San Francisco Bay Area R&B/soul/funk collective Tha Building releases their debut full-length album, Outside Ourselves, featuring contributions from funk and soul artists such as Joyo Velarde, Naté the Soulsanger, and Rocky Ramirez, who tragically went missing last year.
Tha Building was built by primary songwriter, producer, executive producer, and multi-instrumentalist J. Brewster. Joining Brewster in his funk-soul quest was Bay Area ace guitarist/mixer/co-producer Cam Perridge who worked tirelessly alongside Brewster during the pandemic to procure remote tracks and set up safe in-person sessions. This community of 25-plus hand-selected musicians from the Bay Area and beyond feature the sharpest pro players with firm groundings in funk, hip-hop, and soul, including two Grammy-winning instrumentalists.
Brewster shares, “My goal with Tha Building was to write songs with originality, depth, and swag. The title ‘Outside ourselves’ is really about the idea of looking outward in an era of a ‘Me’ culture with selfies, TikTok, etc. It’s social commentary on how to change course with what has gotten us to the place where we are right now.”
Talking about the album, Brewster says, “We have a positivity-is-paramount attitude, and strive to balance celebrating and having fun with bringing awareness to issues with our emotionally-charged playing and writing.”
Notable contributors and writers include Bay Area legend rapper Lyrics Born; Brewster’s childhood buddy and bassist Uriah Duffy (Alicia Keys, Whitesnake, Christina Aguilera); producer, and singer-songwriter Trance Thompson; Bay Area soul royalty Naté the Soulsanger; violinist Shaina Evoniuk (Shawn Mendes & Camila Cabello, Leon Bridges, Roy Ayers); Grammy-winning saxophonist Tony Peebles (Fred Wesley, John Lee Hooker, Karl Denson); young badass drummer James “StickNasty” Small (Fantastic Negrito); and multi-instrumentalist Adam Theis (Bobby McFerrin, Roy Ayers, Jazz Mafia).
Encompassing 11-tracks, the album begins with “Ain’t Standing Down,” opening on a funky rhythm topped by lavish horns, a braying organ, and chanking guitars. Delicious backing vocals give the lyrics feel-good savors.
“I been talking to people, everyone I find myself / And nobody seems to have an answer / It’s got me shaking I keep making all these / Dumb rookie mistakes / But lord knows I ain’t standing down.”
Entry points include the smooth, undulating R&B flavors of “No More Darkness,” a say-no-to-toxic-love song, featuring the superb, velvety voice of Joyo Velarde. While “TYBAH” with Naté the Soulsanger, rolls out on textures of funk-rock. A blistering guitar solo lights the tune up, imbuing it with Santana-like licks.
“Stop!” blends funk and brawny hip-hop into a potent tune full of dark horns and the tasty voices of Trance Thompson and rapper Dakini Star, whose rapping fierce rapping flow infuses the lyrics with tight urgency.
The final track, “Waiting,” drips with aromas of Motown soul and hints of creamy R&B. Rocky Ramirez’s cashmere, evocative voice imbues the lyrics with lush, quixotic tones.
With Outside Ourselves, Tha Building delivers a stellar album, brimming with tangy funk, savory soul, and glossy R&B.