Don’t call it a throwback

Partners in rhyme: The duo’s throwback look is an ice-breaker ... a way to bring audiences into their lyrically creative style. Photo by Ben Premeaux

The intro to None Since '96, the newly released mixtape from Huntersville, N.C.-based rap duo Brody & Choch, is far more entertaining than it should be. Harnessing John “Choch” Evans' ability to mimic a gravelly “movie trailer” voice, the track starts out as a fake preview for the band's upcoming LP. It's a stale idea, but it doesn't stay that way. The track is one long take, shifting quickly from moments of startlingly accurate movie satire to Choch's self-satisfied giggles. The result is far more charming than the concept, a feat of unfiltered charisma.

Brody & Choch's proper songs are more intricately crafted, but they benefit from a similarly loose and fun-loving approach. Evans and his brother Jordan, better known as Brody, began the project in 2009, feeding off enthusiasm from party appearances that started with a gig hosting a talent show at their old high school. Building on their already robust collection of circa-'90s clothing — James had been rocking fanny packs since his sophomore year — the two dove into throwback rap with gusto. The response was equally enthusiastic, leading Brody & Choch to release their debut full-length, The Boys Will Be Boys, the following February.

“I wouldn’t say our sound has an old-school vibe as much as our look has an old-school vibe,” Brody says. “I had a high-top fade in like the 10th grade. I been dressing like this for a while. It all just kind of happened at once. It wasn’t like a premeditated deal or anything that we sat down and said, ‘We can really do this.’”

True to Brody's word, he and his brother are no mere gimmick. Both of their releases are replete with intricate wordplay and uproarious punchlines. “Dragon Defeated,” a choice cut from None Since '96 produced by the duo's friend and frequent collaborator CY, features Brody & Choch rapid firing lines over a tightly wound bass loop. “I'm not Chewbacca / This ain't my Wookie season,” Choch spits, providing a hilarious highlight on a song filled with them.

Despite the lyrical creativity, None Since '96 sees Brody & Choch clinging to their retro image more tightly than ever. Apart from “Dragon Defeated,” every song on the EP-length offering is a remix of a rap classic. Reverent but undaunted, they rap over beats made famous by such heroes as A Tribe Called Quest and Nas. In every instance the duo delivers an intriguing spin on the original. On “Brody & Choch,” which appropriates the beat from Will Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff's loose and lively “Summertime,” they tackle rap's so-called decline: “When was the last time you heard a hot line you had to rewind?” they sing in unison.

“It’s an opening,” Choch says of their nostalgic appeal. “It’s comedic. People see us, and they’re like, ‘Oh, that’s weird. What do these guys got to say?’ It kind of breaks the ice, and we get to say stuff that we wouldn't be able to otherwise say through our music. With that throwback look it’s like, ‘Oh man, Charlotte Hornets jersey from back in the day. Alonzo Mourning and Kendall Gill, I remember those guys. I remember that team. Let me listen to these guys for 10 minutes.’”

The two plan to deepen their exploration of old-school vibes on Partners in Rhyme, the sophomore full-length they hope to release later this year. Asked over the phone to explain the story on the in-progress concept album, the two spring into a tag-team rap that will likely adorn one of its tracks:

“We’re back on the block,” Choch began, “that’s where it started/ We became cops/ Rapping took a back seat.” Brody finished the thought: ““Now we’re undercover/ Back up in the rap game/ Jokers better get in line/ We’re partners in rhyme.”

The multilayer story will provide ample opportunity to probe buddy cop cliché, while the undercover rap conceit will allow the duo to reprimand inferior emcees without venturing outside their comedic comfort zone. It's a clever narrative, one that promises to take Brody & Choch's entertaining antics to an even higher level.

“We’ve always been the funny guys,” Brody says. “We’ve been the guys that like to make people feel better, but to be able to make that your actual craft has always been our goal. We’ve always entertained. We were theater buffs in high school and middle school and elementary school. I mean, Choch was Oliver in elementary school. He had tears on stage about his mom giving him away. You can’t teach stuff like that. You can’t train that. It’s just destiny.”

— Jordan Lawrence is editor at Charlotte-based Shuffle Magazine and a contributing writer at The Independent.

who: Brody & Choch, with Crazyhorse & Colston
where: The One Stop
when: Friday, May 25 (10 p.m. $5. http://www.ashevillemusichall.com)

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