Van Buren Records is here to stay despite being "Bad for Press"

7.9/10

Reviewed by Thomas Herron

Brockton’s Van Buren Records is the real deal. The collective is bringing a breath of fresh air to a Massachusetts hip hop scene that has lacked the character and quality of VB for quite some time.


Bad for Press, the group’s first collab album, showcases the range of not only the artists within VB but of each individual making up the collective as well, through displaying sounds extending from Jiles signature griminess to Lord Felix’s unmistakable energy to Meech’s melodic flows and much more. It’s clear that the group has collectively dedicated themselves to the craft and they’re having fun doing it. The 13-track project features vocals from Luke Bar$, 2020 BMA New Artist of the Year SAINT LYOR, Jiles, Lord Felix, Meech, Ricky Felix and Andrew Regis, as well as guest vocals from Dorchester rapper BoriRock and Hartford’s Lonny X.


With tracks like “BRAINDEAD” (the lead single), “It is what it is,” “RELAX,” and “No Interviews,” the passion of VB is clear through an animated display of bars and storytelling, as well as with a number of historical hip hop references sprinkled in - such as when Jiles spits the entendre that “It was a Good Day, rob the corner store for Food and Liquor, feel like Lupe.”


Tracks like “Lil Haiti” display a dedication to storytelling while “Gangbanger” among a number of other tracks on the album make tribute to the braggadocious roots of rap. The versatility of the project increasingly comes through when introduced to the more melody-focused sounds of tracks such as “Nevermind” and “VVS” as well as at times tackling the topic of relationships with songs like “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.”


The album’s production ranges from more electronically produced, trap-esque beats at times to tracks inoculated with real instruments and like most things VB does, it serves to highlight the talents of each of the vocalists featured on the project's thirteen tracks.


What’s truly an accomplishment for VB in producing their first collab project is the ability to construct an album that is both cohesive and versatile. Artists with decades of experience struggle to put to together a cohesive album by themselves, but the chemistry of the friends that make up Van Buren allows for Bad for Press to be both a display of the groups sonic range and a coherent and well executed project that flows from start to finish without a true miss.


Bad for Press is about as good as you can get for a collective’s debut, though the project’s only glaring weakness is that it leaves the listener wanting more of everyone involved. While the collective does have plenty of room to grow in the future, VB came with unmatchable energy on a project that feels like a tape of well executed posse-cuts, though the group has even more sonic and melodic range to display than the album shows.


The group’s injection of their own personality as individuals and a collective is what truly separates Bad for Press and the conscious decision to feature a wide range of sound and ability illustrates VB’s intent to conquer all aspects of the hip hop genre. VB has been going strong since 2014, but Bad for Press is the culmination of years of work and a dogmatic declaration from the collective; Van Buren Records owns the Massachusetts hip hop scene and they’re coming for much, much more.