A long time ago—well, not too long ago for some—Latino/a/x music was a more tangible thing on the south side of Milwaukee. In the 1990s, there were constant events and shows, artists sold CDs and tapes out of their cars, and lowriders bounced up and down 16th Street. In the digital age, especially in the age of COVID, music has become less of a happening and more of a feeling communicated and shared through screens.

The reverberations of those days have passed on through generations, however, particularly in El Sebas of Milwaukee hip-hop duo Browns Crew, who released a solo single, “Chavo De Abajo,” last month.

“I grew up on the south side, and hip-hop has been a big part of my upbringing. It has almost been like a relative,” Sebas says. “I also grew up with the music of my family, baladas, cumbia, and tejano music.”

All of it has made its way into his new track, which has both a groove and a definitive bounce. Sebas worked with the same team that won Browns Crew the 88.9 Radio Milwaukee award for Best Song for “Mil Aires” in 2019. None of the quality and enthusiasm has been shed.

Jose Morales produced the track, and he gives it a well-rounded and robust sound. Sebas is very involved in the entire process and is credited as co-producer, as is the case with all the music in which he is involved. The D.I.Y. ethic that is required to make long-lasting, consistent tracks lives in the undercurrent of the art created by these vatos, and it is clearly heard.

Browns Crew has played many shows over the last couple of years, in venues ranging from outdoor festivals to hole-in-the wall bars. COVID struck, however, and they were forced to push back a much-anticipated performance that was to take place at the Fiserv Forum, during a Bucks halftime show.

“Chris and the band and I work great as a team, and this is by no means a sign of Browns Crew ending,” Sebas says of his solo track. “Sometimes it is fun to explore how you work as an individual instead of in the confines of a group.” Sebas’ fellow lyricist in Browns Crew, Cristo Paz, a.k.a. Chris P, has also explored this option. He released “Háblame Bien” in February of 2020. Browns Crew is still hard at work, and dropped a new, self-titled EP on November 30.

The mischievous sound on “Chavo de Abajo,” meanwhile, is accompanied by poignant lyrics that illustrate solidarity amongst the people. “Como un soldado, camaradas a mi lado,” says Sebas in the song, which means “Like a soldier, comrades stand close to me.” It’s a message we all need to be reminded of now.

About The Author

Juan Miguel Martinez is a writer from the south side of Milwaukee. He only writes until he can land a role as the mechanic friend of the handsome lead in a telenovela. His favorite movie is Repo Man.