Part urban singers and part urbane songstresses, sibling duo Brick&Lace are genre-busters who staunchly defy the 30-second pitch. The amalgamated sound that makes up their Kon Live/180 Ent./Geffen debut, Love Is Wicked, is unique, though also at once very familiar.
Born to a Jamaican father and an American mother and raised predominantly in Kingston, Jamaica
-on an opulent musical diet of reggae, R&B, hip hop, pop and country- Nyanda and Nailah Thorbourne couldn’t help but be trans-eclectic. “We are a hybrid,” affirms Nailah in her effortlessly sexy West-Indian lilt. “It’s not fabricated at all; it’s who we are.”
Indeed, who they are is evident in their moniker: “Our mother came up with the name ‘Lace’ and we immediately liked it,” explains the incisively passionate Nyanda. “But we still felt that there was an edge missing, so I came up with ‘Brick.’ It has stuck with us ever since and has evolved with us.”
To the ladies of Brick&Lace, their name represents the duality and complexity of the everywoman. “Sometimes you want to wear a cap and sneakers and look grimy,” Nyanda tells. “And sometimes you want to wear your sexy dress and heels and look cute.” Nailah puts it all in perspective: “People always ask: ‘Who is Brick&Lace?’ And we always tell them it depends on the day!”
This unpredictability and uncompromising expressiveness makes Love Is Wicked (the first release on Akon’s own label, Kon Live) an aural delight. On their agile down-bottom introductory single “Never Never,” over Akon’s seething sonic brew, Brick & Lace caution wayward suitors to behave themselves if they want a chance with the sisters. “The track’s so grimy that the lyrics and the arrangement just came to us,” Nailah recalls enthusiastically. “It was a very collaborative effort that was fun and exciting to record all the way.”
Like the best cooperative artists, each sister has her specialized lane. Nailah on Nyanda: “Her voice, tone and stylizing and the way she spits her lyrics is edgy. She loves to push the envelope.” Nyanda on Nailah: “She is versatile with a more R&B slant. She has a lot of presence and whatever emotion we need to get out of a record, she gets it, she’s there.” This versatility jives with the arsenal of the producers assembled for Wicked: most notably AKON, WILL.I.AM, RON FAIR, COOL & DRE, and Tony “CD” Kelly.
- who signed Brick&Lace to be the first group released on his label (Kon Live Records) and whom the girls fondly describe as their “third member” and even the Jam & Lewis to their Janet- checks in again behind the boards and in co-writing capacity on “Get That Clear”—an ethereal, catchy copulation of Dancehall and R&B. In addition, Akon, is behind the production of “Never Never” – Brick&Lace’s first single, and “Boyfriend” – a girl empowerment song much contrary to the typical cliché lyrics of a girl blindly in love with the wrong guy.
On a sobering note, however, is the Cool & Dre helmed “Mr. Officer.” Based on an actual event from Nyanda’s past, the roots-reggae-meets-Wu-Tang-like programming underscores the sisters’ soulful pleading with an arresting officer to free their man and not sever their “lifeline.” The emotional truth exhibited is so pungent, you can smell it.
Brick&Lace’s dynamic as artists and their earnest appeal stems from their songwriting savvy. Nyanda and Nailah wrote or co-wrote every single song on Love Is Wicked. “I’d say we’re artists in the truest sense,” acknowledges the philosopher of the two, Nyanda. “Being an artist is when the essence of you comes through in your work. Sade and Van Gogh are artists, even Shakira is an artist.” Other household names recognize this artistry; the sisters Thorbourne have penned hits for Janet Jackson, Paris Hilton and The Pussy Cat Dolls’ Nicole Scherzinger.
With their industry currency and lyrical chops, the ladies of Brick&Lace are far from an overnight sensation or some pieced-together record company pantomime project. Having cut their teeth singing backup for Roberta Flack, Lauryn Hill and family friend Marcia Griffiths, Nyanda and Nailah went on to record their first song back in Jamaica with dancehall super-producer, Tony Kelly (who actually reunites with Brick&Lace on “Push It”—a racy dancehall track generously steeped in Duran Duranisms). They also went on to track several songs with heavyweight deejays, one of which includes a street smash with Bounty Killer.
After performances for vaunted urban music tastemakers Dallas Austin and L.A. Reid converted them into vociferous fans, the sisters’ phones just wouldn’t stop ringing; everyone wanted a piece of Brick&Lace. J Records beckoned, as did Universal/Motown and Kon Live/Geffen. But Kon Live/Geffen’s overt commitment to signing the siblings put them ahead of the pack. “They bit the hardest,” Nailah recollects. “They seemed really excited about us and also seemed to get the vibe of the music. Plus their presentation and roster of artists were bringing unique flavor to the table.”
Good things do indeed come to those who toil. Brick&Lace, now armed with a sterling debut, are locked and loaded and ever ready to capture the ears and hearts of those who appreciate the best in life: very good music. “I truly feel like it’s our time,” Nyanda says with a modest confidence while Nailah affirmatively nods.
She couldn’t be more accurate: Love is Wicked is here. Here to make you a believer.