Nothing could prepare you for the unpredictable artistry you’ll experience listening to the album, A Body of Work. Jaleel “Chief Aleel” Brown, gives you a look through the personal lens of his life in the city that raised him, Houston, TX. Through authentic south sounds of screw, ascending lo-fi and exhilarating instrumental layers, he solidifies his place as both a lyricist and producer.
photo by Jun Dinamling
Houston is a culture driven city with a boundless energy. Whether you’re coming from the suburban essence of Missouri City, the prominent Black beauty of Third Ward, Midtown’s millennial land or the rocky mountain streets of Hiram Clarke, any Houston drive is a vibe as you transition from one part to the next. This influence is perfectly exemplified throughout the eight track album, with each song ending in a different sound from when it starts. Following his previous project, Gnarly VHS Tape, A Body Of Work’s sound reaches a level of maturity pulled from the Space City.
“As I drive around Houston, the scenery always changes,” said Aleel. “It can be really sunny with an open field and then you go into the city and it may just look like two different versions of futuristic or grimy-however you want to look at it. All the songs are different parts of Houston. Different times, different weather, different stuff.”
Apollo 11 opens the album with a dainty touch of piano switching from sweet jazz to a soft yet brisk tempo building into Chief’s articulate style. The intro also connects with the cover of Aleel’s previous work, Gnarly VHS Tape, symbolizing the launch into his own world.
“I wanted it to be like a takeoff,” said Aleel. “When you hear all the sound's being built up a lot of that came from listening to psychedelic music, like Pink Floyd and Tame Impala.”
Chief Aleel features BBY Kodie and Louie Koston in delivering nothing less of heat for any hater in the track Tok Tok. Three high speed flows, a light Still Tippin sample and a Yonkers soundbite lethally come together serving as one of two popular songs- the other being Westpark. Influenced by Three Six Mafia and a Memphis’ sound, Chief Aleel glides through Westpark standing ground on his growth and eagerness as an artist from the start of the heavy 808’s to the end of the crisp violin.
photo by Jenni Ochoa
“When I make music now, I have to research it to really understand what it is,” said Chief Aleel. “I liked how they [Three Six Mafia] just made it sound all screwed up, but it's fast. Eventually we [Sonny London] were listening to some music, like some year old ass, jazz band thing and I just like how their voice sounds. You can't really hear in the sample cause we use it so fast, but it’s called a cortex and it's real slow and melodic … music I could listen to study and focus. [Sonny London] threw it in the program and just sped it up.”
Each feature on A Body Of Work successfully does their part to enhance the track. With the steady manifestation in Toyota Camry featuring Tobacco Ryan, the psychedelic chill with intense guitar solo of Top Down featuring Mufasa Enzor and Sonny London, and the vulnerable feelings of Neon Blue featuring Lauryn Harris, Chief Aleel notes that he, “enjoys bringing people together when it comes to songs. If you’re making a movie, you gotta have the right props.” Fellow Houston rapper Jiffy Rockets adds a spicy feature on Wassup for a confidence driven record. The incredible duo reminds us what they represent through a funhouse sequence leveling up into who they are with lyrics, “Chief is not from Houston but they know I Rap-A-lot. Candy paint my casket bitch I’m H Town ‘till I drop,” and “we’ve been goal getting since ten, wassup with your money? It’s looking condensed. We make hits you ain’t makin’ a dent.”
“Working with her is the best because we've been making music the longest,” said Chief Aleel. “We pretty much just try different ideas and don't care about holding back. A lot of artists and people are just more sensitive about what they like and what they don’t, but with us, you can just get straight to the point … we move quick.”
Chief Aleel prepares us for the end in Cake. With lyrics, “gotta go through hell to find the fruits of your labor but the taste is bittersweet and you can’t switch up the flavor,” he offers, and takes tunnel vision advice for the turbulent parts of life. The album then closes with Growing Pains, featuring Chase of Nazareth, Emily Vincent, Ian McGilber & Peyton, where Aleel reveals his realization and appreciation for his journey through life’s seasonal changes being, “naked in the summer. Faded in the fall (and) Staying cozy in the wintertime, ’til the spring calls.”
“All these songs are points in my life that I felt like it really meant something to me,” said Chief Aleel. “Whether it was just something I was going through, something around me. Just something (where) one moment I was like, okay, I want to capture this. My brain is the closest thing to a camera … you’re just trying to take all these certain moments and put them together in like three minutes spans or two minute spans, so it's really digging deep and personal.”
A Body Of Work is an impressive addition to Chief Aleel’s catalogue, stamping him as an artist to keep on radar.