What happens when space cowboys meet gangsta rappers? Something amazing, that’s what! Resident über-nerd Olivia Cottrell dons her headphones and brings us the lowdown on a highly unlikely mashup…
The internet is a wonderful place for creativity. Especially in terms of fandom: all kinds of talented, creative people use the genre shows, comic books and video games that they love as raw material to express themselves in media that you would never expect in a million years. So it is with the small but growing genre of ‘nerdcore’ rap artists – musicians who (truer to the roots of hip hop and rap than their more mainstream contemporaries) use the genre to talk about the things that are important to them. It’s just that these things happen to be the aforementioned comic books, TV shows, and video games. While doing so, they often articulate wider points about life in general. So it is with Adam WarRock’s newest offering, The Browncoats Mixtape, based on Firefly.
Before I begin, I should probably confess that I am already a major fan of Adam WarRock and nerdcore rap in general. As a nerd who is also a music fan (the two overlap more frequently than you might think), the passion and dedication that these artists bring to their music is refreshing, and hey, they rap about stuff I can relate to – one of my other favourite tracks by WarRock, ‘Girl Comics’, celebrates the role of female characters in the Marvel and DC universes. I was already excited about this mixtape because, having listened to and enjoyed The Oni Press Mixtape (a project with frequent collaborator Tribe One) and The West Coast Avengers Mixtape, I knew that I could expect a high level of quality, and The Browncoats Mixtape doesn’t disappoint.
Inspired by the crew of Serenity and the theme of independence that defines the show, the mixtape’s fifteen tracks talk about the importance of independent music and, more subtly, the role of fan culture and the do-it-yourself-aesthetic that defines both. For example, on the opening track, ‘Firefly’, WarRock celebrates the ‘beauty of loving the things you love’ in an evocative description of the way in which shared enthusiasm can unite disparate groups of people. There’s a clear love for the subject matter and subculture here that shines through in every line.
However, it’s not just heavy societal points here – the tracks about each character also remind you of what drew you to them in the first place and reflect the personalities of their subjects with affection and humour. Wash’s track reads as a love song to the joy of flight, while my favourite track (well, it’s about my favourite character), ‘Vera’, is a tribute to both ‘a boy named Jayne’ and his gun – the guest verses by the ThoughtCriminals emphasising the ‘gangster rap’ angle.
The music is taken entirely from the TV show and film’s original soundtrack, remixed by Mikal kHill into tracks that sound reminiscent of the work of Gangstagrass (whose track ‘Long Hard Times To Come’ was used as the theme for the modern-day cowboy TV show Justified) with their twanging strings and heavy beats, which perfectly re-creates the frontier, wild-west aesthetic of the original show. The tracks are interspersed with audio clips from Firefly to introduce each character. For example, Mal’s track ‘M.A.L’ begins with the ‘Mercy is the mark of a great man’ speech from the episode ‘Shindig’. It’s a nice touch that keeps the mixtape from straying too far from the original material.
The mixtape works best when listened to from start to finish as a cohesive whole, as one track bleeds into the other and leads the listener through, from the setting out of the themes in ‘Firefly’ all the way through the tributes to each character to the bittersweet conclusion of ‘Objects in Space’. Best of all, it’s entirely free, so fifteen tracks of top quality music can be had for absolutely nothing. Long live the Independents!
The Firefly Mixtape features Adam WarRock, Jesse Dangerously, the ThoughtCriminals and Tribe One. It was released on September 27th and is available to download at browncoatsmixtape.com or adamwarrock.com, where the artist constantly updates with free tracks and news.