Live & Local
Live & Local: Bryson Brooks at Backstage Live
Published: June 6, 2012
Even proponents of hip-hop agree that any time you catch a live show these days it’s often a crap-shoot. Performances in the genre are often mired by notoriously late starts from headliners and overzealous hype-men shouting over bad sound, frequently ending with 10 to 20 dudes staring down the audience from the stage. Unless you’re getting ready to catch the Roots, Ice Cube, or another act with an expansive and competent catalogue it’s generally good to keep expectations low.
Enter Franklin Bryson Brooks, a San Antonio performance artist/musician/painter and possibly the worst emcee featured on the cover of this rag. Opening for Snoop Dogg, one of his favorite artists, Bryson took the stage rocking visor shades and draped in off-Broadway gear. On the glowing flat screens lining the venue, Tim Duncan and the Spurs were on the way to ending their historic 20-game winning streak, stealing both his audience and thunder.
Bathed in synth and backed by a solid DJ, Brooks responded with verve, rattling off cuts like “Shiny Man,” “Fur Bikini,” and “Golden Pistol” in sticky succession. Despite his enthusiasm, his onstage preening projected a campy outpost where rhythm and melody were no longer in sight and he lost the crowd. It was at this point that middle fingers were raised and cascades of “you suck” began to rain down. For a city that birthed the enterprise now known as Chingo Bling (a former Trinity student), none of this is new.
Away from the stage and in the vocal booth, Brooks emanates the aura of an uninspired square dance caller spitting perverted rhymes laced with codeine. Unlike Chingo, he fails to fully embrace his tacky onstage persona, leaving him stranded somewhere between Franklin and Bryson. The hip-hop pantheon is stacked with schizophrenic aliases, false personas, and uber-alter-egos, which eventually become disposable if you lack the skills to back each and every one of them up. Ask Kool Keith.
Hip-hop is all about the visuals. Brooks deserves props for the success and genuine humor displayed in his first video, “Freaky Girl.” His latest HD effort, “Fur Bikini,” reminds us that in the wrong hands, the appropriation of hip-hop can often result in product rooted in the baser elements of the culture, bordering on minstrelsy, minus the blackface. During his performance, Bryson’s supportive wife Holly reminds me that Mickey Avalon was recently booed on the same stage, so there’s always hope.