The album Throwback To The Future is the sonic link between New York and Brazil, Hip-Hop’s future with its far-reaching past, by BROOKZILL!, a quartet collective of Prince Paul (Stetsasonic, Gravediggaz), Ladybug Mecca (Digable Planets), Rodrigo Brandão (aka Gorila Urbano), and Don Newkirk (Funk City), a band of individuals that discovered a family by stepping out.
Ten years ago, Prince Paul ventured to São Paulo, eager to experience new culture as a DJ. Upon that first journey to Brazil, Paul—who was introduced to Rodrigo through longtime engineer Scotty Hard—says the pair vowed to begin an album. The MC says, “I saw very early on the connection between break-beats and what they play here in the tambor drums at the Candomblé ceremonies. The music that is played during those spiritual rituals, it is just the drums and the chanting. It’s the connection between the Afro-Brazilian experience and Hip-Hop.” “Here’s how we created it: Rodrigo came with a whole bunch of samples, sounds and stuff. I was like, ‘Yo, you know what gives it the Hip-Hop test? Let’s put a beat behind it.,’ reveals Paul.
“So anything we put a beat behind that was funkier than it was [before, we kept]. From that point was when we realized we were using the two [or three] continents and regions together. It just kind of evolved. Once you start putting the lyrics on, then it really gets cohesive.” Rodrigo, who primarily raps in Portuguese is commanding on the mic with a syncopated flow, rich, raspy voice, and crisp cadence.
As the two explored musically, they added two key components to the picture. Grammy winner Ladybug Mecca, known for her smoky, sultry vocals with Digable Planets.
The daughter of two Brazilian Jazz musicians, the Brooklyn, New York native was versed in the language, culture, and rich traditions of Brazil. Moreover, the MC was looking to link her gifts with her heritage.
The other piece to the puzzle came in the form of a 30-year collaborator to Prince Paul. Don Newkirk worked with Paul on Stet’, De La, Chris Rock, and Prince Among Thieves. When Paul was given a Def Jam label, Don’s The Dix were among the flagship acts. In hearing the music, the reclusive artist heard something he connected with. Newkirk says instead of just playing on the album, he was compelled for a more creative role. “It was just magical, when we all came together. It just felt like this family vibe,” Paul reacts, “Newkirk blows your mind. He puts in stuff that I wouldn’t even think of. That’s why I think he was a really good addition to be in the group. It’s those nuances that give it that flavor. Without it, it would sound like a straight up Hip-Hop record.”
The magic that Newkirk spoke of, traveled with the group to Rodrigo’s São Paulo. There, Don and Mecca took in the culture—along with Paul, as Rodrigo organized an elite group of musicians. “These guys, they understand the science of break-beats,” Rodrigo says of the percussionists, horn players, flutists, and more. “They won’t put anything that sounds over the top or corny on those beats.” The players hail from Pharoah Sanders’ band to Prefuse 73, and other outfits.