While grizzled hip hop fans lament the alleged decline of lyricism in hip-hop, Brian Brown is refining his craft and bucking expectations with the poise of an athlete jogging through warm-ups.
Coming off the release of his debut album Journey, Nashville’s Brian Brown shows he’s ready for the mainstage. With the album still making its rounds on the internet, Brown manages to incorporate elements of jazz-rap, trap, and R&B. With this record, Brown looks back on past personal experiences but also reflects on where he is now. The rap scene, love, and his hometown are recurring themes in his lyrics. His nonchalant and charismatic delivery sounds pretty authentic. Brown’s wordplay shows attitude without bragging too much. With its pleasantly jazzy instrumentation, lo-fi beats, and contemporary trap influences, this album has a nice nocturnal and fresh feel to it.
With the whole COVID-19 situation and much of the nation still under quarantine, we recently had the chance to catch up with Brian Brown for an interview. Not taking too much time away from him playing 2K, we talk about his musical inspirations, the current state of music, plans for the future, and much more. Check out the full interview down below.
For those who are unfamiliar, where are you from?
Nashville! 615, out East *Lito voice* shoutout Star for sure the goat out this way, deadass.
Born and raised, right?
Yessir. 4/22/1993. 7:22am. Baptist Hospital.
What was your childhood like growing up in Nashville?
Sheltered. Not on purpose but due to the street I lived on. Dead end but it was in the thick/middle of out East at a time where shit wasn’t sweet. So just something as simple as walking down the street to the store, for me, was a rarity. And even with that, I had fun. I was a decent kid up until about 6th grade [laughs.]
Was there a lot of music being played throughout the house growing up?
Hell yeah. From gospel to R&B (Janet, Prince, Sade, etc) to DMX and Cube, it was always around.
Did those early jam session throughout the house kind of shape your love for music or did you find that passion later on down the road?
Most definitely. And as I got older and was exposed to more rap along the way, it just came clear to me that not only do I love the fuck outta this shit, but I’m really good at it too.
At what age or point in your life did you actually start making music? And at that time, where you trying to emulate what you were listening to?
13, maybe. And that was around 06-07 so Ye. T.I. Slim Thug. Common’s Finding Forever was big for me. Jeezy, and Wayne for sure. Of course, Outkast but they’re the goats so they always in rotation [laughs.]
When did you tell yourself “yeah this definitely what I want to do for the rest of my life”
17. I knew early. Once my mind is set on something, ima figure out a way to make it happen. No matter what, how long it takes is up to me truly. That’s something I’ve learned along the way recently but definitely knew this is what I wanted to do from the jump, you could say.
In what ways would you say your confidence has grown as an artist?
I can’t really say. Still figuring it out day by day but repetition has played a big role lately. Practice makes perfect, trying new shit. I’m learning something new about me, my voice, tone, and diction every day honestly.
Let’s get into the music a bit. You’re coming off your debut full-length offering Journey. How did the idea for the album come together?
The idea behind it originally was to make a soundtrack for all the moments my pops and I used to have meaningful convos in the car because the radio never worked [laughs.] We’ve got an interesting relationship but that’s my n*gga, point-blank. So it was originally meant to be a “thank you” type of thing but then it became this “a day in the life of BB” type storyline that ultimately led to me coming to grips with a whole lot of demons and moments I hadn’t properly handled yet. Shit is crazy every time I think about it because music ain’t feel therapeutic at the time, yet with these songs, I was like “yep” [laughs.]
You display various sides of your artistry on the album. For example, singing. How important was it for you to showcase those different aspects?
It wasn’t important at all [laughs.] It was more so like “man I can’t find nobody who I feel like will execute this shit the way I want it done so fuck it, I’ll do it myself.”
I’m slick really cold at singing. Grew up in the church, choir shit, etc. Typical dirty south cliches, it seems like. Just been on bullshit over the years with smoking and drinking so I lost a lot of confidence in the skill set but during the making of the album? I was listening to a LOT of KING and their shit is like PERFECT to harmonize and sing along too so that helped me a lot.
As gentrification re-shapes several Nashville neighborhoods, you speak on what the city is going through on the album. What have been some of the biggest changes you’ve noticed in Nashville?
It’s hard to really pinpoint just one thing when everything is changing. I think the most interesting thing though is how many venues have gone down to become something else, even in music city. Shit’s ass-backwards but it’s been happening for years now and it’s more on the way, considering the times we’re in.
With a few exceptions, a majority of the people who were on the album are Tennessee-bread themselves. Did you want to keep it that tight-knit or was it one of those coincidental things?
Coincidental as fuck [laughs.] The moment I realized it, I was so happy. Steely Dan was the first joint I had set aside for the album and Syksense from here, Nashville. From there, shit just magically and wholeheartedly became a TN thing. That said, one time for Cassic for holding down Cali and Jordan’saWeirdo, who I met via Twitter, repping for Ohio. Black Metaphor from GA but he a TN n*gga to me. And in regards to the features, I wasn’t going to drop Journey unless it had a ChrisP verse on it. TheHouse as a whole really. CP was such a huge influence and help at a time where I felt really stuck and stagnant. Keeping the features a TN thing was more intentional than the production, I’ll admit that.
You recently just dropped the new video for Runnin which features Reaux Marquez. How did the idea for the video come about?
Shout out Reaux the alien. his album on the way. Life-changing shit. And it was really just Nachoz coming to me on some “hey bb let me shoot this” shit. His eagerness about it plus just knowing him for a long time; he’s like a brother to me. so I was like “why the fuck not” for real. For a second, we had some creative differences but nothing that would’ve deeply hurt anything we had been through. So we just took a splash of what he was trying to get across with whatever Reaux and I had in mind for our verses and bada boom, magic.
Curren$y gave you a shoutout on IG once, right?
Yessir!! shout out that guy, huge influence. Should’ve applied the pressure and told him to hop on Vanilla [laughs.] But nah, he’s the blueprint. As far as careers and being yourself goes. Just one of the moments I’m hella thankful for. Had a few friends that have worked with the man and I’m sure they played my shit around him. That was just one of those mornings/moments where he finally dialed in for a second, you could say.
One of the things that I enjoy about your music is that you vividly paint the struggle to stay true to yourself, especially during these times. I say struggle because to me your music is more than you being braggadocious. I feel like I’m hearing someone working things out in real-time and growing not only as an artist but as an individual. Is there a sense of closure or stability you get when you can express your feelings through a verse?
Absolutely. Whatever I feel like I’m trying to express but can’t necessarily find the words, music does that for me. Somehow and someway each and every time. Legit soundtracking my life while coming at it from angle to where you could see and feel yourself being in my shoes. That’s all we ever really want for real. To be felt. Believed in when we’re speaking about our traumas, experiences, and growth. That same feeling that draws you to my music is the same therapeutic release I get with each & every song. Like a “whew! Glad that’s off my chest” but with a beat behind it [laughs.]
Amidst everything that currently going on, where do you think your headspace is now?
In the zone, but everywhere! [laughs.] It’s imperative though. Speaking on the shit that I touch on in my music, the least I can do is be aware of local and global politics, the news, etc. Ask about something if I don’t know anything, shutting the fuck up during those moments, too. No need to speak up if I don’t know what I’m talking about. Observing and learning, man. I’m 27. I don’t got much leeway nor room to be a fool [laughs.] At least that’s how I feel. I’m in the studio as often as I can be, doing my research and reading as much as I can and just piecing it together from there. But this is about the calmest/at ease I’ve been in a minute.
You actually bring up a good point about being aware when it comes to politics and things like that. Do you think people put too much pressure on hip hop artists to use their platform for advocacy?
Yes and no. No, because if you gon’ talk the talk, walk the walk. With great power comes great responsibility & we (creatives) are aware of that, whether we want to admit it or not so if the people wanna start a dialogue on something you stand for, it shouldn’t be anything to continue that conversation. Folks gotta get better at agreeing to disagree but that’s a whole different topic/point. That being said, these celebrities, stars, and influencers are just as lost as the next man, trying to find the way. Why follow somebody who doesn’t know where they’re going, ya know?
How do you feel about the current state of music?
Off top, fuck the streaming services. I know that’s crazy but who let them decide to pay us .0000 whatever decimal point it is. That’s something I’m gonna fight to the tooth & nail to change. Half, damn near most, of them folks ain’t ever created no music or know what it’s like, so who let them decide to set the standard when they don’t know how it feels. And if I’m talking crazy/if they do know what’s up, they really foul for shit like that. Folks greedy but besides that? lots of fire shit out right now. Plenty of room and space for whatever you’re looking for. Everybody in the Ville making a move. Music is exactly what the world been missing, on me. Really fucking with SahBabii right now. Kaash Paige. Griselda. SiR. Dwn2Earth. BabyFace Ray.
100% feel you on that. Even looking at smaller artists under you express the same concern, it just goes to show you how difficult it really is to be an artist. Being 27, you kind of seem to have it somewhat all figured out — for the most part. What’s your five year goals? I don’t even mean music bro, but life-wise.
Hell, even artists higher than me, under, over, whatever… Folks is getting underpaid in a lot of professions ways. I’m just fed up with what’s going on in mine, that’s all [laughs.]
Five years – stay alive. That’s really bout it, for real [laughs.] The rest will figure itself once I get a chance to experience it but gotta stay alive for it, for sure. I’ve worked with Alchemist by then. Got me a fire ass girl that’s meant for me. Rap soccer dad extraordinaire. I’m playing in somebody’s hoop league [laughs.] Money straight. The simple things, I guess.
I’m more of a come off the bench and drop 20 on my Lou Will shit.
Still made an impact on the game either way. However you gotta do that, in whatever role you’re supposed to play, that’s the most important thing. The play doesn’t care who makes it. A bucket is a bucket type shit [laughs.]
What can we expect from you moving forward? Or is everything under wraps?
Expect nothing. But I’m coming at it with all I got, whatever I do. I know that sounds so basic but I’m up playing 2K and shit, tryna get better [laughs.] Definitely in new album mode though, strangely enough. Thinking about ideas, sounds, concepts, etc. But I’m having fun again more than anything so everybody should just keep their eyes open. Nothing more, nothing less.
Anything else you want to add?
As long as you got a chance, take a chance. Fuck 12. Hope the cops who killed Breonna Taylor rot in hell. Fuck trump. Journey the album of the year. Let’s do better by and for our black women. Takeover > ether.