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Doc Brown: Unfamous

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Nione Meakin

Much hype has surrounded Doc Brown's move from a high-profile career as a rapper to the less glamorous life of a stand-up, heightened no doubt by him being author Zadie Smith's little brother and counting Lenny Henry as a mentor. Happily, with this thoughtful, charming and impressively executed debut, he lives up to it.

Demonstrating the natural rhythm and pacing you might expect from a 'retired rapper', Brown (aka Ben Smith) takes the audience on his journey from noncommittal student with a passion for words through performing with uber-producer Mark Ronson, to rock 'n' roll burnout and adjusting to a new 'unfamous' life.

The stories are illustrated with pitch perfect raps: a pious anti-smoking diatribe he composed to hector his parents as a snotty-nosed child,;the nonsensical government attacks he liked to reel out while stoned; even a tribute to the overhead projector he uses to project snaps of his celeb encounters ('Da OHP').

There's real pleasure to be found just in Brown's smooth, lyrical delivery, it's not hard to see how he got as far as he did in his former career. The natural poetry of his speech is more reminiscent of performance poetry than stand-up and he talks in half-rhymes apparently unintentionally. Brown has also been absorbed in the rap world long enough to send it up spotlessly. If you weren't listening carefully to the lyrics, his bombastic opener could pass as the real deal.

But what elevates Unfamous above a straightforward genre spoof is the grace with which Brown balances silliness and real candour. He controls the mood with an impressive ease, making for a show that feels more substantial than it might sound in summary. 

Given the heavily autobiographical content and somewhat niche shtick, it's hard to imagine how Brown might develop beyond what he's doing here but by the time he's finished this run, he's going to have a lot of fans following his progress. 

Review date: 12 Aug 2010
Reviewed by: Nione Meakin

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