivors of domestic violence/sexual abuse.
“For 26+ years I've perpetuated unhealthy behavior. If you took a look at my family history, it would be clear as to why. My family has been affected by domestic violence and other forms of terrible abuse forever. At some point I believed it to be genetic for me to carry on in the same way other males in my family had. But if there's one thing I've learned through writing this project... I am NOT them.”
- Brandon Michael
Check out my track-by-track review of Brandon Michael’s #SpeaksForItself Sampler below:
1) My Name Is Brandon
Yo straight up I was not expecting the trappy/singy vibes from Brandon but it sounds dope! Lol. Listening to it I’m still tripping that he’s on a new wave type of beat. Aside from that, I think this is a good intro track. It has pop and rap elements that flow between each other. It honestly reminds of the Hopsin’s newer material, good shit! The vibe and message seems to be about pushing through limits and overcoming adversity.
The vibe of “Jump” totally switches from the trappy/singy vibes on track 1. Off top, it reminds me of old Eminem, a dark boom bap beat, with hardcore bars and a catchy hook. The lyrics basically talk about taking the “jump” or chance to accomplish your goals, which is dope!
3. That Dude
Sonically, this is my favorite track from this project. The production has a cadence style beat with melodic synthesizers. It’s highly autobiographical; taking the listener back to his school days and through his various dark experiences with abuse, alcoholism, and drug use. He’s hella real with it, even mentioning about being homeless at one point; and then overcoming those adversities with music and community. I’d love to see Brandon perform this live!
4. Speaks For Itself
Again, this reminds of old Hopsin! I’m a fan of Hopsin so that’s a compliment. Lol. “Speaks For Itself” is a cool segway sonically from “That Dude.” The production keeps the same cadence but a darker sound. The mixing and engineering is also really noticeable to me on this track. I like the different effects on Brandon’s voice and helps keep the vibe suspenseful. Lyrically, this is my favorite song from the project. Brandon dives into topics like self-believe, overcoming adversity, and more.
5. Little Lies
This is the last track on this project as Brandon Michael. The following 3 tracks are “bonus” material from when he was Dopeless. “Little Lies” takes a totally different turn from the previous 4 tracks. Production wise, it’s just a clean and clear acoustic instrumental. Brandon comes in heavy with the melody of “It all begins with little lies.” He shares about his issues in intimate relationships, codependency, and more; but also about focusing on bettering yourself and overcoming yourself essentially.
6. Blessing (Dopeless)
I really dig “Blessing!” I’ve actually been a fan of Brandon even from when he was Dopeless, so this song is a classic to me. I love the positivity on this track.
7. Deck of Cards (Dopeless)
I’ve never heard this Dopeless song before, but I dig it! It has a cadenced boom bap style beat, and Dopeless shares a very personal story. You gotta listen to it.
8. Why You Waitin (Dopeless)
This is one of Brandon’s most popular songs as Dopeless, and I’ve actually reviewed it before. This is another classic I’d say. There is also a high quality video to go with it. He shares very deep and dark challenges he faced as a child, such as racism in his own family, his abusive father, and more. Check it out here.
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