Credit: Joshua Santora
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"FOREFEATHER" ZAC HILLS-BONCZYK (Bandleader / MC)
AMY GRACE PATIERNO (Bandleader / Singer)
OSEI “BOOGIEMAN” KWEKU AKA OWEN DAVID (Musical Director / Bass Player)
KAI SANDOVAL (Trumpet Player / Brass Section Director)
KENRICK "HEAVY HANDS" McBEAN (Drummer)
BRYAN PASIAN AKA Pazn Doziac (Guitar Player)
MAUKI McGRUDER (Trumpet Player)
BIG VILLAGE LITTLE CITY has had a reputation as a show-stopping live band since the group’s 2016 inception as a cross-pollination between danceable conscious hip-hip and brass-driven New Orleans-style funk. Launched by Minneapolis-bred rapper Forefeather and veteran NYC jazz singer Amy Grace with the intention to build inclusive community using contagiously hooky music, BVLC quickly grew to be a sprawling and diverse tag team of ferociously talented musicians with a devout base of supporters in the most cosmopolitan city in the world. With bass player Osei “Boogieman” Kweku anchoring the groove of BVLC in the live setting, producer Charlie Patierno (Octave Cat) steps in to anchor the group’s sound in the studio. BIG VILLAGE LITTLE CITY’s short-and-sweet debut studio album, Over the Weather, is the soundtrack to a completely unadulterated celebration of all of us, at a time when many would agree that exactly such a thing is needed most.
From the first note of a hypnotic, almost brooding guitar line that introduces the album’s first track, “Snake Oil,” it’s apparent that fierce weather systems of funk approach. When the classic boom-bap of a breakbeat kicks in only seconds later, it’s undisputable. Amy Grace’s mesmerizing alto brings Etta James to mind as she sets a context for the whole album to come, cooing reminiscences on what brought the human race to its current state. When Forefeather interjects with some rapped philosophizing on the appropriate next steps, he sounds like an American Slick Rick that grew up listening to Atmosphere. The song climbs and descends fiercely and relentlessly, boldly showcasing the skills of BVLC’s brass section (it’s not every day you hear a trumpet solo in a hip-hop song) before finally climaxing in a village’s worth of voices, and then aggressively catapulting the listener into the rambunctious second-line brass-band march that is track two, “The Knocks.” At this point, listeners who have just tuned in for the album will no doubt know what an audience-member at a BVLC show learns by the third note played: that all bets are off, and the party is on.
Over the Weather showcases BIG VILLAGE LITTLE CITY’s strengths as a project that is collaboratively driven, but rooted in the hook-driven writing of an eclectic and creative ear. “I’ve never been interested in making just one kind of music,” says Forefeather, BVLC’s primary songwriter. “That’s why I fell so in love with hip-hop, being that it’s essentially just a collage of whatever samples the beat-maker is interested in bringing new life to. This project is really that same energy plugged into a more organic approach. The difference is that we sample styles, like the NOLA second line marching band aesthetic for a song like ‘The Knocks,’ or a stanky slow and low vibe for ‘Between.’ At the end of the day, just like in an entirely sample-built hip-hop track, you have an entirely different, super unique new thing with a similar flavor palette to something you already know and love.”
Nowhere is the stylistic melting pot of BVLC more blended than in the album’s fifth track, “Original Melody.” Driven by another relentlessly danceable breakbeat, an infectious brass hook, and the vocalists’ one-two punch of fierce bars and fiery melody, the song might as well be a 21-firecracker-salute to the sunshine of a Brooklyn summer. Amy Grace, on the song’s inspiration: “One of the first gigs we did together was playing for this huge mobile party that marched flash-mob style through Manhattan, for the sake of bringing some uplifting and spontaneous cheer to people’s commutes. At one point, the event organizer - who was directing the crowd with a megaphone - said ‘if you can’t hear the music, you’re too far away!’ It was too perfect. I started riffing off it, and the words pretty much became the philosophy of the band, eventually inspiring the song ‘Original Melody.’”
Though the album is only six tracks, it’s filled to the brim with every one of the versatile ingredients that make BIG VILLAGE LITTLE CITY a poignant recipe. Mixed by a team that runs on the steam of hip-hop, funk, brass, and bliss, even “a little sip of concoction” will be enough to get you hooked for life.
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