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    Tue, 23 Dec 2008 08:15:11

    Feature: Brutha - Family ties...

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    Brutha don't front. The R&B quintet let it all hang out on their hit BET show Brothers to Brutha and even more so on their eponymous debut album for Def Jam. In fact, it's their honesty that makes these five young men so charming and compelling. The fact that they can sing their asses off doesn't hurt either. Over the course of their first record, they combine a classic soulful style with a modern R&B sound. Think The Temptations if produced by Kanye West, and you're on the right track. However, Brutha have got their own thing going on, and it's quite smooth.

    Sitting in the conference room at Island/Def Jam's L.A. headquarters, Brutha— Jake, Jared, Grady, Papa and Anthony—are down-to-earth and friendly. They instantly turn the label office into their stage, and their brotherly love shines through. "As brothers, our bond is so crazy that it separates us from other R&B groups," explains Anthony. "I'm not saying it in a cocky way, but it's a bond that I know the people in the crowd feel. It's just a brotherly link. There's that feeling that it's this big family affair."

    This family's songs are definitely their specialty though, and these five have a lot to say. Grady continues, "Our lyrics are very positive. They're real. There's nothing falsely contrived. We got the chance to co-write our first single, and we worked with a lot of really talented writers on the album including Ne-Yo, The Corner Boys, R.L. from Next and Daron Jones from 112. We bring across real issues that people can relate to."

    Being relatable is certainly one of the group's strong suits, and the show remains a BET staple because Brutha aren't that different from your family. Jake states, "I think people are connected to the show because of its honesty. Right before the cameras came, we were concerned about how we were going to be portrayed. We didn't know if we should lay back on this or that. You know what? At the end of the day, we've got problems, we're a family and we love each other. Why not show the world our problems and the way we solve our problems? We are who we are when the cameras are rolling."

    Brutha may experience heartbreak like any other guys their age, but Jake encourages the ladies not to fret because Brutha's love is in tact. "We try not to belittle or disrespect women, and we don't use any curse words. We stay positive lyrically. In music today, there's so much negativity. I'm not saying all rap music is negative, because it's not. There's positive rap, but rap rules the airwaves right now. There's not a lot of positive R&B, and that's why we want to bring that back."

    R&B does touch the soul.

    They're bringing it back full force on tracks like the first single, "I Can Hear the Music" and "She's Gone." Both songs pack a classic sense of suave and a 21st century wallop. Papa shows the most important aspect of the group's music though. "People go through a lot these days. I always saw music as my escape. I always wanted our music to be that escape for somebody when they're going through something. They put our record on to get through their situations." Jared further describes the genre's power. "You've always got to put on some R&B to get through what you're going through. R&B does touch the soul."

    After that, they busted out into an energetic impromptu a Capella set, and gave this writer a real "family" memory.

    —Rick Florino

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