Alias John Brown -- For the Non-Believers (Wildlife/I-Khan Distribution)

Album Review by Garrett Caples
San Francisco Bay Guardian February 28, 2007

After grinding in the Bay for the past three years, Chicago native Alias John Brown has cranked up his buzz due to a recent tour with André Nickatina and this 24-track anthology of new songs, singles, and freestyles.

Combining gravelly vocals with smooth, rapid-fire flows, AJB defies characterization: he's "an educated thug," he suggests on "Certified Mobsters," at ease among gangstas Amp Pachino and the Jacka though perhaps more at home dropping lines such as "We done put in more work than a sharecropper / But we ain't gettin' our fair share of the proper" alongside Planet Asia on "State to State."

AJB charts an independent course, eschewing brand-name filler and dull bling in favor of timeless hip-hop themes, from partying ("Tear the Club Up") to a friend's violent death ("Dante"). Instead of jumping on the yellow bus for local cred, AJB never once cries "hyphy," though the uptempo bounce of "Catch Yo Breath" would fit in nicely alongside recent hits by, say, Mistah FAB.

With much of its production divided between local phenom Aristotle and Chicago legend No I.D., For the Non-Believers is authentically Bay even as its heavy Chi flavor makes it unique in a trend-chasing time.

ALIAS JOHN BROWN With the Jacka, Big Rich, Equipto, and DJ Juice. Sat/3, 8 p.m., $20. Fat City (formerly Studio Z), 314 11th St., SF. (415) 252-7666

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