Maffew Ragazino’s Sermon Falls A Bit Short On ‘Brownville’s Jesus’ Mixtape
“I came from the gutta, a place where dreams are broken, and memories best forgot. Welcome to Brownsville,” says Brownsville legend, Mike Tyson. This is how Brownsville’s Jesus begins, a mercurial effort that has its highs and lows, and leaves the listener wanting more, but not necessarily in a good way.
Brownsville’s Jesus is broken up into two parts, “New Testament” which consists of 10 previously unreleased songs, and “Old Testament”, which consists of 10 songs which were previously released. The mixtape starts off with what should have been a tone-setting monologue from a Brownsville legend, Mike Tyson, who talks about his struggles growing up in Brownsville, with an addict mother and a pimp for a father. The problem is though, while Mike’s monologue exemplifies New York; tough, gritty, and the constant struggle of survival, this mixtape does not play off that. At least, the “New Testament” portion doesn’t. What is interesting with this mixtape is that the two portions sound like two completely different projects, with the “New Testament” sounding like it was more tailored for to be radio-friendly, while the “Old Testament” portion sounds like the New York “renaissance rap” that critics have been praising coming out of New York over the past year, with collectives such as Pro. Era and A$AP Mob leading the way, along with MCs such as Action Bronson, Troy Ave, and others.
The “New Testament” portion features a lot of club ready songs that lack real substance, including a few songs that miss their mark, and make you question whether or not Ragazino just threw them on the tape to even both sections out. For example, at the end of “Hectic” there is literally 1:30 of just the instrumental, no rapping. It’s as if Ragazino did it on purpose to let the listener see if they could rap better than the poor effort that was recorded on the actual song. With that being said, the “New Testament” portion has its bright spots. “Dipset Forever” is obviously an ode to the Harlem legends, while even borrowing Cam’s flow for a few bars, and on “Avatar,” a song featuring Action Bronson and Torae, Ragazino cleans up his act and starts rapping up to his potential. And this is the frustrating part about the mixtape. Ragazino has the skills to go bar for bar with almost anyone in the New York landscape right now, but when you hear songs like “Eddie’s Couch,” you wonder whether or not he really wants to be one of the best in his borough, let alone all of New York.
The “Old Testament” portion features a more classic New York hip-hop approach, with mostly sample-based beats, braggadocious rhymes, and hard-hitting hooks. Though novelty is gone with these songs, all of them having been released in the past year and half, but that doesn’t take away from the New York comfort raps that we all love Ragazino so much for. Songs such as “Box Office Smash” with Troy Ave, and the album’s high point, “BK Accent” featuring Skyzoo, serve as a reminder that Maffew can still wreck the mic and make a banger that all of NY can rock to.
Maffew Ragazino’s mixtape may be a perfect example of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The “Old Testament” portion is a much more concentrated, effective disc as opposed to the “New Testament” one, where it isn’t very clear to see where he wants to go with his music. The good slightly outweighs the bad on this mixtape. While Brownsville’s Jesus, with its religious title and references throughout, isn’t quite blasphemy, you won’t catch the Holy Ghost while listening to it either.—Marvin J.