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Review: ‘Teepee Gang’ by Tribe Mafia, a dynamic hip-hop record for the hustlers in quarantine

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RELEASED at a time when most people have been drained of the motivation to hustle, "Teepee Gang" is a reminder of how far our passion can take us, and a revitalizer of sorts for the many of us unnerved by the predicament the coronavirus pandemic has put us into.

The Texas-based hip-hop duo Tribe Mafia, comprised of American rappers Chinasa Broxton and Carlos Moore, is one of the busiest acts to come out of Austin, having gained accolades throughout their career thus far by holding occasional listening parties in their local hip-hop community, winning renowned competitions such as the world's largest indie artist showcase, "Coast 2 Coast," and touring across the world with Akon, among many other feats.

It is because of these accomplishments that Tribe Mafia was able to land a distribution deal with Sony's The Orchard on behalf of IndieNation, and most recently, get listed to perform at the highly-anticipated South by Southwest Music Festival 2020, which was postponed due to the spread of coronavirus in the U.S.

Hustling is the name of their game, and hard work is the lifeblood of the group, which is why Tribe Mafia's momentum was not deterred following the coronavirus disrupting the social and economic equilibrium in many industries, including the arts.

Tribe Mafia kicked off their debut studio album, "Teepee Gang,” on the 13th of March 2020, the tracklisting of which features a handful of singles from their past releases, most notably their hit singles "Still the Same" and "Triple Double.”

The celebratory opening track, "Still the Same", kicks the album off to a high, with Broxton and Moore reminiscing their early days as MCs when they were still struggling to plant their feet in the hip-hop community, all the while rapping about maintaining their humility in the midst of their continuous climb to popularity. The track also features a fire verse from Bankroll Barbie, a fellow artist signed to IndieNation, complementing Broxton and Moore's rich and distinct personalities with her brand of high-energy braggadocio. Banger alert!

Speaking of personality, the MCs of Tribe Mafia have a great deal of that — and they let it shine in more ways than one. You can hear many of their influences across the tracklisting, but they all managed to incorporate them into their own style, making for a really interesting concoction of different variants of hip-hop throughout "Teepee Gang.”

For instance, "Issa Difference" took subtle nods to 21 Savage while adding in the chemistry of a group like Migos. However, it wouldn't be as interesting a Tribe Mafia track as it is without Broxton and Moore's emotive lyrics and delivery, giving an identity reflective of the group's personal experiences. The song touches upon the importance of validating other people's 'grind' despite the different ways people tend to go about it.

"Follow Me,” on the other hand, is more laid-back for a trap-derivative song with a heavy Young Thug vibe to it in the production department. The lyrics are also sharp with a lot of quotable lines heard throughout the song, and it also features a verse from the guest performer, LeekThrough, whose Playboi Carti-esque rapping style gives the track a distinct inflection, contrasting Tribe Mafia's mellow delivery.

"Triple Double" is perhaps the most digestible song of the entire bunch, featuring the Mafia making clever use of basketball metaphors to describe the success they've worked so hard to achieve; "triple-double, no assist."

The title track, "Teepee Gang,” is a personal favorite of mine, and this is where Broxton and Moore were at their wildest, from the brutal hook reminiscent of Ski Mask the Slump God to its very infectious beat that sounds like a siren blaring constantly. It's gangsta rap in every sense of the word, as if they haven't said 'gang' enough in the song to remind you of that.

Lastly, the closing track, "Ostracize", has some of the richest and most luscious production in "Teepee Gang" and sees Broxton and Moore at their most vulnerable. While in essence, it tackles the same topics as the other tracks leading up to it, the presentation — from its synth-filled instrumentation to the emotional delivery brought by the MCs — presents a new face of Tribe Mafia not seen in the previous tracks.

It is a tough time being an artist right now, and thankfully, we have this hardworking Austin-based hip-hop act gradually making bigger waves as of late. I've had the luxury to talk to the guys behind Tribe Mafia lately, and as bothered as they are with the coronavirus situation, lying low in their homes, they are looking to continue with their other, upcoming projects.

"Teepee Gang" serves as a reminder that no dire straits can stop the hopeful and the passionate from continuing to hustle for their community, and its collection of bangers and creative wordplay just might reinvigorate your senses in the midst of this pandemic.

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