What do you picture when you hear the word "Brochella"? Frat boys, perhaps? Glistening biceps coming out of pastel tank tops atop board shorts that are tragically also a pastel color? At BroLife Music Group's Brochella Weekend, that couldn't be much further from the truth. Head to the BroLife website and you'll get some backward snapbacks, but more of the gold-chain, silver-grill variety.
BroLife, which starts July 21 and continues July 22 and 23 at Markham Park and O'Malley's in Margate, was started by Ivan Lasseur, also known as Ivan L. or IV, about ten years ago. Lasseur grew up in Palm Beach County and was one of the first of his classmates to start making beats and rapping.
"Everyone around me wanted to take part in a different way," Lasseur says. "It was kind of a domino effect. Once I started, everyone around me started doing it."
Several years after Lasseur formed BroLife with a small group of close friends, he was introduced to Winston Marshall, AKA Winnie Win, a Bahamian-American raised in South Florida and going to school at the University of Arizona. The two hit it off and headed into the studio together whenever Marshall was in town. That soon led to a partnership that got Marshall accepted into the BroLife fold.
"He sort of did recruit me," Marshall says of Lasseur. "When he was gathering everything to start a new wave of BroLife, I was one of the first people he reached out to. I quickly became a right-hand man and mutual adviser and partner in it."
Marshall came onboard the same year as the first BroLife BroFest. Brochella is the second iteration of the group's attempt to break out of the monotony of small shows in local venues.
"We had done a lot of smaller shows in the past and those are pretty easy for me," Lasseur says. "There was a point in my life where I was doing that two weekends a month. It was fun, it was awesome, but I kind of wanted to do something bigger. It was kind of a personal test."
With that in mind, BroLife has organized three days of events, including a Mansion party on Star Island featuring Tory Lanez, an outdoor festival at Markham Park, and a night of performances at O'Malley's Sports Bar in Margate. On getting Tory Lanez to show up, Lasseur says, "I feel like we took a page out of the book The Secret on that one." And it's not hard to imagine — but ambition aside, the music collective stands out for other reasons.
First, there's the pure volume of their content. If you spend some time rustling through their website, you'll find 60 podcast episodes (with topics ranging from Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh! to what Funk Master Flex said about Tupac), close to half a dozen music videos, two vlog posts, and tons of music. They just released a double-disc effort titled Lifegang Over Everything that features almost all of the core members of BroLife (what they call "Lifers").
And you know what? It's good. No tinny, self-conscious flows or three-syllable bars in sight. It might be easy to write off young, unsigned artists as Soundcloud rappers and move on, but BroLife is trying to change the storyline.
"That's what we're all about, across the board," Lasseur says. "I want to disrupt the narrative in terms of the stereotype of rappers in the hood, in terms of 'I need this major label to make this happen.' That's something really important to me, disrupting the norms of what we're supposed to do in this industry."
And they strive to do it in more ways than one. In an effort to stay focused on doing quality work, the group refrains from the kind of life that often gets their peers behind bars. The evidence is in the name — it's actually an acronym for Being Real Only Lives in Family Eternally — and in the process they went through getting vetted by Gateway Community Outreach, the nonprofit that cooperates in a school supply drive during the Brochella Park Jam.
Marshall remembers talking to the organizer: "After dissecting all of our people, she straight up said to me, 'So basically, you guys are somewhere in the middle of Kodak Black and something like the Christian rap that we listen to.'"
"I mean, I've never thought of myself as a Christian rapper," Lasseur says. "That woulda made my mom really happy, though."
Lasseur remembers Kodak Black coming around his neighborhood, and even claims that his cousin taught Kodak to rap. And while the success of a local artist is inspiring to the group as a whole, there's just a slight distance from what they've seen and what they do.
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"Everybody's got their own path and their own way of learning," Lasseur says. "Maybe it's gonna take all of this for this cat to finally get it. But I've seen my uncle get two years and my cousin is in jail. If my cousin had never got locked up, maybe he would have Kodak's career right now."
With a decade of making music behind them and a lineup of shows after Brochella, BroLife has ambitions to make South Florida the next Atlanta in terms of the hip-hop industry. They see Rick Ross and DJ Khaled as pioneers, but want to expand the reach of South Florida rap to more than just a few token artists making it big. They want Broward, Dade, and Palm Beach Counties to be the place where people go to hear what's new and relevant in music. And with a group that's been focused and dedicated for as long as they have, you almost believe it's possible, sans the endorsement of beer-can-crushing bros.
"We really want to connect with the community and let them know that there are some focused young people doing something pretty top-shelf," Marshall says. "A collective of people putting their egos aside and mutually realizing we could all do something bigger together."
July 21 through 23, at various locations. Tickets cost $20 to $40. For more information, visit brolife.net.