It took a couple of songs for me to get into Panorama by Braintax, but then the album began to grow on me and beginning with the second round of listening I now really like it.
Braintax (recording name of Joseph Christie, born 1973) has been in business since 1992, and suprisingly this is only his second full length album, following on from the 2002 release of ‘Birofunk’. Nevertheless, he is one of the UK’s Hip Hop luminaries, known for his music as well as being founder (with Breaking the Illusion) and owner of Low Life Records, the UK’s premier and longest running Hip Hop record label to consistently release records. Braintax is seen as one of the most important and influential British Hip Hop artists of the second generation.
Panorama is very much an album of our political times. Al-Jazeera, the environment, refugees, Bush and Blair are all packed into its rhymes. Middle Eastern flavours weave and waft through the production, with political images cutting through: “Oil men, tugging on puppet strings, and the news is skewed, it’s a load of spin”. Panorama takes a vantage point and from there looks at the bigger picture – hence the title. Its creator explains: â€œthe whole point of Panorama is to think outside the box, see the bigger picture and broaden our minds. And Braintax certainly achieves this, with deep and complex lyrics that often are unashamedly and unflinchingly political.
Topics covered include global politics – see the rabid “Syriana Style” or the masterfully empathetic “The Grip Again”; environmental concerns through “Exit Plansâ’; race issues and home affairs on “Anti-Grey”, and the Thatcher dominated 1980s with “Decade”. Interludes between tracks include speeches from journalist Robert Fisk and George Galloway complementing and continuing the record’s overall world view perspective. It’s fair to say this isn’t your average British rapper making another average rap album.
The music complements the thoughtful, hard hitting and reflective words and feelings. I quite like the sampling, the style variations and the flow of words and melodies. The beats range from electro experimentation to boom-bap to club bangers, with Braintax himself manning the dials on several tracks. I’m just not so sure though that Braintax’ voice is his strength; maybe I’m just more drawn to the range and gutsy feel of black voices. He does have other contributing vocalists, like Beat Butcha of Halal Beats and Sammy Jay, who for me compensate for what’s missing a bit from the main protagonist. Nevertheless: it’s a great Hip Hop album.
Panorama – come and admire the view!